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Revisiting the Knicks’ 2009 draft: Was there a backup plan to land Stephen Curry?

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Stephen Curry wanted to be drafted by the Knicks, to play in Mike D’Antoni’s system in the bright lights of Madison Square Garden. Curry’s father, Dell, and agent Jeff Austin both wanted Stephen in New York and called up Larry Riley, then the Warriors GM, trying to pressure him not to draft the young Curry.

It didn’t work. The fact Knicks president Donnie Walsh wanted Curry so badly just confirmed to the Warriors they were doing the right thing, Riley told Marc Berman of the New York Post this week.

“The truth is I respected Donnie Walsh a great deal,” Riley said. “Their interest in Steph reaffirmed what we already believed.”

Looking back at that draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves (and GM David Kahn) had the No. 5 and 6 picks in the 2009 NBA Draft and used them both on point guards — Spanish sensation Ricky Rubio and fast-rising Jonny Flynn. The Warriors were poised to take Curry at No. 7.

Did the Knicks’ Walsh do enough to try and trade up to get Curry, to leapfrog the Warriors and get one of those Timberwolves picks? It depends upon who you ask, and the Post’s Berman talked to a lot of people.

“I really wanted Stephen in that draft, and when I realized that Golden State was going to take him, I tried to trade up to take him,” Walsh said. “But I could not get the pick I needed so I looked elsewhere and tried to fill a need. Stephen was the guy and he obviously would have made a huge difference.”

However, one source familiar with the situation said Walsh never contacted Minnesota, which held picks No. 5 and 6. Another league source says when Golden State selected Curry, a “huge collective groan” emerged from the Knicks’ war room, which indicated the Knicks were calling Golden State’s bluff.

“It didn’t seem Donnie was prepared for any other scenario,” a former Knicks scout said. “We all love Donnie, but he didn’t seem to have a backup plan and it was a mad scramble to finalize [No. 8 pick Jordan] Hill.”

Jordan Hill played 24 games for the Knicks before he was traded in a salary dump.

Hindsight is always 20/20, and it’s easy to look back and say Walsh should have done anything to get the future two-time NBA MVP and three-time champion who set the culture for the Warriors. At the time of the 2009 NBA Draft, there were questions about Curry’s ability to play the point at the NBA level (he had only done it for one season at Davidson), and he was seen more as a shooter, certainly not a franchise savior. He was behind guys like Blake Griffin and James Harden in that draft for a reason.

But did Walsh do enough to move up? Would Curry have developed into the player we know in New York, where likely his coach and the front office above him would have changed several times?

It’s all a what if, just a painful one for Knicks fans.

Increasing buzz teams well out of playoffs will not come to Orlando for games

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The Golden State Warriors have been public about it, they expect their season to be over. Golden State is far from alone, multiple teams well out of the playoff picture have questioned the expense and risk-to-reward ratio of coming back to play a handful of regular season games without fans in Orlando.

More and more, the buzz has been the NBA league office sees things the same way. I am not the only reporter hearing this: Steve Popper of Newsday wrote a column saying there was no reason to invite all 30 teams to the bubble city and the USA Today’s well-connected Jeff Zillgett added this:

This is where we throw in the caveat: There are no hard-and-fast plans from the NBA yet and every option is still being considered. One lesson Adam Silver took from David Stern was not to make a decision until you have to, and Silver is going to absorb more information in the coming weeks — such as from the recent GM survey — before making his call.

That said, the league seems to be coalescing around a general plan, which includes camps starting in mid-June and games in mid-July in Orlando.

For the bottom three to five teams in each conference, there is little motivation to head to Orlando for the bubble. It’s an expense to the owner with no gate revenue coming in, teams want to protect their NBA Draft Lottery status, and the Warriors don’t want to risk injury to Stephen Curry — or the Timberwolves to Karl-Anthony Towns, or the Hawks to Trae Young — for a handful of meaningless games.

The league is considering a play-in tournament for the final seed or seeds in each conference (there are a few format options on the table, it was part of the GM survey). That would bring the top 10 or 12 seeds from each conference to the bubble, depending upon the format, and they would play a handful of games to determine which teams are in the playoffs (and face the top seeds).

Either way, that would leave the three or five teams with the worst records in each conference home. Which is the smart thing to do, there’s no reason to add risk to the bubble for a handful of meaningless games.

Warriors’ Bob Myers says he would ‘consider’ trading draft pick

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Even if the NBA decides to play a handful more regular season games upon return, the Golden State Warriors are going to finish the season with the worst record in the NBA (they have a 4.5 game “lead” for the worst record). That means they have a 14% chance at the No. 1 pick, a 40.1% chance of a top-three pick, and a 47.9% chance of having the No. 5 pick.

Those same Warriors are returning next season with a healthy Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green, a team with title aspirations.

That’s led to a lot of speculation the Warriors would try to trade down, something Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob confirmed. Warriors president Bob Myers, speaking to NBC Sports’ Bay Area’s Monte Poole, said as much as any executive in his shoes would: He’d consider trading the pick.

“Yeah, we’re going to consider all that,” the Warriors president of basketball operations told NBC Sports Bay Area over the phone, before pausing for a moment. “Now, I don’t know if the headline is going to be that we’re trading our pick. So, be clear that I said ‘consider.’”

On the ProBasketballTalk podcast, NBC Sports’ Rob Dauster said if he were in Myers’ shoes he would try to trade down, get a veteran, and land in picks four through six. There he can likely land a player such as Obi Toppin, Isaac Okoro, or Deni Avdija — players who should not go No. 1 but are better poised to help immediately. The problem for the Warriors, or whoever lands the top pick, is this is a weak draft at the top, depressing the value. Dauster described it this way: the top three picks in this draft would go 6-10 most years.

The 2020 NBA Draft Lottery and Draft Combine have been postponed, and the draft itself will get the same treatment soon (it has yet to be officially changed, but everyone expects it).

Until there is a lottery and the Warriors know where they land, it’s tough for Myers to do much more than plan. Just like the rest of us.

Matt Barnes doesn’t refer to himself as NBA champion, doesn’t have ring from 2017 Warriors

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At the start of March in 2017, Matt Barnes signed as a free agent with the Golden State Warriors to help fill in te minutes for Kevin Durant, who had suffered a knee injury. Over the course of 20 games down the stretch of that season, Barnes became a regular part of Warriors’ bench rotation, averaging 20 minutes a night and even starting five games. Then, right before the playoffs, Barnes sprained his ankle. Barnes never saw the court in the first round and his role shrunk in the postseason, he played fewer than 10 minutes total in the NBA Finals.

Because of that limited role, Barnes doesn’t refer to himself as an NBA champion. He doesn’t feel he earned it, and he doesn’t have his championship ring, something Barnes explained recently on the “All The Smoke” podcast (hat tip NBC Sports Bay Area)

“That ring is still in — shoutout Raymond Ridder, the best media dude, mogul for the Golden State Warriors — that thing is sitting in his office. I don’t count that as a championship…

“I came in when [Durant] went down, playing a consistent 20-25 minutes, the game KD comes back, I get hurt maybe a week before the playoffs and I’m out of it,. Worst ankle sprain of my life. I’m not healthy until the end of the second round when they’re already 8-0. So me being a vet knowing they’re not going to change the rotation, I’m not expecting them to change the rotation, I’m just going to sit here and be a super vet, cheer these mother f****** on, talk to people when they need to be talked to and just enjoy the ride.

“I didn’t sweat. I wasn’t in the mother f****** dog hole with these dudes. I didn’t get to guard LeBron. I got a free ride, I got a free ring.”

Barnes played an important role on the Warriors when the team needed it, and guys have gotten rings for a lot less. Still, it is admirable Barnes has standards and sticks to them.

That ring, however, might be something he and his family want someday.

Go straight to playoffs? Play-in tournament? Regular season? NBA reportedly polls GMS

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Is the risk of bringing all 30 NBA teams into the “bubble”/campus to restart games worth the reward of five to 10 regular season games? Is it better to just admit this is an unprecedented situation, tell teams sorry, and jump straight to the playoffs? What about a play-in tournament that would give seeds nine and 10 (and maybe 11 and 12) a chance to make the playoffs?

The NBA still has all those options on the table as it moves toward a decision on restarting the season, which will take place in Orlando. Now the league has asked its GMs what they think in a survey, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

GMs then received the survey late Friday night, which included polling on whether the NBA should do a play-in tournament, the preferred number of teams to enter the playing site, the preferred numbers of scrimmage or regular-season games prior to the playoffs and considerations for expanded rosters, sources said.

The options for the GMs to choose from, according to the report:

• Go straight to the playoffs, 16 teams, seven-game series each round.
• A 72- or 76-game regular season, followed by the playoffs (GMs would vote on the number of games, teams have played between 63 and 67 so far).
• A “playoff plus” format of a play-in tournament for the final playoff seed or seeds. GMs were given several options for the number of teams (9 and 10 seeds, add 11 and 12 seeds?) and the format of the tournament.
• How late should the NBA be willing to go with this season, with the range of options being from Labor Day weekend in early September through Nov. 1?

This is a survey, not a vote — the majority do not automatically get their way. Other factors, including the availability of coronavirus testing and how states are doing in decreasing the number of cases, will play a role in determining what’s next, too.

While the league has seemed focused on playing at least a handful of regular season games — getting above 70 games for teams, meeting a requirement with a number of teams’ local broadcasters — it’s hard to see where that risk is worth the reward for the league. To bring all 14 non-playoff teams to Orlando adds about an extra 500 people for a few weeks, increasing the risk to the “bubble.” Plus, what is the motivation for the Warriors to play Stephen Curry and risk injury, or the Trail Blazers with Damian Lillard, or the Pelicans with Zion Williamson? If teams are not going to the playoffs, the costs and risks seem to outweigh the benefits.

If Adam Silver asks teams to come and play five regular season games for the good of the league, they will do it. However, you can be sure some GMs are letting the league know they don’t want to take on these risks.