Rewind: 'Real pro' JaVale McGee proves worth vs Nuggets

Rewind: 'Real pro' JaVale McGee proves worth vs Nuggets

Though more than a few folks around the NBA were curious about the Warriors inviting JaVale McGee to training camp, the front office consistently said it was an easy decision with an obvious motive.

The Warriors over the summer lost a lot of rim protection and McGee, an athletic 7-foot center, could help fill that void. Moreover, he would come at a budget price.

McGee, who earned the team’s final roster spot – with a minimum salary – and rarely left the bench through the first eight games, finally showcased his value Thursday night in a 125-101 win over the Nuggets at Pepsi Center in Denver.

“He’s a real pro,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of McGee. “He’s never complained about not playing, and we haven’t really given him a chance. Tonight we gave him a chance and he came through big time.”

Stephen Curry took care of the scoring load, with a game-high 33 points, including a couple acrobatic 3-point missiles. Draymond Green brought plenty of early energy, single-handedly jumpstarting the Warriors on the dark side of a back-to-back at altitude.

Yet it was McGee, coming off the bench in the first quarter to join the starters for the first time, who was summoned to help offset Denver’s size advantage in the paint.

With starting center Zaza Pachulia picking up two fouls in the first five minutes, McGee entered. He played a total of 15 minutes, scoring 10 points (4-of-6 shooting from the field), grabbing three rebounds, blocking two shots and providing a large presence at the rim.

“It was probably hastened by the foul trouble on Zaza,” Kerr said. “But we were planning on giving him a look. We’re looking at the first part of the season as somewhat experimental, trying some different combinations. We haven’t really given him a chance yet. And you could see he gives us a dimension that we otherwise don’t have, just that possibility of throwing the ball up to the rim for a lob, which basically provides you with extra spacing.”

McGee, making the $1.4 million veterans minimum, may have been motivated by his return to Denver, where he had productive seasons and good memories. More likely he was simply trying to make the most of his first significant action.

“I’ve been trying to stay prepared,” he told CSN broadcast analyst Jim Barnett. “Of course, I was a little winded; we are in Denver, and I haven’t played. I was a little winded, but I was just giving it my all.”

It was enough to impress his teammates.

“I’m proud of the work he’s put in at practice and shootarounds and after practice,” said Kevin Durant, whose 18-point night ended his his streak of consecutive games with at least 20 points at 72. “He’s been putting in work in the weight room. When his name was called, he was able to come out there and play extremely well.”

Still learning the Warriors’ system and still seeking peak fitness, McGee through the first eight games played a total of 22 minutes, the vast majority in fourth-quarter garbage time. With his performance on Thursday, the 7-foot, 270-pound veteran doubled his scoring output and number of blocks.

With Denver boasting center Jusuf Nurkic (7-foot, 280 pounds) and power forward Nikola Jokic (6-10, 255) – both of whom gave the Warriors considerable trouble in a preseason game last month – this was the logical game to test McGee.

“We’ve seen what he could do with the second unit at times,” Curry said. “But especially with (the Nuggets), he allows us to be able to match up with their size, to give them a different look in the paint on defense.

“He demands a lot of attention, and we have shooters all the way around him. He jelled pretty quickly. And you’ll probably see more of that.”

In which case, the Warriors will have salvaged a player whose NBA career was at such a crossroads most of the league didn’t bother trying to hire him.

Cook gives injured Warriors 'huge boost' in anomalous loss

Cook gives injured Warriors 'huge boost' in anomalous loss

OAKLAND -- If Quinn Cook plays at anything close to the level he performed Friday night against the Kings, the Warriors should avoid any catastrophic stumbling in the absence of their top three scorers.

They stumbled plenty in a 98-93 loss to Sacramento, but not because of Cook. The two-way player who has spent most of the season with G-League Santa Cruz scored a team-high 25 points, shot 10-of-13 from the field and played respectable defense.

He did more than could have been reasonably expected.

“I felt like this was coming,” coach Steve Kerr said. “He was fantastic. He really lit it up and gave us a huge boost.”

The Warriors ran into problems elsewhere, shared among the usually reliable veterans who need to be particularly reliable in the absence of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson.

Usual starters Draymond Green and Zaza Pachulia combined to shoot 6-of-20.

Usual reserves Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, David West and Nick Young shot a collective 13-of-39.

In the second half, when Warriors mustered only 34 points -- a season-low for any half -- the six vets combined to take 32 shots and missed 24.

Those are atrocious numbers and they explain what went wrong in a game that was there for the taking.

They’re also an anomaly.

“We just couldn’t get anything going,” Green said. “But we got some good shots. We got ‘Dre on a couple of pull-ups in the lane, I got a couple open shots, Nick got a couple open shots, Zaza got a couple open ones. D-West had one pop in and out. (Kevon Looney) had two pop in and out.

“We just got cold. But hopefully those shots will fall tomorrow.”

West, returning after missing four games with a cyst on his right arm, was 1-of-6 from the field. He came into this game as a 60.8-percent shooter this season.

Igoudala was 4-of-10; he shot 70 percent over the previous 10 games. Young was 5-of-15, well below his 44-percent shooting this season. Livingston’s 3-of-8 shooting is uncharacteristic of someone shooting at least 50 percent for four years running.

If history is any indication, Green (5-of-14) and Pachulia (1-of-6) are not going continue to miss at the rate they did in this game, the first this season in which the Warriors were without all three of their top scorers.

If history is any indication, the Warriors can’t be counted on to score 34 points on 27.3-percent shooting in the second half of a game.

“I loved how our guys battled,” Kerr said. “They really competed well and made some big plays. We just couldn’t get the ball to go down quite enough in the second half.”

That’s going to change, perhaps as soon as Saturday night in Phoenix, were the Suns are playing to lose.

So if Cook plays steady basketball, the Warriors will fall off and their fans won’t become a basket case while waiting for the three shooters. The Warriors surely believe that.

“He really showed up. I’ve been waiting on that Quinn,” Green said. “We needed that. It was great for him to come out and play like that. And most importantly, his shots were falling. Since he’s been playing (more often) he’s been playing well, but his shots weren’t really falling. But tonight, they fell for him.”

They won’t always fall at a rate of 77 percent. They won’t have to once his teammates drop in a few more of their own shots.

Casspi rolls ankle, leaves game vs Kings


Casspi rolls ankle, leaves game vs Kings

OAKLAND -- Omri Casspi sustained a sprained right ankle with 9:00 left in the second quarter of the Warriors-Kings game Friday night and did not return.

After dropping in a short hook shot with 9:04 left in the quarter, Casspi landed awkwardly, rolling his ankle and dropping to the floor clutching his lower leg. Down for a couple minutes, he eventually got up and limped into the locker room, accompanied by physical performance specialist Chelsea Lane.

Casspi played six minutes off the bench, producing 6 points, one assist and one rebound against his former team.

He joins Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Pat McCaw and Klay Thompson on the sideline.