Warriors

Warriors focus: Jarrett Jack

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Warriors focus: Jarrett Jack

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the sixth installment in a seven-part series that spotlights the seven new Warriors.
Part 1: Harrison BarnesPart 2: Kent Bazemore
Part 3: Andrew Bogut
Part 4: Festus Ezeli
Part 5: Draymond Green

Of all the moves the Warriors have made in the past six months, you could argue that trading for Jarrett Jack was the most necessary of them all. With Stephen Curry coming off an injury-plagued 2011-12, it was mandatory that the Warriors go out and get some insurance at that position and thats what they did by acquiring Jack for Dorell Wright this offseason.For a while this summer, it didnt seem like acquiring a point guard was a priority for the Warriors as they appeared to show little interest in free agents such as Andre Miller, Kirk Hinrich and Jason Kidd.But rather than find a point guard in free agency, which most expected, the Warriors moved Wright to Philadelphia and acquired Jack from New Orleans as part of a three-team trade.In addition to upgrading the point guard spot, the move also balanced out the roster some. Small forward, the position Wright plays, isnt exactly an area of need.Jack was brought here to back up Curry, no doubt about it. And who could fault that?Curry played in just 26 games last year because of ankle issues, and if the ankle starts acting up again this season the Warriors will have a competent veteran player behind him.And if Curry does stay healthy, then having Jack gives them a quality backcourt player coming off the bench. Jack is a versatile guard, capable of playing both backcourt positions and he also possesses toughness and veteran know-how. Over the course of his career, Jack has started 249 of 532 games so the assumption is that if Curry gets hurt Jack will step in.Jack is probably more of a combination guard than true point guard, but hes the closest thing to a traditional point guard the Warriors have. Jack played almost exclusively at point guard last season for the Hornets, pairing in the backcourt with former Warrior Marco Belinelli.Jack averaged a career-high 6.3 assists in 2011-12. He also had a couple of big games against Golden State last season, including a triple-double in which he finished with 17 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds and zero turnovers.What makes Jack a good fit for the Warriors is his ability to play both guard spots. That will allow him to play alongside either Curry or Klay Thompson, the Warriors projected starting backcourt.RELATED: Who subs for Klay Thompson?
Having Jack should also allow Curry to play some shooting guard, taking advantage of Currys ability to move without the ball and come off screens.Jack averaged 34 minutes per game last season for the Hornets, but its tough to see him getting that many for the Warriors in 2011-12 not if the team is essentially healthy.Ideally, Jack would play somewhere in the mid-20s minutes-range, but with Jack its not so much how many minutes he plays as when he plays. Its not hard to see him logging his share of crunch-time minutes.Jack is a better defender than either Curry or Thompson, and on top of it, hes often able to defend either backcourt position. Hes a steady presence late in games and a solid decision maker. Like Curry and Thompson, Jack is an excellent free-throw shooter.Hes also just one of six players on the roster with any kind of playoff experience. If theres one thing Jack has proven over the course of his career, its that hell find a way to get playing time. Thats not going to change with the Warriors.

One thing is pretty clear about these Warriors after 2-2 road trip

One thing is pretty clear about these Warriors after 2-2 road trip

The Warriors are not ready to flip their seek-and-destroy switch. Not yet.

They’re closer to being ready than, say, their longtime rivals in Cleveland, but in going 2-2 on this four-game road trip the Warriors showed they are nowhere near full annihilation mode.

They went into Oklahoma City Wednesday night and, in gulping down a 108-91 loss on national TV, came away looking more vulnerable than they have in any game this season. The 17-point loss was their largest margin of defeat and this was awful close to being a wire-to-wire rout.

The Warriors defense, so splendid during the seven-game win streak they took out of town last week, was inconsistent throughout and downright atrocious by their standards as they concluded the trip.

Their offense, which had begun reducing the turnovers to acceptable levels, came apart like a pair of $3 sneakers.

Even their body language, aside from two well-deserved technical fouls, seemed to mostly vacillate between whispers and a whimpers.

“We didn’t have any focus or concentration,” coach Steve Kerr said. “The ‘millennials’ couldn’t lock in tonight. And their coach couldn’t do much either. Long night for us.”

These were not the Warriors who posted seven consecutive double-digit wins, and they’re certainly not the team that found its competitive blowtorches last April. They weren’t visible in this game, nor were they seen for most of this road trip.

This, ahem, regular-season road trip.

That’s the catch. Last April is when the playoffs got underway, and next April is when the 2018 playoffs begin. The time between now and then is for experimenting, fine-tuning and fighting through the monotonous joys of victory -- a factor on vivid display Wednesday night.

“We played with some decent energy,” Stephen Curry said. “We just didn’t play smart.”

“They completely outplayed us, outcoached us,” Kerr said. “It was just their night. It was absolutely their night. They brought the energy, they brought the juice, they brought the intelligence. And we didn’t bring any of that.”

The Warriors entered the game after studying video and stats that illustrated OKC’s ability to disrupt an offense. The Thunder leads the NBA in steals, deflections and -- this one punches the Warriors in the gut -- forcing turnovers.

The Warriors committed 22 giveaways, leading directly to 34 Thunder points.

“Thirty-four points off turnovers, you can’t win like that,” Draymond Green said.

“I’ve got to do a better job of getting them ready to play,” Kerr said. “We have a pretty loose, fun atmosphere around here. That’s great, but there are certain times where it’s like, ‘All right guys. Let’s throw it to our team. Let’s execute the play. Let’s remember the play.’ ”

Kevin Durant bemoaned the “silly turnovers” that were such a factor in the game, blaming it players rather than Kerr and his staff.

“For the most part he can’t control that type of stuff,” said Durant, whose four turnovers were second to Curry’s team-high six. “We’ve got to be better at keeping the ball in our hands, shooting more shots than our opponents and playing defense.”

Added Green: “We were pretty well-prepared. We just played bad.”

That happens to even the best of teams, a category in which the defending champions fit quite snugly. No team, not even the Chicago Bulls of the maniacally competitive Michael Jordan, is able to bring its best for 82 games a season.

The Warriors blew two 17-point leads, one in second quarter and another in the third, in losing at Boston.

They fell behind by 24 in the third quarter to the 76ers before coming back to win in Philadelphia before recovering the next night to submit their best performance of the trip in routing Brooklyn.

And in OKC, against a Thunder team that would seem to get their full attention, the Warriors were outhustled, outsmarted and played with considerably less fury.

“Right now, we’re just in a little bit of rut, where we’ve got to focus,” Kerr said. “And I know we will. We’ve done this many times in the past and bounced back. And we’ll bounce back. We need to lock in and tighten up everything.”

They will, eventually. It could happen next week, or next month, or after the calendar turns to 2018. They’ll turn it on and become the team of terror, punishing all before them. It might be April, though.

This road game indicated some truth, though, which is there will be games over the next four months in which they will lose the battle with themselves.

Durant addresses scuffles with Westbrook after Warriors' loss: 'That's just ball'

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AP

Durant addresses scuffles with Westbrook after Warriors' loss: 'That's just ball'

As you might expect when Kevin Durant returns to Oklahoma City, things got chippy at several moments Wednesday.

Once during the second quarter and again in the third quarter, Durant and former running mate Russell Westbrook could be seen yapping at each other. During the latter incident, the two literally went nose-to-nose, touching foreheads before being sperated.

After the Warriors' 108-91 loss to the Thunder, Durant was asked about the exchanges.

"Man, that's just ball. That's just ball me. He's competitive, I'm competitive. We like to go at it. Both of us. That's just part of the game, so I respect it. I got nothing but love for him. I'm expecting it again when we play them again. All fun and games to me," Durant told reporters.

Despite what the cameras caught, Durant tried to downplay the level of emotions between the two teams on the court.

"Can't let emotion seep into business. Can't do that. So I think on our end, we were just playing our game. They just played better than us tonight. The emotion around the court, around the arena, around the city I'm sure was a little higher than it was on the court. can't let emotion seep in. Just have to play better than that," Durant said.

When a reporter kept pressing about the incidents between Durant and Westbrook, the Warriors forward pushed back.

"Did you watch the game? Or did you watch for the scuffles? The story is about the game. We lost, they kicked our a**, they played a great. You should give them credit for how they played. We should be better. It's not about who's in each other's faces. That stuff is not real. So please, don't believe it. All the fans, they are lying to you. It's all about basketball. They played a great game. We didn't," Durant retorted.

So how did returning to his former home for the first time this season compare to his first trip back last year?

"It was a little better. Nothing like the first. I'm sure everyone in the arena said what they had to say," Durant said.

The next two times Durant and Westbrook meet up, it will be in Oakland (Feb.6 and Feb. 24). The Warriors don't return to Oklahoma City until April 3, 2018.