Warriors GM Bob Myers has little time to ponder finals loss

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — After the heartbreak of a Game 7 defeat and a championship that somehow got away, Golden State Warriors general manager Bob Myers went home late Sunday and had a rare glass of whiskey with his wife and ate a grilled cheese sandwich.

He knew there wouldn’t be any more quiet moments in the near future after the grind of another extended NBA season. The Warriors lost in the deciding game of the NBA Finals to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, becoming the first team to squander a 3-1 finals lead. But Myers has to get right back to work. The draft is Thursday night and then the start of free agency July 1.

“One marathon ended, got a drink of water and now we’re moving on,” Myers said Tuesday, later noting, “Even if we were sitting here right now with a parade, it doesn’t change who we draft and it actually shouldn’t change a ton of other things either, but it’s hard not to get swept up in that current. Because in this society, you win or you’re everybody else, and right now we’re everybody else. So you have to be strong enough and disciplined enough to not overreact to making decisions.”

Myers made one thing clear Tuesday: Amid all the speculation about their futures, free agents-to-be Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli will be evaluated by more than just their poor performances in the postseason and finals.

“At this point it’s about what do you do to make sure that it doesn’t happen again?” forward Draymond Green said of the finals collapse. “I’m not the GM of this team, so I don’t make any decisions or make any changes to our roster. That’s not up to me. I do what I do, that’s play the game. Everything else will take care of itself, whether that’s the same 15 guys, whether that’s 10 of the 15 guys, whether that’s 12 of the 15 guys.”

With eight free agents in all, Myers insists he is in no position to start guessing who could return at this early stage. A year ago after capturing the first championship for the franchise in 40 years, Golden State kept its roster together for another special season that included a record 73 wins to break the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls’ mark after a record 24-0 start.

“A lot of decisions that have to made,” MVP Stephen Curry said. “We’ve got a great roster that’s accomplished a lot.”

These days, Myers said the Warriors have built a desirable culture that players want to be a part of under the leadership of NBA Coach of the Year Steve Kerr. Owner Joe Lacob “is aggressive when he wakes up in the morning, he’s aggressive when he goes to bed,” Myers said of continuing to build and improve.

As Golden State looks to build the roster for next season, Myers said he would measure the value of continuity against the players available on the market. The status of rookie forward Kevon Looney is still a question mark. Golden State’s top draft pick last year out of UCLA is recovering from left hip surgery and won’t participate in summer league. The hope is he will be healthy for training camp or at the latest near the start of the regular season.

“We’re always going to try and be better, but sometimes like last summer we won a championship I didn’t do anything really,” Myers said. “We brought back the same team. Some people have said that was something we shouldn’t have done. … The team actually in some ways was better. Didn’t win a championship so maybe we weren’t. But as far as making the right decisions in the offseason, we made sound decisions without being what some people would call aggressive. They probably would have called it passive. It doesn’t mean you’re not looking aggressively.”

Myers completed exit interviews with the players Monday before everyone went their separate ways for the summer.

For most, the sting of being oh so close was still fresh and difficult to comprehend, one day after a 93-89 defeat to the Cavs decided in the final minute on the Warriors’ home floor in Oracle Arena.

“I was wondering how our players would react or process losing in Game 7 after the season we had, but what I saw and what I heard was really encouraging, from a maturity standpoint, from a learning capacity, from a processing,” Myers said. “Shaun Livingston, it was really poignant, he said, `How am I supposed to feel?’ And I said, `Not good.’ It’s not supposed to feel good to lose like we did. It’s supposed hurt, and that’s what drives you.”

Watch Pacers’ Andrew Nembhard drain game-winning 3 to beat Lakers

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LeBron James and Anthony Davis were on the court together (and combined for 46 points and 20 rebounds). Russell Westbrook continued to thrive as a sixth man with 24 points.

But the biggest shot of the night belonged to Pacers’ rookie Andrew Nembhard — a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.

It was a well-designed play and when Westbrook chased and doubled Bennedict Mathurin in the corner it left the screen setter, Myles Turner, wide open for a clean look at a 3 — but he hit the front of the rim. The long rebound caromed out, Tyrese Haliburton grabbed it and tried to create, but then he saw Nembhard wide open and kicked him the rock.

Ballgame.

The Pacers split their two games in Los Angeles at the start of a seven-game road trip through the West that will test the surprising Pacers.

For the Lakers… they have some hard decisions to make coming up.

Karl-Anthony Towns helped off court after non-contact calf injury

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Hopefully this is not as bad as it looks.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony was trying to run back upcourt and went to the ground — without contact — grabbing his knee and calf. He had to be helped off the court.

The Timberwolves officially ruled Towns out for the rest of the night with a calf strain.

A right calf strain would be the best possible outcome, but an MRI will provide more details in the next 24 hours. This had the markings of something much worse, but ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports optimism that Towns avoided something serious.

Towns is averaging 214 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are off this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers, down from 39.3% for his career — as he tries to adjust to playing next to Rudy Gobert, he’s still one of the game’s elite big men.

The Wizards went on to beat the Timberwolves 142-127 behind 41 from Kristaps Porzingis.

Suns promote GM James Jones to to President of Basketball Operations

Phoenix Suns Open Practice
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James Jones put together the roster that took the Suns to the Finals two seasons ago and had the best record in the NBA last season (64 wins). At 13-6, the Suns sit atop the Western Conference this season.

The Suns have rewarded Jones, giving him the title of President of Basketball Operations on top of GM.

“In the nearly 15 years I have known James, he has excelled in every role he performed, from player to NBPA Treasurer to his roles in our front office, most recently as general manager,” Suns interim Governor Sam Garvin said. “James has the unique ability to create and lead high-performing teams in basketball operations and his commitment to collaborating with our business side, including at the C-level with partners like PayPal and Verizon, is second to none. We are fortunate for his contributions across the organization and this promotion recognizes his commitment to excellence.”

Jones moved into the Suns’ front office in 2017 at the end of a 14-year playing career, then became GM in 2019. The move gives Jones a little more stability during the sale of the franchise. Not that the new owner would come in and fire a successful GM.

“I am grateful for the privilege to work with and support the players, staff and employees of the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury,” Jones said in a statement. “The collective efforts of our business and basketball operations have allowed us to provide an amazing atmosphere and best-in-class experience for our fans and community. I remain excited about and dedicated to driving success for our Teams on and off the court.”

Jones has made several moves that set the culture in Phoenix, including hiring Monty Williams as coach then, after an undefeated run in the bubble (that left Phoenix just out of the playoffs), he brought in Chris Paul to take charge at the point.

Report: Leaders in Lakers’ locker room think team ‘only a couple of players away’ from contending

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There’s a sense of optimism around the Lakers: They have won 5-of-6 and are expected to have both Anthony Davis and LeBron James healthy Monday night, plus Russell Westbrook has found a role and comfort level off the bench and other players are settling into roles. They may be 7-11, but it’s early enough there is a sense this could be turned around.

That is echoed by “locker room leaders” who think the team is just a couple of players away from being a contender in the West (where no team has pulled away), reports Dave McMenamin at ESPN.

There is belief shared by leaders in the Lakers’ locker room, sources said, that the team is only a couple of players away from turning this group into a legitimate contender. But acquiring the right players could take multiple trades.

Let’s unpack all of this.

• “Leaders in the Lakers’ locker room” means LeBron and Davis (both repped by Rich Paul). Let’s not pretend it’s anything else.

• If the Lakers don’t make a move to significantly upgrade the roster, how unhappy will those leaders become? How disruptive would that be?

• It is no coincidence that McMenamin’s report comes the day the Lakers face the Pacers, a team they went deep into conversations with this summer on a Myles Turner/Buddy Hield trade, but Los Angeles GM Rob Pelinka ultimately would not put both available Lakers’ first-round picks (2027 and 2029) in the deal and it fell apart. Turner said the Lakers should “take a hard look” at trading for him. The thing is, the Pacers are now 11-8, not tanking for Victor Wembanyama but instead thinking playoffs, so are they going to trade their elite rim protector and sharpshooter away? Not likely. At least not without an overwhelming offer, and the Lakers’ two picks may not get there anymore.

• While Westbrook has found a comfort level coming off the bench (and not sharing the court as much with LeBron), he is still a $47.1 million contract that no team is trading for without sweeteners. To use NBA parlance, he is still a negative value contract, even if it feels less negative than a month ago.

• Are the Lakers really a couple of players away from contending? While they have won 5-of-6, three of those five wins came against the tanking Spurs, the others were against the so-injured-they-might-as-well-be-tanking Pistons, and the Nets before Kyrie Irving returned. The Lakers did what they needed to do and thrived in a soft part of the schedule, but that schedule is about to turn and give the Lakers a reality check on where they really stand. After the Pacers, it’s the Trail Blazers (likely still without Damian Lillard), then an East Coast road trip that includes the Bucks, Cavaliers, Raptors and 76ers. The next couple of weeks will be a better marker for where the Lakers stand, and if they can build off of the past couple of weeks.