Warriors drafted Draymond Green, other players meant to smash NBA’s conventional mold

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OAKLAND — “He is undersized as a power forward and doesn’t have a game that makes him a three.”

That is a draft night critique of Draymond Green from us at PBT, and while we praised getting Green in the second round that comment fit the thinking when he was drafted — that he was a tweener who might not have a natural fit in the NBA.

“They said that. Who would he guard? Ironic,” Green said Saturday before Game 2 of the Finals, when he will spend some time guarding LeBron James. “Who is he? What does he do? Ironic. That’s what they said, (Charles) Barkley still say that sometimes, other people still writing it sometimes. Maybe they’ll stop writing it one day, maybe they won’t. It is what it is at this point.”

Today we praise the versatility of the Golden State Warriors, a team that starts four guys in the same size range, which allows them to switch nearly every pick. That versatility is key to their offense as well as nearly everyone can shoot threes or put the ball on the floor.

The Warriors didn’t want players who fit into conventional molds, they wanted to shatter the mold.

Remember that when we head into the draft in a few weeks and you read comments questioning where players fit.

Remember when Stephen Curry came into the league and there were a lot of questions about whether he could really be a point guard in the NBA, if he was really just going to be an undersized two guard who couldn’t create his own shot.

To quote Green, ironic.

There were questions about Klay Thompson, is he a two or a three? The concern with him was he was not going to be athletic enough to be a good defender.

Ironic.

“It goes on and on like that down the Warriors roster. There were enough questions about Harrison Barnes he was taken behind Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Thomas Robinson.

“Coming through the draft, GMs and scouts asked me that, ‘What position do you play?’ And I tell them this answer: ‘I’m a basketball player,’” Green said. “Don’t sit here and tell me I’m a three, then you take away the things I can do at the four. Don’t tell me II’m a four and take away the things I do as a three. I’m a basketball player, you put me on the court and I’ll figure out a way to get it done.”

Steve Kerr and Curry will brush off those kinds of comments about the makeup of their team, or the old trope about how a jump shooting team can’t win the NBA title (didn’t the 2011 Dallas Mavericks already dispel that myth?).

“Most people brush it off,” Green said. “I laugh at it, but I always keep it right there in the back of the mind….

“That’s what my whole career has been fueled off of. Somebody saying what you can’t do, what I can’t do. So when I hear stuff like that saying what we can’t dp It just put me right back in that mindset that helped me get here.”

Warriors assistant coach Alvin Gentry said you have to praise Warriors GM Bob Meyers for having the vision to see past positions to put together that kind of versatile team. One that can throw a lot of different looks at you.

That goes all the way down to ball handling where guys like Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston come into play, Green notes.

“I think that’s one of the neat things about our team, you’ve got different ball handlers to change the pace of the game — and on any possession. It’s not like you got to sit Steph to play Shaun, or sit Shawn to play Dre. You can play all of them together. It’s a constant change of pace thing, it gives the defense a different look every time.”

It’s also how the Warriors defend the game’s best player.

“They mixed it up…” LeBron said of the Warriors defense. “Sometimes they didn’t dig in the post. Sometimes they let me play one-on-one. Sometimes (Andrew) Bogut was over on the tilt and brought two defenders. They switched sometimes on pick-and-rolls. Sometimes they went under.

“So they were giving me everything. They’re not just giving me one steady dosage of we’re going to just let him play. No. That’s what they want to get out to you guys, but that’s not what’s happening. Yeah, I see it all throughout the course of the game. They’ve given me different matchups, just trying to keep me off balance.”

Versatility is one of the foundations on which the Warriors are built — they wanted guys who could do a lot of different things on the court. They didn’t want to fit the mold, they wanted to break it.

And it’s on the cusp of getting them an NBA title.

Just remember that when someone pans your team’s draft pick as a “tweener” in a couple weeks.

Three Things to Know: Bulls’ Coby White is red hot — and the latest Jim Boylen controversy

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday during the NBA regular season we are here to help you break it all down. Here are three things you need to know from yesterday in the NBA.

1) Bulls’ Coby White is red hot — and latest Jim Boylen controversy. Will Jim Boylen be the coach of the Bulls next season? Current management — the Gar/Pax team — has his back and loves his old-school ways, but that duo has already lost some power (Gar Forman has seen his role reduced) and John Paxson is about to. A new GM (or whatever title) is coming in this summer — talks have started, and there was a lot of buzz about that around All-Star weekend — and you can bet that person will want a say in who coaches his team.

Bulls players are reportedly not Boylen fans. Bulls fans are with the players and there is a long list of grievances from his heavy-handed practices to the odd (read: poor) use of late-game timeouts.

Now add Coby White to that mix.

White, the rookie backup point guard for the Bulls, is on fire. He had consecutive 33-point games coming into Tuesday night, but White’s mentor and former AAU coach, Chris Paul, promised an end to this trend.

That’s not what happened. White dropped 35 on the Thunder, shooting 13-of-21 overall and 6-of-9 from three (in another Chicago loss).

The last Bulls rookie with three 30+ point games in a row? Some guy named Michael Jordan.

As noted by K.C. Johnson at NBC Sports Chicago, White and Zach LaVine have each scored 30-plus points in consecutive games, and the last Bulls’ teammates to do that were Bob Love and Chet Walker in 1969. Beyond the stats, White brings a level of dynamic play and energy to the Bulls nobody else on that roster seems able to.

For the last three games, White and LaVine have formed an electric offensive backcourt. Starting point guard Kris Dunn is out for the season. A lot of people are calling for White to get the call and start games.

So coach Boylen, is it time to make White the starter?

No. Boylen is going to keep White coming off the bench (and play his veterans, in general), rather than move White into the starting lineup.

“I keep getting this question and I’m just going to answer it one more time,” Boylen said. “Coby’s in a good place. We’re going to keep him in a good place. Let’s let Coby keep playing and lets let him keep developing.”

Don’t change what’s working is a good philosophy.

If it’s actually working. Which, in the big picture, is the real question in Chicago.

John Paxson will remain the Bulls president and he fully buys into Boylen’s style. Normally that would mean Boylen is safe, but the ground is shifting in Chicago with front office changes coming. How much they change remains to be seen, but any GM coming needs to have new ideas and bring change — otherwise what’s the point of bringing him in — and that will include on the coaching front. The ground is shifting in Chicago, and that makes it difficult for Boylen to remain standing.

2) Zion Williamson comes to Los Angeles but LeBron James steals the show, drops season-high 40. Zion Williamson made his debut against LeBron and the Lakers — and he did some very Zion things. Like dunk.

And show off the kind of hops where he can grab a rebound away from Dwight Howard.

Despite that, Tuesday night was the LeBron James show — the MVP candidate got whatever he wanted. Wherever he wanted. The results was a season-high 40 points (and a 118-109 Laker win).

Los Angeles has won six in a row and is in control atop the West.

New Orleans is now four-games behind Memphis in the loss column in the chase for the eighth seed — and the right to face the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs.

3) Bucks remind everyone they own the East. The Milwaukee Bucks have been the clear best team in the East — rather, the best team in all of basketball — this season. It’s not up for debate. The calendar hasn’t even flipped to March yet and the Bucks have 50 wins.

If you want more evidence, take a look at the Bucks schedule. Last Saturday, Milwaukee dismantled Philadelphia (largely without Ben Simmons, but still).

Then on Tuesday night, on the second night of a back-to-back (and the team’s third game in four days), Milwaukee went into Toronto and took care of a red-hot Raptors team. It was a balanced attack. Giannis Antetokounmpo had 19 points and 19 rebounds (plus eight assists), Khris Middleton had 22 points, Eric Bledsoe had 17, and Brook Lopez had 15 as the NBA-leading Bucks won their fifth straight and 18th of 20.

Antetokounmpo said yes, he was motivated by the fact Toronto is where the Bucks lost in the playoffs last season — you have to love that attitude.

We keep talking ourselves into teams that will challenge the Bucks in the East — right now the Celtics are trendy on that list — but then you watch the Bucks play and realize it is them and then a big gap to everyone else.

Lakers, Dion Waiters reportedly to talk March 2

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It has always been easy to connect the dots that would bring Dion Waiters to the Lakers. Waiters’ former agent is Rob Pelinka, who is now the Lakers’ GM. Waiters’ current agent is Rich Paul, who reps both LeBron James and Anthony Davis. That gets your foot in the door.

After Memphis bought out Waiters, it was rumored he and the Lakers would talk. That is now set to happen on March 2, next week, something Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported Tuesday night on TNT during the Lakers win against New Orleans.

The Lakers have been active in the buyout market — they signed Markieff Morris, who made his debut for the team Tuesday night — looking to add playmaking and shooting. Waiters can shoot — 37.7 percent from three last season and 38.6 percent on catch-and-shoot threes — but is not much of a playmaker (he can put the ball on the floor but only to create for himself). The Lakers need to decide if he’s a fit, they have Avery Bradley and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at the two-guard spot already. Waiters has played a fair amount at the point in Miami, but he’s not the kind of playmaker the Lakers are seeking to go with Rajon Rondo.

Waiters clashed with coaches and management in Miami, but with a strong, LeBron-led locker room culture the Lakers aren’t worried about that impact.

Waiters is available because Miami used his salary to balance out the money in the Justise Winslow to Memphis/Andre Iguodala trade. Memphis did not want a distraction, plus they are deep at the two-guard spot with the just extended Dillon Brooks, De'Anthony Melton, and Grayson Allen. So the Grizzlies waived Waiters, as was expected.

The only question is does he upgrade the Lakers roster?

What we do know is he has the connections to at least get in the building and make his case.

Grizzlies’ rookie Brandon Clarke will be out at least two weeks with thigh bruise

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Fans tune into Memphis games to watch Ja Morant, the dynamic rookie point guard who has led the Grizzlies to the playoff chase in the West (the Grizzlies currently hold down the eighth spot and final playoff slot).

Those same fans often come away saying, “who is that No. 15?”

It’s Brandon Clarke, another Memphis rookie, this one out of Gonzaga. Clarke is averaging 12 points a game shooting 62.3% from the field, and he’s been a solid part of the Memphis rotation.

Now, he’s going to be out a couple of weeks with a thigh bruise.

It’s another tough blow for a Memphis team trying to hang on to the eight seed. The Grizzlies also are without Jaren Jackson Jr. due to a sprained left knee.

 

LeBron James scores season-high 40, leads Lakers past Zion Williamson, Pelicans

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — LeBron James had 40 points and eight rebounds in his first career meeting with Zion Williamson while leading the Los Angeles Lakers to their sixth straight victory, 118-109 over the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday night.

Anthony Davis had 21 points and 14 rebounds to remain unbeaten in his three meetings with his former team this season.

In the Lakers’ first game after an emotional memorial service for Kobe Bryant at Staples Center on Monday, James opened up a close contest with back-to-back buckets at the rim with about three minutes left. Danny Green sealed it for Los Angeles with his fifth 3-pointer with 51 seconds to play.

Williamson had 29 points and six rebounds in his first career showdown with James and Davis, his predecessor as the Pelicans’ centerpiece. In his 13th NBA game, Williamson scored at least 20 points for the ninth consecutive time, but managed only one field goal in the fourth quarter.

Brandon Ingram had 34 points against his former team, but just six in the final period as New Orleans lost for only the second time in seven games.

Williamson was still injured for the Pelicans’ first two meetings of the season with the Lakers, but the No. 1 overall pick’s delayed debut in Hollywood was as entertaining as everyone hoped. Williamson had several impressive dunks in his usual fearsome floor game, and only six missed free throws kept him from surpassing his career high of 32 points.

Davis is the leading scorer and rebounder in New Orleans franchise history, making six All-Star teams during his tenure. He went just 6 for 21 from the field in this meeting, failing to score 40 points against the Pelicans for the first time.

Lonzo Ball had 10 points, eight assists and eight rebounds, and Josh Hart scored three points in their second return to face the Lakers, who traded them to New Orleans along with Ingram last July for Davis.

The Pelicans also got three first-round draft picks in their princely haul for Davis, who had requested a trade. Davis has been just as good as the Lakers hoped in propelling them back to NBA championship contention, while the Pelicans are getting an All-Star season from Ingram alongside Williamson in an increasingly potent core.

James scored 11 points in less than two minutes early in the third quarter to stretch the Lakers’ lead to 14 points, but Ingram scored 10 in the period to keep it close.

Alex Caruso provided the Lakers with his usual injection of energy in the fourth quarter, particularly with a stunning block of Ball’s shot at the rim that left Ball flat on his back. Caruso finished with eight points and eight assists.