Warriors will try and run a Utah-style offense next season

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Thanks to the Warriors’ hyper-fast, ultra-small lineup combinations, the breakneck pace at which they played, and the video-game scores they’d often put up, the Warriors were known as a fearsome offensive unit when Don Nelson ran the team.

However, that wasn’t exactly true last season. While the Warriors did average 108.8 points per game last season (while giving up 112.4 points per game) their high scoring totals were more a product of the Warriors shooting a lot rather than shooting particularly well. The Warriors were only 13th in offensive efficiency, and often struggled to score in the half court. Somewhere along the line, the Warriors’ ball movement was replaced by stagnant offensive sets and too much isolation play, and the offense too often consisted of four players watching Monta Ellis force a 20-foot jumper with 17 seconds left on the shot clock.

According to Irv Soonachan of SLAM Onine, new Warriors coach Keith Smart is hoping to improve the Warriors’ half-court offense by importing a version of the “flex” offense that Jerry Sloan has run for years in Utah:

Thus far in the preseason, the most noticeable change might be on offense. Smart has borrowed the playbook of Utah disciplinarian Jerry Sloan to give the Warriors a more patient approach to the half-court game.

“We want to be able to control the tempo a little bit,” Smart said at a press conference this weekend. “If there’s a night where the break is really going and guys are making shots, we’re going to let them play that way. But when we’re not shooting well, we have to make sure we get good shots and get to the free throw line.”

Though Smart wouldn’t reference Sloan or Utah by name during his press conference, players and staffers say that nobody is hallucinating if they flash back to John Stockton, Karl Malone, and Jeff Hornacek. Or for that matter to Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer.

The Warriors are working on an offense very similar to Utah’s time-tested 1-4 high post set, usually with Stephen Curry in the Stockton/Williams role, David Lee in the Malone/Boozer role and Monta Ellis as Hornacek. They’ve also experimented (unsuccessfully) with Ellis at the point. As in Utah’s scheme, the offense features a multitude of UCLA cuts to free up the three primary scorers, and options where the small forward (Dorell Wright) controls the ball.

This seems like a pretty good idea for the Warriors. The Warriors offense could definitely use some structure, because a lot of Warrior players picked up some bad habits in Nellie’s final seasons with the team. And not only is the flex a time-tested offense, but the pieces the Warriors have seem to fit: Steph Curry is a budding star at point guard, and David Lee is the most talented big man the Warriors have had in years. Time will tell if this offense will help the Warriors return to NBA relevance.

Justise Winslow stepped on Joel Embiid’s mask (VIDEO)

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Joel Embiid started for the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday night. The Game 3 matchup between the Miami Heat and Philadelphia was an important one with the teams tied, 1-1.

Embiid had previously vented his frustration on social media about the perceived slowness of his return to the floor from an orbital fracture.

Now, the Cameroonian big man is back for the Sixers and playing with a huge mask and goggles.

But the mask didn’t come without its problems for Embiid. It clearly affected his shooting and ability to handle the ball, as evidenced by a missed alley-oop in the second quarter, among other things.

There’s also the matter of how other players are treating Embiid and his mask. At one point, Embiid’s googles ended up on the floor and Heat forward Justise Winslow purposely stepped on them.

Via Twitter:

That’s harsh.

Embiid will have to adjust to using the mask since it’s unlikely he will be cleared to play without it soon. Hopefully he has some backups just in case the first couple sets get broken.

Tractors worth $50,000 stolen from Scottie Pippen’s farm

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HAMBURG, Ark. (AP) — Authorities in rural Arkansas are investigating the theft of more than $50,000 worth of equipment from a farm owned by former NBA star Scottie Pippen.

Investigator Mark Griever of the Ashley County Sheriff’s Office says two tractors were stolen from the farm in Hamburg, about 110 miles (180 kilometers) southeast of Little Rock. According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Pippen’s family is offering a $2,500 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction.

Griever says Pippen owns the livestock farm with his brother.

Pippen, who now lives in Florida, is a native of Hamburg. Pippen won six NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls alongside Michael Jordan in the 1990s.

Bucks’ Jabari Parker “frustrated,” wants more playing time

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In the first two games against Boston, Jabari Parker is 1-of-7 shooting, has grabbed 15 percent of the available rebounds while on the court (low for a big expected to board), has more turnovers than assists, has been exploited on defense by Boston, and is -29. All in just 25 minutes.

Parker is also frustrated he isn’t getting more minutes and more of a chance to prove himself. From Stephen Watson of WISN News 12 in Milwaukee:

While there are questions about how Joe Prunty has handled the Bucks and their rotations in this series, more Jabari Parker is nobody’s answer. Except Parker’s. And Celtics’ fans. Parker can be as frustrated as he wants, he hasn’t played his way into more minutes.

Parker returned to the Bucks in January after rehab on his second ACL surgery and averaged 12.6 points per game. He showed some value, with an ability to score efficiently inside and shooting 38 percent from three, averaging 12.6 points per game. But he remains a below-the-rim player who struggles to defend, and in the playoffs that gets a guy a seat.

It’s going to be an interesting summer. Parker is a restricted free agent this summer and the Bucks do not see him as a core part of their future next to Giannis Antetokounmpo anymore, they are not going to come in with a big offer to keep him. However, his play (especially in the postseason) and injury history, combined with a tight free agent market, means he may not have many suitors at all. Is it possible a rebuilding team willing to take a chance — Phoenix, Atlanta, etc. — would come in with an offer higher than the Bucks would match? Yes, it’s possible. But it won’t be for a lot of years, just one or two as teams want to see if he can get right and become the player he once projected to be.

Sixers’ Joel Embiid upgraded to “probable,” will start in Game 3 Thursday

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Everything you saw in the first two games of this Miami/Philadelphia playoff series you can throw out in the trash.

Joel Embiid is back and is now “probable” for Game 3, the Sixers announced, upgrading his status from “doubtful” earlier in the day. Embiid had been out with a concussion and orbital bone fracture.

Embiid will go through warmups — trying out both a mask and goggles — then will make a formal decision. However, he is expected to go. He certainly wants to play. And he is expected to start. How many minutes he can go remains to be seen.

This changes the Sixers and the series. Yes, Philly has likely Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons and high quality role players such as J.J. Redick and Robert Covington, however, is Embiid that makes it all work. Put simply, when Embiid is on the court the Sixers are 15.2 points per 100 possessions better — their defense is elite and their offense is outstanding.

The Sixers will be better with their best player back in the fold, but don’t think this makes the series a cakewalk for Philly. It changes everything about matchups, but things are not all positives. When Embiid is on the court, the up-tempo, ball-movement style that the Sixers built around Simmons slows down and stops at points. The Sixers have played Hassan Whiteside and his rim protection off the court with floor spacing shooting bigs, now he has a place to be in the matchups. There are things the Heat can do now that may work for them.

It just may not matter — Philadelphia just got a lot better.