MailtimeWho do you think will start at small forward thisyear? Brett, Albany, Calif.Steinmetz: It's funny. I've been asked thatquestion several times this offseason, and I'm about to give my third differentanswer. But that just shows you that there are legitimate choices there interms of a starter.At first I thought rookie Harrison Barnes would be thelikely starter at small forward. But Im starting to think that wont be thecase. No reason, in particular, just that its asking a lot to have a rookie,albeit the No. 7 pick, be as your starting small forward when you think as anorganization you have a playoff team. And thats what the Warriors are thinkingthey might have.That leaves Brandon Rush and Richard Jefferson. After I initiallyanswered that I thought Barnes would likely start, I began to give Rush morethought. After the Warriors re-signed him this offseason, he made it clear thathe wanted to be the starter. And Rush makes some sense. He's an improvingplayer coming off a nice season, and it would seem to be the next step in hisgame. Rush at the small forward spot would give the Warriors three excellentlong-range shooters, and no doubt, Rush is probably a better defender at thispoint than Barnes.But after more review, I think Jefferson figures in theequation, and could be the starter. Here would be the thinking behind that Its possible that Barnes isnt ready to start right off the bat, and Warriorscoach Mark Jackson prefers to bring Rush off the bench.That wouldnt be hard to see, considering Rush oftenprovided a spark last year as a leader of the teams second unit.Under that scenario, it makes sense to start Jefferson, whoshot 42 percent from 3-point range last season and brings much-needed experienceto the team.One potential issue with starting Jefferson, though, is howthen would Jackson find playing time for both Rush and Barnes? That wont beeasy. A few weeks back, Jackson acknowledged that the small forward positionwas wide option.Well, that certainly seems to be the case.Assuming Andrew Bogut and Stephen Curry stayhealthy, whats your win prediction for this year? Adam, Parts Unknown.Steinmetz: Its a little early for specificpredictions. I think the Warriors have a chance to compete for one of the lasttwo playoff spots in the Western Conference. I also think for that to happen, alot has to go right. Obviously, Andrew Bogut and Stephen Curry have to behealthy for most of the season.But its not just about Bogut and Curry staying healthy.Its about how fast this team comes together, considering they largely haventplayed together. The other thing is, while they may be a better reboundingteam, they still are below averaged defensively.Theyve got nice depth now, and that should certainly makethem better. There is also some uncertainty in terms of teams such as Portland,Houston, Phoenix and Minnesota, so things could fall into place in that regardfor Golden State.But I think theyre going to have to be better than eitherUtah or Dallas, and thats going to be a challenge. Reason I say that isbecause I see Oklahoma City, the L.A. Lakers, San Antonio Spurs, L.A. Clippers,Memphis Grizzlies and Denver Nuggets as playoff teams.So, the question is can the Warriors beat out the four teamsI mentioned above and then either Dallas or Utah? Gonna be tough.The Warriors have had a lot of roster turnover thepast two years, with as many as 16 new players depending on how you look at it.Only Stephen Curry, David Lee and Andris Biedrins have been around longer thantwo years. So, my question, even in this time of unprecedented turnover, isnt16 players in two years some kind of record? Bob, Napa, Calif.Steinmetz: Well, that ones going to demand alittle research, and so Ill look into it. But off the top of my head, Idstill say no. Id say its happened before. It just feels like teams have beendismantled in a hurry in the recent past, whether its Portland of last year orWashington a little bit or Minnesota when David Kahn took over. It feels likeNew Orleans is going to have an entirely different roster than it did two yearsago.But no doubt, the Warriors have turned over a lot in thepast two years personnel-wise. Thats why I think its going to take a littlebit for them to learn how to play together.
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.
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.
Facts! https://t.co/yh17XpKit5— Javale McGee (@JaValeMcGee34) November 22, 2017
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.