Warriors

Warriors focus: Festus Ezeli

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Warriors focus: Festus Ezeli

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the fourth installment in a seven-part series that spotlights the seven new Warriors.
Part 1: Harrison BarnesPart 2: Kent Bazemore
Part 3: Andrew Bogut

The Warriors have made plenty of changes since the end of the 2011-12 season. They will likely have four first-year players on their roster come the start of the season, and they also acquired veterans Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry.Center Andrew Bogut came to the Warriors in March, but hes a newcomer, too, if you factor in that he still hasnt played a game for the team yet. With training camp set to begin in early October, lets begin our player-by-player analysis of the Warriors new players.Festus Ezeli, 7-feet, 265 pounds, centerThe Warriors selected Festus Ezeli with the No. 30 pick in the June draft, and the goal for his rookie season seems simple enough: Try to take as many minutes as he can from Andris Biedrins at the backup center spot.As maligned as Biedrins has been the past few years -- and it has been both a lot and well-deserved -- he still can do at least two things that are helpful to a team: rebound and protect the basket.Biedrins isnt your typical lane-clogging big man who will take a hard foul at the rim, but hes been around the league long enough to not allow the opposition easy buckets.So Ezeli is going to have to show that he can bring at least something or two to the table game in and game out if hes going to get consistent -- if not limited -- minutes at backup five.Well see if he can do that.One trait Ezeli showed at the Vegas summer league was the ability to play with consistent energy. He takes pride in his defense, and he is always looking to help out teammates who have been beaten on the drive.Hes physical and aggressive, and hes not afraid to mix it up underneath. For his size, hes not a big-time rebounder, but his supporters will tell you its because first and foremost hes focused on protecting the rim. Ezeli tries to make things happen defensively, whether by stepping into passing lanes or going for blocks, and what that means is hes often not in rebounding position.Ezelis energy and enthusiasm and aggressiveness are likely going to get him into quite a bit of foul trouble his rookie season, if not early in his career. There are going to be some nights when he comes off the bench and gets a couple of fouls in a hurry.RELATED: Warriors' toughness issue
But for a while, the Warriors will be OK with that. They just need him to be able to contribute 10 or 15 minutes a night -- and thats only assuming Biedrins is AWOL again.At this point, Ezeli doesnt have much of an offensive game to speak of. Hes not unathletic, but hes also not what you would call an elite interior big man. Hes raw offensively, and he figures to get most of his buckets off putbacks and cheapies around the rim.But dont look for Ezeli to ever be much of a scorer; plain and simple, he doesnt have great hands and that will always limit him there.Still, theres a lot to like about Ezeli and most of that is because of what he does at the defensive end of the floor. Ezeli is unfinished and has plenty of room for growth. But if he can provide some basic defensive necessities for the Warrirors you might see him getting limited but consistent minutes sooner rather than later.

Spurs star Kawhi Leonard out indefinitely

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AP

Spurs star Kawhi Leonard out indefinitely

NEW YORK — The San Antonio Spurs say Kawhi Leonard will be out indefinitely as he continues his recovery from a leg injury.

Leonard has played in just nine games after missing the beginning of the season because of right quadriceps tendinopathy. He also was sidelined briefly because of a shoulder injury.

Spurs general manager RC Buford said Wednesday that Leonard has made significant progress in his recovery but "this is the best approach for the next steps in his return to play."

The All-Star forward is averaging 16.2 points this season for the Spurs, who play the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night.

Gameday: Look for Curry to make statement against rising Bulls point guard

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USATSI

Gameday: Look for Curry to make statement against rising Bulls point guard

The Warriors will be without Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala, when they aim to tie a franchise record for consecutive road wins Wednesday as they face the improving Chicago Bulls at United Center.

Coverage on NBC Sports Bay Area begins at 4 p.m., with tipoff scheduled for 5:05.

In seeking their 14th straight road win, the Warriors (36-9) will be confronting quite a different herd of Bulls than the team they crushed 143-94 two months ago in Oakland. Neither Kevin Durant nor Green was available in that rout, which that was the highest point total allowed by the Bulls since November 1990.

After a 3-20 start, the Bulls (17-27) righted themselves with a seven-game win streak in December and have won 14 of their last 21. The offense has steadily improved, averaging 94.5 points in October/November to 112.0 in January.

BETTING LINE

Warriors by 8

MATCHUP TO WATCH

Stephen Curry vs. Kris Dunn: Several factors are responsible for the rise of the Bulls, but none may be more important than the play of Dunn, the fifth overall pick in the 2016 draft. Acquired in the June 2017 trade that sent Jimmy Butler to Minnesota, Dunn is the engine of a Chicago offense that since Dec. 6 has operated at the fifth-fastest pace in the NBA. He averaged 12.0 points and 8.4 assists over the last five games. Curry missed most of December but has been playing well since returning. He loves the challenge of a rising point guard. He’ll be out to make a statement.

INJURY REPORT

Warriors: F Draymond Green (R shoulder soreness) and F Andre Iguodala (L calf contusion) are listed as out.

Bulls: G Cameron Payne (R foot surgery) is listed as out.

LAST 10

Warriors: 8-2.

Bulls: 5-5.

GAME OFFICIALS

Ron Garretson (crew chief), Mark Ayotte, Scott Twardoski

SERIES HISTORY

The Warriors won the first of two meetings this season, 143-94, on Nov. 24 in Oakland. The teams split the series last season, each winning on its own floor. The Warriors have won six of the last nine meetings overall.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

KD UNLEASHED: Since returning Jan. 10, after a three-game absence, Durant has been on a tear, averaging 30.8 points on 62.5-percent shooting, including 60 percent from beyond the arc. Most teams don’t have anyone that matches up with him, and the Bulls certainly don’t. The closest is Lauri Markkanen, and though he has the length (7 feet), he has no chance of slowing Durant. All indications point to another big night.

THE BOMBERS: Chicago has made at least 10 3-pointers in each of its last nine home games, the longest such streak in franchise history. They’ve made at least 15 treys in each of the last three games. Rookie forward Markkanen drilled his 100th career triple in his 41st game, the fastest rate in league history. He averaged 23.0 points over his last three games, making 15 3-pointers in the process. With Green out, the Warriors will give him a variety of looks, with one of them being Durant.

WARRIORS DEPTH: The absence of Green and Iguodala will hurt the Warriors, who are playing their fourth game in six nights. Jordan Bell will start for Green, but the Warriors will have to alter their offense -- Green leads team in assists -- while patching together a defense that will be without two players that make an impact on that end. Omri Casspi, Kevon Looney and Pat McCaw will have opportunities.