Durant, favored Warriors shrug off parity talk

Soobum Im | X02835
Kevin Durant is still seeking his first championship ring.

The Golden State Warriors are tuning out talk that their star-studded teams in recent years are to blame for uncompetitive playoff basketball.

Kevin Durant, who signed a two-year, $54.3 million free agent contract last offseason, said his move to join the Warriors has not negatively affected the NBA and ruined parity in the league.

“Like I’m the reason why (expletive) Orlando couldn’t make the playoffs for five, six years in a row?” Durant told USA Today Sports in a wide-ranging article published Friday. “Am I the reason that Brooklyn gave all their picks to Boston? Like, am I the reason that they’re not that good? I can’t play for every team, so the truth of the matter is I left one team. It’s one more team that you probably would’ve thought would’ve been a contender. One more team. I couldn’t have made the (entire) East better. I couldn’t have made everybody (else) in the West better.”

The 2015 champion Warriors will face the 2016 champion Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals for the third straight year. The Warriors are strong favorites, according to Las Vegas bookmakers.Both teams dominated throughout the playoffs — the Warriors making history by going an unprecedented 12-0 through three rounds in the Western Conference with the Cavs losing a single game in the East.

The league will showcase the two best teams again when the NBA Finals tip off on Thursday night (ABC, 9 p.m. ET).Durant told USA Today he is “at peace” with his decision to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder after they lost to the Warriors in last season’s Western Conference finals.

“I’m just at peace with myself; I’m at peace with myself as a basketball player, most importantly,” Durant said. “I think this move, and the criticism that comes with this move, has made me zero in on what’s the most important thing, and that’s just playing basketball, working out every day, getting better, enjoying every single day as a basketball player.

“It made me really appreciate that. It made me go back to that. When you listen to the nonsense, then you start to really let it take control of your thoughts, that’s (not good), you know what I’m saying? So I just got back to the game.”

One of Durant’s star teammates, Stephen Curry, called it “disrespectful” to criticize the Finals matchup and the overall talent in the NBA.”Us and Cleveland worked our butts off all year to put ourselves in position to be playing for a championship, and the league is as strong talent-wise across the board as it’s ever been,” Curry told reporters. “And every night you get challenged. … Every night was hard. Every night was challenging, and you can’t just sleepwalk through a season, sleepwalk through the playoffs and expect to be here. You’ve got to do something. You got to come out every night and prove yourself.”

Another teammate, Draymond Green, believes the Warriors and Cavaliers easily advancing in the playoffs is a “great thing” for the NBA.

“Everyone wants to say, ‘Ah man, this is boring and this, that and the other,’ but you usually don’t appreciate something until you don’t have it anymore,” Green said, via ESPN. “And so, I think maybe there’s just a lack of appreciation for greatness. But then when you look at a situation, most people have never reached greatness.”So maybe there’s just not an understanding of what you’re watching. I think you’ve found two great teams, and we’ve played that way, and maybe people don’t appreciate it because of a blowout or because of a sweep. But people may want to be careful, because I think right now you’re witnessing greatness. Two great teams, great players, and that’s what it is.”

Durant, who missed 20 games toward the end of the regular season and two games in the first round of the playoffs due to injury, averaged 28.0 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists in a four-game sweep of the San Antonio Spurs.

While Cavaliers star LeBron James is going for his fourth ring, Durant will be trying to win his first. Durant’s only other time in the Finals was in 2012 when he was with Oklahoma City, but the Thunder lost to the Miami Heat in a series that made James a champion for the first time.”I had to get used to the attention,” Durant told USA Today of his move to Golden State. “I wasn’t used to this much attention, no matter if it was good or bad. I had to get used to that. And once I got used to it, it’s like, ‘All right, let’s roll with it. It’s part of the journey.’ Let’s just go and play the game. That’s the only thing that matters.”