Curry’s triple-double leads Warriors to win in Kerr’s return

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Stephen Curry banked in a shot from midcourt with a hand in his face at the halftime buzzer after his three-quarter court swish at the end of the first was just late and he finished with 39 points and a triple-double, helping coach Steve Kerr win his season debut in the Golden State Warriors’ 122-110 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Friday night.

Kerr returned from a leave of absence dating to Oct. 1 for complications following two back surgeries, and defending champion Golden State delivered for him by winning its 38th straight home game at Oracle Arena to match the 1985-86 Celtics for third-longest home winning streak all-time. The Warriors are 20-0 at home this season.

Curry added 12 assists and 10 rebounds for his second triple-double of the season and seventh of his career. The reigning MVP shimmied after his half-court shot and pounded his chest following his 201st 3-pointer at the 6:26 mark of the third quarter.

Golden State has 10 triple-doubles this season – Draymond Green has the other eight – to match the franchise record also done in 1959-60. Curry has 30 or more points in six of his last eight games, while Green added 22 points and 11 rebounds.

Curry also became the first player in NBA history to make 200 3-pointers in four straight seasons. The only player with more than four seasons with at least 200 3s is Ray Allen with five.

An emotional Kerr waved and said, “Thank you” when he received a rousing ovation during pregame introductions. He led the Warriors to a franchise-best 67 wins and their first championship in 40 years last season as a first-year coach. Interim coach Luke Walton guided Golden State to an NBA-record 24-0 start and 39-4 record, and now goes back to his job as top assistant.

Monta Ellis led the Pacers with 18 points in his return to Oracle to face his former team. Myles Turner, who had averaged 20 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.0 blocks over his previous two games, scored a career-high 31 points and grabbed eight rebounds.

Golden State made 10 of its first 14 shots, four of those by Green and two 3-pointers by Curry to go ahead 25-8 on the way to a season sweep of the Pacers. The Warriors put up a 79-point first half – most in a first half in the NBA this season – on the way to a 131-123 road win at Indiana on Dec. 8.

KERR’S RETURN

Kerr couldn’t wait to get back out there. He had “butterflies.”

“I’ve been waiting for this for a long time … I really missed the routine,” Kerr said. “It feels like the first game of the season, which it is for me. Fortunately our team’s in a pretty good groove and hopefully we can keep going.”

Cameras closed in on Kerr when he walked in before the game, then he waved to the fans and a delayed ovation ensued as they realized what was happening – then Kerr waved again during his introduction just before tipoff and said, “Thank you.”

“He’s a good friend, and it signals the fact that he’s feeling much better, health-wise,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “And that’s wonderful.”

GEORGE ALL-STAR STARTER

Pacers coach Frank Vogel made a point to congratulate Paul George on being named an All-Star starter for the Eastern Conference in the Feb. 14 game at Toronto.

It’s been a long road back from that devastating right leg injury suffered with the U.S. national team on Aug. 2, 2014.

“So proud of him. I talked to him this afternoon,” Vogel said. “You see that (injury) happen and you don’t know if you’re ever going to play the game again, or walk the same again. To come as far back as to get in some games last year and just return to the court was a huge accomplishment in my mind.”

TIP-INS

Pacers: Ellis played his initial 6 1/2 seasons for the Warriors from 2005-12, then was traded to Milwaukee in the deal that brought Andrew Bogut to Golden State in March 2012. … The Pacers were outrebounded 50-44.

Warriors: The two home winning streaks longer than Golden State’s current unbeaten run: Bulls’ 44 from March 30, 1995-April 4, 1996, and 40 by the Orlando Magic (March 21, `95-March 19, `96). The Warriors haven’t lost at Oracle since a 113-111 overtime defeat to Chicago last Jan. 27. … Golden State won its first season series against the Pacers since going 2-0 in 2000-01. … Kerr plans to keep some plays installed by Walton, saying, “Tough act to follow.” … Bogut had three blocks in back-to-back games for the fourth time this season.

UP NEXT

Pacers: At Sacramento on Saturday.

Warriors: Host San Antonio on Monday.

Suns, Crowder agree he will sit out training camp while they seek a trade

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Jae Crowder wants out of Phoenix and the Suns have been looking for a trade to accommodate that.

It hasn’t come together, so the Suns and Crowder agreed he should sit out training camp while they find one (this team does not need another distraction in camp).

We knew this was coming because Crowder himself announced it a couple of days ago. While he deleted the Tweet, nothing ever completely disappears online.

Two quick thoughts on this news.

First, it means Cameron Johnson will start at the four, something that was likely anyway as the Suns look to add shooting to help space the floor.

Second, this news does not help the Suns’ leverage in getting a trade. It’s understandable that Crowder didn’t want to be in camp and that the Suns didn’t want the distraction, but now everyone knows the pressure on the Suns to get a deal done and they will lowball their offer.

There are a few potential landing spots out there. Crowder hinted online he would welcome a return to Miami, and the Heat need help at the four after P.J. Tucker left for Philly. The Heat would base a trade around Duncan Robinson, but to make the salaries match the Suns would have to throw in another player — Dario Saric, Landry Shamet, Cameron Payne, Torey Craig or after Jan. 15  — and that seems unlikely.

Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago, Boston (but it’s tough to make the salaries match up), and even a team like Minnesota could work. The challenge is the Suns are a win-now team and will want a player who can help them this season and all those teams are in the same space. Right now there may not be an offer available. As camps open and teams start to understand what they do and don’t have, a deal could come together.

Crowder will be home waiting for that to happen, not with the Suns team.

Giannis Antetokounmpo says Stephen Curry is the best player in the world

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Giannis Antetokounmpo is at the top of pretty much every “best player in the world” list right now.

Except his own.

For Antetokounmpo, the best player in the world is the one that leads his team to the title, so today, it is Stephen Curry (hat tip to Lance Allen of NBC Milwaukee).

It’s easy to see where Antetokounmpo is coming from, but basketball is a team game. The best player may not be on the best team, despite his skill set, and that team may not win. Curry was spectacular in leading the Warriors to their fourth banner since he arrived, he’s near the top of the best in the world list, but it’s not all about winning.

The takeaway from what Antetokounmpo said is how much he wants to win — he wants a second ring.

The Bucks enter the season as one of the favorites to win that ring, but it’s going to take a lot of things going right for that to happen.

Including Antetokounmpo showing he is the best player in the world.

 

Is Matisse Thybulle ready for a big step forward with 76ers?

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Matisse Thybulle brings a valuable NBA skill to the table — he is an elite perimeter defender. Two-time All-Defensive Team in three years in the league.

But when the 76ers got up against Miami in the playoffs, Thybulle’s role shrank dramatically. While Doc Rivers needed his defense, Thybulle’s lack of an offensive game became a problem — the Heat largely ignored him and helped off him, allowing Miami to muck up the Philly offense (he was limited in the Toronto series because he was not vaccinated and could not play in road games). The 76ers tried to solve that problem this offseason by bringing in DeAnthony Melton, Danuel House and P.J. Tucker — solid role-playing defenders who can contribute on offense, too.

Thybulle wants to be part of the solution, too, and told Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer he spent the summer focused on his offensive game.

“I’m really proud of what I did,” Thybulle said of his offseason. “I’ve worked harder than I’ve worked. And I had a meeting with [Sixers coach Doc Rivers] early this week and was telling him I feel more bought in than I’ve been before.”

No doubt Thybulle put in the work, we will find out soon if it paid off — and if that will get Thybulle paid.

Thybulle is entering a contract year — the 76ers can extend him up until Oct. 18, after which he would become a restricted free agent next summer. Thybulle said his goal is to remain in Philadelphia (and he’d like an extension).

“At this point, I would always want to stay in Philly,” he said. “And if it’s up to me, that’s always going to be my choice.

“But considering that I’ve realized the reality of how far out of my control it is, if I do get traded or something does end up happening, I can look at myself in the mirror at the end of the day.”

With a win-now Sixers team, Daryl Morey may be in a wait-and-see place with Thybulle, letting the market set his price next offseason. If he signs now, it will likely be on a team-friendly deal (but maybe one that still works for the 25-year-old).

If Thybulle gets on the court this season and shows an improved offensive game, one where he can make teams pay for helping off him, his price goes up and there may be multiple teams bidding for his services next summer. And Doc Rivers would be happy in the short term.

It’s up to Thybulle to prove it now.

 

Markelle Fultz will miss start of training camp, at least, with broken toe

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The basketball gods continue to turn their backs on Markelle Fultz.

A torn ACL had limited him to 26 games over the past two seasons, but he was healthy and ramping up to a larger role this season with a young and interesting Magic team. Then came the news he fractured his left big toe during a training session. As a result, he will be out for at least the start of training camp, the team announced. From the official announcement:

“He has been placed in a walking boot and his return to play will depend on how he responds to rehabilitation and treatment. Fultz suffered the injury during a preseason workout prior to returning to Orlando and imaging confirmed the fracture.

He will not need surgery, according to the team.

Fultz was set to split point guard duties with Cole Anthony, this injury means RJ Hampton could see more run at the point for now. Fultz should be able to return either during the end of the preseason or early in the season.

Fultz was the No.1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft but never found his footing with the 76ers (in part due to injury). However, since getting out of that spotlight and allowed to develop in Orlando he’s been a solid rotation point guard when healthy. Last season in 18 games he averaged 10.8 points and 5.5 assists a game, and while he’s still not an efficient shooter he can run a team.

How Anthony and, eventually, Fultz will work off the ball as rookie Paolo Banchero gets the opportunity to create more offense will be just one of the interesting things to watch with this Magic team this year. We’ll have to wait a little while to see Fultz.