NBA Season Preview: Golden State Warriors

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Last season: 26-56, which is kind of the record you end up with when you don’t play much defense. And Don Nelson had stopped caring about defense, or seemingly coaching half the time. But as much as that, it was an injury-ravaged season that kept the win total that low.

Head Coach: Keith Smart, who still wants this team running as fast as anyone in the league, but has set up some flex (think Jazz) half court sets. And he is going to hold guys accountable on defense. (Note to Warriors fans, defense is the thing played on the other half of the court where your team is not shooting. Just wanted to give you a reminder as you hadn’t seen it in years.)

Key Departures: Owner Chris Cohan — no player move the Warriors could have made is as big as this. Cohan had owned the Warriors 16 seasons and the team made it to the playoffs just once. Front office power plays took place while he watched seemingly uninterested. He was one of the few owners in the league you could compare to Donald Sterling (of the Clippers). Just him being out gives hope to Golden State fans.

Anthony Randolph seemed like a guy that should blow up in Don Nelson’s system — the Warriors hyped him like he would — but it never really happened. So he goes to the Knicks along with Kelenna Azubuike and Ronny Turiaf as part of the David Lee deal. It’s not a bad deal in that Lee brings some needed skills across the country with him, but giving up Randolph and Azubuike is a lot of potential out the door. But it’s time for a little of the old coaching axiom in Golden State — potential will get you fired. With Lee, you know what you get every night.

The real head scratcher of a summer move was sending Anthony Morrow to the Nets for a second round pick. Morrow is a lights-out shooter at an affordable price. How does that not fit in any system?

Also gone are Anthony Tolliver and Corey Maggette.

Key Additions: New owners Peter Guber and Joe Lacob (Lacob will be the front man). They may or may not be great owners — Lacob was part owner of the Celtics and saw how a first class organization works first hand, but he also said the Warriors would not spend over the luxury tax. Already they are making changes — Nellie is out, while they bring in gritty players that will actually rebound the ball (David Lee, Lou Amundson) which alone will bring a needed change to the roster. Bottom line — the new owners bring hope to a fan base that has wanted desperately to believe. Now, we all believe.

On the court, there is David Lee. The Warriors were a terrible, terrible rebounding team last season and David Lee will change that. Parts of his game may have gotten overhyped in New York, but not his work on the boards, where last season he grabbed 17.9 percent of the available rebounds when he was on the floor. He is particularly a beast on the defensive glass. Now, as for his defense, that will be a fun challenge for Smart.

Also in the door in Golden State are draft picks Ekpe Udoh (No. 6 overall) and Jeremy Lin (the fan favorite), plus Dorell Wright, Amundson, Rodney Carney, and even Dan Gadzuric.

Oh, and cool new uniforms.

Best case scenario: The Warriors start to figure out who they want to be, who fits with that, and the second half of the season they make a run at a playoff spot while keeping the cap space and flexibility they have to build in the future.

For that to happen: The Warriors just need to be smart about it. What that last paragraph really says is there is true hope for the future now, because the Warriors have some good pieces to start building around. And just watching something with a chance to grow that ownership will not uproot too early for no good reasons will go over huge with the loyal Warriors faithful.

Golden State has a lot of potential in the Stephen Curry/David Lee pick and roll. Lee is a very good roll-man — he sets a quality pick and last season shot 64 percent when he got the ball in that spot. He also picks up a fair amount of and-ones in that spot as he is strong enough to get off a good shot while rolling even if hit. Meanwhile Curry is an improving ball-handler on the pick-and-roll. You have to fight over the top of the pick or show hard on Curry — you have to respect his shot and cannot just let him get a clean look — and Curry is figuring out how to use that attention to set up others.

Like Monta Ellis, who is another great scorer and also a ball-handler that is solid as a pick-and-roll ball handler. Ellis just puts points on the board — not terribly efficiently last season, but he was asked to carry a lot of the Warriors offense.

There are questions if Ellis and Curry can play together, but two ball-handlers who can both be fantastic catch-and-shoot guys can work very well together — if they want to. It’s more about desire and ego than fit.

The Warriors also have a nice collection of role players. Reggie Williams is a personal favorite to watch and Smart will give him quality minutes. Andris Biedrins could be a strong center if he can stay healthy. Dorell Wright gives Golden State some nice athleticism on the wing. It’s just a matter of finding the direction for the team then seeing who fits.

More likely the Warriors will: Be better with flashes of really good, but struggle to win a lot in a very deep Western Conference. However, what is different is this time they will not self-destruct and rip apart whatever future there might have been. They will learn and build. In a year or two, they will be the team that makes the big leap forward, just not this season.

Prediction: 33-49, and by the end of the season a formed identity. That or Smart will be gone and a coach with an identity will be brought in.

Aaron Gordon trash talks Raptors’ bench after three, they laugh at him (VIDEO)

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Aaron Gordon is not exactly intimidating the Toronto Raptors.

The Orlando Magic forward and star of “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” drained a corner three in front of the Toronto bench Tuesday night, then turned around and talked a little trash.

Toronto’s bench reaction was perfect.

Toronto also got the last laugh on Danny Green‘s game winner.

Michael Jordan returns home, meets with hurricane victims

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WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) — Stephanie Parker isn’t quite sure how her family of six would have managed the last two months without the help of Michael Jordan and the American Red Cross following Hurricane Florence.

So when Parker met Jordan on Tuesday she couldn’t hold back giving the owner of the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets a big hug and a thank you.

“It means he hasn’t forgotten,” Parker told The Associated Press about Jordan’s visit to Wilmington, North Carolina. “It means we are important.”

Jordan returned to his hometown wearing North Carolina Tar Heels blue and met with some hurricane victims, many of whom have benefited from his $2 million donation in September. Jordan gave $1 million each to the Red Cross and the Foundation for the Carolinas Hurricane Florence Response Fund.

“I can give money all day long, but at some point you want them to understand you’re human,” Jordan told AP.

Jordan handed out Thanksgiving dinners at a home improvement store and gave away Jordan Brand shoes at a Boys & Girls Club Tuesday where he once played as a child.

Parker has lived the nightmare that’s become all too familiar for hurricane victims around the country.

She, her husband, and their four children ages 3 to 8 heeded the warnings to evacuate the area. They took refuge in a Red Cross shelter, but when they returned, their apartment was flooded with two feet of water and their minivan crushed by a fallen tree. They spent nearly two months in shelters until recently being placed in a hotel while they await permanent housing.

“It’s been stressful,” she said, taking a long, deep breath. “At first it was really, really hard to realize that you lost everything. But people like Michael Jordan donating to the Red Cross and donating to people who have gone through what we’ve gone through is an incredible blessing. We are so very, very thankful.”

Jordan broke into a wide smile when asked about his meeting with Parker.

“You really want to trust that money goes to the right people,” Jordan said. “And when you see it goes to the right people, it makes me feel good that I did the right thing.”

Jordan said he’ll continue to monitor the hurricane recovery efforts and would consider partnering with others to continue to help improve living conditions.

American Red Cross executive director James Jarvis said at the height of the storm the Red Cross sheltered more than 20,000 people in 172 locations. They provided 1.3 million meals and snacks. They’ve also distributed money to more than 6,500 families, doling out more than $3.8 million to help families get on the road to recovery.

“I wanted to be an igniter to the process,” Jordan said of his initial donation. “But it’s going to take a long time before things get back to normal. Whatever way I can contribute I will.”

He also hopes that Charlotte hosting the All-Star game in February will provide an impetus for more financial aid to the region.

“I am pretty sure that the league will have some support systems that will reach out to this community,” Jordan said. “And we are going to do a lot in Charlotte, too. But the overall game is about helping other people, so I can see it reaching all the way down to this area.”

Natalie English, the president and CEO of the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, said it’s still too early to estimate the financial damage to the area.

But she said Jordan’s donations resonated in the community.

“I think it means a lot to people here that Michael remembers his home and that he cares about where he was for his formative years and he is giving back to help restore the community,” English said.

This is not a one-time deal for Jordan.

Fred Lynch coached Jordan when he was 15-year-old freshman playing on the junior high school basketball team at Laney High School in Wilmington. He sustained minor damage to his nearby home, but said several neighbors only a block away suffered total destruction as a result of flooding and wind damage to Hurricane Florence.

Lynch said Jordan has visited Wilmington periodically since leaving to play college basketball at North Carolina and embarking on an NBA career that included six NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls, five league MVP honors and 14 All-Star game appearances.

The 55-year-old Jordan still has an aunt, cousins and friends here and his nephew who attends college at UNC Wilmington. Jordan was most recently here in April at his high school filming a Gatorade commercial.

Lynch said he wasn’t surprised when Jordan stepped up to help the people of Wilmington and the surrounding areas – donating money and his time.

“From the time I coached him as a ninth grade, he was always looking out for people,” Lynch said. “He’s always trying to do the right thing and always trying to better himself and his community. That’s pretty much what he’s been about his entire career.”

 

Three Things to Know: Wizards can win after all, rally from 24 down to beat Clippers

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Each night in the NBA there is a lot of action, a lot to unpack. Which is why every weekday morning during the NBA season we bring you three things you need to know out of the night before, to keep you up on all the big happenings around the NBA.

1) Wizards can win after all, rally from 24 down to beat Clippers. Washington has been an embarrassment. Wizards fans are wearing bags over their heads while the rest of the league is trying to work out Bradley Beal trade scenarios (which probably don’t play out until July). This is a Washington team that spent shootaround trying to play down a practice last week where the players all yelled at one another and John Wall dropped an F-bomb on the coach.

One of the “signature” things about these Wizards is they roll over — get on a run, get up on them and Washington’s body language changes, the players hang their heads and just quit. They don’t fight for each other.

Not Tuesday night against one of the hottest teams in the NBA.

Down 24 points at one point and 19 at the half to the Los Angeles Clippers, the Wizards rallied back to win 125-118.

Wall had 30 points and 8 assists, Beal 27 points and 7 dimes.

“That’s how we need to play,” Beal told NBC Sports Washington. “Not going to say everything is fixed because we were still down [24 points], still have a lot of work to do. Got a lot of to change and get better. Our effort was there in the second half. That’s the type of intensity we have to have for the full 48.”

Let’s not pretend that one half of basketball fixed the Wizards, but there are things to build on. Tomas Satoransky continued a run of good play with 13 points, seven rebounds and three assists (Brooks need to trust him more). The good Jeff Green showed up with 10 points in the fourth quarter and 20 for the game (not sure the Wizards can build on that, he’s never been consistent). Coach Scott Brooks started Thomas Bryant at center (Dwight Howard is out injured) and he had some solid moments, like a block of Marcin Gortat followed by a bucket at the other end.

We could get into how this was a back-to-back and the third game in four nights for the Clippers, so their legs just got tired late, but why spoil the fun. For one night, the Wizards looked like a team that had potential. We’ll let them enjoy that, then get back to figuring out how New Orleans can trade for Otto Porter.

2) Danny Green drains game winner for Raptors over Magic. Danny Green fouled out at the end of Toronto’s loss to Boston (on a pretty tricky-tac call) and his presence was missed. With the game on t he line the Raptors missed his floor spacing on offense and his willing defense.

Tuesday night Green showed how much they need him to close games with the game winner against an Orlando squad that had knocked off the Sixers and the Lakers recently.

Wesley Iwundu was brought in to cover Green, but they rubbed him off two picks and Aaron Gordon was a little late with the switch, giving Green enough room to get the shot off. Kawhi Leonard had 18 on the night, plus he knows things.

3) C.J. McCollum drops 31, Damian Lillard has 29 points and 8 assists in Madison Square Garden and Blazers stay on top of West. Nearly 20 games into the season, nobody expected Portland to be the team leading the Western Conference. No doubt Portland would be good, but in a deep West with Golden State and Houston, the Trail Blazers were expected to be in the middle of a crowded pack fighting for a playoff spot, not the team on top of the mountain. (How did they get there? Check out our podcast from a couple of weeks ago with Dane Delgado of NBC Sports Portland.)

Yet here we are. The Trail Blazers went into Madison Square Garden and put on a show for the suffering Knicks fans. Damian Lillard had 29 points, 8 assists, and showed Knicks fans what an elite point guard looks like.

Meanwhile, C.J. McCollum was just getting buckets.

Kevin Durant says he and Draymond Green have agreed to move on after spat

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Will Kevin Durant leave the Golden State Warriors in free agency this coming summer?

It’s entirely possible, and the big argument between Durant and fellow Warriors teammate Draymond Green last week led many to speculate that it might have an impact on the former’s pending free agency.

Both Green and Durant are back on the same floor for Golden State, and in a recent interview with Yahoo Sports Durant said that the row won’t have any effect on him choosing to stay or leave the Warriors.

Speaking with Yahoo’s Chris Haynes, Durant said that he understood Green’s personality and that he had decided not to let the dust-up affect him moving forward, presumably toward their ultimate goal of another championship.

Via Yahoo:

“I never really felt like it was a problem, because I know Dray and he says some crazy [expletive] out his mouth all the time,” Durant told Yahoo Sports. “But on top of that, it was just that there was so much coming with it from the outside, and so much stuff that we have to answer now.”

“I was upset, but I know that I can’t hold on to something like this,” Durant told Yahoo Sports. “I know that I’ve got to make a choice with myself, like how long are you going to be upset about this to the point where you’re going to let it affect what you do on the floor or how you approach the game? Once it gets there now, I got to make a grown-man decision and tell myself, ‘Look, man, no matter what, you still got to come to work every single day. It’s going to work out. It’s going to figure itself out.’ And I think everyone’s been handling it the best way they could and we’re just trying to move forward with it.”

All of Durant’s quotes are worth reading for more context on the biggest free agency of 2019. There’s a lot to unpack there, and if you have paid attention too much of what Durant has said in the past, it’s hard to put any weight on any comments given to Haynes in this instance.

Durant isn’t the most forthcoming person, and his angling when it comes to his career seems both clumsy and transparent at times. Durant could be seen mouthing what appeared to be an indication that he was going to leave the Warriors while on the floor against the Los Angeles Clippers, and we won’t get any direct comment on that anytime soon.

Durant did what he needed to do. He made public comments about how he is going to move forward from here on out so the Warriors can continue their run of dominance through the NBA. But short of signing a new contract (or both players holding a joint press conference where it’s clear from their faces that things are A-OK) everyone is going to assume there’s tension building under the surface with Golden State all season long.