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.

Celtics to retire Paul Pierce’s number after Cavaliers game in February

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The Celtics already said they’d retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34.

Now, we know when.

Celtics release:

The Boston Celtics announced today that they will retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34 after a mid-season game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, Feb. 11

After? That’s apparently in response to a new rule that penalizes teams not ready to play after a 15-minute halftime. These ceremonies can drag on, and nobody wants to cut Pierce short. I wonder whether this will start a trend of number retirements coming after games.

DeMarcus Cousins on Confederate statues: ‘Take all them motherf—ers down’

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DeMarcus Cousins grew up in Alabama, played collegiately at Kentucky and now plays in New Orleans.

So, yeah, the Pelicans star has an opinion on Confederate statues.

Cousins, via TMZ:

“Take all them motherf*ckers down,” Cousins said … “Take ’em all down.”

These statues glorify people because they fought a war against the United States in the name of preserving the racist institution of slavery.

Not whom I want to honor, either.

Kevin Durant: Kyrie Irving-LeBron James situation ‘just a regular NBA problem’

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Kevin Durant knows something about star teammates not always getting along.

So, the Warriors forward is not freaking out about the disconnect between Kyrie Irving and LeBron James and Irving’s subsequent trade request.

Durant, via Chris Haynes of ESPN:

“It’s just a regular NBA problem, right? A lot of teams have gone through this before,” Durant told ESPN. “They’ll figure it out. That’s a great organization, a championship organization. They’ll figure it out.”

“It’s not the end of the world,” Durant said. “Both of those guys won a championship together. They love each other. If Kyrie wants to do something else, that’s on him. I’m sure whatever happens, it’ll work out for the best for both of them. But it’s just a normal NBA problem. It’s just two big stars that it’s happening to.”

Durant is definitely right in the larger sense. Teammates spat and requests trades more often than we realize. Remember, both Irving and the Cavaliers probably prefer this never became public.

But I’m not sure Cleveland will figure this out with the ease Durant suggests. David Griffin, who had proven so adept at putting out these fires, is gone. LeBron’s free agency looms. This could be extremely destructive to the Cavs.

The fact that this “regular NBA problem” became public only intensifies it – and raises it something greater.

Report: Heat signing Jordan Mickey

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Jordan Mickey – the No. 33 pick by the Celtics in 2015 – became the first second-round pick in memory to sign the year he was drafted and receive a higher initial salary than first-round picks.

He’s keeping the checks coming.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

Mickey will be the Heat’s 16th player with a standard contract, though Matt Williams (unguaranteed) will likely be waived to meet the regular-season roster limit.

I’m not sure where Mickey fits on this team, which already has several bigs. Hassan Whiteside, Bam Adebayo and Kelly Olynyk will likely play ahead of him. Miami also has A.J. Hammons (who might be just dead salary) and Udonis Haslem (who might provide nothing more than veteran leadership).

The Heat could just see Mickey as someone they can develop. At that point, how he fits into the current roster doesn’t really matter.

Mickey – 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan – is a mobile defender with nice timing for blocking shots inside. He even possesses a work-in-progress 3-pointer in his arsenal. There’s plenty for Miami to help mold.