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Curry injured, Bucks snap Warriors’ eight-game win streak

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OAKLAND, Calif. — Stephen Curry left with an injury and the Golden State Warriors were unable to recover in a 134-111 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks that snapped their eight-game winning streak Thursday night.

Eric Bledsoe scored seven straight points during Milwaukee’s big third quarter and finished with 26. Giannis Antetokounmpo added 24 points, nine rebounds and four assists as the Bucks handed the Warriors their first defeat at home this season.

The two-time defending NBA champions were already missing All-Star Draymond Green and then lost Curry midway through the third. The two-time NBA MVP strained the adductor muscle in his left leg and went to the locker room shortly thereafter. He did not return.

Curry grabbed at his inner thigh after trying to contest Bledsoe’s shot in transition at the 6:50 mark of the third. He is expected to have an MRI on Friday.

Klay Thompson led the Warriors with 24 points and Kevin Durant had 17 points, nine assists and seven rebounds.

Curry, limited to 51 regular-season games last season because of injuries, scored 10 points in his second straight game below 20 after getting at least 23 points in every game previously — including five 30-point performances and a 51-point outing in three quarters. He dished out six assists in 26 minutes.

Malcolm Brogdon scored 20 points and Khris Middleton had 17 and six assists as Milwaukee (9-2) won for the second straight time at Oracle Arena after a 116-107 victory on March 29. The Bucks outscored the Warriors 41-28 in the third and shot 65 percent inside the arc (43 of 66) overall.

Antetokounmpo had 19 points, seven rebounds, three assists, a steal and a block by halftime as the Bucks led 64-51 at the break.

Bledsoe hit back-to-back layups to put the Bucks ahead 84-64 midway through the third then answered Curry’s jumper with a 3-pointer the next time down. Donte DiVincenzo’s basket at the 4:06 mark made it 93-69 and coach Steve Kerr called a timeout.

Jordan Bell had four points and five rebounds for the Warriors while moving into the starting lineup in place of Green, sidelined after spraining his right foot and toe in the first half of Monday’s win over the Grizzlies.

Golden State (10-2) is still tied for the second-best start in franchise history behind the 2015-16 team that began 24-0. The Warriors dropped to 6-1 at home.

Steve Kerr says DeMarcus Cousins is ‘right on schedule’ but will not set timeline

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DeMarcus Cousins is moving well in the videos we’ve seen of him, and according to Golden State’s Steve Kerr he is recovering “right on schedule.”

Just don’t ask him what that schedule is.

The Warriors can afford to be patient with Cousin’s return and that is what’s happening, Kerr told Mark Medina of the San Jose Mercury News.

“He’s right on schedule. He hasn’t had any setbacks. He’s doing well. Beyond that, there’s nothing. No prediction. Especially with an Achilles injury, you have to wait and see how the player responds once he’s on the court and moving at full speed.”

Because the Warriors can afford to wait, it would be a surprise to see Cousins before mid-December, and more likely it will be 2019 before he steps on the court. The Warriors are going to win plenty of games without him, there is no pressure to get him back so they can make the playoffs. The key is to have him healthy and in a groove when the second season starts.

In the interim, Kerr said that Kevon Looney, Jordan Bell, and Damian Jones will compete for the starting center spot. Expect the Warriors to rotate the heavy minutes at the five among those three depending upon matchups. That said, Kerr praised Jones — who spent much of last season in the G-League — and made it sound like he could get a legitimate look.

David West retires

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David West changed the NBA forever.

His own career was impressive enough. He made two All-Star appearances with the New Orleans Hornets, played a big role on really good Pacers teams and won titles the last two years with the Warriors.

But those accomplishments, though absolutely commendable, don’t loom over the league.

West’s 2015 decision to leave more than $10 million on the table to leave Indiana for San Antonio did – because Kevin Durant took notice.

Durant, of course, left Oklahoma City for Golden State the following year. His reasons weren’t precisely the same as those of West, who voiced displeasure with how the Pacers treated Roy Hibbert. But the blueprint – sacrificing to join a better team – was similar.

That should be West’s legacy as he exits the NBA at age 38.

West:

West influencing Durant should be no surprise, because West is so respected around the league. West is tough, wise, proud, socially conscious and just real.

He’ll definitely be missed in Golden State’s locker room.

On the court, it’s more complicated. He played limited minutes. He was exposed in certain matchups. But West was darn effective in his role off the bench last season.

The Warriors just want to move onto a less center-centric roster. DeMarcus Cousins, Jordan Bell, Damian Jones, Kevon Looney and Draymond Green can handle minutes at center. West’s roster spot will go to a wing.

It’s hard to imagine a career more fulfilling than West’s. And because Durant followed in his footsteps, West will see his impact on the game last far longer.

Top 10 standout players from NBA Summer League

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LAS VEGAS — For NBA teams, Summer League is less about whether a young player is good or not, and far more about benchmarking where they are and seeing what areas that player needs to work on going forward. It’s a first step.

But some of those first steps are more impressive than others.

After watching a dozen days of Summer League games — in person in both Salt Lake City and Las Vegas — here are 10 players who stood out to me. This list is not all-inclusive by any means — Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Grayson Allen, and Trae Young would get an honorable mention here — nor is it just a list of the best players I have seen. Instead, this is a list of players that turned my head, or those of scouts/team executives that I spoke with, because of their success and what they have shown in Summer League. It’s a list of guys who caught my eye.

Here is my Top 10 for 2018:

1) Jaren Jackson Jr. (Memphis Grizzlies). From the minute he stepped on the court in Salt Lake, he looked like the future of the NBA five — he can drain threes, runs the court, is strong and physical inside, and can get up and block shots. In Utah he averaged 15.7 points per game and five boards a night. Interestingly, through much the summer games the Grizzlies tried to pair him with a true center, seemingly getting him used to playing the four next to Marc Gasol come next season. Jackson looked a little tired and struggled some in Las Vegas — especially the night he battled Jonathan Isaac and Mohamed Bamba on his fifth game in seven days — but he worked hard and still made plays. The Grizzlies may have something special with him.

2) John Collins (Atlanta Hawks). Everyone already knew he was  good — he made NBA All-Rookie second team and averaged 10.5 points and 7.3 rebounds a game shooting 57.6 percent last season. However, after watching in Las Vegas and Salt Lake, he has shown the potential to be a future star, his game is improving. He’s averaging 24 points and 8 boards a game in Vegas, playing good defense in the paint, but more importantly he has shown improved three-point stroke and handles. He’s done for the summer, but in limited games he showed he should be on this list.

3) Deandre Ayton (Phoenix Suns). Yes, the No. 1 pick should be good, but he has looked like a man among boys going up against some of the other rookie big men in Las Vegas. Ayton pushed Bamba around all game long, for example. He’s averaging 16 points a game on 67 percent shooting, plus 11 boards a contest, and he’s got versatility to his game. There’s work to do on defense and passing, but he has the potential to be special.

4) Kevin Knox (New York Knicks). He’s looked like a rookie at points, he’s blown everyone’s doors off at others. Tuesday’s game against the Lakers was the perfect example: He started 0-of-6 from the floor and finished the night with seven turnovers. He’s got work to do. However, he finished that Laker game with 22 points and was 5-of-7 from three, he’s got the athleticism to get by guys with a first step and he can finish. And he’s just 18. The Knicks may have another crucial rebuilding block with Knox.

5) Jonathan Isaac (Orlando Magic). He was a roll of the dice at No. 6 in the 2017 draft, a guy with a lot of potential but a project, then he missed most of his rookie season with injuries. Nobody seemed exactly sure what Orlando had. In Vegas he has turned heads with his play —14.3 points and 7 boards a game, he’s physically a lot stronger and his shooting stroke is smooth. He has banged inside and held his own with Memphis’ Jackson, and has just been a better athlete than everyone he’s gone up against. Pair him along the front with Bamba and Aaron Gordon, and that is an interesting team in Orlando. And when was the last time we said that?

6) Josh Hart (Los Angeles Lakers). He might be the MVP of Summer League so far, averaging 23.3 points per game and just running the team like a pro. Which he is — he showed he could do this with the Lakers last season, but asked to take on more of a scoring role in Vegas he has stepped up. Bottom line, there’s a reason every time a team talks to the Lakers about a trade they want Hart thrown in the mix. He’s got a lot of fans around the league, and that has only grown this summer.

7) Wendell Carter Jr. (Chicago Bulls). I will own it: I was not high on Carter Jr. coming into the draft, but he has impressed in Las Vegas. As expected, he has a versatile and polished offensive game with a nearly unstoppable turnaround from the post, ability to score with either hand, range on his jumper, plus he is a surprisingly good passer. The book on him coming into the draft was defensive questions, but he has been better on that front than expected — he works hard and is athletic enough to be disruptive. We will see how he fares against NBA-level competition on that end, but the work ethic and tools are there.

8) Harry Giles (Sacramento Kings). He was a low-risk gamble pick by the Kings at No. 20 in 2017, a guy who was maybe the top player in his class as a high school sophomore until the injuries hit (ACL, MCL and a meniscus tear in his left knee, plus another surgery on his right knee). The Kings took him and red-shirted him last season, but in Vegas he has been impressive and solid (12 points and 7 rebounds a game in Sin City). He looks like he could be a rotation NBA big man (at least, the Kings think he can be more than that), someone Sacramento can count on besides Marvin Bagley III. Giles has been a pleasant surprise.

9) Jordan Bell (Golden State Warriors). He’s only on this list for one reason. Yes, he’s looked good in limited Summer League run — the guy was playing serious minutes in the NBA Finals a month ago, of course he looks good going against a bunch of non-NBA players. What got him there was this one moment against the Jazz.

(To be clear, Bell and Donovan Mitchell are tight, and Mitchell thought this was funny.)

10) De'Anthony Melton (Houston Rockets). He could end up being a second-round steal for the Rockets. Melton didn’t play last season at USC (he was the guy at the heart of the FBI probe) so he slid down to 46th overall. In Vegas he has looked like a quality rotation guard, averaging 16.3 points, 7 rebounds, and 2.7 steals a game. Guard minutes are tight to come by on the Rockets this season, but he’s going to make the opening night roster and will get his shot.

Stephen Curry: ‘The West obviously got stronger with LeBron but you’ve still got to beat us’

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The Warriors got better this summer. DeMarcus Cousins is going to be their center (once he gets healthy, probably around Christmas at the earliest), although his real impact will come with the second unit. They added a shooter in Jonas Jerebko. Jordan Bell will be better.

However, probably the thing that helped them the most this summer is LeBron James coming to the West. Coach Steve Kerr talked a lot last season about the challenges of lighting a fire under this team during the regular season after all their success — LeBron in your state and in your conference will do that.

Stephen Curry talked about all of this is a fantastic interview with Sam Amick of the USA Today. He knows the NBA’s title goes through the Bay Area.

There’s a lot that’s been made about the competition in the West and his eight straight Finals appearances and all that, but that just makes everybody raise the antenna up a little bit – including us. It’s going to be fun for fans, playing (more) in the regular season and who knows in the playoffs. So the West obviously got stronger with LeBron but you’ve still got to beat us.

He’s right. And everyone knows it.

As for the Warriors ruining the NBA…

So everybody says how we’re ruining the NBA – I love that phrasing; it’s the dumbest phrase ever. We are always trying to find a way to get better. If we were just happy with winning a championship and staying stagnant, we wouldn’t be doing ourselves justice. Obviously with KD (Kevin Durant signing in 2016), with DeMarcus this summer, with the bench guys that we’ve been able to sign, everybody is trying to get better and we just happen to be the ones who set the pace and set the narrative around how you need to structure your team to beat us. That’s great. I love that vibe, because it keeps us on edge seeing the ripple effect around the NBA and where guys are going and that type of stuff.

I could get into how the NBA has always been at its best and most popular when there were dynasties to chase — Jordan’s Bulls, the Showtime Lakers, the Bill Russell Celtics — but if people have entrenched themselves in a belief, no statement anyone will make will change their mind. The simple fact is NBA popularity and ratings — including ratings at the regional network level — are up (especially once streaming numbers are added into the calculation). The numbers show people are interested. Very interested.

Curry and the Warriors are part of that, although they have reached the point in the popularity arc where they are changing from “everyone’s second favorite team” to the villain. It’s part of the modern sports storyline. The Warriors get that and are embracing it, from the GM on down. A lot of fans want to see the Warriors lose.

It could happen, LeBron might be the guy to do it (once the Lakers upgrade the roster more) but it’s not going to be easy.