Warriors answer critics with Game 4 win over Grizzlies

16 Comments

Draymond Green glued himself to Mike Conley’s hip as the Grizzlies point guard drove the lane, and Andrew Bogut stepped over to block Conley’s shot. Stephen Curry picked up the ball, attacked the basket 1-on-2 and drew a foul.

A Memphis fan reached for a high five, and Curry happily obliged.

After a two-game skid invited far too much criticism, the Warriors unapologetically remained themselves – staunch defensively, aggressive offensively and confident everywhere – in a 101-84 Game 4 win Monday in Memphis.

“We had a good mindset as a group coming into this game that, if we play like ourselves, we’ll be able to change the tide of the series,” said Curry, who – for the first time since winning the award – played like an MVP with 33 points, eight rebounds, five assists and two steals.

Curry might have won over only a fan or two, but his Warriors at least quieted what had been a rocking Memphis crowd. Headed back to Golden State with the series tied 2-2 for Game 5 Wednesday, the Warriors aren’t done with the Grind House just yet.

But at least they showed they can handle the pressure.

In the previous couple games, Golden State hoisted many 3-pointers (result: misses), worked quickly before the defense set (result: rushed shots) and made risky passes (result: turnovers).

Tonight, Golden State hoisted many 3-pointers (result: efficient points and misses), worked quickly before the defense set (result: open shots and rushed shots) and made risky passes (result: easy looks and turnovers).

Against this strong Memphis defense, mixed results are more than fine. Golden State just couldn’t afford to let the Grizzlies mentally impact possessions that weren’t closely guarded, which seemed to happen far too often in Games 2 and 3.

On the other end, Warriors coach Steve Kerr made a crafty adjustment.

The Warriors stuck Bogut on Tony Allen, leaving their center to patrol the paint and daring Allen to shoot. Allen (2-of-9, including 0-of-3 on 3s) complied, and Harrison Barnes did well enough on Zach Randolph (12 points on 5-of-10 shooting with 11 rebounds, five offensive) to negate that potential Memphis advantage.

The Grizzlies, who led led for just 29 seconds, couldn’t find an edge elsewhere. Marc Gasol (19 points on 19 shots, 10 rebounds and six assists) labored, and Mike Conley (4-of-15) was too often out of control.

On the other hand, Green (16 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, two steals, two blocks and seven turnovers) channeled his energetic aggressiveness a little more productively than he had.

Golden State had plenty of miscues, including 21 turnovers, but defended well enough to win whether or not its shots were falling. The Warriors are no one-trick pony, and they’re not soft.

Most importantly: They avoided their first three-game losing streak since since November 2013, setting up a de facto best-of-three series to reach the Western Conference finals.

“I want them to be satisfied with the effort, and I want them to be hungry to improve,” Kerr said. “And I want them to understand nothing’s happened yet.”

Report: Trail Blazers sign president Neil Olshey to contract extension

AP Photo/Greg Wahl-Stephens
Leave a comment

Just after a rumor emerged about the Wizards trying to hire Trail Blazers president Neil Olshey…

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

It’s nice to be wanted. It always adds leverage in contract negotiations.

Olshey has done well in Portland, building a winner around Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum after LaMarcus Aldridge left. But Olshey’s job will get harder now.

Evan Turner, Meyers Leonard and Maurice Harkless each have another season on the expensive contracts Olshey gave them in the wild summer of 2016. That’ll inhibit flexibility this offseason.

Then, Lillard is set to sign a super-max extension that will take effect in 2021. As great as Lillard is, it’ll be difficult building a contender around someone projected to earn $43 million, $46 million, $50 million and $53 million from ages 31-34. There’s so little margin for error, especially if ownership is less willing to pay the luxury tax than the late Paul Allen was.

But Olshey has earned a chance to handle these dilemmas.

Jazz center Rudy Gobert hits super-max criteria for extension projected to be worth $250 million over five years

Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images
2 Comments

Anthony Davis signed a max rookie-scale contract extension in 2015, between his third and fourth seasons. Based on the Collective Bargaining Agreement at the time, the extension called for him to earn a higher salary if he was twice voted an All-Star starter or made two All-NBA teams during his first four seasons. Davis was voted an All-Star starter and made the All-NBA first team in his third season.

Unfortunately for Davis, he missed both honors his fourth year. The All-NBA and All-Star-starter tracks ran independently. Davis couldn’t qualify for a higher max salary by earning one of each.

That cost him $19,683,908 over the four pre-player-option seasons of his extension, which will end next year.

The current CBA’s more significant adjustments to super-max eligibility – changing the years for qualification, using Defensive Player of the Year instead of All-Star starter – obscured a minor tweak. The tracks now run together. A player can qualify with one Defensive Player of the Year and one All-NBA selection. He needn’t achieve two of one category.

So, Jazz center Rudy Gobert – who won won Defensive Player of the Year in 2018 and made All-NBA this year – quietly became eligible to sign a super-max extension in the 2020 offseason. The extension’s highest-allowable value projects to be $250 million over five years. The first four years would follow the structure of the super-max Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers are set to sign.

Newsflash: Gobert isn’t Lillard.

Gobert is elite defensively and underrated offensively. But paying him $50 million per year from ages 30-34 in a league overflowing with good centers? That’s a recipe for disaster for Utah.

But Gobert earned eligibility. That makes it harder for the Jazz to tell him they don’t deem him worthy. That tension is an unintended consequence of the super-max rules.

There is room for negotiation. In this case, Gobert’s designated-veteran-player extension must be for five seasons and have a starting salary between 30% and 35% of the 2021-22 salary cap. But his salary can increase or decrease annually by up to 8% of his first-year salary. The deal can be partially guaranteed.

Still, the lowest possible designated-veteran-player extension for Gobert projects to be $155 million over five years. If fully guaranteed, that’d be expensive for a player of his age. If not fully guaranteed, the Jazz would get savings only by waiving him, and that’d mean dropping the cheaper latter years.

Because he doesn’t have enough experience to qualify, Gobert can’t sign a super-max extension until the 2020 offseason. He met the award criteria, but a player must have seven or eight years of experience. Gobert just finished his sixth year. He’s also under contract for two more seasons – locked into salaries of $24,758,427 next season and $26,275,281 the following year.

So, there’s time to figure this out.

But this is the most uneasy super-max situation so far – unless Gobert just doesn’t insist on the money. Good luck with that.

Rumor: Wizards interested in Trail Blazers president Neil Olshey

AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer
Leave a comment

The Wizards struck out on luring Nuggets president Tim Connelly.

Washington’s next choice?

Ben Standig of NBC Washington:

As for the rumor mill, one name stands out: Neil Olshey.

Numerous sources told NBC Sports Washington of the Wizards’ interest in Blazers President of Basketball Operations

Olshey has done a good job in Portland. He drafted Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum then built a winner around those two after LaMarcus Aldridge left. Trading for and re-signing Jusuf Nurkic to a reasonable contract looks great. Olshey also overpaid Evan Turner, Meyers Leonard, Allen Crabbe and Festus Ezeli, but many teams spent wildly in 2016. It was a weird summer.

The Wizards would do well to hire such a proven executive.

Would Olshey leave the Trail Blazers? Their ownership situation remains uncertain following the death of Paul Allen in October. Wizards owner Ted Leonsis has demonstrated extreme loyalty to his executives.

Portland will also reportedly sign Damian Lillard to a super-max extension – a move that practically must be made, but one that carries massive downside risk. However, if he goes to Washington, Olshey would be trading uncertainty in Damian Lillard’s value on the super-max for certain negative value with John Wall on his super-max extension.

A couple years ago, Olshey signed his own extension through 2021. Maybe he’s ready to move on.

Or maybe he’s ready to use the Wizards as leverage for a raise.

Rumor: Lakers hired Jason Kidd to lure Giannis Antetokounmpo

Al Bello/Getty Images
5 Comments

New Lakers coach Frank Vogel said he wanted Jason Kidd because Kidd is a good coach.

Steve Popper of Newsday:

the person familiar with the Lakers process said something else: that Kidd was brought to Los Angeles to attract Giannis Antetokounmpo to the Lakers when he becomes a free agent in two years when the Bucks star could become an unrestricted free agent.

Things I believe:

1. This plan probably wouldn’t work. Not only does Antetokounmpo appear happy in Milwaukee, he has specifically said he could never see himself playing for Los Angeles. And though I believe Antetokounmpo respected Kidd while Kidd coached him, look at the Bucks now. They’re so much better under Mike Budenholzer. You think Antetokounmpo is itching to play for Kidd again after seeing the other side?

2. The Lakers might just try this wild plan anyway. Remember when they were waiting to hire a coach in 2014 so free agent LeBron James could pick? Aside from signing LeBron last year, who seemingly had his eye on Los Angeles for years and for reasons other than basketball, the Lakers have struck out on star free agents. The franchise is getting desperate.

3. People want to believe the Lakers would do something crazy like this, and that makes the rumor spread faster – whether or not it’s true. The Lakers, because of their stature, tactics and general manager have made many enemies around the league. Plenty of folks are enjoying piling on.