Defending champion Warriors once again winning with defense

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Defense has been the theme from Day 1 for the Golden State Warriors, determined to do all the little things even better on both ends of the floor on the heels of their second NBA championship in three years.

They’re blocking shots. Jumping into the passing lanes for timely steals. Getting hands in the faces of shooters.

It wasn’t this way out of the gates this season, and coach Steve Kerr had some moments of frustration.

Lately, he’s pleased with the progress and consistency.

“Defensively we’ve just had longer stretches of high intensity and high level of focus,” Stephen Curry said. “That’s allowed us to control the momentum of games and the flow of games.”

The Warriors outscored Minnesota 44-26 in the third quarter of Wednesday night’s 125-101 win – and dominated without NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant, who sat with a bruised left thigh but was expected to be fine by Saturday’s home game against the 76ers.

“I know if we focus on taking care of the basketball and playing solid defense, and focusing on that, and really, hopefully, regardless of how our offense is, we’ll be in a good position to win games,” Curry said.

Golden State limited the Timberwolves to 41.3 percent from the floor and a dismal 5 of 24 on 3-pointers on the way to winning its fifth straight.

“You saw how beautiful that was in the second half with 37 assists overall. It’s all about taking care of the ball and defending,” Kerr said. “The defense part I’m really pleased with. I think this is about our fifth straight really good defensive effort we have had so that’s a great sign.”

He gave his team a day off Thursday before getting back to work Friday in preparation for Philadelphia.

Other teams and opposing players notice the Warriors’ attention to detail on the defensive end, even if their high-flying offensive show is typically the focus of scouting reports and film sessions.

“You can’t win without that,” Memphis center Marc Gasol said. “Even if you look at teams like Golden State, you see a team that obviously has a lot of firepower, their defense is really outstanding, how they all move together at the same time, how they all shift as a unit from one side to the other … Then they give you 125 points, too. But they really do play a lot of great defense.”

Against the T-Wolves, Golden State blocked nine shots – its 11th time in 12 games with at least seven swats – three by reserve Omri Casspi and another two from Draymond Green, and didn’t allow a 20-point performance by Minnesota. Nick Young came off the bench to make a career-high four steals in 20-plus minutes.

“It’s finally coming along. We’re starting to put it together,” Green said. “We’re taking more ownership in one-on-one defense. We’ve just locked in more on one-on-one defense and taking on the challenge.”

Part of that, according to player development coach Chris DeMarco, is “being the aggressors, being active defensively and trusting that the guys around us will help if we get beat.”

While a handful of turnovers led to easy baskets by Minnesota, for the most part the Warriors were disciplined in their defensive assignments. It has been that way for a stretch of games now.

It didn’t hurt Golden State shot 65.9 percent after halftime in pulling away from the overmatched Timberwolves, who were on a roll with five straight wins before the stop in Oakland.

“I think you learn a lot from playing against them because that’s what a championship team looks like. They play hard. They play together. You look at their willingness to sacrifice for each other and make plays,” T-Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said. “They had 37 assists on 48 baskets. Their defense over the last five games has been back to what their defense is. That’s why they’ve been able to win the way they’ve won. I think their willingness to sacrifice and play for each other is what makes them great. They take good shots. They make the game easy for each other. When you do that, the results will be good.”

 

Curry, frustrated with Poole, gets ejected for throwing mouthpiece into crowd

Memphis Grizzlies v Golden State Warriors
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Stephen Curry has been ejected three times in his NBA career, and each time the incident was mouthpiece related.

The latest came Wednesday night. With 1:25 remaining in the fourth quarter of a tight game with the Grizzlies, Klay Thompson missed a floater, Donte DiVincenzo tipped the rebound out and kept it alive, Thomspon grabbed it and passed it to Poole out top to reset the offense, with Curry calling for the ball a few feet away from him. Instead, Poole jacked up a three like the shot clock was going to expire. The shot missed and Curry, out of frustration, threw his mouthpiece in the stands. That got him an automatic ejection.

“He knows he can’t make that mistake,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said postgame, via the Associated Press.

Poole had fun with Curry postgame, throwing his mouthpiece in the hallway.

“I did see that,” Curry said, via NBC Sports Bay Area. “It’s like one of those ‘too soon’ jokes. I was still hot. I was still hot.”

After the game, some fans tried to argue that, by NBA rules, Curry did not have to be ejected. The NBA rulebook specifically states that any “player who throws or kicks the ball directly into the stands with force” will be ejected, as will a player who throws “the ball or any object at an official.” The argument goes Curry didn’t throw his mouthpiece at an official. However, the rulebook also says a technical can be “assessed to any player on the court or anyone seated on the bench for conduct which, in the opinion of an official, is detrimental to the game,” and the league has said consistently in recent years that throwing a mouthpiece or anything into the crowd is detrimental to the game, penalized with a technical and automatic ejection. Maybe there should be more leeway with the enforcement of said rule, but Curry knew better.

The Warriors went on to get the win over their rivals from Memphis, the old guard held the new guard off again. But the next time these teams meet, the Warriors will need Curry on the court until the end of the game.

What will happen with Warriors biggest free agent this summer: Bob Myers

2022 Golden State Warriors Victory Parade & Rally
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This summer, the Warriors have on their plate a couple of major decisions that could lead to free agency and change the course of the franchise. One is Draymond Green, who has a $27.6 million player option, didn’t get an extension he wanted with the team last summer (while Jordan Poole and Andrew Wiggins did), and could be the guy standing without a chair when the music stops. The Warriors can’t pay everyone.

The other free agent: general manager Bob Myers.

His is an even more complex and nuanced situation — will the Warriors make him the highest-paid executive in the league, and does Myers still want the job — that could be the latest sign that the dynastic Curry era in Golden State is coming to an end.

At the Athletic, Anthony Slater, Marcus Thompson II and Sam Amick break down the situation incredibly well in a story Warriors fans should read.

As the clock ticks and extension talks remain flat, many around Myers are wondering whether – and even predicting that – his days with the Warriors are about to run out…

For all the nuance that surrounds the situation, this much is clear: team and league sources, who like all of the sources in this story were granted anonymity so they could speak freely, say Myers believes he should be among the highest-paid front office executives in the league, if not the highest. He’s been the architect of four NBA title teams, was the lead recruiter in the Durant free agency signing, and has been the trusted conduit between players, coaches and ownership. Myers also has served as chief problem solver, the coolant in an ecosystem that periodically overheats…

Part of the equation for Myers, known for his deep conversations and intellectual curiosity, is the contemplation of what’s next. After more than a decade of building a dynasty, and managing it through the intensity of modern scrutiny, and living beneath the relentless pressure of the Warriors’ championship standard, might Myers be interested in a new challenge? Would it be better for him and his family to move on, build up another franchise away from the Golden State fish bowl? He walked away from a successful career as a player agent to become an NBA executive. Is it now time to leave the front office behind and try his hand in another industry?

While there are other layers, it’s always about the money.

The very top NBA executives make north of $10 million a season. While Warriors owner Joe Lacob has said Myers is one of the highest-paid general managers in the league, titles get fuzzy (and somewhat meaningless) around the league — many guys in Myers’ role have a president or VP title attached to their name. His pay relative to title can get bogged down in semantics that miss the basic “pay me” bottom line of this.

There are no straight lines and simple answers here, but if Myers gets paid like Daryl Morey or Masai Ujiri he is far more likely to stay. Even if he gets that money, how badly does Myers want to stay on for the final years of the Stephen Curry era and start rebuilding whatever comes next? Does he want to walk away? Hang around for a few years then take his leave?

More than whatever happens with Green, the Myers situation will signal what comes next for this era of the Warriors and what they may look like going forward. He is the ultimate architect. This is the biggest decision the Warriors have this offseason.

PBT Podcast: Rui Hachimura trade to Lakers and All-Star team

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Rui Hachimura is a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. That is a win for the Lakers front office — “Look! We’re doing something!” — but how much of a win was that for the Lakers? Does it change much of anything for them on the court?

That’s the first topic of this week’s PBT Podcast with Corey Robinson of NBC Sports and myself. Then we talk about the Orlando Magic and the return of Jonathan Isaac to the floor. Corey’s Jukebox ties together the Magic and the Phantom of the Opera.

From there, we dive into my selections for the NBA All-Star Game, both starters and reserves, and what can be done to liven up that game. Plus, who would you want to star as if you were in a movie?

You can always watch the video of some of the podcast above (the Christmas games segment) or listen to the entire podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google Play, or anywhere else you get your podcasts.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please feel free to email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

Kyrie Irving still seeking contract extension, agent says “ball is in Nets” court

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How many guaranteed years are the Nets — or any team — willing to give Kyrie Irving?

It will be one of the questions of this offseason (Irving is in the final year of his current contract). It was a question last offseason, too. Irving and the Nets talked extension last summer — how close they got depends upon who you ask — but after two years of issues the Nets refused to give Irving a long-term deal. They did give him permission to find a sign-and-trade, but after checking out the market, Irving opted into his $36.9 million player option for the season.

The latest buzz around the league is that with the Nets winning, Irving is likely to re-sign and stay in Brooklyn. Apparently, his agent is ready to talk extension again, as she made public through Chris Haynes at Bleacher Report.

“Around Kyrie and staying with the Nets? I have reached out to the Nets regarding this,” his agent Shetellia Irving told Bleacher Report. “We have had no significant conversations to date. The desire is to make Brooklyn home, with the right type of extension, which means the ball is in the Nets’ court to communicate now if their desire is the same.”

“The right type of extension” sounds like we’re back to talking about years. Brooklyn can offer Irving a four-year, $190+ million max extension (which would align with the extension Kevin Durant signed last summer). The Nets may not want to lock themselves into Irving for that long.

Would another team? The question isn’t money — on the court, Irving is a max player averaging 26.8 points per game and he is likely voted an All-Star starter when those are announced Thursday — but instead how long is a team willing to be locked into paying Irving?

The Nets and Irving can reach an extension up through June 30, Brooklyn management may not be in a rush to get a deal done while the team is still playing. Brooklyn would be wise to want to see how the postseason plays out before talking about next season and beyond with anyone.