Golden State’s arena sign of things to come

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The suddenly-relevant Warriors have made big strides.  Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Bogut, & Co. have turned the Bay Area into a basketball hotbed – you could practically feel the crackle of energy in the air as they upset Denver in last year’s playoffs.

The sky’s the limit for this team, and local investors are taking notice.  The Oracle’s lease runs out after the 2017 season, and plans are in the works across the bay for a sumptuous brand-spankin’-new waterfront arena tagged at $1 billion – that’s billion with a B.

Beyond the arena itself, however, is what the whole project says about the team:

1) They’ve electrified the town.

Big-dollar investors don’t drop that kind of cash without good reason.  There is big money to be made through licensing, media rights, merchandising, advertising, concessions, and the list goes on.  This all happens when strong public support goes hand in hand with investors’ attention – both of which the Warriors suddenly have.

2) They’re here to stay.

After all, Oracle 2.0 won’t be ready for another 4 seasons.  As it stands now, every contract on the team will have expired by that time.  The only ones still on the books through the end of the 2016-17 season are Curry and offseason newcomer Andre Iguodala. Bay Area med-tech venture capitalist and Warriors owner Joe Lacob’s potential use for that cap space doesn’t bode well for the rest of the NBA.

  • First, keep the major players – Curry is key, and Thompson and Bogut are a close second.  Barnes is no slouch either.  Curry-Thompson is a potentially deadly 1-2 punch, if next year they can adjust to defenses who figure them out after last year’s lights-out playoff performance and if Thompson can avoid a sophomore slump.  Bogut is a reliable rebounder with good hands and instincts, and he can score when needed.  Curry is signed through 2016-17, but Bogut’s is up next summer and Thompson’s has a club option the summer after that.  Get them back.
  • Second, build around that core.  They’ve got a good thing going and just need to make a few well-timed tweaks.  Andre Iguodala might prove to be just that.  However, my first response is no, due to his age for two reasons.  First, he turns 30 in January, not old but also not young.  Second, in his 9 years he’s proved himself as a good player but not a franchise cornerstone.  Still, he could be a solid missing piece and a good small-forward addition to supplement Curry at point, Bogut inside, and Thompson/Barnes on the wing.

Keep an eye on the Warriors.  They’ve got a great chance to do some big things.  Not right now, not this season — they’ve got a ways to go before competing with the Heat and Thunder.  But keep an eye on them, come spring.  And definitely keep an eye on their new arena, come 2017.

Blake Griffin’s dunk attempt stuffed by Jarrett Allen. Again (video)

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Pistons star Blake Griffin learned his lesson after getting his dunk blocked by Nets center Jarrett Allen in the preseason. In the regular-season opener, Griffin went up even harder.

And Allen still stopped him!

Kevin Durant’s brother says Instagram comment wasn’t about star leaving Warriors this summer

AP Photo/Ben Margot
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Rumors about Kevin Durant leaving the Warriors are intensifying. Even people within the Golden State organization are bracing themselves for him to depart in free agency next summer.

Not even the Warriors collecting their championship rings could stop the momentum.

In fact, last night’s celebration contributed to the noise.

Kevin’s brother, Tony, commented on Kevin’s Instagram post featuring the rings, “Filling the hand up before we get outta here!”

Rob Perez of The Action Network:

My best guess was “here” meant the Warriors’ arena in Oakland. This is their last season there before moving to a new arena in San Francisco Francisco.

Or maybe “here” meant in the NBA. Careers in the NBA are finite.

Another thought that crossed my mind: “Here” could have meant in this world. Lives, too, are finite.

The only clear part: Tony wants Kevin to win a handful of rings. The deadline is nebulous.

Of course, the loudest speculation was “here” meant playing for the Warriors and this being the last run. But Tony sharply denied that.

Perez:

If you want to be a conspiracy theorist, perhaps Tony meant leaving Golden State after this season but Kevin just instructed him to downplay it to quiet chatter. I suppose that’s possible, though it wouldn’t jibe with Kevin’s tell-the-truth-about-free-agency approach.

Occam’s Razor suggests taking Tony at his word, and that’s what I’ll do.

Report: Tom Thibodeau raised asking price for Jimmy Butler after infamous practice

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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After sitting out while awaiting a trade rehabbing after injuring his wrist, Jimmy Butler practiced with the Timberwolves for the first time last week. He reportedly showed up late, talked a ton of trash and led third-stringers to a win over the starters then left early.

Amidst widespread speculation they had to trade Butler after that, the Tom Thibodeau-run Timberwolves put out word they considered it their best practice of the year.

Maybe Thibodeau is that insanely competitive. Maybe he was just trying to preserve leverage.

If it were the latter, he sure stuck to his story.

Adrian Wojnarowski on ESPN:

Teams who talked to Minnesota after his first practice, literally the day after his practice, Minnesota was asking for more then than they were before the day. Which tells you this: Minnesota is not trading him. They’re asking for packages that know teams aren’t going to agree to.

The Timberwolves are in a though spot. Butler is an excellent player, but everyone knows he wants out. I don’t blame them for trying to maximize their limited leverage.

How will Butler react to this revelation, though? Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor said he told Butler the team would seek a trade. Butler pledged to play hard in the meantime.

But if Butler playing hard just makes it less likely Minnesota will trade him, will he feel as if the team isn’t holding up its end of the bargain? Then what?

It has long seemed Taylor and Thibodeau are on different pages on several issues. Though Taylor just backed Thibodeau, Butler could drive a wedge even deeper between the owner and president-coach.

Russell Westbrook sneak-snacking steals show on NBA’s opening night

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NBA’s opening night was quite tame. The Celtics and Warriors won as expected, neither the 76ers nor Thunder mounting much of a challenge.

That allowed Russell Westbrookout with an injury — to have the most fun moment when he looked around deviously, turned to his side and ate something.

What did did Westbrook eat? Was he not supposed to be eating? Did he not want to share? Big questions remain unanswered surrounding this important incident.