Warriors

School days: LeBron thrilled to be teammates again with Wade

lebron-wade-ap.jpg
AP

School days: LeBron thrilled to be teammates again with Wade

The wake-up calls for Dwyane Wade were coming at 5:45 a.m. for much of the summer. An hour or so later, he and LeBron James would be in the gym together working on their games.

And the chemistry was as good as ever.

“He drives me to want to be better,” Wade said.

They’ll be grinding together on a daily basis now.

Wade signed a one-year, $2.3 million deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday to reunite with James, with whom he went to four NBA Finals and won two championships in Miami. Wade’s deal was finalized quickly after he cleared waivers, which he had to do after getting a buyout from the Chicago Bulls over the weekend.

“I’m all about the challenge,” Wade told The Associated Press. “If I didn’t want the challenge, I would have stayed in Chicago. But I wanted the challenge of being back on that big stage and playing in those moments and seeing what I’ve got. So I’m not going to talk about what I’ve got. I want to go out there and show, when the lights are the brightest and the games are the biggest, that’s when I’m alive. And I need that.”

He took a hard look at going back to Miami, listened to sales pitches from Paul George and Carmelo Anthony in Oklahoma City, even considered San Antonio and got a call from Golden State.

But in the end, he wanted to play again with James — someone Wade calls his brother.

“I definitely think I can help him in different ways,” Wade told the AP via phone as he sat in his new locker room. “He is, in today’s game, the greatest basketball player that we have. So he doesn’t need me to help him be great. But there’s other areas that I’ve been able to be there, to help him think about things a certain way. He knows I’m going to put the work in with him. He knows I’m going to be right there.”

Earlier Wednesday, James said he feels like a little kid having Wade with him again.

“Come on, man, this is like one of my best friends,” James said after the first of Cleveland’s two practices on the day — the second one set to be Wade’s first with the Cavs. “It’s kind of like when you start school and you walk into the classroom and you’re not quite sure who your classmates are and when you walk in there and one of your best friends is in there, you’re like: ‘Oh, yeah, this is going to be fun. It’s going to be a good class.’”

A good team, too.

Wade and James spent four seasons together with the Heat, winning two championships and making the Finals four times as a duo as devastating as any in league history. They’ll now join forces on a Cleveland team that saw Kyrie Irving traded to Boston and the roster get remodeled by adding Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, former league MVP Derrick Rose and free agents Jeff Green and Jose Calderon.

Wade has talked to coach Tyronn Lue about his role and seems assured that he’ll be in the mix for a starting job.

“You want to earn your spot, but I definitely wanted to make sure it wasn’t something that was off the table,” Wade said. “I don’t want ever to be given anything in this league. I want to feel like I earned it. That’s kind of how you want it coming to a new team. ... This is a deep team. That really excited me about the potential of this team and what you need to compete with a Golden State. You need a deep team to compete with them.”

Wade has said many times that a fourth ring isn’t a make-or-break goal for him. His legacy is secure. He’s a certain Hall of Famer. He’s one of the best to ever play the game.

That doesn’t mean another title is irrelevant, though. And he gave back about $8 million in the buyout with the Bulls to get this chance, after taking smaller-than-he-could-have-gotten deals in Miami multiple times to help the Heat and their championship quests.

“I want to compete for it,” Wade said. “I’ve always said if I don’t win another one, it’s not going change the course of my career and what I’ve been able to accomplish. But as everyone knows, as has been very highly documented, some of it documented the wrong way, I’ve probably given back the most money of any player in NBA history. And it’s always been to be in position to compete for a championship.”

The Cavaliers have been to the last three NBA Finals; add the Miami years in there, and James has been to the title round in seven consecutive seasons.

Wade hasn’t played a June game since 2014.

He’s hoping that changes in 2018.

“When you play this sport, getting to those moments, getting to the Eastern Conference finals, the Finals, that’s when you feel alive,” Wade said. “And I haven’t felt that in a couple years. And I wanted to make sure I put myself in that position. If I don’t win one, my career path is not going to change, but damn it sure will feel great.”

Golden State, do we have a problem? Another loss to Rockets awakens Warriors

Golden State, do we have a problem? Another loss to Rockets awakens Warriors

In saying goodbye to their impressive road win streak and a chance to make franchise history, the Warriors also experienced an awakening that should linger somewhere in their minds for months to come.

The new and improved Houston Rockets are a serious threat to the defending champs having a parade in downtown Oakland for the second consecutive June.

That threat likely can’t be realized, however, unless the Warriors put the worst of themselves on full display, as they did Saturday night at Toyota Center in a 116-108 loss to the Rockets.

“In the first quarter, every time we made our push, we gave up easy baskets,” Draymond Green told reporters in Houston. “In the second quarter, we put them on the line the entire quarter, which slowed down our pace and let them control the tempo of the game. In the third quarter, we fought back to kind of get there but not get over the hump. And then we finally did, but we just didn’t have the right amount of focus it takes to win a game like that.”

Indeed, the Warriors were guilty of questionable shot selection at various points. They were largely allergic to rebounding, taking a 46-33 drubbing in that category. And far too often they were impatient and therefore utterly careless with their passing, resulting in 19 turnovers that led directly to 23 Houston points.

“It seemed like we kept making one silly play after another,” coach Steve Kerr said.

Sounds familiar, eh? The Warriors know their greatest weaknesses and hear about them ad nauseam from the coaching staff, yet still struggle to consistently address them.

Stephen Curry, who committed a team-worst six turnovers, lamented two possessions in particular. On one, he missed Kevin Durant “butt-naked at the top of the key,” and on another he had Durant open for a dunk but flipped it to Klay Thompson for a 3-pointer that missed.

“I made two of the worst plays of the season on those two possessions,” Curry conceded. “It’s kind of one of those nights when I personally didn’t have the right vision on the floor I’ve got to take responsibility for that.”

This is why the Warriors deserved to lose this game, which gave the Rockets a 2-1 victory in the season series and the homecourt tiebreaker should the two teams finish with identical records.

The Warriors took a 122-121 loss to Houston at Oracle Arena on opening night, then went to Houston on Jan. 4 and claimed a 124-114 victory.

This is enough to prove the Rockets are capable of beating the Warriors. We also note that in the other loss, Warriors’ turnovers gifted 21 points to Houston.

“We know the recipe against this team,” Curry said. “They’re going to shoot a lot of 3s. They’re going to make some tough shots. But if you turn the ball over and if you foul, which we did both in the first half, then that plays right into their hands. It’s just a lack of focus on the game plan.”

That lack of focus is something that has nagged the Warriors numerous times over the course of the season.

Here’s Houston’s problem: The postseason Warriors tend to be a bit sharper than the regular season Warriors.

And the Rockets, well, remain a postseason mystery. Chris Paul, who was so magnificent Saturday night, has an inglorious postseason history, complete with multiple collapses. MVP candidate James Harden also has dubious postseason resume, with epic pratfalls against the Warriors and the Spurs.

So the events of Saturday night, and the three games in the regular season, serve as reminders that if the Warriors play smart and tough and are fully engaged, they’re still the better team. Despite the chance to set a franchise record with a 15th consecutive road victory, the Warriors were less than fully engaged.

There’s a better than even chance of them being fully engaged in the postseason, should these teams meet again.

“We always talk about hitting singles,” Kerr said. “Well, we were trying to hit home runs all night, and you can’t do that against these guys.

“On the bright side, we know we can play a lot better. And we will.”

Curry takes 'unpopular position' on All-Star draft, has picked assistant GMs

durant-kyrie-curry-allstar-usatsi.jpg

Curry takes 'unpopular position' on All-Star draft, has picked assistant GMs

Steph Curry will be one of the leading players in the NBA's new experiment with the All-Star Game.

Curry and LeBron James will pick the teams from the pool of available All-Stars. Conferences are no more, giving the game a completely different look.

"It's the first time it's happened in the league, so you really don't know what to expect or how it's going to unfold, and just specifically, what it will look like on the floor with mixmatched rosters. LeBron has been an All-Star, what 14 straight years? And he's been with Eastern Conference guys every year, so to see him have to pick some Western Conference guys and vica versa, us in the West, you have the staple guys that are there every year. So to switch it up, I think it's going to be a fun look on the floor. Might take some getting used to, but the actual draft part of it will be cool<' Curry said to reporters after shootaround in Houston on Saturday.

LeBron has the first pick since he received more total votes than Curry. So that sets up the dynamic that LeBron picks Warriors forward Kevin Durant.

"That's a possibility. I'm putting together an assistant GM staff that can help me get my draft board and all that stuff and know how to respond if he picks a certain way. Get the algorythm going," Curry said.

Curry's assistant GM staff will consist of his father Dell and brother Seth.

"I may have to ask Riley and see what she thinks," Curry joked.

All-Star reserves will be announced on Tuesday, Jan. 23 and it's possible Draymond Green and Klay Thompson could be among the players Curry can select. Does he feel an obligation to pick them if they are available?

"I don't feel obligated. I would want to. To have the opportunity to play with them on the All-Star Game court, that's what it's all about, kind of embracing that moment, so we'll see how it goes," Curry said.

The big debate surrounding the new All-Star Game format is whether or not the draft should be televised or the results made public. As of right now, the NBA has no plans to show the draft on TV or reveals the order in which players were drafted.

"We've had a lot of dicsussions around that. There's a lot of people in favor of watching it live. There's also a lot of people that understand the reasoning why it's not this year. I'm sure as the new format unfolds year after year, it'll happen. But it won't be this first time," Curry said.

So which way does Curry lean in the debate?

"I've always been a proponent of protecting the players. I know that's kind of the unpopular position. I know we're all grown men, we can all handle it, We're all All-Stars, but we want to see how the new format the first time so it's presented in the right light," Curry said.

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr doesn't believe players should worry about where they get drafted.

"No shame in being the last All-Star picked. You're still an All-Star," Kerr said after shootaround.

The All-Star teams will be revealed on Thursday, Jan. 25 and game will take play Sunday, Feb. 18 in Los Angeles.