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.

PBT Extra: What coaches are on hot seat? Alvin Gentry at front of list.

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This season, for the first time in 46 years, no NBA coach will be fired during the season (nobody is getting canned at this point).

However, once the off-season starts, there will be a few changes.

Alvin Gentry in New Orleans and Fred Hoiberg in Chicago are the names most mentioned, but there will be an unexpected firing somewhere around the league. Some GMs are on the hot seat also (Rob Hennigan in Orlando leads that parade).

I get into all of it in this latest PBT Extra.

Raptors’ Serge Ibaka, Bulls’ Robin Lopez each suspended one game for thrown punches

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It was obvious this was coming. Get in a shoving match “fight” in the NBA and you get a fine. However, actually throw punches and…

Toronto’s Serge Ibaka and Chicago’s Robin Lopez each have been suspended for one game by the NBA “for throwing punches at one another during an altercation,” the league announced. What that works out to is a $120,715 hit for Lopez and a $111,364 ding for Ibaka.

Also, Raptors assistant coach Jamaal Magloire earned a $15,000 fine shoving the Bulls Nikola Mirotic and “acting as other than a peacemaker as part of the same altercation.”

This all came out of what seemed a rather innocuous play. Ibaka and Lopez were battling for rebounding positioning, it went on for a second after the ball went through the hoop, Ibaka caught Lopez with a little chicken wing elbow in the back, Lopez spun, and, boy, that escalated quickly. Lopez’s punch missed, while Ibaka’s caught Lopez in the hair more than the body.

Both men got technicals and were ejected.

Report: Sixers Joel Embiid “very likely” to undergo off-season surgery on knee

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When the Philadelphia 76ers formally announced they were shutting down Joel Embiid for the season, the team’s chief medical director Dr. Jonathan Glashow said:

“The assessment of Monday’s follow-up MRI of Joel Embiid’s left knee appears to reveal that the area affected by the bone bruise has improved significantly, while the previously identified meniscus tear appears more pronounced in this most recent scan.”

That meniscus may require off-season surgery, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

As described, this would be a minor surgery that likely has a 4-6 week recovery period. That said, you know the Sixers will bring him along slowly after this. Also, that’s just time Embiid is not on a practice court or in a pick-up game with Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, and the rest of the team’s young core. That’s the time the foundations of chemistry on a team are built.

Embiid averaged 20.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game despite a minutes restriction all season. He was incredibly efficient in getting his numbers — he had an All-Star level PER of 24.2 — and when he was on the court the Sixers outscored their opponents by 3 points per 100 possessions. He’s still likely a top three finisher in Rookie of the Year balloting despite playing in just 31 games.

Hopefully getting his knee cleaned up now means Embiid will be able to play in more games next season.

Report: Kevin Durant’s recovery going well, could return before end of season

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Back on Feb. 28, the Warriors’ leading scorer Kevin Durant suffered a grade 2 MCL sprain and a tibial bone bruise, an injury that happened when Zaza Pachulia fell into his knee. They planned to evaluate him at the end of the month, but this injury is often a 6-8 week issue, which would have him back around the start of the playoffs or in the first round.

The Warriors are optimistic it will be earlier than that, probably by the end of the season, reports Marc Stein and Chris Haynes of ESPN.

The Golden State Warriors aren’t scheduled to formally update the status of Kevin Durant’s left knee until next week, but there is cautious optimism within the organization that Durant — should he maintain his current recovery arc — will indeed be able to return to the court before the end of the regular season, according to league sources.

While noting that Durant is roughly at the halfway stage of his recovery journey, sources told ESPN.com that the Warriors are encouraged by the progress Durant has made in the 22 days since he suffered a sprained MCL and tibial bone bruise in his left knee on Feb. 28.

Durant was getting in some on-court work before the Warriors took on the Mavericks Tuesday.

The Warriors lost Durant at the start of their toughest schedule stretch of the season, and they stumbled some through that. However, after getting home (and playing some lesser teams in that stretch) the Warriors have gotten right, Stephen Curry is shooting well again, Matt Barnes and Patrick McCaw are playing well enough, and the Warriors have won five in a row. They are in the driver’s seat to be the No. 1 seed in the West (the biggest challenge to that is a road back-to-back in Houston and San Antonio next week, get a split there and the Warriors become tough to catch).

Between the end of the season and an easy first round — neither Denver nor Portland play enough good defense to slow the Warriors — the Warriors will have time to blend Durant back into the fold. If the Warriors can find their stride again with him, they are the favorites to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy in June.