Warriors

How to free agent: Iguodala played Rockets, market like a fiddle this offseason

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How to free agent: Iguodala played Rockets, market like a fiddle this offseason

Andre Iguodala was very nearly an ex-Warrior, which we suspected at the time and had reaffirmed by ESPN’s Chris Haynes.

He was reportedly very close to joining the Rockets after "the best recruiting presentation of all time" from GM Daryl Morey that included a plan to beat the Warriors and highlighted how much more money Iguodala would take home, after taxes and cost of living, in Texas. Houston thought they had him.
 
But the fascinating lesson in all the twists and turns of his free agency/hunt for maximum value is how rare situations like his actually are.
 
He took control of his negotiations, something most players don’t (or feel they can’t) do. He was working with the casino’s money in that he had several teams that wanted him, rather than the other way around. He was negotiating with people who had targeted pitches from which he could make easy and educated choices.
 
It was free agency in heaven. Most aren’t that good.
 
Then again, most players aren’t Andre Iguodala, whose comfort in his own skin, both as a player and otherwise, gives him an advantage most athletes don’t have. They live in an uncertain world, where one is always an ACL, a bad personal choice, a foolish decision or just plain bad luck away from the street.
 
In other words, free agency would work for him because he had developed the tools to make it work for him.
 
But it also serves as a healthy reminder for the Warriors’ brain trust that they are not the be-all and end-all that so many of their acolytes think they are. They may already know that – one suspects they do – but knowing how close they came to losing one of their own, one they wanted desperately to keep, is a good post-it note with the legend, “Not everybody loves you unconditionally all the time. Not even you.”
 
In short, while they lucked their way into Nirvana (nobody could have figured Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson or Draymond Green would grow as they have), they had to work hard to polish it (Kevin Durant) and even harder to maintain it (Iguodala).
 
So the lesson is this: Dynasties are hard to make, even harder to maintain, and they don’t even have one yet.

The most significant reason behind the Warriors' success on the road is...

The most significant reason behind the Warriors' success on the road is...

A sentiment that surely would have seemed improbable, as well as illogical, as recently as last season for the Warriors yet now seems perfectly explicable.

They actually play better on the road than they do at Oracle Arena, where they have twice as many losses. Home record: 16-6. Road record: 21-3.

And while there are several reasons behind the road success, none is more significant than the Warriors realizing the challenge is greater when they’re away from the comforts of home.

As much as they appreciate being showered with love at Oracle, they seem slightly more motivated to put on an awesome show for strangers while sending a hush though enemy territory.

There is little doubt the Warriors enjoyed Wednesday night, when they won in the building Michael Jordan built. In defeating the Chicago Bulls 119-112 at United Center, the Warriors won their 14th consecutive road game, tying a franchise mark set during their record-setting 73-win season.

A win Saturday at Houston would surpass the franchise record. With a win over the Rockets, followed by another win in their next road game, Jan. 30 at Utah, the Warriors would tie the NBA record of 16 in a row set by the Lakers in 1971-72.

They would then be in position to break the record on Feb. 2 at Sacramento.

“It’s exciting,” Klay Thompson told reporters in Chicago. “We’re not going to think about the record because you don’t want to put pressure on yourself. But that would definitely be something cool to have.”

With a goal in sight, the Warriors have a compelling reason to lock in every time they step onto the opposing team’s court. Owning the longest road win streak in NBA history is one more achievement to validate their greatness. And they definitely care about being among the greatest teams in league history.

But any team that has accomplished as much as the Warriors have over the past three seasons needs a challenge to stir the senses. They’ve won two championships. They’ve set records for most wins in a single season, most wins over a three-season span and best postseason win percentage.

That’s enough to strip away any pretense that all 82 regular-season games require their full and undivided attention. As Draymond Green conceded the other day, after a home loss, any thought that they can have the same focus and intensity for every game is “not realistic.”

That’s particularly true when the Warriors are at home. Once the most imposing arena in the league, it’s now a place where they are susceptible to lapses in concentration and ferocity. They’ve done a lot of winning at Oracle. They’re fans have seen a lot of winning at Oracle. It’s almost part of the routine.

Which opens the door to vulnerability. Aside from the opening-night loss to the Rockets, the Warriors’ home losses have come against teams to simply trying to get into the playoffs (the Pistons, the Nuggets, the Clippers) or teams just as likely to be playing golf in April (the Kings and the Hornets).

On the road, though, with the singular exception of Memphis in Week 1, the Warriors are pretty good at beating the teams they fully expected to beat. The other two losses were at Boston and Oklahoma City.

The Warriors won without Kevin Durant two weeks ago at Houston, which was without MVP candidate James Harden. When the teams meet on Saturday, Harden, should he play at all, will be on a minutes restriction, while starting forward Trevor Ariza and Sixth Man Gerald Green will be on suspension.

“It’s going to be a very tough game Saturday, probably the toughest on the trip,” Thompson said. “If we can go undefeated on this road trip, that would also be incredible. And if we could get that next road win, that would also be incredible.”

They want it. They’ll chase it, too. Not with the sheer fury they possessed throughout their 73-win season, but with utter desire to meet the challenge that comes with winning in places tougher than home.

Jordan Bell leaves after suffering left ankle injury on first play vs Bulls

Jordan Bell leaves after suffering left ankle injury on first play vs Bulls

Rookie forward Jordan Bell left the game after spraining his left ankle 24 seconds after tipoff between the Warriors and Bulls on Wednesday night in Chicago.

The sprain was discovered when Bell underwent an X-ray at the United Center. He will undergo an MRI test on Thursday to determine the full extent of the injury.

After leaping in an unsuccessful attempt to block a dunk by Bulls center Robin Lopez, Bell landed awkwardly on his left leg and remained down for several minutes before he was placed in a wheelchair and escorted into the locker room.

After the game, Bell addressed the injury with the media in Chicago.

"Landed really awkward. Felt some kind of a sharp pain in my ankle. When I fell, I tried to touch it to see if anything popped out. I didn't feel anything, so I thought about getting up but then the pain hit me again, so I just laid there," Bell said.

Initially, Bell thought he had broken his ankle.

"I thought it was at first, that's what it felt, but luckily, X-rays were all good," Bell said. 

Bell was making his 11th start of the season, this time in place of Draymond Green, who was sitting out with soreness in his right shoulder.

Upon leaving the game, Bell was immediately replaced by Kevon Looney, who will see an increase in minutes for any length of time missed by Bell.