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The Rocky Rockets Settle Down and the Warriors Get Weird

Category: Basketball,Sports

Numerous members of the Golden State traveling party were actually quite encouraged to see Green and Durant walk into Thursday’s morning shootaround side by side so soon after such well-chronicled acrimony. The latest report from Yahoo! Sports, in fact, disclosed that Green — who famously led the Warriors’ recruitment of Durant during the summer of 2016 — essentially dared Durant to leave as a free agent next summer during his rant.

Thursday’s early optimism, however, faded quickly. Perhaps not so surprisingly, given the depths of the discord, Golden State’s on-court performance on Thursday night was dismal, to put it charitably, with Curry rooted to the bench in street clothes because of a pesky groin strain. And the postgame mood got downright testy when Durant was asked a solitary question about Green.

“Don’t ask me that again,” Durant said.

Green’s stint on the floor beside Durant was equally icy: 24 minutes without a single point. The Warriors’ starters failed to connect on a single 3-pointer sans Curry to bail them out. That hasn’t happened to a Golden State starting five since March 2013.

Yet Iguodala, for the record, is still proudly sticking with the memorable line he uncorked Tuesday night after Green served his suspension during a Warriors home win over Atlanta. “You can’t climb a mountain if it’s smooth,’’ he intoned. And Green, defiant as ever, insisted after Thursday’s loss that the 12-4 Warriors are “still the best team in the league” and are “still going to win a championship.”

The Rockets, meanwhile, remain determined to reject any suggestion that they’ve fixed anything significant, even though they’re now 3-0 — with impressive wins over Indiana, Denver (in Denver) and Golden State — since banishing Anthony.

Rather defiant himself over the years, going all the way back to his Phoenix Suns days, Houston Coach Mike D’Antoni has very rarely indicated publicly that his team’s confidence is so much as dented. So my ears perked up when he told me before Thursday’s game that the Rockets had taken “a good punch’’ to start the season. “It staggered us a little bit,’’ he said.

Anthony’s departure isn’t the first time Houston management has changed its mind so quickly. You’ll recall that Kevin McHale, sporting a record of 4-7 to start the 2015-16 season, was fired as coach fresh off a trip to the conference finals. That happened during the first month of the first year of a three-year contract extension for McHale. But the frantic push to bring back Bzdelik and the Rockets’ numerous proposals to acquire a free agent-to-be in Butler, combined with Melo’s fate, haven’t done much to dispel the whispers that the Rockets, deep down, fear that they’ve already blown their best shot to ever unseat the Warriors.

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