Joel Embiid “strongly considering” staying at Kansas for sophomore season

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Everyone says this until the money is on the table.

Kansas center Joel Embiid is at or near the top of every team’s draft board — DraftExpress has him as the No. 1 pick overall right now — and as general managers survey the NBA and see the value of a big who can protect the paint, plus a guy with offensive potential, he’s not likely to slip outside the top three.

If he enters the draft.

Embiid has been consistent is saying he’s not sure he’s going to come out and enter the draft. The Cameroon native said it again to ESPN on Tuesday before his team took on Baylor.

Kansas 7-footer Joel Embiid told ESPN that he is far from a lock to leave college after this season, and is “strongly considering” returning for his sophomore campaign…

“I’m not even thinking about it right now,” Embiid said. “I’ll make a decision after the season, but I’m definitely considering coming back to school.”

First and foremost, Embiid should make the decision that is best for him personally. He has only been playing organized basketball for three years, he has talked about the entire experience being an adjustment. He clearly has a comfort level at Kansas and with Bill Self, and if he feels it is best for him as a person he should stay.

However, as noted above, a lot of players say they want to stay until the money is on the table. A lot of guys have said “I’m staying” after their team was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament, only to recant that a week later. We’ll see how this plays out.

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Let me add two quick points. First, is that if Embiid comes out he would make a guaranteed $9.5 million in his first two seasons, plus he starts the clock sooner on the larger, second contract that often follows for No. 1 picks. When we talk about leaving money on the table, it’s not just the money Embiid would make in his rookie season, it is removing one year from his limited window to earn money as a professional basketball player. Tom Ziller laid argument out very well at SB Nation. (If he wants his degree, he can still get it. Shaquille O’Neal and a host of other players have finished getting their degrees while playing in the NBA.)

Second, the idea that “he needs another year to develop” is just a fallacy. If he enters the league his full-time job is to develop as a player. As a college student he has limits on practice hours (and hours he can practice with a coach), plus he plays in fewer games against inferior competition.

A lot of people confuse the impact a player could make in his rookie year with the speed of development — if Embiid stays in college a season he could make a bigger impact in the NBA his rookie year, but that is different than saying he will develop more as a player. Embiid has talked about his diet and wanting to improve it — NBA teams have entire programs set up around this, trainers who would get him on that path in a way college dorm food just cannot. If he were willing to put the work in, Embiid would develop more in the NBA (certainly some teams are better at developing players).

He needs to do what is best for him, what feels most comfortable to him. If that is to stay in Kansas, he should stay.

But don’t take what any player says right now about staying too seriously.

Watch best of Klay Thompson’s nine threes, 35-point night

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Stephen Curry is a better shooter. Kevin Durant is a better scorer with a bigger toolbox.

But no Warrior can get as white-hot as Klay Thompson.

He did that on Saturday night helping the Warriors to a Game 6 win, getting his rhythm and becoming a scoring machine in the second half, finishing with 35 points including hitting 9-of-14 from three, and having six rebounds. He was just as important on the other end of the floor.

“I thought Klay was amazing tonight, not just for 35 points and the nine threes, but his defense,” Coach Steve Kerr said. “The guy’s a machine. He’s just so fit physically. He seems to thrive in these situations. But he was fantastic.”

Thompson will need to bring some of that Heat in Game 7 on the road if the Warriors are going to head back to the NBA Finals.

Backs against wall down 17, Warriors crank up defense, rain threes, force Game 7

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Warriors’ fans have been asking one question since the season tipped off in October:

What is it going to take to get Golden State to truly focus and play up to their potential?

Apparently, the answer is going down 17 to the Houston Rockets in a playoff elimination game.

Houston entered Oracle Saturday night playing smart and with energy, defending as they had the previous two games and then turning that into transition buckets and threes — eight of them in the first quarter. Houston was up 17 in the first and 10 at the half.

However, Golden State had started to defend better in the second quarter and they cranked up the intensity to the level fans had hoped to see in the second half — Houston scored 39 points in the first quarter and 47 combined in the final three. The Warriors were also forcing turnovers, 21.3 percent of Rockets possessions ended with a turnover (more than one in five trips down the court). Houston had 25 points in the second half and shot 2-of-9 from three in the third quarter.

At the same time, Klay Thompson led an onslaught of threes for Golden State (Thompson had 9 threes on the night). The Warriors defense turned into offense.

The result was a dramatic turnaround and a 115-86 Golden State win, tying the Western Conference Finals at 3-3.

Game 7 is in Houston Monday night. Winner advances to the NBA Finals.

“Effort. Intensity. Passion,” Thompson said of the Warriors’ second-half surge. “When we do that, and we rotate, and we help each other we’re the best defensive team in the league.”

While it was their defense that sparked everything, the Warriors also found an offense that worked against the Rockets’ switching defense — more Stephen Curry with the ball in his hands. There are a few ways to counter a switching defense and one is a creative ballhandler who can still make plays — not just isolation plays, but who can create a little space and find guys moving off the ball despite the pressure. Curry was that guy, he was the Warriors best all-around player on the night. He had a high IQ game and added 29 points. With the offense not running through Kevin Durant isolations, it just flowed better (the Warriors best lineup of the night was Curry, Thompson, Draymond Green, Shaun Livingston, and Nick Young, +13 in just more than eight minutes).

It just took a lot of pressure from a Rockets team to get Golden State into that mental frame of mind.

Houston opened this game with the same defensive energy they had the last two games, and once again it flustered the Golden State offense. Except, this time the Rockets did a much better job of turning those misses and turnovers into transition points (the Rockets averaged two points per possession on the break in the first half). Throw in some terrible defensive communication errors by the Warriors, and the Rockets were raining threes in the first half — 11-of-22, with Gordon going 4-of-4.

The Warriors had some success with an ultra-small lineup that unleashed Curry, but as soon as non-shooters were on the floor — Kevon Looney, Jordon Bell, and the Rockets were daring Draymond Green and Shaun Livingston to shoot — Houston shrunk the floor and took away passing lanes, plus contested every shot.

In the second half, the Warriors used that Curry energy and hit their threes to pull away. The Warriors were at their best with Bell as the fifth man with the four All-Stars, he brought an energy and athleticism that made things flow on both ends. Don’t be shocked if he starts Game 7 for Golden State.

If the Warriors pack up that second half energy with them and take it to Houston, there is not much the Rockets will be able to do. But do not expect these gritty, feisty Rockets to go quietly into that good night.

Rockets were draining threes in the first half against Warriors in Game 6

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The Rockets were feeling it the first half in Game 6.

Playing with an energy the Warriors lacked at least in the first quarter), Houston defended well, pushed the ball in transition, and then they just drained three after three after three.

Eric Gordon started 4-of-4 from three and the team was 11-of-22 in the first half, which made up for the 11 turnovers and had them up 17 at one point and ahead by 10 after the first half.

Warriors’ Andre Iguodala out for Game 6

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Steve Kerr has been searching for a couple of games now for his fifth guy.

With Andre Iguodala out there is no Death/Hamptons 5 lineup and Kerr is looking for a fifth guy to partner with his four All-Stars. Kevon Looney is starting, Jordan Bell is showing potential but also makes some rookie plays, Nick Young has been bad enough that Kerr trusted Quin Cook more at the end of the last game (and Cook missed his looks).

Kerr is going to have to keep searching for a guy in Game 6 because Iguodala is out again.

The Warriors are not the team heading into Game 6 with the most significant injury woes, the Rockets are without Chris Paul. That and the fact the Warriors’ backs are against the wall is the reason they are heavy favorites in Game 6.

However, the Warriors have not been the same without Iguodala. He is a playmaker who can control the ball and settle things down, makes the right decision, get the player and ball movement the Warriors have strayed too much from back, plus is one of their best defenders on James Harden. Nobody else on the roster can do that.

And if Game 6 gets tight late, the Warriors are going to miss those skills. As they have in the last two games.