Stephen Curry says Warriors must maintain focus while Kevin Durant recovers

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CHICAGO (AP) — As tough as it was to lose Kevin Durant to a leg injury, the Golden State Warriors were breathing a little easier. After all, they expect their superstar forward will return this season.

“There was definitely a sense of relief that he’ll be able to come back at some point down the stretch of the season,” Stephen Curry said Thursday in Chicago. “Our job now is to (continue) being us, continue to get wins, continue to play well, continue to build toward the playoffs and then when he’s able to rejoin us, hopefully, we hit our stride and be ready to try to win another championship.”

Curry, the two-time reigning MVP, spoke at the shootaround before the Warriors’ game against the Bulls.

Golden State boasts the NBA’s best record, has a playoff spot locked up and is focused on a second championship in three years. But Curry and Co. might have to get by without their leading scorer and rebounder for the remainder of the regular season and maybe even longer after he injured his left knee in Tuesday’s loss at Washington.

Durant, averaging 25.3 points and 8.2 rebounds, sprained a ligament and bruised a bone when teammate Zaza Pachulia fell into him after being pushed by Wizards center Marcin Gortat. An MRI revealed the injuries.

Durant is scheduled to be re-evaluated in a month. That would leave about two weeks remaining in the regular season if he is ready to return then. The playoffs start in mid-April.

“Obviously, it’s tough,” Draymond Green said. “We’ll have to do it by committee. One guy isn’t going to come and bring 26 points and eight rebounds per game. Multiple guys have got to step up. Some guys’ minutes will increase.”

No doubt, losing their big man is a huge blow for the Warriors. They became the earliest team in NBA history to clinch a playoff spot when they beat Brooklyn on Saturday and are trying to lock down the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.

But it’s not like they haven’t won in a huge way without Durant. They captured the NBA championship two years ago and then set a league record with 73 victories on the way to their second straight finals last season, before signing the 2013-14 MVP to a two-year deal.

“It’s not the end of the world,” Green said. “We’ve still got to go out and win basketball games. … Home court in the playoffs, of course that’s the goal.”

Golden State signed forward Matt Barnes to replace the injured Durant, adding some toughness and defense to a team gearing up for another deep playoff run. He spent two years with the Warriors earlier in his career, helping them beat Dallas in a stunning upset in the 2007 playoffs. The 36-year-old Barnes played in 54 games for the Sacramento Kings this season before being waived.

“Just excitement,” Barnes said. “Tremendously humbled. It’s a team everybody talks about, the chemistry they have on and off the court and the way they play for each other. That’s something I want to be a part of.”

Reports: Terrence Jones reaches deal to play for Milwaukee for rest of season

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Terrence Jones was having a solid season for the Pelicans, playing 25 minutes a night, giving them 11.5 points and some boards. The problem was solid rotation player wasn’t going to be enough to get minutes once the Pelicans signed DeMarcus Cousins to play next to Anthony Davis.

Jones was the guy cut loose to make a roster spot for Cousins (and Omri Casspi, who broke his thumb in his first game as a Pelican and was instantly waived). Now it seems Jones has found a new home in Milwaukee for the rest of the season, a story broken by Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports, and quickly confirmed by ESPN reporters.

This is a quality move for the Bucks. They are thin at the four with injuries to Jabari Parker and Michael Beasley, it has them leaning heavily on rookie Thon Maker. Jones can be a solid part of the rotation, and does his best work when he can play at pace (although the Bucks play more slowly than the Pelicans).

It’s official: Matt Barnes signs with Warriors, Andrew Bogut signs with Cavaliers


And the rich get richer.

Two moves that were expected became official Thursday afternoon and strengthened the two leading title contenders. First, Andrew Bogut — who played on the Warriors finals teams the past two seasons — signed with Cleveland and will be a reserve big man for the defending NBA champs.

Bogut, along with Deron Williams, adds some veteran depth Tyronn Lue can trust in the postseason to the Cavaliers. Bogut will essentially fill the Timofey Mozgov role of years past in Cleveland — he’s needed in specific matchups with other bigs — but will do it much better.

Also, Matt Barnes has signed with the Golden State Warriors, essentially stepping into Kevin Durant‘s shoes as best he can while the Warriors’ leading scorer is sidelined with a knee injury.

The Warriors had agreed to sign Jose Calderon off waivers as a backup point guard. However, the team’s needs shifted after the Durant injury. Still, the Warriors signed Calderon, then waived him again.

Rumor is Calderon could well end up on the Atlanta Hawks, although nothing is guaranteed.

Jamal Murray starts to find his footing in NBA, just in time to help lift Nuggets


Consistency. Defensive game plan discipline. Physicality.

That is what Denver Nuggets coach Mike Malone is preaching to his young stars coming out of the All-Star break. He and the team are making no bones about it, they want the eighth seed in the playoffs (the Nuggets currently hold that spot, with Portland and others three games back). Denver wants to get invited to the dance.

“(Getting the eighth seed) is talked about a lot, that’s our main goal right now, just stay consistent and make the playoffs,” Nuggets rookie Jamal Murray told NBCSports All-Star weekend while signing Panini trading cards. “We’re just trying to play consistent right now and it’s tough, there are a lot of good teams in the West.”

Murray is a big part of that push — Malone is giving him more and more responsibility on the court as Emmanuel Mudiay’s role fades. So far, Murray has been up to everything asked of him, which is why his name is coming up in the Rookie of the Year discussion. (With Joel Embiid playing just 31 games, Murray and the Bucks Malcolm Brogdon have emerged as the primary alternatives.)

“I enjoy playing the point, I enjoy running the team, reading the play, leading the team, I just try to make sure coach trusts me and can go to me down the stretch,” Murray said. “I do everything at the point. I like to score, but I like to get assists, I like when my team does good and plays for each other.”

It’s a lot asked of him, which is why All-Star weekend was a break in what has been a whirlwind rookie season for Murray. Although that weekend in New Orleans was a bit of a whirlwind in and of itself.

Murray was the MVP of the All-Star weekend Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night dropping 36, plus he spent the weekend connecting with fans and being at things such as a Panini trading card signing. Murray is just one of a select handful of rookies Panini is working with, and he was signing cards his new cards just about to hit the market, and helping promote the soon-to-be launched Panini Instant mobile app, which will feature mobile e-cards for fans.

“It’s a chance to connect with the fans, put on a show at the gae, and I had a lot of fun with fans all weekend,” Murray said.

Murray is at ease in these settings, comfortable with the fanfare that comes with being a rising NBA star.

The adjustment to the NBA was not that simple.

Murray — who set a record at Kentucky for most made threes in a season — started his career 0-of-17 from the floor for the Nuggets. He didn’t knock down his first field goal until Nov. 5. When asked who he leaned on through a rough start in the NBA, he points to his father, standing about 12 feet away.

“Once I made my first shot it was all fine,” Murray said. “It was a struggle to make that first one, just thinking too much, and your confidence goes down when you’re not making them and you’re expected to score…

“Everyone was just telling me shoot the ball, it will fall. They knew I was going to make shots at some point so (my teammates and coaches) weren’t mad about it or anything.”

A lot of players struggle to adjust at first to the speed and athleticism of the NBA game, and Murray has been no exception. He continues to have his ups and downs.

“Just getting used to the physicality, guys are more athletic and stronger and they’re grown men,” Murray said. “You’ve just got to adjust to it and work on your body, get used to everything.”

Murray’s dad, Roger Murray, agreed that getting his son stronger to handle the contact and the punishment that comes with driving the lane in the league needs to be at the heart of his off-season program. Roger is a father, mentor, and coach who set his son on this path long ago. For the Murrays it was always about basketball — even when Roger signed Jamal up for martial arts classes as a kid he said it was about hoops.

“I was thinking basketball. I wanted him to put everything together, the mental and the physical, I knew it would help him,” Roger said.

That path has landed Jamal in a good NBA place — Denver has a quality young core with Murray, Gary Harris, Juan Hernangomez, and the emerging star that is Nikola Jokic (who has had back-to-back triple-doubles since the All-Star break).

“He’s so unselfish, and he doesn’t just find one person, he finds everybody, and he picks his spots (to score),” Murray said of Jokic.

As a team, the young Nuggets are focused right now on making the playoffs. That will start with playing better team defense, which Murray said is really about them staying focused on the game plan and knowing their opponents better — which guys do you go under the pick on, which guys get iced off the pick-and-roll, just a lot of decisions that require the kind of focus young players often struggle to do consistently.

Beyond that, Murray has dreams of playing in the Tokyo Olympics for Canada.

“That’s one of my big goals, to play in the Olympics and make some noise there as well, but whatever opportunity is given me I will take,” Murray said.

But for now the focus for Murray is on the court — it’s always about basketball.

LeBron James almost did what no NFL team could: take out Bill Belichick


Maybe LeBron James and some Cavs fans are still a little bitter that former Browns coach Bill Belichick has had a little more success in his next stop.

The Patriots’ coach was courtside for Boston’s dramatic win over the Cavaliers Wednesday, and at one point LeBron, going for a putback dunk that doesn’t bounce his way, goes careening toward Belichick. Fortunately, a cameraman took the blunt of the blow (well, maybe not fortunate for the cameraman).

LeBron talked about it after the game, “I’m not taking no legend out. I’m not doing that. I need to keep seeing him win. That’s pretty cool for me.”