Warriors

Miles above the pack, Warriors not bothered by Wade-to-Cavs, other moves

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USATSI

Miles above the pack, Warriors not bothered by Wade-to-Cavs, other moves

OAKLAND -- Though the Warriors tread carefully when discussing the white-hot activity throughout much of the NBA this offseason they still are keenly aware of who has moved, to where, and, moreover, why.

That’s because as defending champs that have posted the best record three years running, they have a very good view. They’re alone atop the mountain, looking down on a league scrambling about the foothills in hopes of climbing higher.

“They’re loading up,” David West said the other day as one of the few Warriors willing to go beyond the party line: we’re focusing on us.

That was before Dwyane Wade maneuvered his way out of Chicago to become a free agent so he could to join forces with his dude LeBron James in Cleveland. That move is, from where the Warriors sit, barely enough to raise their eyebrows.

Wade-to-the-Cavs is not a surprise; indeed, the minute Wade was granted his wish to be bought out by the Bulls, it was widely presumed he’d make his way 350 miles east to join LeBron. As NBA stars muscle up to dictate their movement, with James being the pioneer of this new age, a Wade-James partnership was inevitable. Even the Warriors, who were curious about Wade’s availability, knew as much.

Yet the new Cavs pose no more of a threat to the Warriors than what they’ll have to confront within the treacherous Western Conference.

No more than the new Thunder, who added Carmelo Anthony to a nucleus of Paul George -- acquired from Indiana in July -- and reigning MVP Russell Westbrook.

No more than the new Rockets, who in June traded for future Hall of Fame point guard Chris Paul to play alongside perennial All-Star James Harden.

No more than the new Timberwolves, who added All-Star guards Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague, along with respected vets Taj Gibson and Jamal Crawford, to a roster already rich with tantalizing youngsters Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins.

No more than Spurs, who always find their way to a top-four seed because coach Gregg Popovich is the best in the league.

And certainly no more than the Celtics, who after posting the best record in the Eastern Conference lost sparkplug Isaiah Thomas but added All-Stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, as well as veteran forward Marcus Morris.

Meanwhile, the Warriors brought back 12 players, including their top five free agents, to ensure their top eight players from a year ago -- in terms of minutes played -- would begin the quest for back-to-back championships.

“As you can see, the landscape of the league, it changes fast,” Warriors general manager Bob Myers said. “No one could have predicted a lot of things that have transpired.

“But for us, thankfully, we've got our core back and hopefully added some guys that can help us.”

The primary additions, shooting guard Nick Young, forward Omri Casspi and rookie forward Jordan Bell, project as upgrades over the three players -- Ian Clark, James Michael McAdoo and Anderson Varejao -- on the opening-night roster last season but have since departed.

Having retooled while so many others rebuilt, the Warriors still believe anything that might stop them, injury aside, would have to come from their own locker room.

Las Vegas agrees, placing the over-under for the Warriors at 67.5, a full 13 games ahead of the field. The Cavs and Rockets are at 54.5, while the Spurs and Celtics at 53.5. The only other team set above 50 is the Thunder, at 52.5.

If the Warriors are improved, as they believe they will be, the rest of the league merely is planning and plotting to see who finishes second and beyond.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr, looking around the NBA, noted the Cavs-Celtics trade for being the rare deal between rivals, Paul-to-the-Rockets for being seismic and “interesting,” and how Rudy Gay gives the Spurs a different look.

“Those are the ones that jump out,” Kerr said. “Beyond that, I'm mostly worried about our team and concerned with what we're doing.”

Which is watching, from afar, the front-office calisthenics of the competition.

“Those teams are amazing teams that will have great seasons I'm sure,” Kevin Durant said. “But it's tough enough to worry about yourself than worry about someone else. So I would just rather focus on us.”

That’s the luxury of being miles above, if not light years ahead.

Young fan weeps after KD signs his shoes

Young fan weeps after KD signs his shoes

Fans can sometimes get caught up in sports for the wrong reasons -- but what happened Monday night at Oracle Arena after the Warriors win over Portland was nothing short of fantastic. 

A young boy, amed with two huge basketball shoes, found himself face-to-face with Warriors superstar Kevin Durant. Durant obliged, grabbing his pen, and signing both shoes. 

Overcome with emotion, the boy circled back to find his family -- mission accomplished.

One moment in win over Trail Blazers epitomizes Jordan Bell

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USATSI

One moment in win over Trail Blazers epitomizes Jordan Bell

OAKLAND -- Jordan Bell won’t be named the NBA’s Rookie of the Year, but he’s probably matching Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons highlight for highlight.

Bell won’t be named to the league’s All-Defensive team, either, but you won’t find another rookie defending at his level. He’s a second-round pick, 38th overall, making a case for the All-Rookie team.

He won’t win a spot in the Warriors starting lineup this season. But over the last five weeks, Bell has evolved from occasionally being relegated to the inactive list to earning semi-regular minutes to becoming a very valuable member of the bench.

And his coach, Steve Kerr, also has evolved from benching Bell for learning purposes to saying he deserves more minutes to, this week, announcing that the forward/center is been “outstanding” in his rookie season.

The latest examples came Monday night, in a 111-104 win over Portland. With Draymond Green sitting out due to sore right shoulder, Kerr inserted Bell into the lineup for his third start. His numbers were excellent: 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting, six rebounds, two assists and one block over 26 minutes. He was plus-14, best of anyone on the team.

But, as often is the case, Bell’s performance includes moments that astound the observer. In this instance it’s a third-quarter chase-down block of a layup by Blazers star Damian Lillard, the trailer on a two-on-one fast break.

Bell, who concedes that his bad-pass turnover triggered the Portland break, immediately remembers a sequence last week in New Orleans, where a Warriors turnover gave the Pelicans a three-on-one break.

“They missed, got the rebound again and missed again,” he recalled. “I was just standing there and coach was like, ‘Get down there. You’re a rookie. That’s how you have to be successful on this team. You have to play hard.’

“I was about to walk down. And then I was like, ‘Oh, I’m going to get taken out.’ So I just ran down and happened to be in the right place.”

It’s one of several highlight plays for the Warriors. No, it was more than that.

“That chase-down block after the turnover was spectacular,” said Kevin Durant, who drained a jumper seven seconds after the block. “That play kind of got us going.”

If Lillard makes the layup, it trims the Warriors lead to nine, 66-57, with 9:32 left in the quarter.

Instead, with Oracle Arena roaring and the team energized, the Warriors turn up the energy and, less than three minutes later, have a 21-point lead, 80-59.

That moment represents Bell perfectly. The 6-foot-8 Oregon product commited a rookie mistake, and then neutralized it with a play very few players can make.

“That’s the tradeoff,” Kerr said. “We’re trying to bring Jordan along slowly, but he makes it hard to keep him off the floor. We’re pointing out his mistakes and trying to teach him about the NBA game and his opponents, who he’s guarding and what to expect. It comes at you fast as a rookie. From one night to the next you’ve got all these star players and tendencies you have to learn, and coverages and terminology.

“He’s coming along really well. He’s been outstanding for us.”

Bell’s 21.56 player-efficiency rating is fourth among the Warriors but first among all rookies. It’s ahead of such power forwards as Boston’s Al Horford and Orlando’s Aaron Gordon. Bell’s 1.65 plus-minus mark is third among rookies, behind Simmons and Boston’s Jayson Tatum, both of whom start.

Bell’s ratings are somewhat skewed because he’s a reserve playing shorter minutes -- he’s averaging 11.3 minutes per game, but 14.7 minutes over the last 10 -- but he’s making more of an impact, on a better team, than some lottery picks.

Bell’s defensive rating (98.6) is 30th among all players averaging at least 10 minutes per game but leads all rookies at that level. He’s comfortable switching onto star guards, such as CJ McCollum and Lillard, and is able to shut them down.

“That’s kind of his forte,” Kerr said. “That’s what we liked about him coming out of Oregon, was the ability to switch out onto guards and (also) protect the rim. It’s a very unique skill, kind of a Draymond Green-like skill. It’s a required one in the modern NBA with all these little guards shooting 28-footers and then penetrating and the floor (being) spaced. You have to have that speed and athleticism and versatility. Jordan’s got that.”

For someone who didn’t play much basketball until high school at Long Beach Poly High, Bell has a remarkable feel for the game, impeccable timing and a stunning ability to react as a play is developing.

And now he’s picking the brains of such veterans as Andre Iguodala, David West, Zaza Pachulia and, of course, Green, who is Bell’s personal Yoda.

Whatever they’re telling Bell, it seems he’s able to apply. He’s a quick learner, as Lillard discovered Monday night.

“I knew we drafted a guy that was ready to play,” Klay Thompson said. “He spent three years in college and has an NBA body and is great athlete. He just keeps it simple and that’s why he’s so good.”