Free-agency awaits, but Du­rant won’t talk about it.

KD wants to fo­cus on War­riors as free-agency ques­tions greet him in N.Y.

The Mercury News Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - ByMark Med­ina mme­d­ina@ ba­yare­anews­group.com

NEW YORK » The free- agency ques­tions await Kevin Du­rant, and he re­mains adamant about swatting them away as if he were pro­tect­ing the rim.

Does Du­rant find it en­tic­ing to sign with the New York Knicks next sum­mer pre­sum­ing he de­clines his $31.5 mil­lion War­riors player op­tion? When the War­riors (4-1) play the Knicks (1- 4) to­day at Madi­son Square Gar­den, will he con­sider the World’s Most Fa­mous Arena his fu­ture home?

Du­rant does not want to an­swer those ques­tions. He is more than will­ing to ad­dress top­ics, though, that per­tain to theWar­riors af­ter win­ning two NBA cham­pi­onships and two Fi­nals MVPs in con­sec­u­tive sea­sons.

Did Du­rant have any self­ish mo­tives when he be­came a ball dom­i­nant, iso­la­tion player in the War­riors’ seven-game se­ries against the Hous­ton Rock­ets in the 2018 Western Con­fer­ence fi­nals?

“That’s bull—,” Du­rant said. “To­tal bull—-.”

Af­ter win­ning two con­sec­u­tive NBA ti­tles with three other All- Stars in Stephen Curry, Klay Thomp­son and Dray­mond Green, would Du­rant like a big­ger role on an­other team?

“It’s so much fun hav­ing a 6-3 guy run­ning around with his part­ner who’s 7-feet or 6-9, shoot­ing 3s and hav­ing a good time,” Du­rant said of Curry. “That’s great bas­ket­ball.”

How much value does he put in the War­riors’ syn­ergy that has in­volved daily con­ver­sa­tions with gen­eral­man­ager Bob My­ers and fre­quent talks with coach Steve Kerr?

“Ev­ery­body has a de­fined role. Coach, GM, owner all the way down to the last man bench,” Du­rant said. “We know ex­actly what we need to do. There’s no con­fu­sion.”

Du­rant ex­plained why he has felt com­fort­able with the War­riors for rea­sons beyond col­lect­ing cham­pi­onships and Fi­nals MVP tro­phies. He also ex­pressed ap­pre­ci­a­tion for howhe has de­vel­oped as a player and a thrived in an en­vi­ron­ment that he says re­mains free of in­di­vid­ual agen­das.

“With our re­la­tion­ship,” Du-

rant said, “I feel like I’ve been heremy whole ca­reer.” DU­RANT EX­PLAINS WHAT HAP­PENED AGAINST HOUS

TON » Du­rant ob­vi­ously has not been with the War­riors his whole ca­reer. He joined Golden State as a free agent in 2016 af­ter spend­ing his first nine sea­son with the Seat­tle Su­perSon­ics/Ok­la­homa City Thun­der fran­chise. Du­rant ap­peared in six NBA play­offs and one NBA Fi­nals dur­ing that span, but he never col­lected a cham­pi­onship ring. The Thun­der also squan­dered a 3-1 se­ries lead to Golden State in the 2016 Western Con­fer­ence fi­nals. Ques­tions arose dur­ing and af­ter Du­rant’s depar­ture about his dy­namic with and Rus­sell West­brook.

No such is­sues emerged with the War­riors’ teamor­i­ented cul­ture that cen­tered on blend­ing All- Star tal­ent, swift ball move­ment and ef­fi­cient shots. The War­riors’ of­fense changed dra­mat­i­cally, though, in the 2018Western Con­fer­ence fi­nals against Hous­ton. Then, Du­rant took over.

“The plays we usu­ally get weren’t hap­pen­ing,” Du­rant said. “The quick 3s we were get­ting from Klay and Steph weren’t hap­pen­ing. Hous­ton did a great job in tak­ing it away. My job is to go get a bas­ket over any­body that I can.”

That strat­egy ini­tially worked. The War­riors stole Game 1 de­spite Thomp­son (6 of 15) and Curry (1 of 5) shoot­ing in­ef­fi­ciently from the arc. Du­rant made up for that with 37 points on 14of-27 shoot­ing. The Rock­ets’ switch-heavy de­fense partly stemmed from con­ced­ing the re­al­ity that Du­rant would score a lot. They tol­er­ated that as long as his other team­mates didn’t. Du­rant still played ef­fi­ciently in Game 2 with 38 points on 13-of-22 shoot­ing. But the War­riors lost with Curry (7 of 19 fromthe field) and Thomp­son (3 of 11) still miss­ing shots.

“Steph wasn’t shoot­ing great. Klay wasn’t ei­ther,” Du­rant said. “Alot of peo­ple were blam­ing that on me. But I was like, ‘ No way. My job is to get us iso buck­ets when they switch on us.’ ”

That strat­egy be­came less and less ef­fec­tive. In Games 4, 5, and 6, that strat­egy did not work. Du­rant shot a com­bined 23 of 63 from the field.

Du­rant even­tual ly changed course and had 34 points on 11- of-21 shoot­ing in a Game 7 win. In that same game, Curry (10 of 22) and Thomp­son (8 of 13) re­dis­cov­ered their marks­man­ship. Be­hind the scenes, Du­rant said that his team­mates and Kerr of­fered sup­port about the pub­lic crit­i­cism he re­ceived for his high-vol­ume shoot­ing.

“Not close to be­ing an is­sue,” Du­rant said. “It was just the first time since I was here a team made us think, made us strate­gize and make ad­just­ments to our of­fense.” FI­NALS CO-MVPS » Du­rant ad­mit­ted that he fol­lows the War­riors’ cov­er­age closely. “I read all that,” he said. Du­rant also ac­knowl­edged what the burner ac­count and his re­sponses to Twit­ter and In­sta­gram com­men­tors re­veal. “I’m a so­cial­me­dia guru,” he said.

The big­gest talk­ing point that both­ers him? “A lot of peo­ple think I get in Steph’s way,” Du­rant said.

Du­rant heard that plenty when he won his sec­ond Fi­nals MVP award af­ter the War­riors swept Cleve­land in the 2018 NBA Fi­nals.

“If he was the one win­ning Fi­nals MVP, I would’ve been there sup­port­ing him. He sup­ported me,” Du­rant said. “It did not mat­ter. He played MVP-type bas­ket­ball. He didn’t get the tro­phy. But he got a cham­pi­onship. It’s not about that. We both played great bas­ket­ball. We should’ve been co-MVP’s.” DU­RANT EN­JOYS THE WAR­RIORS’ WAY » Dur­ing his cham­pi­onship jour­ney the past two sea­sons, Du­rant has rel­ished his con­stant talks with those in the or­ga­ni­za­tion. He said that “Steve has done a good job” in com­mu­ni­cat­ing with play­ers, seek­ing their in­put and of­fer­ing sug­ges­tions on how to craft his sys­tem to ben­e­fit his stars and role play­ers.

“With Bob, we talk ev­ery day just about life and just about bas­ket­ball. We talk about so many dif­fer­ent things. With Steve, he has to man­age so many per­son­al­i­ties on the team. When we get a chance to sit down and talk, we al­ways talk about how he can help me out on the floor and how he can help me feel more and more com­fort­able.”

JANE TYSKA — STAFF PHOTOGRPHER

Kevin Du­rant would rather dis­cuss the War­riors’ back-to-back ti­tles than an­swer queries about his in­ten­tions re­gard­ing free agency.

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