Warriors

Andre Iguodala welcomed back with open arms by Warriors as an opponent

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USATSI

Andre Iguodala welcomed back with open arms by Warriors as an opponent

SAN FRANCISCO -- Ahead of his first game against former team, Miami Heat forward Andre Iguodala said he didn't know how to feel about facing the Warriors

"I think that's always a surprise," Iguodala said about an hour before Monday's matchup. "It's hard to really gauge that. I had one in Philly, I had one in Denver, so it's hard to gauge how it's going to be."

Though an opponent, the Warriors planned a celebration for an integral part of their championship run. As he spoke pregame, a picture of the three-time champion holding his NBA Finals MVP trophy along the shores of Oakland's Lake Merritt illuminated behind him. Before the game, the Warriors showed a video tribute for Iguodala before the forward addressed the crowd. 

Iguodala's current status comes after months of idle time. Last summer, he was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies, to make a sign-and-trade for D'Angelo Russell work. Upon departure, he reached an agreement with Memphis to sit out as the Grizzlies looked to trade the veteran forward elsewhere, letting him stay in the Bay Area as he collected his  $17.2 million salary. His tenure in Memphis ended last week when he was dealt to the Heat in exchange for Justice Winslow and Dion Waiters. Shortly after the trade, Iguodala signed a two-year, $30 million with the Heat in a controversial move. 

"It was interesting. It just doesn't happen as often," Iguodala explained. "It's a lot of posturing that goes on behind the scenes and different types of people protecting their standpoint and just being in the position I am, trying to make the most of my time away from basketball. And that's all I was trying to do." 

Despite Iguodala's preseason agreement with Memphis, the Grizzlies players expressed discontent with the 36-year old's decision not to join the team despite Memphis' postseason aspirations, including guards Dillon Brooks and Ja Morant. 

“I can't wait until we find a way to trade him," Brooks said last week. "So we can play him and show him really what Memphis is about.”

Following Brooks' comments, Morant retweeted a link to the video with a yelling emoji. Nonetheless, Iguodala maintained he had no ill towards the Grizzlies.

"No real feelings," he said. "Just understanding the lay of the land, understanding where different voices come from and it might not be direct. Just understanding there are ways to get messages to folks without it being in the media and I love all those guys. Dillon's been playing really well this year and Ja is rookie of the year [and] phenomenal talent."

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While Iguodala's Heat is primed for playoff contention this season, his former team is in transition. With Iguodala and Durant gone, and Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson injured, the Warriors entered Monday's matchup with the league's worst record. Still, Iguodala said he continues to talk to former teammates and expects Golden State to be back in contention soon. 

"They've had a lot of injuries and it's kind of like hitting the reset button," he said. "I think the coaches and front office have done a good job of not panicking, understanding the situation, trying to help the young guys. I've been keeping tabs on my guys, seeing how they were doing, checking in with Steph and checking in with Klay whenever I can him." 
 

Kobe Bryant memorial service has Warriors prepping for emotional day

Kobe Bryant memorial service has Warriors prepping for emotional day

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Warriors exited Chase Center on Sunday after adding another defeat to their tally, this time against the New Orleans Pelicans. But Golden State, along with the remainder of the NBA, is preparing to reckon with its toughest loss in years.

The league momentarily will come to a standstill Monday, when all eyes will fixate on Staples Center in Los Angeles for the memorial service of Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, who died last month -- along with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others -- in a helicopter crash.

Golden State pillars Draymond Green, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are expected to attend the service, along with general manager Bob Myers. But the other Warriors, armed with memories of their hero, will be left to reconcile his death in the confines of practice and search for closure in a familiar setting.

"It's going to be emotional," Warriors big man Marquese Chriss told NBC Sports Bay Area on Sunday. "I think it's going to bring back up a lot of emotions that everybody was feeling on the day that it happened. I think people aren't going to know how to feel. It's going to make it real."

The practice court serves as a unique reminder of Bryant's death. That's where the team received the news five weeks ago, just as it began pre-practice workouts.

An assistant coach relayed the initial message, and practice soon was stopped as Warriors players and staff gathered their thoughts.

"You could hear a pin drop in there," rookie forward Eric Paschall said. "It was stopped."

From the bowels of the billion-dollar basketball facility, Warriors assistant Jarron Collins walked through the adjoining weight room, up the steps and down a corridor to Chase Center's main court to tell Chriss the news. Chriss, then on a two-way contract and away from the team as to not burn his NBA service time, was floored when he heard it.

Chriss and Bryant once shared an agent, Rob Pelinka, who represented them both before he became the Lakers' general manager in 2017. The legendary Lakers guard even stopped by Chriss' college pro day at an LA-area high school ahead of the 2016 NBA Draft, bringing a buzz with him into the gym.

"It was dope to see his energy," Chriss said. "He walked into the gym, and the energy in the gym changed. He had a presence about him. Everybody wanted to talk to him, kind of pick his brain and be around him."

Similar stories are told throughout Golden State's locker room. Thompson -- whose father, Mychal, still calls Lakers games for the local radio affiliate -- met Bryant when he was a child, and he occasionally worked out with him at UC Irvine.

“He was obviously the best player in the world at the time," Thompson remembered after Bryant's final game at Oracle Arena in 2016. "I just remember watching him work out, how methodical [he was] and attention to detail he gave to every drill. It inspired me a lot.”

When Thompson was charged with marijuana possession during his junior year at Washington State, Bryant sent him an expletive-filled text.

“He said, 'Forget about that,' said it with a couple expletives and, 'Just go out there and kill,' " Thompson recounted.

“I have a potty mouth,” Bryant added that evening when asked about the exchange. “I just told him, 'Listen, man, we all make mistakes. You can’t worry about that stuff. Just keep your focus on basketball, and everything will work itself out.' "

While Thompson personally knew Bryant for much of his life, Green admired the five-time NBA champion from afar as a kid. Nonetheless, he still finds himself reconciling the loss of his idol.

"I think I'm still at the point where every time you see it, you're like, 'Damn.' Like is it a real thing?" Green said Sunday. "I don't know. Maybe tomorrow brings closure. Maybe it don't."

The topic of Bryant's memorial brought Green back to the first time he played against the guard at Oracle, which forced the forward out of his routine.

"I'm never really a guy to get star-struck," Green said. "There's two people that I've ever been star-struck by in this league, and that's Kobe and Grant Hill."

"I was finishing my pregame shooting, and Kobe was coming out," Green added. "And you have your stuff you have to do in the back when you're done shooting, and so I finished my shooting and Kobe was coming out, and I just sat on the end of the bench, and before I knew it, 20, 25 minutes had passed, and I was late as hell to finish my pregame prep, but that was just a moment for me where I was stuck like, 'Wow, I just saw Kobe work out.' "

When Green wasn't in awe of Bryant, he wanted counsel from him. Four years ago, following Green's suspension for Game 5 of the 2016 NBA Finals, he sought Bryant's advice in the wake of criticism during a time Green called "the lowest point" of his career. After hearing Green vent, Bryant responded with a message: "You’re chasing something so much bigger. How do you ever expect anyone to understand you?"

Green keeps the advice close to this day. 

"It helped me a lot," he said. "Because you kind of deal with things a certain way, and when you're dealing with things a certain way, you can only do what you think is best at the end of the day. But when you get reassurance from someone who's been through it at the highest level that the way you're dealing with something is like OK, it gives you that confidence to carry out whatever it is in the way you think it was right. It gives you that green light, like it's cool."

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Now, as his Warriors teammates say one last goodbye Monday, each will try to follow Green's credo in carrying on Bryant's legacy.

"The way you approach this game," Green said. "I think if there was anything he could ask for, that's what he would ask for. That he gave everything he had to it."

Watch Steph Curry impress in sharp pre-game warm-up as return nears

Watch Steph Curry impress in sharp pre-game warm-up as return nears

Steph Curry didn't take the floor during the Warriors' loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday. 

The injured Golden State star did beforehand, however, looking game-ready as he went through a pre-game workout. 

Curry hasn't played since breaking his left hand on Oct. 30. He was cleared for contact in practices Saturday, scrimmaging with his teammates for the first time since picking up the injury and subsequently undergoing two surgeries. The 31-year-old said Saturday that lingering nerve damage in his left hand has taken some getting used to, but that he is targeting a March 1 return

Former Warriors Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin dealt with the same injury during their NBA careers. Mullin had three separate hand surgeries during his, and he said Curry's biggest adjustment will come from playing with his teammates again.

"He practices at game pace," Mullin said of Curry on Sunday during Warriors Pregame Live. "He takes game shots all the time. His fitness will be there. It's (about) getting acclimated to the players around him, finding the spacing and the timing."

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Though Curry didn't injure his dominant hand, he relies on his left a lot to pass and when he finishes at the rim. He won't lose trust in his shot, but Richmond thinks the two-time MVP has to ensure  

"I went through that same injury [and so did] Mully," Richmond said Sunday. "It's all about confidence when you come back. ... I think, for him, he wants to find that confidence that it can be hit, and then he can come back from it." 

The Warriors owned the NBA's worst record after Sunday's loss, which clinched their third losing streak of six games or more. Curry's return won't lift Golden State out of the league's cellar, but it undoubtedly will lift his teammates' spirits in an otherwise dreary season.