Warriors

In midst of torrid start, Splash Brothers better than ever

curry_thompson_usatsi.jpg
USATSI

In midst of torrid start, Splash Brothers better than ever

OAKLAND -- Game after game this season it is becoming evident that, contrary to countless projections, the Splash Brothers have not gone dry.

That Stephen Curry’s long-distance shooting still puts fear in the minds of opponents, same as ever, and now he’s also embracing the call for playing smarter, better defense.

“He’s a very good defender in this league,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr says. “We always talk about two-way guys. Steph Curry is a two-way guy. We’re not trying to hide him on defense. We don’t change schemes to protect him. He’s very much a part of what we do defensively.”

And Curry’s sidekick in the Warriors backcourt, Klay Thompson, is off to the best start of his six-year career.

“That’s all based on experience and him actually caring about his performance to start the year,” Curry says of Thompson. “He worked hard this summer, came in in shape, came in sharp with his skill set. It’s no surprise, really, once you do that that it turns into results on the court in games.”

You may recall over the summer, as teams in the Western Conference rebuilt largely on the backs of such Eastern Conference players as Carmelo Anthony, Paul George and Jimmy Butler, that some questioned whether the Warriors could repeat their feat of last season, when they sent four players to the All-Star Game.

With Kevin Durant and Curry as former MVPs and Draymond Green as the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, it was Thompson’s spot that seemed most imperiled.

Thompson’s response, intentional or not, has been a searing campaign showcasing his skills at both ends.

“Just taking great shots, not settling for good shots. It’s my fourth year with Steve and the coaching staff,” he explains. “I’m used to the offense, I know I’m going to get my looks and I know where my teammates want me to go. I’ll just say familiarity with the offense and being in great shape.”

Thompson is averaging 20.3 points on 50.8 shooting, including 45.2 beyond the arc -- fourth among those who take at least six treys per game. Though he continues to defend the opponent’s most feared backcourt player, he has had three games with at least six rebounds and two with at least five assists.

“I think his playmaking has been the best it has been in his career,” Kerr said.

“You’re seeing another step up when it comes to efficiency,” Curry says. “We obviously know he can score; he can shoot the ball with anybody in this league. His presence on both ends of the floor has been huge and he’s taken a step in playmaking as well, with the ball in his hands, setting up guys in the occasional pick-and-roll situation or when he’s able to draw a couple defenders off pin-downs to find the open guy. That’s been huge for us.

“Teams are going to adjust how they defend you; they want to take away his catch-and-shoot opportunities and he’s found a way to be effective all over the floor.”

Meanwhile, Curry is averaging a team-high 25.7 points (47.3 percent from the field, 39.6 from deep, 93.2 from the line), along with 6.4 assists and 4.5 rebounds. His on pace once again to do only he has done in each of the past three seasons: average three triples per game and at least 1.5 steals per game.

He’s quietly making a bid for another season in the ultra-exclusive 50-40-90 Club (shooting at least 50 percent from the field, at least 40 from deep and at least90 from the line) he joined in 2015-16, when he became the league’s first unanimous MVP.

The latest Basketball-Reference MVP probability tracker lists Curry as behind only Rockets guard James Harden among the candidates. Curry’s player-efficiency rating is the highest on the Warriors and ranks just ahead of Harden’s.

The popular preseason MVP predictions listed such names as Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Harden and Durant. And while most of this bunch remains in the discussion, Curry also has slid his way in.

Even as Kerr continues to experiment with rotations, there is at least one thing he has settled on. At any time other than the fourth quarter of a blowout, either Curry or Thompson -- or both -- will be on the floor.

“Klay is always going to be out there at the beginning of the second quarter because we like to play Steph the whole first,” Kerr said. “Steph is most comfortable doing that. We’ve got to have the shooting that Klay provides when Steph is out. Klay is almost always going to be out there barring foul trouble.”

There is plenty of basketball to be played. There is much than can change. But Curry and Thompson are in the primes of their careers and it shows. They hear the slights and rather than voice dissent they’re opting to reply on the court.

Playing in OKC is no longer a big deal for Durant: 'Just a regular game'

durant-adams-westbrook-ap.jpg
AP

Playing in OKC is no longer a big deal for Durant: 'Just a regular game'

Kevin Durant in his first season with the Warriors faced three benchmark games, two of which were against the Cavaliers and, specifically, LeBron James. The third was his return to Oklahoma City, where Durant created his NBA legend.

With all eyes on him, Durant aced all three exams. He was individually better than LeBron, twice, and when he arrived in Oklahoma City last February, with thousands of emotionally wounded fans targeting him for ridicule, he ravaged his former team.

Durant totaled a team-high 34 points (12-of-21 shooting, including 3-of-6 from deep, 7-of-7 from the line), nine rebounds and three assists in a 130-114 rout.

So there will be no such dramatic backdrop Wednesday when Durant takes the floor at Chesapeake Energy Arena, and it is anticipated his sprained left ankle will have healed sufficiently enough to allow him to play. Regardless of whether he plays, hHs return this time simply will not generate the tremendous local turbulence it did last season.

“It was a pretty fun moment to be a part of,” Durant told reporters at practice Tuesday. “You always respect the players on the court. And the people that have stuff to say about what’s going on on the court, they really don’t matter.

“So I just tried to go out there and think about that. Just realize that the players on the court are the most important and I know if I don’t focus and lock in, I won’t play to the best of my ability. I tried to block out all the nonsense and the BS and just go out there and play.”

There should be considerably less BS and nonsense this time around, for this is a more evolved Durant and this is not the OKC team he left behind, shattered in a dozen little pieces scattered around a new solo act that was Russell Westbrook.

Westbrook now has two fellow All-Stars at his side. OKC general manager Sam Presti navigated offseason deals to acquire both Carmelo Anthony and Paul George. There is a sense that the reloaded Thunder can make some playoff noise, and that matters in the wake of a steep drop last postseason.

Having spent most of a day interviewing locals in advance of the Warriors-Thunder game last season, it was apparent those folks were heartbroken by KD’s departure but perhaps more crestfallen about what little was left of their beloved team.

Durant, who remains connected to some of his personal causes in OKC, seems to recognize that. It’s enough to assuage any unease he may have felt for the fans that once adored him.

Asked Tuesday if there was any lingering sentiment about returning to the place where he spent eight seasons, Durant barely hesitated.

“No, it’s just a regular game for me now,” he said. “I learned how to tune out the crowd. I learned how to tune out the b------t and just play. Just keep it at basketball and I’ll be all right.”

It has been 16 months since Durant woke up on the morning of July 4 and announced his decision to sign with the Warriors. Durant has adapted to the Bay Area. He drives the local streets, rides BART every so often and has his favorite spots. He has his hands all over the high-tech industry that drives so much of the energy here.

Durant has moved deeply into the next phase of his career and has his eyes on his post-career options. OKC was home for most of his NBA life, but he now lives elsewhere.

Kevin Durant is in a good place, in most every way, and he likes it.

“I’ve been in the league for this long and been in every situation as a basketball player: losing games, winning games, overtime games, winning a championship, losing a championship, MVP, coming in second in the MVP,” he said. “I feel like I’ve been through everything in the league as an individual player. All those experiences have given me knowledge and given me insight on the game and what it’s about.

“It’s pretty simple when you think about it. You work, you work, you work. You gain experience, you gain knowledge and when it’s time to give it to somebody else you do it. When it’s time to apply it to your game, you just apply it when you play. “

When KD steps on the floor Wednesday and sees George and Anthony behind Westbrook, he can’t help but feel the difference. He has moved on and so have the Thunder.

There is reason, good reason, to believe the man when he says going back this time is just another game.

JaVale McGee wins fun bet with Steph Curry over Nevada-Davidson game

curry-davidson-javale-nevada-ap.jpg
AP

JaVale McGee wins fun bet with Steph Curry over Nevada-Davidson game

UPDATE (9:01pm PT): It's fanny pack time for Steph Curry.

His Davidson Wildcats lost to JaVale McGee's Nevada Wolf Pack 81-68 on Tuesday night, meaning the Warriors' point guard will have to wear a fanny pack to at least three games.

McGee and his alma mater wasted no time celebrating their big victory.

No response from Curry yet. We'll find out Wednesday if he makes good on his obligation to wear the fanny pack.

***

When your alma mater plays the alma mater of your teammate, you have to put a wager on the outcome of the game.

That's exactly what Steph Curry and JaVale McGee have done for Tuesday night's clash between the Davidson Wildcats and Nevada Wolf Pack.

But money isn't on the line. Public embarrassment is, though.

Curry and McGee shared the wager on Twitter ahead of the 7pm PT tip-off.

If Curry's Wildcats win, McGee has to serve as his caddie for one round of golf and the Warriors center can't use a golf cart. He has to walk and carry Curry's clubs. Curry originally suggested three rounds, but lowered the number to one,

If McGee's Wolf Pack win, Curry has to wear a fanny pack to at least three games. McGee is famous for always having a fanny pack around his waist.

https://twitter.com/StephenCurry30/status/933157594268651520