Nick FriedellESPN Staff WriterClose
- Nick Friedell is the Chicago Bulls beat reporter for ESPN Chicago. Friedell is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and joined ESPNChicago.com for its launch in April 2009.
Speaking before Tuesday’s matchup against the Celtics at Oracle Arena, Durant sounded confident that Kyrie Irving and the Celtics will get things rolling again soon. The Celtics head into Tuesday’s game having lost five of their past six games.
“They’re right up there at the top,” Durant said when asked about the Celtics. “They’ve been losing a couple games, but they’ve got the top talent, some of the top talent on that team, so they’ll be fine once the playoffs start.”
Durant said he thinks the Celtics need time to find a rhythm within their roster. Both Gordon Hayward and Irving missed the Celtics’ strong playoff run last year, and the team has struggled to find consistency at times.
“Everybody else probably thought they were supposed to be clicking and winning 65 games,” Durant said. “Because they had the talent and they went to the Eastern Conference finals last year, Game 7, but it’s a new season. There’s a lot of teams that changed their rosters to play, to stack up in the East, so it’s a different team. So they’re still getting used to each other, getting Gordon Hayward back and Kyrie back, and another year of experience for the guys that went through the playoffs, so it’s going to be throughout the season.”
Many pundits picked the Celtics to reach the NBA Finals and play against Durant and the Warriors, but the Celtics currently sit in fifth place in the Eastern Conference standings, with a 38-26 record.
“It’s just the nature of the game,” Durant said. “They’ve got a bunch of young players, they’ve got a couple veterans that have been through the struggle, so they’re still trying to figure each other out. It takes more than just a half a year or a whole year to figure it out. They’re just going to keep growing, so what you see right now is probably not the finished product.”
Durant, who went through his own growing pains after signing with the Warriors a couple summers ago, believes the Celtics need to have patience as they continue developing their chemistry.
“You can’t accelerate [the process],” Durant said. “I like to compare a lot of people to relationships — would you like to accelerate a relationship that goes straight from dating to marriage in a month? [Building teams is] just the same thing. Over time you got to learn patterns of behavior, how guys like their routines, where they like the ball, all that type of stuff. It’s just from building every day on the basketball court, so it’s going to take some time.”
When the Warriors do face the Celtics, they will do so with several players battling nagging injuries. Backup center Kevon Looney will not play Tuesday after an MRI revealed pelvic inflammation, according to Warriors coach Steve Kerr. Looney took part in shooting drills after Monday’s practice, so the injury does not appear too serious.
An MRI on Warriors All-Star swingman Klay Thompson‘s right knee came back clean, Kerr said. Thompson did not practice Monday but took part in post-practice shooting drills after sitting out Saturday’s win over the Philadelphia 76ers and is questionable for Tuesday. Veteran Andre Iguodala was given a rest day on Monday and is questionable for Tuesday.
“He’s banged up,” Kerr said. “We didn’t want him to practice today. We wanted him to get treatment, so that’s what he did … no official injury, but it’s like the old Tim Duncan line when he was a DNP-old. [Andre’s] just old.”
Alfonzo McKinnie is probable for Tuesday’s game after leaving Saturday’s game early because of a left hip contusion.