Warriors-Cavs IV is real again after NBA trade deadline


Warriors-Cavs IV is real again after NBA trade deadline

OAKLAND -- The prospects of a fourth consecutive Warriors-Cavaliers NBA Finals, so dim only days ago, were brightened considerably Thursday by the desperate efforts of the front office in Cleveland.

Though the Warriors still have to do their part, which will be quite the challenge in itself, the Cavs utilized the trade deadline to remodel a sagging roster that had become an increasingly heavier burden for LeBron James to consistently bear.

Recognizing the roster was too old, too slow and practically unresponsive on defense, Cleveland general manager Koby Altman took hyper-aggressive actions in search of a remedy.

He did well. In shedding the likes of Isaiah Thomas, Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade and Channing Frye, Altman dumped nearly 50 years of NBA experience. That might hurt, but not nearly as much as watching those older (Wade, Frye) and traumatized (Thomas and Rose) legs try and fail to play playoff-caliber defense.

The Cavs also sacrificed to two of their best defenders, Jae Crowder and Iman Shumpert, because that’s the cost of doing business.

Oh, but the gains. The Cavs added four players who will slide right into the rotations of coach Tyronn Lue. Rodney Hood is a 6-foot-8 guard who can score and play reasonably good defense. Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr., both 25 years old, are frisky and at least capable of playing quality defense. George Hill is the steady veteran point guard that, at his best, keeps the offense flowing while playing acceptable defense.

Voila, Cleveland suddenly is younger, quicker and more athletic -- better equipped to exploit James’ most visible assets.

The Cavs have the live bodies to turn good defense into transition offense, allowing James to run the floor better than any 33-year-old we’ve ever seen. The new Cavs can keep up with the guy who makes them a contender.

There is, however, a flashing yellow light. Remodeling a roster in the middle of a season comes with risks, which in this instance had to be taken.

The Cavs of last week weren’t going to get past the second round. They wouldn’t have been able to keep up with the Celtics and they were weakened to the point that the psychological advantages they’ve had on Toronto and Washington were vanishing. Something had to be done.

Bowing out early in the postseason would have given LeBron an express ticket out of Cleveland, and Altman wanted to at least show the resident superstar that the franchise was determined to do its part to keep him around.

Again, something bold and invigorating had to be done.

The biggest risk of all is the unknown of team chemistry. It’s incredibly difficult to swap out one-third of the roster and expect the new guys, no matter how talented and energetic, to immediately become a unified team.

The Cavaliers will have 27 games -- no point in counting those prior to the All-Star break -- to put it together before the playoffs.

If they succeed, look out. Cleveland would not be an automatic Eastern Conference champion, but it would be lot better off than if Altman, with the blessing team owner Dan Gilbert, had done nothing.

Which is what the Warriors did on the trade deadline. GM Bob Myers was active, but not hyperactive. He had wants, but probably not serious needs, aside from a reserve with a reliable 3-point shot.

Myers’ desire to deal was not nearly as acute as that of Altman in Cleveland.

So the Warriors, who hit the trade deadline with the best record in the NBA, will wait. But know that the roster on March 8 will be different than that of Feb. 8.

There are good players that will be bought out, and Myers will be standing before them, flashing championship rings and perhaps the best team culture in the NBA.

The Warriors will have to get past the Rockets and Thunder, both of whom have the goods to compete. They’ll have to rediscover the defense that has been their bedrock, the foundation of the offense that hogs the highlight packages.

But the possibility of Warriors-Cavs Part IV is real again. If that’s what you crave, your chances of getting are appreciably better than they were a few days ago.

Casspi defends his spot on Warriors, explains why he's not worried about being cut


Casspi defends his spot on Warriors, explains why he's not worried about being cut

OAKLAND -- Like much of the NBA and everyone with an interest in the Warriors, Omri Casspi has watched the emergence of Quinn Cook, who came out of the G-League and is making a strong bid to make the postseason roster.

Casspi, out since spraining his right ankle last Friday against Sacramento, happens to be at or near the top of the list of the tiny group of players that might be dropped should the Warriors decide to add Cook.

The 6-foot-9 veteran forward has heard the chatter.

“First of all, it’s you guys talking,” Casspi said, referring to media. “I don’t really feel it from the organization. At the end of the day, I’m focused on getting healthy and playing. That’s all I can control.

“I feel like the team needs me and know what I can do for the team. My focus is on getting healthy and playing.”

The Warriors have until April 11 to submit their playoff roster.

Casspi’s roster spot is in danger for three reasons.

One, he has lost confidence in his long-distance shooting, which was influential in the team’s decision to sign him to a one-year minimum contract last July.

Two, his defense has been a glaring weakness, with teams attacking him at every opportunity.

Three, he had fallen out of the rotation when the team was fully healthy and didn’t return until after succession of injuries. Casspi exceeded 10 minutes of playing time in only one of the 12 games before injuries to several teammates became a factor.

Stephen Curry’s ankle woes this season, along with Cook’s impressive play, are making a persuasive argument for adding the third-year point guard.

For now, Casspi is determined to get back on court after missing the last two games.

“With my role on this team, when I’m healthy I want to go out there and play, maybe not 100 percent healthy, but close to it,” he said. “That’s what I’m focused on, on feeling good and running up and down and being able to cut and move and be out there again with the guys.”

As Warriors inch closer to full health, Kerr provides update on Durant, Klay


As Warriors inch closer to full health, Kerr provides update on Durant, Klay

OAKLAND -- Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson all worked up sweat Wednesday, putting the Warriors ever closer to being whole again.

Only Draymond Green did not full participate in the non-contact practice session, but he’s expected back in a matter of days.

So while the Warriors are a little more than a week away from possibly having the full squad available, they’re starting to feel a little less vulnerable.

“They’re all kind of day-to-day,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “Steph is closer to playing than KD and Klay.”

Curry has not played since March 8, when he tweaked his surgically repaired right ankle. He missed the last six games. Durant (rib cartilage injury) and Thompson (right thumb sprain) sustained their injuries on March 11 at Minnesota, though Durant played one more game, March 14, before receiving a diagnosis. Durant missed the last three games, Thompson the last four.

Green sustained a pelvic contusion Monday night at San Antonio, but believes he will be available this weekend, either Friday against Atlanta or Sunday against Utah.

Curry, though, is fully cleared for all activities.

“Steph looks great,” Kerr said. “He’s chomping at the bit. But we’ll see how he responds in the next couple days before we decide whether he plays or not.”

Durant loathes acknowledging pain or injuries, and his return will be dictated by his ability with withstanding the contact inevitable in the course of a game.

“I don’t expect KD to play this week,” Kerr said. “It’s not like a timetable . . . just sort of a feel thing. It’s symptomatic with him.”

Thompson seems, at this point, the furthest away from full activity.

“Klay did some stuff," Kerr said, “but not full participation.”