Stars Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant get going together at last
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Kevin Durant took a moment's break from his own shooting work and glimpsed over at the adjoining court as Stephen Curry ran around the 3-point arc launching long jumpers as part of his regular post-practice routine.
Two of the brightest young faces of the NBA teamed up for the first time together Tuesday night, when the Golden State Warriors began another championship quest with huge expectations and Durant the new star in the middle of it all.
KD knew it was going to be a little strange - and he wasn't talking about his new No. 35 uniform or debut with the Warriors this time. When he looked to the opposite bench Tuesday night, Tim Duncan wouldn't be there . Not for tipoff at midcourt, either.
''He was like a security blanket for everybody. Even if things went awry,'' Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. ''He was like the center of the universe and everybody knew how to act around that. With that pivotal guy gone, we'll have to wait and see who accepts that role.''
When the Lakers come to town, no Kobe. Kevin Garnett is long gone, too.
Three of the league's best over recent decades retired after last season, and now Durant, LeBron James, two-time reigning MVP Curry, Russell Westbrook, two-time defending Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard and others must continue to carry the NBA going forward.
Leonard and San Antonio opened the season without Duncan against the defending Western Conference champions at sold-out Oracle Arena.
''It's going to be weird not seeing him, KG, Kobe out there on the court - pioneers of my era of basketball, I guess,'' Durant said after Tuesday's shootaround. ''His basketball spirit always looms over top of the Spurs. His DNA is always engrained in that culture. You can appreciate what he's done, but it's definitely going to be weird not seeing 21 on the court for them.''
Durant, who will face his former Oklahoma City team next week, couldn't wait to finally get going in games that matter. He and the Thunder beat the Spurs in the Western Conference semifinals before squandering a 3-1 lead to the Warriors in the West finals.
This summer, Durant shined while playing at Oracle with the U.S. team ahead of the Rio Olympics. He did so again for his preseason home debut against the Clippers on Oct. 4.
''I don't really think of it as an opening moment,'' Durant said. ''It's just another game to me. It's easy for me to approach it that way if it's just another chance to step between the lines and do what I love. Not put too much pressure on myself to go out there and be great. I put the work in, I prepared the right way. I'll let that stuff take over. I've got to get out of my own mind and just play, and that's what I've been doing.''
Golden State dealt with its own disappointment in giving up a 3-1 advantage in the finals and losing Game 7 at home against the Cavaliers .
Not that Curry is afraid to talk about that disappointment.
In fact, on Tuesday morning he discussed his new Under Armour advertisement that faces head-on the missed championship - ''that's fresh,'' Curry notes in the video.
It goes on with: ''73-9. ... Missed championship. ... Make That Old.''
The first unanimous MVP selection last season, Curry said he had a say in the theme focused on pushing on from defeat because ''there's no perfect journey in any situation, so you try to sweep stuff under the rug or try to paint a picture that's not 100 percent accurate, I think it's doing whoever's following our journey a disservice.''
''There's a powerful story in it, a relevancy to it, what's going on right now,'' Curry said. ''A look into the mindset I have going into this year ... to see certain chapters we've gone through - good and bad. With every opportunity you have to look forward about what you're going to do next. It's pretty empowering. I'm excited about the opportunity that's in front of me individually and us as a team.''