While you weren’t looking, Golden State got really good

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They are 15-7, on a five-game winning streak all on the road with a signature win now in Miami. Their shooters and offense starting to find a groove while they dominate the glass. They are a team to watch in the Pacific because they are just going to get better.

The Lakers wish we were that writing about them.

But while everyone has watched the Lakers bumble and stumble, while Blake Griffin finishing Chris Paul’s lobs dazzled people, the Golden State Warriors have become a good team. A legitimate playoff team in the West.

A team that should get better as they go forward because their defensive anchor of a center, Andrew Bogut, has yet to play any meaningful minutes, plus key players have actually not been playing as up to levels we know they can reach.

Golden State has become a team to watch under Mark Jackson. This is no fluke. And people in the Bay Area are getting excited.

Part of the sudden improvement is simply health — they have Stephen Curry back and playing like his old self. He is giving them career highs in points (20) and assists (6.5 per game). There is no more trying to share the backcourt with Monta Ellis — who also needed the ball in his hands — he’s got a pure shooter in Klay Thompson back there with him. And what is dangerous is both of them are shooting below their expected levels so far this year — Curry at 43 percent, Thompson at 41.3 percent. When they find the groove the Warriors get better. Behind them they have a quality veteran in Jarrett Jack who can let the Warriors go very small and quick if they want. Jack can make plays.

David Lee is having a strong season inside and has clicked as a front line with Carl Landry — the Warriors lineups with those two on the floor together are their best. And Rookie Festus Ezeli is giving Golden State solid minutes off the bench.

The Warriors have been solid at both ends, with both the 11th best offense and defense in the league (according to the NBA.com stats). The Warriors offense in the seven games they have played this month is 6.1 points per 100 possessions better than in November.

And when they get a healthy Bogut back their defense should improve more — remember that the Bogut we saw in Milwaukee before his injuries was as good defensively as any center in the league.

Jackson has this team having fun on the court again (he even let the guys have a night out in Miami to celebrate after the Heat win, a move not every coach makes). I and others had questions about him as a coach when the Warriors hired him, and the book on him is far from written, but myself and others could be eating some lovely crow pie. Alamode.

It may be time to flip off of whatever channel the Lakers and Clippers are on, because there is another good team in California. And one that can be even more fun to watch.

Sixers’ Joel Embiid officially has knee surgery, expected to be back on court in summer

Associated Press
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“The… follow-up MRI of Joel Embiid‘s left knee appears to reveal… the previously identified meniscus tear appears more pronounced in this most recent scan.”

When Philadelphia’s chief medical director Dr. Jonathan Glashow said that in a statement announcing Joel Embiid was being shut down for the season, the chance of knee surgery to clean up that meniscus was possible. Friday it became a reality, the team announced.

CSNPhilly.com had the details.

The team expects Embiid to resume basketball activities during this summer, according to Sixers director of performance research and development Dr. David T. Martin. Embiid will begin his rehab in Los Angeles with specialists and Sixers medical and training staff members.

“The overall status of Joel’s lateral meniscus and his cartilage is very good,” surgeon Dr. Neal S. ElAttrache, M.D., who performed the surgery, said in a statement. “Today’s procedure focused on removing a small portion of the meniscus that was responsible for his symptoms.

“The recovery program that has been established targets Joel transitioning back to full weight-bearing in approximately two weeks, at which point a conservative approach to his rehabilitation will be introduced.”

After Embiid missed two seasons with foot issues, there is a tendency to lump everything together and call him injury prone. This, however, was a minor surgery with a relatively short recovery period, even as the Sixers bring him along slowly. There is reason for concern, but this shouldn’t be an issue by next training camp.

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.

Devin Booker demolishes youthful scoring records

AP Photo/Tony Dejak
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When a 20-year-old LeBron James scored 56 points in a game, he called it, “probably the best game of my life.”

Devin Booker just topped him with 70 points in a game at age 20.

LeBron has obviously gone onto bigger and better things since dropping 56 in a loss to the Raptors during his second year, but that game was a harbinger. Booker – whom LeBron singled out before the season as an under-the-radar rising star – could be on a similar track.

Or Booker could be following Brandon Jennings, who scored 55 in his seventh game, also at age 20.

The future is bright – and unknown – for the second-year Suns guard.

What’s clear: His accomplishment last night is unmatched, and nobody else has come close. Here are the highest-scoring games in NBA history by someone under age 21:

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This is the result of Phoenix going so young and Booker playing so well. Not every team would provide such an opportunity, but Booker seized it.

Not only is he the youngest player ever to score 70 points in a game, he’s the youngest to score 60 in a game.

Somebody ought to buy him a drink to celebrate – in October, once it’s legal.

Union: Joakim Noah would not have been suspended under next CBA

Elsa/Getty Images
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Selective Androgen Receptor Modulator LGD-4033 was not banned by the current Collective Bargaining Agreement when it was enacted.

The next CBA will offer a new challenge policy for failed drug tests.

Perhaps Joakim Noah, whom the NBA suspended 20 games, just tested positively at the wrong time.

SARM LGD-4033 (Ligandrol) was added to the banned list after the current CBA was signed in 2011. The drug is also banned by the next CBA, which will take effect July 1.

But the next CBA would also allow Noah an opportunity to contest his suspension – which his union says he would have done successfully..

National Basketball Players Association:

“After a thorough investigation, the National Basketball Players Association believes that Joakim Noah did not intentionally or knowingly violate any policy of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).  Under the recently negotiated CBA effective July 1, a player’s unintentional ingestion of a prohibited substance would be taken into consideration, and we believe the conduct here would not result in discipline.  Unfortunately, the current CBA does not permit such consideration.”

“Joakim was completely forthcoming and cooperative throughout the investigation and we believe that this isolated occurrence was a regrettable mistake.  Joakim has offered his deepest apologies for this infraction, and neither he nor the NBPA will pursue an appeal.”

Unlike the current CBA, the new CBA allows a player to challenge a suspension if he “did not know or suspect, and could not reasonably have known or suspected, even with the exercise of considerable caution and diligence, that he was taking, ingesting, applying, or otherwise using” the drug. He must also establish how the drug entered his system.

That’s obviously a high burden. The CBA even defines it as an “unusual circumstance.”

Could Noah have presented such convincing evidence? Maybe, but it’s far easier to make that claim in a statement than actually convince an arbitrator.

Stephen Curry with touchdown pass to Andre Iguodala, who finishes with reverse lay-up (VIDEO)

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The 49ers may want to give Stephen Curry a call, because I’m not sure Brian Hoyer can throw that pass.

Curry showed a soft touch on a touchdown pass over a defender to the streaking Andre Iguodala, who had to finish with the reverse layup, a little no-look flip. It was vintage Warriors, a little playground in transition.

The Warriors beat the Kings 114-100 behind 27 from Curry. With the win the Warriors are 2.5 games up on the Spurs for the best record in the West, but Golden State has a tough road back-to-back this week in Houston than San Antonio. Get at least a split there and the Warriors will be tough to catch.