OAKLAND (California) • The Golden State Warriors, a National Basketball Association dynasty that redefined the sport with their long-range shooting and small-ball line-ups, face an off-season of uncertainty after falling short in their bid to win a third straight championship on Thursday.
Looming free agencies for key players, long-term injuries, a new home court and a rising tide of teams who are catching up to their brand of position-less basketball all raise questions about their future.
While the move to Chase Centre in San Francisco after 47 years at the Oracle Arena in Oakland is cast in stone, the biggest question concerns another move, or not, of Kevin Durant, who helped lead the Warriors to two titles, and will be entering free agency this summer.
He ruptured his Achilles tendon after returning to the line-up in Game 5 following a month-long injury absence, with his coach Steve Kerr confirming he would miss the whole of next season to recover.
But given that he is arguably the premier player alongside Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard, that setback is unlikely dampen the enthusiasm of teams lining up to sign him to a long-term contract.
The New York Knicks, the Brooklyn Nets and the Los Angeles Clippers are among those expected to vie with the Warriors to sign the 30-year-old forward.
JUST A BLIP
Everybody thinks it's the end of us. But that's just not smart. We're not done yet. We lost this year. I hear a lot of that noise. It's the end of a run and all that jazz. I don't see it happening though. We'll be back.
DRAYMOND GREEN, Golden State forward, who is upbeat about the team's future.
While his future remains murky, Golden State are expected to retain Klay Thompson, who like his teammate, will also become a free agent in the close season.
However, the team suffered another calamity just days after Durant's injury, with the All-Star guard tearing his anterior cruciate ligament during their 114-110 loss in Game 6. The defeat also meant the Warriors failed to become the first team in 50 years to win four titles in five years.
According to local daily The San Francisco Chronicle, a typical recovery timetable for an ACL tear is nine to 12 months, which would likely rule out Thompson, 29, next term as well.
But All-Stars Stephen Curry and Draymond Green have vowed that the team would still remain championship contenders despite the turmoil that awaits them.
Admitting they would "have to deal with a lot of decisions that will go into the summer", Curry said: "True champions like we are, we should be able to adapt and keep this same kind of DNA, no matter what our roster looks like next year.
"It's tough to lose in the Finals, but the story's not over yet. Our DNA and who we are and the character that we have on this team, I wouldn't bet against us being back on this stage next year.
"Really proud of the way we fought until the end and this five-year run's been awesome, but I definitely don't think it's over.
"It's how you respond and how hard you work to try to get back to this stage."
Forward Green added: "Everybody thinks it's the end of us. But that's just not smart. We're not done yet.
"We lost this year. I hear a lot of that noise. It's the end of a run and all that jazz. I don't see it happening though. We'll be back."
Their coach Steve Kerr was less optimistic, however, about how the team would shape up going forward, labelling the double injury blow as "devastating".
He added: "I don't know if it's related to five straight seasons of playing 100-plus games.
"Injuries are always part of the NBA season. It's just the severity of these injuries. What matters is that Kevin Durant is going to miss next season with an Achilles tear and Klay suffered a knee injury.
"It's just brutal what these guys are dealing with right now. When Klay goes down and is out for the game, it's just sort of, 'You got to be kidding me, this has to stop'. But it's just the way it has gone."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS