January 17, 2017

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Hard hats on, Steve Kerr and Kevin Durant lifted their golden shovels filled with dirt in a ceremonial moment for the Warriors franchise as it broke ground on snazzy new San Francisco digs at long last. And keeping KD in a Golden State uniform to see it through is a key part of the grand plan.

This project has already been 4+ years in the making.

''Honestly, a relief to some extent,'' owner and CEO Joe Lacob said.

Kerr is campaigning for the Golden State name to stay put along with his superstar players.

''We are the Golden State Warriors and it's not up to me, but I don't want it to change,'' Kerr said. ''It's a unique name. It's the only one like it in the league. I would like to see that remain. I fully believe we are still the Bay Area's team, no matter whether we're playing in Oakland or San Jose or San Francisco. The name Golden State Warriors, there's too much history, there's too much tradition to change.''

Even if in a success-oriented business like the NBA, nobody knows who will still be around when 18,000-seat Chase Center is complete. Kerr has no idea if he will even still be on the sidelines then.

''If you're lucky enough in life, like I've been, you reach a point where you get to choose who you work with, you get to choose where you live and you get to choose where you work,'' Kerr said. ''By those metrics, I want to stay here forever. I'm also an NBA coach and I'm well aware that this building is going to take about three years to build, so the chances of me standing on the sidelines for the Warriors are slim to hopeful. Maybe as, like, the coach of another team.

''So far, so good, so hopefully I'll still be here.''

Next, Golden State will likely work to keep both two-time reigning MVP Stephen Curry and Durant for the long haul by negotiating new deals this year. Kerr speaks to Durant daily and knows he is happy with his new Bay Area surroundings.

''We're going to win for a long time. ... We'll do whatever it takes to be champions again,'' Lacob said of spending on players.

He even publicly put KD on the spot: ''Kevin Durant came here without a new arena. Thank you, Kevin ... and also for agreeing to re-sign this summer. I have no idea how he's going to respond to that.''

The Warriors did a little bit of everything to showcase how this will be far more than just a sports venue: The over-the-top groundbreaking featured a trio of songs by a gospel choir to kick off festivities, included a performance by the San Francisco Symphony and even acrobatic dancers dressed as construction workers for a grand finale of sorts that included beach balls dropping from an excavator before the equipment rigs moved in synchronization to the music in an extravagant routine featuring trampolines.

Only boosting the mood was the California Supreme Court's decision earlier in the day to deny a petition by arena opponents seeking to overturn the Warriors' entitlements, further clearing the way for the project to move ahead - ''so we're totally good to go here,'' Lacob noted.

''Wow, what a day!'' said Warriors COO Rick Welts, noting the team will boast one of the world's premier ''gathering places'' - for concerts and conventions, political events and more.

''Every city needs it. We need it. It will be great for San Francisco,'' co-owner Peter Guber said. ''We now have proof, not just promises.''

Curry got a break from public duties this time, a day after the Warriors pulled off a stunning 126-91 rout of LeBron James and the defending champion Cavaliers. Golden State hosts Oklahoma City on Wednesday night.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee - among dozens of dignitaries in attendance - hollered, ''finally welcoming the Golden State Warriors home to San Francisco!''

He rattled off the Warriors' star-studded roster and the energy around the franchise and its long-term mission.

''What's not to love?'' he said.

Lacob can't wait - and realizes how many people will miss the great vibe at the team's current home of Oracle Arena, an atmosphere the Warriors hope to replicate in many ways. Not only will the 11 acres include restaurants, cafes, businesses and other new additions to add vitality to the neighborhood, there will be a 51/2-acre bay-front park across from the arena.

''It is going to sing,'' he said. ''It takes my breath away when we look at the renderings.''

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