Five takeaways from Warriors' preseason loss to Minnesota


Five takeaways from Warriors' preseason loss to Minnesota

The numbers were better, particularly early, but the result in the second preseason game was the same as in the first. A Warriors loss, this time 111-95 to the Timberwolves on Thursday at Shenzhen Universiade Center in Shenzhen, China.

The defending champions, midway through their abbreviated four-game preseason schedule, are 0-2. The next game, also against Minnesota, is scheduled for Sunday in Shanghai.

Though the Warriors were sharp early, their starting lineup racing out to first-quarter leads of 15-4 and 23-13 and taking a 32-20 lead into the second quarter, they were outscored 91-63 over the final 36 minutes.

With coach Steve Kerr leaning on reserves in the fourth quarter, the Warriors took a 32-12 beating.

Kevin Durant finished with 20 points to lead all scorers, while Stephen Curry put in 14 points, Klay Thompson 13 and Zaza Pachulia 10. Draymond Green scored only 5 points but led the team in assists (eight) and tied for the lead with six rebounds.

Here are five takeaways from the game:

SOLID STARTERS: The starting five of Curry, Thompson, Durant, Green and Pachulia was sharp early, building a lead behind defensive intensity before tailing off slightly in later stints. Still, this group shot a combined 58.1 percent overall and 50.0 percent beyond the arc. Curry and Green tied for team-highs in plus-minus, each at plus-8.

SAGGING SWAGY: Offseason acquisition Nick “Swagy P” Young, hired to provide offense off the bench, had his second forgettable night. The veteran wing played 16 minutes, totaling 7 points (3-of-8 from the field, 1-of-5 from deep, 0-of-5 from the line), two rebounds, zero assists and one turnover. There were times when he seemed utterly lost.

ROTATION GAMES: It is evident Kerr is tinkering with rotations, perhaps in an effort to best divide playing time for a roster with 17 available players. JaVale McGee, for example, entered later than usual in the first quarter and opened the second (which he never does) before giving way to David West with 9:19 left in the half.

ENDURANCE ISSUES: As reflected in the score, the Warriors started with tremendous energy but faltered over the final three quarters. The crispness and vigor shown in the opening minutes gave way sloppy/lazy play typical of teams not in peak conditioning. Kerr noted as much after the game.

YOUNG BIGS: Rookie Jordan Bell was more effective in seven minutes than second-year center Damian Jones was in 11. And Jones spent considerable time with members of the starting lineup. One of these players is going to spend more time in the G-League than in the NBA. Through two games, the rookie seems to have a slight edge.

Warriors embrace playing second fiddle to Kobe for one final night


Warriors embrace playing second fiddle to Kobe for one final night

OAKLAND -- The NBA’s No. 1 road attraction will be reduced to fine print on the marquee Monday night in Los Angeles.

Sure, the house will be packed when the Warriors invade Staples Center. It’s the hottest ticket in the league this season, a gala evening that undoubtedly will receive Hollywood embellishments, searchlights for sure and maybe even a red carpet.

It’s Kobe Bryant Night at Staples Center. Both of the legend’s jersey numbers, 24 and 8, are being retired. So while the Warriors are there for the business of defeating the current Lakers, they’ll also be carrying memories of the past.

Win or lose, they will have a chance to enjoy the halftime ceremony. Lakers president Jeanie Buss extended the invitation Saturday, and Warriors coach Steve Kerr plans to accept it.

“I want our guys to see it,” Kerr said Saturday. “It’ll be a pretty cool moment.

“Just to experience of one of the greatest players in the history of the game getting his jersey retired and we happen to be there? I’m not going to keep them in the locker room watching tape from the first half. The players would look at me like I was nuts.”

Said Nick Young, a former teammate Bryant with the Lakers, of witnessing the ceremony: “That would be dope.”

Most of the Warriors have competed against Bryant, though Kevin Durant and Young have closer associations. Bryant and Durant over time formed a relationship as members of the league’s unofficial superstar club.

Durant has a particularly bittersweet memory from his rookie season with the Seattle SuperSonics in 2007-08, the year Bryant captured his only MVP award.

The Lakers took a 123-121 victory in overtime in Seattle and Durant’s memory of Bryant’s evening -- 48 points, 44 field-goal attempts, game-winning shot -- were perfect. Yet Durant came away feeling he had learned a more valuable lesson.

“It was my first taste of fourth-quarter basketball in the NBA, and (Bryant) fouled me all of the way up until I got the ball,” Durant recalled. “It was a blatant foul, and the referee just stared at him, looked at him, and didn’t call it. I was like, that’s what happens when you’re Kobe and you can do that stuff.

“It was a level I knew I had to get to, and that’s what made me realize that there’s certain players on different levels, and that you have to wait to get to that point. It made me realize it early with Kobe. So it was a great early lesson for me.”

Young, who spent three seasons as Bryant’s teammate in LA, recalled Bryant’s pointed jabs at teammates, unwillingness to tolerate fools and a semi-playful side of the man nicknamed Mamba.

After Bryant’s memorable final game -- a 60-point performance in a 101-96 win over the Jazz on April 13, 2016 -- Young approached Bryant with a pair shoes in hopes of getting an autograph. They were the wrong brand.

Kobe was a Nike guy, Young came with Adidas.

Bryant flipped the shoes into the trash bin.

“That’s Kobe,” Young said, grinning. “I knew something like that was going to happen if I went to him with some Adidas.

“But he did sign some Nikes that I had. And I have that stat sheet.”

Durant, having joined the MVP club in 2014, saw his relationship evolve to the point where they were dinner companions on Bryant’s last trip to Oklahoma City in 2016.

“The stuff we were talking about was next level, just what he wanted to do when he was done playing, his visions as a businessman, how he wanted to leave his mark as a basketball ambassador,” Durant recalled. “There was so much we talked about, and it made me appreciate his intelligent mind.”

Bryant retired as the league’s No. 3 all-time scorer (33,643 points), just ahead of Michael Jordan (32,292) but behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387) and Karl Malone (36,928). Bryant is a five-time NBA champion who was selected for 18 All-Star games. He is a lock to enter the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

And now, 20 months after he retired, his jerseys will be raised into the rafters at Staples Center.

“Kobe is obviously one of my favorite players, one of the best players to play this game,” Young said. “I know I had a chance to play with him, so I would want to see his number go up there.”

For one night, as a retired legend gets top billing, the Warriors don’t mind merely blending into the scenery.

Curry takes another stride in recovery, but 'little bit concerning' with Draymond


Curry takes another stride in recovery, but 'little bit concerning' with Draymond

OAKLAND -- Stephen Curry felt good enough Saturday to step onto the court for a light workout, putting up a few shots after the Warriors concluded practice.

Draymond Green, not so much.

Though the Warriors have been downplaying the seriousness of Green’s aching right shoulder, which has kept him out of three of the last four games, coach Steve Kerr concedes the level of worry is rising by the day.

“At first, it didn’t seem like it would be more than a few days, and it’s obviously carried on further than that,” Kerr said. “So it’s a little bit concerning that he hasn’t made bigger strides.

“I still don’t think there’s a major reason for concern.”

Green has played only once since Dec. 4. After missing the Dec. 6 game at Charlotte, the Michigan native played, and quite well, on Dec. 8 at Detroit. He has not since taken the court. He was on the premises Saturday. An update on his status is expected Sunday, a team spokesman said.

Curry has missed the last four games with a sprained right ankle. He is scheduled for reevaluation sometime in the middle of next week. The Warriors would be thrilled if he’s able to return before the end of the month.

In other health-related news, starting center Zaza Pachulia participated in practice and but still is listed as questionable for the game against the Lakers on Monday in Los Angeles. His left shoulder has kept him out four of the last five games.

Reserve guard Nick Young also went though practice workout but has yet to pass the final test to be cleared from concussion protocol.