For Warriors, no KD, no Boogie — and no Willis Reed moment
OAKLAND — So KD and Boogie won’t play for a while. We’re going to be up to our eyeballs in Steph and Seth. And the hometown guy, Damian Lillard, is the best player on the other team.
Otherwise, there’s nothing out of the ordinary about the Warriors-Trail Blazers playoff series, which starts Tuesday.
A lot of media hauling their cameras and adverbs showed up at the Warriors' practice facility Monday in great anticipation, only to be admonished by the admonisher-in-chief, head coach Steve Kerr.
“People have gotten the idea Kevin is going to come back,” said Kerr about the injured Kevin Durant, “and be Willis Reed or something.”
That happened so long ago. In May 1970, the Knicks (Reed’s team) and Lakers, the other team, not only made the playoffs — which they haven’t lately — but made it to the finals.
Reed, with a torn right thigh muscle, didn’t play in Game 6 but came limping out of the tunnel at Madison Square Garden for Game 7 as the crowd went crazy, hit his first two shots, and led New York to its first title.
Durant’s injury also is to his right leg, but it’s his calf. “He hasn’t even stepped on the floor yet,” said Kerr of Durant. And while DeMarcus Cousins, who tore his left quad a month ago, was on the floor, Kerr said, “he hasn’t seen any live action yet.”
So those two big men will be two missing men as the best-of-seven NBA Western Conference finals start at Oracle Arena.
Two among the present and accounted for are the Currys, Steph, of the Warriors and his younger brother Seth of the Blazers. In attendance here and Portland will be their mother, Sonya, and father, Dell, a onetime NBA star.
“They’re like the royal family of the NBA,” Kerr said of the Currys. “It’s incredible. There they are, Steph and Seth both having all this success. As parents, they must be having the time of their lives. Actually I know they are because I talked to them. I’m sure there will be conflict for them the next couple of weeks. But what a great story.”
As is that of Damian Lillard, who was born in Oakland, graduated from Oakland High, was a first-round pick out of Weber State and as one of the Blazers' two offensive stars (CJ McCollum is the other) will try to upset the franchise he cheered for as a kid.
Yes, this series has more angles than an articulated roof.
“It will be cool,” said Damion Lee, brother-in-law to Steph and Seth. “Two brothers who grew up in the same household on one of the biggest stages.”
Lee is a two-way player for the Warriors, meaning he spent much of the season with Santa Cruz of the G-League. He was working out with the Dubs and, as the husband of Sydel Curry Lee, offered a unique perspective of life and jump shots.
“That last game,” said Lee of the Warriors' victory over Houston, “it looked like Steph came out of a phone booth.”
That was the Superman analogy, Steph Curry going from zero points in the first half of Game 7 against the Rockets to 33 in the second half.
Asked which Curry the parents might favor in the playoff, Lee was pragmatic. “Don’t know,” he replied, “but they’ll only have to pay for one hotel each game.”
In the conference semis, they were shuttling between the Warriors-Rockets and the Blazers-Nuggets series.
The assumption was that, because Denver had Game 7 at home, it would win the series. Bad assumption.
“I think it speaks of Portland’s resolve and their continuity,” said Kerr. “They’ve been doing this for a long time. I don’t know how many years they’ve made the playoffs, but Portland had the experience, and it paid off for them. For Denver it was the first time in a while.”
And now, without Durant or Cousins, the Blazers will be the Warriors' opponent.
“We know them well,” Kerr reminded, “and they know us well.”
What nobody knows is when Kevin Durant and/or DeMarcus Cousins will be in a game.