NBA mailbag: Who subs for Klay Thompson?


NBA mailbag: Who subs for Klay Thompson?

Mailtime Who will be the first shooting guard off the bench?Will it be Brandon Rush or Jarrett Jack? Or could Mark Jackson bring in Jack toplay point guard and move Curry to shooting guard? Ben, Bay Area.Steinmetz: All of the above are possible.Its a tough one to call because so much has to play out.And honestly, I dont see the same pattern developing game after game aftergame. I see Jackson making substitutions depending on the game situation and itcould change.My hunch is that Rush has a chance of starting, which wouldtake him out of the mix in terms of bringing him off the bench. What I seehappening most of the time is for Jack to be the first guard off the bench, butsome games hell probably come in for Curry and other games hell come in forThompson.Thats the luxury of having a player such as Jack. You canbring him in to play either of the backcourt positions and the best part isthat hes capable of defending both guard positions.Curry and Thompson are more limited than that, with eachpretty much limited to only guarding their own positions.Why did the Warriors keep Kent Bazemore over DominicMcGuire? Was it about the guaranteed contract? McGuire can guard twos, threesand fours. Ned, Bay Area.Steinmetz: I dont think the guaranteed contracthad anything to do with it. McGuire didnt have a guarantee last year and hesout of work now so he would have likely taken a non-guarantee again.The makeup of the Warriors has changed since last year.McGuire found a niche last season at the small forward and power forward spotsin large part because of injury and his ability to defend.This year the Warriors added a rookie small forward inHarrison Barnes and a small forwardpower forward in Draymond Green. For asmuch as McGuire helped the Warriors last season, hes a relatively limitedplayer and youve got to find out about Barnes and Green.I think the Warriors also wanted to avoid a situation inwhich a player such as McGuire was taking minutes from either Barnes or Green.And when you get into the day to day and are trying to win every game, itseasy seeing Jackson calling McGuires number perhaps too much.As for Bazemore, hes also a versatile defender, only he cando it more at the one, two and three positions. Bottom line is Bazemore hasmore of an upside than McGuire.Could Patrick Ewing get the Warriors openassistant spot? Loco, Parts Unknown.Steinmetz: Thats not going to happen. TheWarriors already have hired Bob Beyer, who was an assistant coach the past fiveseasons for the Orlando Magic.Beyer replaces Wes Unseld Jr., who took a job with theMagic. The Warriors have their assistant coaching lineup set with MichaelMalone, Pete Myers, Beyer and Darren Erman.Yahoo Sports reported on Thursday that Ermann had beenelevated into Unseld Jr.s spot. In any event, the Warriors assistant coachingstaff is complete at this point.Do you think Harrison Barnes will be in the Rookieof the Year discussion? Jerry, Los Angeles.Steinmetz: I see Barnes having a nice rookieseason, but I dont see him in the Rookie of the Year discussion. Typically,the winner of the Rookie of the Year is a someone who starts and plays a lot ofminutes and usually its on a team that isnt very successful.Id say my frontrunner for Rookie of the Year is DamianLillard, who will probably be the starting point guard in Portland. Im noteven sure Barnes will start for the Warriors. He could come off the bench, andif thats the case hell likely play between 15-20 minutes game.Then again, even if Barnes does start he will probably getabout that many minutes. The Warriors have re-signed Brandon Rush, and so hesgoing to have to play some. And dont count out Richard Jefferson.I also see the Warriors focusing heavily on trying to makethe postseason. To do that, theyre going to have to win every game theypossibly can, and with that thinking, its easy to see Jackson going more withveteran players.

One thing is pretty clear about these Warriors after 2-2 road trip

One thing is pretty clear about these Warriors after 2-2 road trip

The Warriors are not ready to flip their seek-and-destroy switch. Not yet.

They’re closer to being ready than, say, their longtime rivals in Cleveland, but in going 2-2 on this four-game road trip the Warriors showed they are nowhere near full annihilation mode.

They went into Oklahoma City Wednesday night and, in gulping down a 108-91 loss on national TV, came away looking more vulnerable than they have in any game this season. The 17-point loss was their largest margin of defeat and this was awful close to being a wire-to-wire rout.

The Warriors defense, so splendid during the seven-game win streak they took out of town last week, was inconsistent throughout and downright atrocious by their standards as they concluded the trip.

Their offense, which had begun reducing the turnovers to acceptable levels, came apart like a pair of $3 sneakers.

Even their body language, aside from two well-deserved technical fouls, seemed to mostly vacillate between whispers and a whimpers.

“We didn’t have any focus or concentration,” coach Steve Kerr said. “The ‘millennials’ couldn’t lock in tonight. And their coach couldn’t do much either. Long night for us.”

These were not the Warriors who posted seven consecutive double-digit wins, and they’re certainly not the team that found its competitive blowtorches last April. They weren’t visible in this game, nor were they seen for most of this road trip.

This, ahem, regular-season road trip.

That’s the catch. Last April is when the playoffs got underway, and next April is when the 2018 playoffs begin. The time between now and then is for experimenting, fine-tuning and fighting through the monotonous joys of victory -- a factor on vivid display Wednesday night.

“We played with some decent energy,” Stephen Curry said. “We just didn’t play smart.”

“They completely outplayed us, outcoached us,” Kerr said. “It was just their night. It was absolutely their night. They brought the energy, they brought the juice, they brought the intelligence. And we didn’t bring any of that.”

The Warriors entered the game after studying video and stats that illustrated OKC’s ability to disrupt an offense. The Thunder leads the NBA in steals, deflections and -- this one punches the Warriors in the gut -- forcing turnovers.

The Warriors committed 22 giveaways, leading directly to 34 Thunder points.

“Thirty-four points off turnovers, you can’t win like that,” Draymond Green said.

“I’ve got to do a better job of getting them ready to play,” Kerr said. “We have a pretty loose, fun atmosphere around here. That’s great, but there are certain times where it’s like, ‘All right guys. Let’s throw it to our team. Let’s execute the play. Let’s remember the play.’ ”

Kevin Durant bemoaned the “silly turnovers” that were such a factor in the game, blaming it players rather than Kerr and his staff.

“For the most part he can’t control that type of stuff,” said Durant, whose four turnovers were second to Curry’s team-high six. “We’ve got to be better at keeping the ball in our hands, shooting more shots than our opponents and playing defense.”

Added Green: “We were pretty well-prepared. We just played bad.”

That happens to even the best of teams, a category in which the defending champions fit quite snugly. No team, not even the Chicago Bulls of the maniacally competitive Michael Jordan, is able to bring its best for 82 games a season.

The Warriors blew two 17-point leads, one in second quarter and another in the third, in losing at Boston.

They fell behind by 24 in the third quarter to the 76ers before coming back to win in Philadelphia before recovering the next night to submit their best performance of the trip in routing Brooklyn.

And in OKC, against a Thunder team that would seem to get their full attention, the Warriors were outhustled, outsmarted and played with considerably less fury.

“Right now, we’re just in a little bit of rut, where we’ve got to focus,” Kerr said. “And I know we will. We’ve done this many times in the past and bounced back. And we’ll bounce back. We need to lock in and tighten up everything.”

They will, eventually. It could happen next week, or next month, or after the calendar turns to 2018. They’ll turn it on and become the team of terror, punishing all before them. It might be April, though.

This road game indicated some truth, though, which is there will be games over the next four months in which they will lose the battle with themselves.

Durant addresses scuffles with Westbrook after Warriors' loss: 'That's just ball'


Durant addresses scuffles with Westbrook after Warriors' loss: 'That's just ball'

As you might expect when Kevin Durant returns to Oklahoma City, things got chippy at several moments Wednesday.

Once during the second quarter and again in the third quarter, Durant and former running mate Russell Westbrook could be seen yapping at each other. During the latter incident, the two literally went nose-to-nose, touching foreheads before being sperated.

After the Warriors' 108-91 loss to the Thunder, Durant was asked about the exchanges.

"Man, that's just ball. That's just ball me. He's competitive, I'm competitive. We like to go at it. Both of us. That's just part of the game, so I respect it. I got nothing but love for him. I'm expecting it again when we play them again. All fun and games to me," Durant told reporters.

Despite what the cameras caught, Durant tried to downplay the level of emotions between the two teams on the court.

"Can't let emotion seep into business. Can't do that. So I think on our end, we were just playing our game. They just played better than us tonight. The emotion around the court, around the arena, around the city I'm sure was a little higher than it was on the court. can't let emotion seep in. Just have to play better than that," Durant said.

When a reporter kept pressing about the incidents between Durant and Westbrook, the Warriors forward pushed back.

"Did you watch the game? Or did you watch for the scuffles? The story is about the game. We lost, they kicked our a**, they played a great. You should give them credit for how they played. We should be better. It's not about who's in each other's faces. That stuff is not real. So please, don't believe it. All the fans, they are lying to you. It's all about basketball. They played a great game. We didn't," Durant retorted.

So how did returning to his former home for the first time this season compare to his first trip back last year?

"It was a little better. Nothing like the first. I'm sure everyone in the arena said what they had to say," Durant said.

The next two times Durant and Westbrook meet up, it will be in Oakland (Feb.6 and Feb. 24). The Warriors don't return to Oklahoma City until April 3, 2018.