War­riors seek rare three-peat as Du­rant pon­ders move

‘We talk about the three-peat just be­cause it’s in front of us’

Gulf Times Sport - - SPORT -

For­get about tak­ing it one game at a time. The Golden State War­riors are em­brac­ing their quest for a third con­sec­u­tive NBA ti­tle and they aren’t afraid to say so.

The War­riors could be­come the first team to win three crowns in a row since the 2000-2002 Los An­ge­les Lak­ers and match the sec­ond-long­est cham­pi­onship run in NBA his­tory.

“We talk about the three­p­eat just be­cause it’s in front of us,” two-time NBA Most Valu­able Player Stephen Curry said. “I don’t think it’s some­thing that’s re­peated ev­ery sin­gle day. But when we start the sea­son, ob­vi­ously we lay ev­ery­thing out on the ta­ble, what’s at stake in terms of our ex­pec­ta­tions.

“We un­der­stand that win­ning a cham­pi­onship is at­tain­able if we take care of our busi­ness, and do­ing it three years in a row is a tremen­dous op­por­tu­nity for us that we should not be afraid to talk about and go af­ter.”

Only the Lak­ers, two 1990s Chicago Bulls teams pow­ered by Michael Jor­dan and the 1952-54 Min­neapo­lis Lak­ers have won three ti­tles in a row, with the record run of eight be­long­ing to the 1959-1966 Bos­ton Celtics.

But for a sev­enth-game loss to Cleve­land in the 2016 NBA Fi­nals, the War­riors would al­ready be cel­e­brat­ing four crowns in a row in­stead of seek­ing a fourth in five cam­paigns.

“You never stop en­joy­ing it. You just start fo­cus­ing on the next year,” said War­riors coach Steve Kerr. “But it’s al­ways there. You al­ways see the ban­ner hang­ing and you see your ring. It never quite goes away. That’s the beauty of it.”

Fragility adds to the spe­cial­ness and that comes into play this sea­son, with two-time NBA Fi­nals MVP Kevin Du­rant and star guard Klay Thomp­son each set to be­come free agents next July and the War­riors look­ing at a salary cap crunch af­ter spend­ing big to as­sem­ble and keep a cham­pi­onship lineup.

GREATER EX­PEC­TA­TIONS

The Los An­ge­les Lak­ers, with new star LeBron James, fig­ure to make a bid for Du­rant, who left Ok­la­homa City in 2016 to join the War­riors and form a ‘su­perteam’ lineup that has gone 8-1 in the NBA Fi­nals.

Just as James left Cleve­land and won ti­tles in Mi­ami then de­parted, the con­cern is that Du­rant might ar­rive to be­come a cham­pion and then de­part, al­though the War­riors could make the rich­est of­fer to keep him and have the lure of a new arena in San Fran­cisco open­ing with him as a star at­trac­tion if he stays, even in a short-term deal.

“There’s more ex­pec­ta­tions now and a lit­tle bit more de­tail,” Du­rant said. “But it’s a whole new sys­tem and new group of play­ers and more ex­pec­ta­tions – we’ll see how that plays out.”

The War­riors have en­dured two-month play­off runs for four years – an ex­tra 83 play­off games amount­ing to an ex­tra sea­son and less rest than ri­vals who haven’t en­joyed such suc­cess. “It’s al­ways too short. That’s a great prob­lem to have,” Thomp­son said. “Our time in the off-sea­son has been so crunched these last four years so you have to make the most out of ev­ery sin­gle day... It goes by fast.”

The War­riors have had to cope with in­juries, ad­just­ing to new play­ers and even han­dling their own suc­cess without get­ting com­pla­cent.

“Win­ning a cham­pi­onship is the goal,” Curry said. “How you get there and how you kind of break up that mis­sion on a day-to-day, game-by-game, month-by-month ba­sis is what makes us great. We adapt re­ally well and we don’t stay down for too long.”

Many play­ers have spent time away from the sport to re­vive a hunger for it, Thomp­son trav­el­ling to Ba­hamas, China and Qatar while for­ward Dray­mond Green went to Greece, Is­rael, France and Mex­ico.

“It helped me more so men­tally just to get away from the game for a minute and miss it,” Green said.

“It gears you up, feeds that hunger and want to get back and get bet­ter in the thick of things. I think that’s im­por­tant for every­one.”

Green said last sea­son “was a grind” and “stuff wasn’t as fresh as it was the year be­fore” be­cause “there was re­ally noth­ing for us to work on. “We knew the whole year we were just try­ing to get to April and then May and June. But there was noth­ing to spark that fire. So it made ev­ery­thing a drag.”

This year Golden State added All-Star cen­ter DeMar­cus Cousins, lost three vet­er­ans and will rely more upon younger tal­ent off the bench.

(Getty Im­ages/AFP)

Kevin Du­rant of the Golden State War­riors drives against the Los An­ge­les Lak­ers dur­ing their pre­sea­son game at T-Mo­bile Arena in Las Ve­gas, Ne­vada.

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