Warriors 2016 in Review: Epic records, massive heartbreak, ultimate recovery

Warriors 2016 in Review: Epic records, massive heartbreak, ultimate recovery

OAKLAND – It was a season of epic win streaks and assaults on the NBA record book, with victories coming in bunches, under one coach and then another, casting a feel-good vibe that energized the Bay Area and beyond.

In their march toward greatness, the 2016 Warriors indeed bottled the wind.

And then, minutes away from their crowning achievement, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers shattered the glass.

The calendar year 2016 was, for the Warriors, the ultimate gut punch, a regular-season of glory followed by a postseason that knocked them to the floor.

Then came Kevin Durant. He can’t help the Warriors rewrite history, but he can help them up as they seed to heal the wounds.

Epic fail was followed by massive recovery.

The Warriors, after all, entered the New Year at 30-2 under interim coach Luke Walton, who three weeks into January returned to his No. 1 assistant’s chair with a 39-4 record on Jan. 21. The team barely blinked upon the return of coach Steve Kerr, going 34-5 on his watch. Surpassing the legendary Chicago Bulls, the Warriors’ 73-9 record is the best in NBA history.

But after the most catastrophic collapse in NBA Finals history – the first team to blow a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals – the Warriors will forever be identified as the bunch that went 73-and-nothing. Won 73 games, got nothing to show for it.

That is, until two weeks after the Game 7 loss, when the biggest free-agent prize on the market, Durant, announced he would be signing with the Warriors.

“Two thousand sixteen was a mixed bag,” Kerr said Friday, 30 hours before New Year’s Day. “We had a tremendous season that didn’t end the way we wanted it to as a team.

“But it was still an incredible year to be a part of the Warriors and to coach the team.”

Well, yes, there was plenty of good before that sudden and emphatic conclusion.

Stephen Curry in May was voted league MVP for the second consecutive season, and this time he earned the distinction of being the first-ever unanimous selection. He didn’t stop there. Curry led the NBA in scoring and obliterated his own single-season record for 3-pointers, draining 402 triples. No one else had reached 300; his previous record was 286, set one year earlier.

The Warriors sent three players to the All-Star Game, as Klay Thompson and Draymond Green joined Curry as members of the Western Conference team in Toronto. All three also were named All-NBA, with Curry on the first team, Green on the second and Thompson on the third.

Kerr was named Coach of the Year, an honor he conceded must be shared with Walton. What happened to Luke? He got a new job, hired away to become head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. Walton left a huge void, on many levels, some of which were filled when Kerr added veteran coach Mike Brown as the top assistant.

As within the coaching staff, which also added former player Willie Green, there was change within the roster. Not just change, but dramatic change.

Durant’s arrival precipitated the departure of six players who had spent at least the past two seasons with the Warriors. Familiar faces Leandro Barbosa, Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut, Festus Ezeli, Brandon Rush and Marreese Speights all wound up scattered throughout other teams around the league.

Joining Durant as new Warriors were centers JaVale McGee and Zaza Pachulia, and forward David West, along with rookies Damian Jones and Pat McCaw.

With the New Warriors winning 29 of their first 34 games to close out the 2016 portion of the season at 29-5, the team finished the calendar year at 72-12, the second straight season they pulled off that feat. No team in NBA history can match their 144-24 record over a two-year span.

Nice numbers, but this team learned a harsh lesson about the significance of nice numbers.

The outgoing year brought to the Warriors exhilaration and heartbreak, and renewal in the form of Durant. Will his addition lift them to the heights they couldn’t quite scale in June?

We’ll have to wait until 2017 for the answer.

Quinn Cook states his case for spot on Warriors playoff roster

Quinn Cook states his case for spot on Warriors playoff roster

Because it’s only two games against two of the worst teams in the NBA, it’s prudent to resist the temptation to fall in love with Quinn Cook.

Putting up Stephen Curry numbers in consecutive games does not make one Stephen Curry.

It’s impossible, though, not to clearly understand why the Warriors have consistently expressed faith in Cook, the two-way point guard who has spent three years trying to make an NBA team.

Two fine games are enough, though, for the coaching staff to recommend adding him to the postseason roster. It’s wise to have a contingency in case Curry has to miss any of the games that matter most, and the Warriors are a smart bunch.

Cook on Saturday told reporters in Phoenix that the Warriors have not addressed the possibility of being on the postseason roster. That doesn’t mean they aren’t thinking about it.

“He’s proven that he can compete at this level,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters Saturday night in Phoenix. “The last couple games, you’re seeing what he can do. He’s a great shooter. We’ve known that."

Cook scored, on back-to-back nights, 25 and 28 points, shooting 70 percent (21-of-30) from the field, including 71.4 percent (10-of-14) from deep. That’s Curry-type quality when he’s on a roll. Cook also handled the ball well, recorded seven assists and was pesky enough on defense to nab five steals.

“Quinn is showing the world that he is an NBA player,” Draymond Green said.

Cook’s 10 3-pointers over the past two games are more than anybody not named Curry, Durant or Thompson have drained over a similar stretch -- and only Nick Young among the team’s reserves have made more over any single month.

The Warriors, it just so happens, are dead last in 3-pointers made by reserves, averaging 2.0 per game, with Young accounting for 1.5 per game.

Cook is showing he might be able to help with this.

Kerr loves 3-point shooters. General manager Bob Myers is fond of saying he can never have too many shooters.

The Warriors are discovering they can’t have too many capable point guards, particularly when Cook is proving that he, like Curry, also is comfortable playing off the ball. Pairing Cook with Shaun Livingston, the primary backup to Curry, is a nice option to have.

“I’ve said all along,” Green said. “I sit here and watch so many other teams play and I wonder, ‘How is Quinn Cook a two-way player?' And then you’ve got guys in the league that can’t dribble with their left hand, or can’t go left, can’t go right, but you’ve got a guy like that as a two-way player.

“So I’m happy for him. I pray that he gets rewarded and gets what he deserves.”

Cook had brief trial runs with the Pelicans, as a rookie, and the Mavericks last season. He played a total of 14 games with the two teams. He has played 21 with the Warriors, seven as a starter, but only in the last two has he looked entirely comfortable in his role and with these teammates.

With Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Curry out, the Warriors need Cook to score. He knows he needs to score. He is scoring. And doing a few other things, too.

“Playing in the NBA is something that I’ve dreamed of my whole life,” Cook said after his 28-point performance in a win over the Suns. “I can’t really put it into words, just being able to put on an NBA jersey night in and night out, practice with an NBA team every day, has been my goal since I can remember. I’m just trying to get better every day and live in the moment. I’m just trying to win games. I’m trying to help out as much as possible, whether it’s getting guys shots, playing defense, shooting the ball.

“Lately the ball’s been going in a little bit. But with three All-Stars out, I’ve got to step up. I’m just taking it game by game and competing night in and night out.”

Sometime early next month, if not late this month, the Warriors expect to have their starting backcourt. Curry and Thompson will have returned before the playoffs begin April 14-15, and both will need to be available if for reasonable chance to repeat as champs.

But Cook is making his case for inclusion. He’ll get another test Monday night in San Antonio, where Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is sure to throw at Cook a few wrinkles he may not have seen, but the Warriors have seen enough to know he can help.

“He’s a good fit for us, too,” Kerr said. “It’s not just his ability. It’s his maturity. He’s very professional, does whatever is asked, the guys love him. They want to go to war with him.

“He’s a guy. He’s an NBA guy. We’re lucky to have him.”

That’s not an demand, or even a preference. To add Cook to the roster, the Warriors would have to shed one of their 15 players currently on a standard NBA contract.

But somewhere among Kerr’s words, I believe I see an endorsement.

Warriors need vets to bounce back against young Suns


Warriors need vets to bounce back against young Suns

The Warriors have lost three of their last four games, their roster is in shambles and, still, they look like pure gold in contrast to the Suns team they’re facing Saturday night in Phoenix.

Coverage on NBC Sports Bay Area begins at 6 o’clock, with tipoff scheduled for 7:05.

Reeling from the absences of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, the Warriors (52-17) showed plenty of the scrap in losing to the Kings on Friday in Oakland but couldn’t get much offense from their veterans.

The Suns (19-51) are having the worst season since 1968-69, their inaugural season. They’ve lost seven in a row, 16 of their last 17 and 21 of their last 23.


Warriors by 3


Quinn Cook vs. Elfrid Payton: Payton bolted to a 16-point first quarter and scored 29 the last time he faced the Warriors. Quinn is coming off a career-high 25-point game. With teams relying on diminished rosters, whichever of the two young PGs can set a tone gives his team an advantage.


Warriors: G Omri Casspi (R ankle sprain), G Stephen Curry (R ankle tweak), F Kevin Durant (R rib soreness), G Pat McCaw (L wrist fracture) and G Klay Thompson (R thumb fracture) are listed as out.

Suns: G Devin Booker (R hand sprain) and F Alan Williams (R meniscus tear) are listed as questionable. G Brandon Knight (L ACL tear) is listed as out.


Warriors: 7-3.

Suns: 1-9.


Tony Brothers (crew chief), Jacyn Goble, James Williams


The Warriors won the first of four meetings this season, 129-83 on Feb. 12 at Oracle Arena. They swept all four games last season and are 12-1 against the Suns in the Steve Kerr era.


MOTIVATED VETS: Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Zaza Pachulia, David West and Nick Young, expected to generate offense, combined to shoot 19-of-59 (32.2 percent) in a five-point loss Friday. They must be better; they can’t be much worse. Phoenix leads the NBA in points allowed.

THE BIG MEN: JaVale McGee started nine straight games at center, but Pachulia started the last two. The Suns are long up front, so McGee could be in line for a start or more minutes. In addition, Damian Jones, the team’s other 7-footer, also could get playing time.

STREAKING WITH THREES: The Suns own the longest active streak of games with at least one 3-point make (1,128). The Warriors are No. 2 (1,121). Both streaks are endangered. Curry, Thompson and Durant are out for the Warriors. Booker will either sit out or play with a splint on his shooting hand.