Ian Clark

Is this the final series for the Warriors as we know them?

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The Golden State Warriors are trying to complete a three-peat. The NBA championship is there for the taking, if they can only get rid of those pesky Toronto Raptors. But the result of the Finals is not the only thing up in the air come June. With Kevin Durant‘s decision looming, and several players needing to be paid, the question is whether these Warriors will open next season intact.

Who Golden State will be next season — and if this iteration of the team will come to an end — requires us to start with a begining question: who are “The Warriors” to you?

Time has the effect of smoothing out the bumps and ridges, the detail that make up the storylines of every NBA season. Ask a Warriors fan and ask a Lakers fan this same question, the question of The Warriors, and you will get two different answers. But there is a core that isn’t debatable: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green.

The characters surrounding this core have changed over the year, and so too has the dynamic of Golden State stars and their importance to the squad. In 2014-15, Golden State won its first NBA title in this era. Everyone remembers the onslaught of Curry and Thompson from the 3-point line, the beginning of a revolution in the NBA. But what some folks forget is the impact that other players had. Marreese Speights, Andrew Bogut, Shaun Livingston, Harrison Barnes… all these players were once also considered core supporting members of what made this team great.

To that end, storylines for that supporting cast have changed as time has gone on. For instance, Speights played a significant amount of minutes for the Warriors in ‘14-’15 but posted a negative VORP for the season. Livingston, seemingly back from the dead after early knee issues in his career, had not yet found his stride with the Golden State. That wouldn’t come until the next year.

But time has a funny way of finding a narrative and running with it. For some it’s been “Speights was a great floor spreader” and “Livingston was instantly dominant for GSW” even though those things aren’t really wholly true. Time allows us less nuance.

Players have gone from important to overlooked during a Golden State’s run over the past half-decade. This season is no different than that first Finals appearance, and the Warriors have done what teams in the “Big 3” era do. That is, surround their stars with low-level players who can be a part of the system, do their job, and not commit crucial mistakes. Kevon Looney, Quinn Cook, Jordan Bell… the names change, but the roles remain the same.

The point is, supporting cast comes and goes in Golden State like it does for just about any championship squad. But now the Warriors are faced with real questions. Questions about whether they should re-sign their stars (Green); about whether they can re-sign their stars (Durant); and about how much they should re-sign their stars for (Thompson).

These are not easily answered for GM Bob Myers, either. Thompson seems like a no-brainer, even at a max deal that will put a serious crunch on the Warriors’ cap in a couple years time. But Green, who is 29 and will probably want a huge payday, is a riddle harder to answer. Will he decline in ability? Is Regular Season Draymond who you get on the next contract, or are you getting Playoff Draymond? Can he survive in five years without being able to shoot?

Then, hardest of all, is that of Durant. Never mind the fact that Golden State will have to weigh whether they want to spend the next half-decade assuaging Durant’s delicate feelings — Durant might not want to stay with the Warriors if he wins another championship. To change might not be up to Golden State to decide.

But in trying to answer these questions, it ultimately comes back to the most important factor of all: Curry. The superstar point guard is under contract for three more seasons after this one ends, and he doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. In fact, with Durant out with a calf injury during this postseason, Curry has shown that he still is who he was before KD flew in from OKC.

For that reason, there’s hope we will see “Golden State” — this Golden State, the Golden State we think of right now — in 2019-20 and beyond if major changes come to this roster.

The Warriors might not be inevitable in the coming seasons. If Durant leaves, the seismic shift that tilted the NBA off its foundation in 2016 might finally be repaired. Parity, however slowly, will come to the Western Conference. We’ve already seen what the vacuum left by LeBron James has done to the Eastern Conference. But just as Golden State adapted to Durant’s arrival, they will respond in kind if he happens to depart. The same will be said if Green takes a big payday elsewhere next year.

Because really, the Warriors have always adapted. They made up for Barnes when the Dallas Mavericks signed him in 2016, mostly with Durant but also with the minutes from Matt Barnes, Ian Clark, and better output from Livingston. They replaced Bogut with Zaza Pachulia, JaVale McGee, and David West. Then Looney was added, and Omri Casspi, and Cook. The list goes on.

The Warriors are about Curry and Thompson, and how the offense Steve Kerr has built for them operates. On the other side, Golden State is about how those same players are able to thrive thanks to Ron Adams’ defense, Green’s excellent play notwithstanding. Losing Durant would be big. Losing Green is inevitable, either to age or to free agent poachers. But Curry is the engine that makes this Warriors team go. Would losing both of them in the same offseason mean this team has a fundamentally different identity? I don’t think so.

It’s evident when you watch the team play, and it’s certainly exemplified in Golden State’s advanced statistics — Curry is the favorite son in the Bay, and as long as he is in blue and gold, the Warriors will stay The Warriors.

Jarrett Jack reportedly reaches non-guaranteed deal with Pelicans

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After knee injuries and surgeries sidelined Jarrett Jack for the better part of two seasons, he was back last season with the Knicks and showed he’s got some game left in those 34-year-old legs. He started 56 games for New York, averaging 7.5 points and 5.6 assists per night, and while his shooting has slipped (an unimpressive 48.9 true shooting percentage, and shooting 29.1 percent from three) he showed he still could have a role in the NBA.

That role may be back with the Pelicans. Shams Charania of The Athletic broke the news.

Jack has a chance here, because while the Pelicans are bringing a lot of guards to camp there is only one worth trusting, Jrue Holiday. He is a borderline All-Star. After that, they are putting a lot of trust in Elfrid Payton as a point guard (to call the feeling on him around the league “divisive” would be kind), and behind them there are Ian Clark, Frank Jackson, and Trevon Bluiett. A solid veteran like Jack, asked to play a smaller role than he did in New York ( playing 25 minutes a night), could work.

The Pelicans are going to have one of the most interesting training camps in the league, because it is an actual tryout with roster spots and minutes up for grabs. They are not going through the motions in the Big Easy.

New Orleans signs Darius Morris to compete for guard spot on roster

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The New Orleans Pelicans are looking for depth at the guard and wing spots, and at the wing they are doing and old-school tryout during training camp. At guard, New Orleans has a borderline All-Star in Jrue Holiday (they want to say he’s not the point, he’s the two guard, but are they going to want the ball in his hands or Elfrid Payton‘s?), after that it gets thin.

Now add Darius Morris is going to get his shot at a spot, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Morris last played in the NBA in 2015 in Brooklyn and may be best remembered for a couple of seasons with the Lakers at the start of this decade (they drafted him in the second round in 2011). The past couple of seasons he has primarily been in the G-League, but has played in China as well.

The Pelicans need guard depth. Behind Holiday there is Payton, Ian Clark, Frank Jackson and likely Tyronne Wallace (they put in an offer sheet on him the Clippers are unlikely to match). Rarely is there a lot of drama in NBA training camps, due to guaranteed contracts, but this season in New Orleans will be different — roster spots and minutes will be available. Should be interesting to watch.

Anthony Davis beasts against sloppy Warriors, Pelicans win Game 3 in rout

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That looked like the Pelicans who swept the Trail Blazers out of the playoffs.

From the opening tip back in the comfort of their home, New Orleans was knocking down threes, being far more physical and aggressive on defense, and consistently exploiting a Warriors team that was sloppy with their defensive switches and communication.

The result was a wrap-the-ice-on-your-knees-with-five-minutes-left kind of blowout win.

Anthony Davis was a second-half beast and finished with 33 points and 18 rebounds, Jrue Holiday had 21 points, and Rajon Rondo added a ridiculous 21 assists. With that, the Pelicans blew Golden State away in the second half, winning 119-100.

Golden State still leads the series 2-1, but New Orleans has a chance to even it up Sunday in the Big Easy.

“We’re home, we believe we’re a great home team no matter who we’re playing, our fans were unbelievable tonight, and guys made shots. That was the difference maker,” Davis said. “

If Golden State plays the same way, New Orleans will even the series.

This looked more like the regular-season Warriors that tried to get by on talent and were not dialed in. It’s not just that their shooters were off, although they were. Stephen Curry was 6-of-19 and struggled to create space for himself all game, plus he was attacked on defense, that knee is not as healthy as everyone thought. The Pelicans cranked up their defensive pressure and the result was this shot chart by the Warriors, where they barely got to the rim — they had six more midrangers than shots within three feet — and missed their jumpers.

Even more than the offensive and lineup questions, it was the defensive end where the Warriors’ issues were most obvious. The Warriors defensive attention to detail — staying with Mirotic when he pops out after setting a pick, or being prepared for duck-ins from Davis — that has mostly shown up in the playoffs was lacking on Friday night.

New Orleans is simply too good a team to do that against.

The Pelicans opened the game red-hot — after shooting 33.9 percent from three in the first two games, they opened this one up 6-of-9 from deep and raced out to a 13 point lead. Holiday was fueling that run with a couple of threes (meanwhile the Warriors opened 1-of-7 from beyond the arc). The Pelicans did a good job of giving whoever Curry was guarding the ball then using Davis to set picks, so there could be no switch. It led to some good looks for New Orleans and they were 10-of-16 from three in the first half. However, the Pelicans were getting good buckets inside as well, attacking off the sleepy Warriors switches.

All of which is why it felt like the Pelicans should have been up by more than six at the half. Part of the reason was Klay Thompson, who had been getting good looks for a couple of games but not shooting like he’s expected to, finding his groove and scoring 20 in the second quarter.

In the second half, Davis took over and the Pelicans raced out to a 21-7 run at the start and never looked back.

“Just being more aggressive,” Davis said of his second-half explosion. “Rondo’s been on me all series about just being more physical, more aggressive, going to the basket, and that’s on me. We have to be physical and match that physicality.”

It wasn’t just Davis in the second half, it was the Ian Clark revenge game — the former Warriors dropped 18 off the bench on his one-time teammates.

The tenor of Game 3 was radically different from the first two games of the series. The Pelicans believe they can continue that, but we have all seen the Warriors flip the switch and win big games on the road. They will play better.

Which is going to make Sunday very interesting.

Pelicans sign Jordan Crawford for playoff push

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METAIRIE, La. (AP) — The New Orleans Pelicans have brought back guard Jordan Crawford as the club tries to hang on to one of the final playoffs spots in the Western Conference.

The Pelicans announced the move on Thursday, but terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

Ian Clark is out with an ankle injury.

The 6-foot-4 Crawford has played in 21 games for the Pelicans during parts of the past two seasons and has been a productive scorer in those outings, averaging 13.6 points.

Crawford played in only two games early this season with New Orleans, averaging 9.0 points before being waived on October 21.

Crawford has been in the NBA since 2010, also playing for with Atlanta, Washington, Boston and Golden State.

He is expected to be available to play in New Orleans’ next game Friday at Phoenix.