Gary Payton picks Golden State to win Western Conference

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Golden State is going to be a trendy pick for some this season.

They have the shooting in Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, they have added Andre Iguodala to help them in transition and with perimeter defense, they have a double-double machine in David Lee coming back, they bring Harrison Barnes off the bench. Optimism runs high in the Bay Area.

Particularly in Oakland — where Hall of Famer (as of this weekend) Gary Payton is from and where the Warriors still play. (And will for a few years at least, getting a new stadium built on the water in San Francisco is a Herculean task the owners undertook.)

Payton told Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com he is on the Warriors bandwagon.

“I think they’re going to be there,” Payton said. “I think they have a good chance of going. Picking up Andre (Igoudala), that was a good pickup for them. I think if (Andrew) Bogut plays well, they’re going to have a great chance. I just really do believe that. And I think Mark Jackson’s doing a great job down there. I’m really proud of my city. That’s why I mention it. People always think about our city as being the crime city. But they don’t understand. We’ve got a lot of good people coming out of there doing great things in athletics and doing a lot of things that’s positive. We want these kids to understand that they can do the same thing and come out and just keep our generation going that’s coming out of that area.”

That is some Oakland pride. And as somebody who was there a couple weeks ago visiting friends, there are certainly a lot of things to be proud of in that city.

As for the Warriors as contenders….

First off, we have made it, Payton has made it, and pretty much everyone will make it — the Andrew Bogut caveat. For Golden State to be a serious threat in the West they need his defensive presence healthy in the paint. They would be good without him, but not a contender. His passing skills work great with Curry and Thompson, but more importantly he is a quality backstop on defense, which they need as the aforementioned shooters are not great defenders.

But there are other questions about Golden State. To me, I think they miss the veteran presence of Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry off the bench. I think there will need to be some melding of Iggy with Curry. There is some work to do.

Which is to say, the Warriors can be contenders if things go their way, but there are still a lot of “ifs.” But there are ifs for every contender in the West, it’s a matter of who best answers their questions.

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.