Warriors

Analysis: Gifted young stars no match for Warriors' group of veteran big men

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USATSI

Analysis: Gifted young stars no match for Warriors' group of veteran big men

When the Warriors brought back 37-year-old David West, 33-year-old Zaza Pachulia and 29-year-old JaVale McGee back for second seasons, the common response was a yawn and a shrug.

OK, fine, maybe that’s enough to do it again. Maybe.

The Warriors stayed pat at center because they liked what they had. Three veterans, none close to All-Star status, dividing playing time were good enough for them to sprint to a record 16-1 postseason and an NBA championship.

At a time when the NBA is rife with gifted young big men, the Super Team Warriors are content with part-timers. Hmm. Weird? Perhaps. Recent results, however, indicate they’re onto something.

The vets, with assistance mostly from firebrand Draymond Green, are teaching harsh lessons to the gifted youth -- and sometimes simply dismissing them from the classroom altogether.

The latest to be schooled by this tag-team was Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns on Wednesday night. His name may be the most popular answer to the hypothetical question: If you could pick any player to start a franchise, which would you choose?

Towns played 27 minutes, his second-lowest total of the season. He gave the Timberwolves 16 points, on 5-of-11 shooting, and 12 rebounds. The man who shoots 55.4 percent and averages 22 and 11 didn’t quite disappear, but he was barely there.

Before Towns there was Hassan Whiteside, averaging 18.3 points and 14 rebounds when coming into Oakland with the Miami Heat on Monday. He’s coming off a season in which he was the league’s No. 1 rebounder and a top-10 paint scorer.

Whiteside lost his courage early, lost it so transparently that Heat coach Eric Spoelstra benched him for good barely a minute into the third quarter -- after Pachulia opened the half by scoring four points in 59 seconds. Whiteside lasted all of 16 minutes, delivering three points (1-of-9 shooting), six rebounds and one block.

Some of this forgettable performance was on Whiteside; he’s a head case. But some of it was his reaction to the opposition.

Whiteside had 21 points and 17 rebounds one night earlier, against Clippers big man DeAndre Jordan. Two nights after being stifled by the Warriors, Whiteside hung 23 and 10, with four blocks, on the Suns.

Before Towns and Whiteside, there was Denver’s Nikola Jokic, who in the six games before facing the Warriors averaged 20.1 points and 14.7 rebounds. And that’s with an 8-point game in which he had 16 rebounds and 10 assists.

The Warriors never let Jokic get anything close to a rhythm. Facing different looks from four different players, five when Kevin Durant got involved, he played a season-low 20 minutes and finished with 8 points on 2-of-6 shooting, seven rebounds and three assists.

Three nights later, Jokic lit up the Nets for 41 points, along with 12 rebounds and five assists -- all before fouling out in 31 minutes.

That’s one of the telltale signs. The gifted youth look like stars before facing the Warriors and against afterward. The NBA’s Player Efficiency Ratings has Towns, Whiteside and Jokic all among the top 12. They’re fabulous.

The Pachulia-West-McGee tag team puts up terrific numbers, combining for 15.4 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks. Their collective field-goal percentage is 58.4. West is ninth in PER, while Pachulia and McGee are posting strong plus-minus numbers.

They offer little in the way of spectacle, aside from McGee’s soaring slams that bring citizens of JaVale Nation coming out of their seats. They are, McGee included, decidedly blue-collar but highly effective, kind of like reliable pickup trucks.

It’s early, yes, but Pachulia, West and McGee have been precisely what the Warriors need. They’re budget friendly, combining for less than $8 million in salary. They have different skills, span the athletic spectrum and give coach Steve Kerr and his staff a lot of flexibility at center.

They’re shining right now, and here comes another youngster to test them: Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid, if healthy, will step into the classroom Saturday.

The time Bob Myers questioned Mark Jackson's decision: 'I was wrong'

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AP

The time Bob Myers questioned Mark Jackson's decision: 'I was wrong'

Remember when Mark Jackson was the head coach of the Warriors?

During a recent conversation with ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Warriors GM Bob Myers shared the following story:

"I made a mistake with Mark one time -- after a game we lost, I went up to him right after we lost and asked him -- I think Curry had been having a big game and he ran a play for Carl Landry to take a shot to win the game; and it was a good play and it was a good shot.

"And I went up to Mark and I went, 'Did you think about Curry?' And he looked at me, and you could tell he was kind of containing himself, and he said, 'It was a good play. It was a good play.' And I look at him and I thought, 'I will never do that again.' If I don't trust the decisions the coach makes, then he's not the right coach.

"The coach gets to decide, right? I learned that lesson with Mark that I was completely out of line in asking him. And I apologized, and I'll never forget that lesson that I learned for myself ... I was wrong. And I learned that. So you learn more from mistakes sometimes. I don't do the debriefing with my coach after the game. Win or lose."

The Warriors fired Jackson a couple days after dropping Game 7 to the Clippers in the opening round of the playoffs.

Myers was named NBA Executive of the Year in 2015 and 2017.

Drew Shiller is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders. Follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller

Mike Brown explains why Warriors players respect the young 76ers

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Mike Brown explains why Warriors players respect the young 76ers

On Saturday night in Philadelphia, the 76ers led the Warriors by 24 points early in the third quarter.

With about five minutes left in the game, Golden State led the game 115-97.

It was an incredible turn of events.

On Monday morning, Warriors assistant coach Mike Brown was asked about the 76ers during a radio appearance on KNBR 680.

"They're gonna be good. Right now, they're just kind of finding their way," Brown said. "The thing that I think our guys really like most about that group is -- they don't back down from anybody. They're confident in their abilities, they're confident in their team and they kind of let you know it.

"They talk about it during the course of a game. Our most vocal guy, Draymond, is like that and usually when Draymond shows respect to guys, the rest of our team follows."

Said Steph Curry: "They're on the right path. Waiting on Markelle to get back, and put all the puzzle pieces together but I'm sure they're ready to turn the page from building to actually cementing their idenity and how they're gonna be. I'm pretty sure they're close. They play an exciting brand of basketball. In the first half they showed if you're not ready to play, they can come out and do some amazing things."

[RELATED: Joel Embiid 'likes' Kevin Durant's postgame comments]

Kevin Durant on Ben Simmons: "Something I've never seen before as really playing the point guard at that height and that speed and that strength. You can tell he's an Aussie, too, because he doesn't mind getting into some scuffles or showing his little fiesty side. That's gonna mean well for the Sixers down the line ... all the amazing pieces that they have here ... they're gonna be a load coming up this year, next year, year after that."

Also -- Joel Embiid is hilarious and the world is a better place because of him.

Drew Shiller is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders. Follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller