Warriors owner willing to make big moves

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Things are better in the Bay Area this year. And not just because San Francisco has a new restaurant called Sushirrito (sushi served in burrito form — don’t laugh, it’s good).

Things are also better with the Golden State Warriors. Well, not the Warriors winning games part, that’s still going pretty poorly overall. But the team has seemed to really coalesce around Monta Ellis as its star (and possible All-Star).

What’s more, the new ownership is a breath of fresh air. Joe Lacob (half of the new ownership team, along with Peter Guber) had been meeting with local media — mainstream and blogs — the past week and what he told Mercury News has to make team fans almost as happy as the diners at Sushirito.

Lacob said the new ownership group has already agreed that, if an elite player is available, the Warriors would be willing to increase their payroll above the current luxury-tax level.

Yes, Lacob said, he has been actively monitoring the (Carmelo) Anthony situation.

“We’ve had discussions with Denver,” Lacob said. “And I think it’s possible. But unfortunately, he clearly wants to be one place geographically.”

The Warriors were never going to get Anthony, but the fact they had the discussion and were serious about spending is a huge sign.

The other big question remains can Ellis and Stephen Curry play long term in the backcourt. Lacob was honest and said the issue was less offense than defense, and that they have to consider options.

“I really like those guys as individuals, and I like them as players,” Lacob said. “But I have to be honest, it depends. If we got offered a great situation, would I break it up? Yes.”

There’s the perception that Curry has taken a step back this year, and certainly Ellis has become the dominant force. Yet, Curry is playing fewer minutes and keeping his numbers flat with last year by being more efficient. Still, would they consider trading Curry right now, a guy who was untouchable last summer?

“Does that mean that Curry would be traded, or more likely to be traded than Ellis? Not necessarily,” Lacob said. “It really depends. “… This is all dependent on what you’re going to get in return.”

After years without hope or much word from the ownership, this new group has to be the best thing to hit the Bay Area this year. Maybe even better than sushi burritos. Maybe.

Warriors hope to get Shaun Livingston, Matt Barnes back for second round

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Golden State Warriors hope to get injured reserves Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes back from injuries for the second round of the playoffs after getting more than a week off between series.

The Warriors said Saturday that Barnes has been upgraded to probable for Tuesday night’s Game 1 and Livingston remains questionable but is hopeful he will be ready to return. Star forward Kevin Durant is expected to be a full go after missing two games and being limited to 20 minutes in Game 4 last round because of a strained left calf.

Barnes has been sidelined since April 8, while Livingston sprained a finger on his right hand in Game 1 of the first-round against Portland.

Golden State begins the second round at home on Tuesday night against the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. The Warriors have been off since sweeping the Trail Blazers last Monday, giving them more than a week between games.

“I’m trying to make sure I rest it as much as I possibly can, because when I do come back I plan on staying all the way back,” Livingston said Saturday. “Hopefully it will be ready for Tuesday.”

After taking Tuesday and Thursday off following their first-round sweep, the Warriors practiced for a second straight day Saturday. They plan to practice again on Sunday and then again Monday once they know their second-round opponent.

There is no update on the status of coach Steve Kerr, who missed the final two games of the first round because of complications from two back surgeries. Kerr talks daily with interim coach Mike Brown and took part in coaching meetings Friday but was not at practice on Saturday.

PBT Extra: Rockets vs. Spurs far more than Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden

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Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden. Two MVP candidates matching up in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

However, the San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets is much more than that.

It’s a battle of pace. It’s a chess match between two of the best coaches in the game. It’s about which team’s role players are going to step up.

I talk about all of that in this latest PBT Extra. Plus, of course, when Leonard will guard Harden.

How to start your Saturday night: Watching 15 minutes of best plays from NBA season

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There are no NBA playoff games Saturday night, the first night since the start of the postseason there hasn’t been one game. Don’t worry, there are two games on Sunday, including Game 7 between the Jazz and Clippers.

But if you need a Saturday night fix, this will have to do: 15 minutes of the best plays from last season, as compiled by NBA.com.

Go ahead, watch it. You’ve got nothing better to do.

 

Paul Millsap says the expected, he will “most likely” opt out of contract

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This is ranked right next to “overeating can lead to weight gain” on the list of surprising things, but we will dutifully report it anyway:

Paul Millsap is going to opt out and officially become a free agent this summer.

Atlanta’s owner as well as Mike Budenholzer, the coach and head of basketball operations, have both said they plan to do whatever it takes to re-sign Millsap with the Hawks. Millsap didn’t sound like someone eager to leave after the Hawks were eliminated from the playoffs Friday.

“It’s been great. I’m looking to expand this and see where the franchise can go. These last four years has been great. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Even with both sides singing Kumbaya, keeping Millsap in Atlanta likely means a five-year contract at or near the max, which for a 32-year-old player means the Hawks would regret the last year or two of that deal.

Not that the Hawks have much of a choice here, they have to come in big and keep him. For one, they can’t afford to lose Al Horford and then Millsap for nothing in back-to-back years. If they were going down the rebuilding road, they needed to trade Millsap at the deadline (or last summer) to make sure they got something in return. Atlanta explored trade options at the deadline, but then pulled back (rumored to be because of an edict from ownership, which didn’t want to see the team blown up after the Kyle Korver trade).

By not making that trade the Hawks signaled their intention to remain a good team — a 43-win team this season that got them the five seed — with Dennis Schroder and Dwight Howard, one that draws well at an arena that historically has not been that full, and see if they can add on. They strike me as a team that will win between 42-50 games a year and be middle of the pack in the East for the next few years, unless they can find a way to add an elite player (which is incredibly difficult).

But if the Hawks can’t re-sign Millsap, then the plan gets blown up. So expect them to come in with a big offer come July 1.