Warriors

Austin Rivers on Steph Curry, Klay Thompson: 'I bother them a lot'

Austin Rivers on Steph Curry, Klay Thompson: 'I bother them a lot'

The Warriors and Rockets meet up for the final time during the regular season on Wednesday night, in what could be a potential Western Conference Finals preview.

If that's how it ultimately works out, Houston guard Austin Rivers isn't the least bit daunted by the potential individual defensive matchups that may be forced upon him.

"Honestly, when it comes to [defending] those quick guards, I wouldn’t put anybody ahead of myself,” Rivers told The Athletic's Kelly Iko. "Avery Bradley, Patrick Beverley, Paul George, Vic Oladipo -- I put myself in that category in terms of defense. When it comes to smaller guards, I think I can guard them better than anyone in the league."

The Warriors, of course, possess the top backcourt in the NBA in Splash Brothers Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, neither of which is a stranger to being guarded by Rivers after their several encounters while he was a member of the Clippers.

Rivers began this season as a member of the Wizards, but joined the Rockets just before Christmas, and he's been with Houston for two of their three head-to-head victories against Golden State so far this season. Naturally, he views himself as a big reason why they prevailed in those games.

"I’m quick,” Rivers explained. “That’s why I can guard [Curry and Thompson]. And my length, cause I’m 6’4, I bother them a lot of times. I guard bigger guards well too."

With Kevin Durant already ruled out for Wednesday's game, both Curry and Thompson should have ample opportunities to prove Rivers wrong, and vice versa.

[RELATED: Klay apologizes to Warriors fans: 'I love DubNation']

Of course, whatever happens in Houston on Wednesday night, it certainly wouldn't come as a shock if it wasn't the last time the Warriors and Rockets faced each other this season.

Alfonzo McKinnie wants to stay, but prepared if Warriors tenure ends

Alfonzo McKinnie wants to stay, but prepared if Warriors tenure ends

SAN FRANCISCO – Fairy tales can indeed come true, as one did last autumn for Alfonzo McKinnie. After four years hopscotching the world in pursuit of an NBA career, he landed on the roster of the defensive champion Warriors.

Life was great. His work and perseverance had paid off. Two years after scrapping by in makeshift gyms in Luxembourg and Mexico, he was teammates with Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. McKinnie bought a house for his mother and still had money in his pocket.

One year later, the 6-foot-8 forward is discovering fairy tales don’t always stay true.

There is a reasonable chance the status McKinnie earned one year ago will go to someone else.

The Warriors acknowledge a need for size and Marquese Chriss, the 6-10 forward/center who signed a non-guaranteed contract two weeks ago, has impressed players and coaches with his work ethic, adaptability and cognition.

“Marquese is doing great,” coach Steve Kerr said Sunday. “He’s probably been the surprise of camp, given that he came in late on a non-guaranteed, one-year contract.”

The Warriors cannot upgrade Chriss’ contract and add him to the roster unless someone else is waived or traded. The simplest sacrifice is McKinnie, whose contract is not fully guaranteed until January. None of the free agent acquisitions are eligible for trade, and the Warriors won’t be moving second-year guard Jacob Evans III or any of their three rookies.

McKinnie is a 27-year-old reserve, making him a trade candidate.

“I hear it, but I try not to pay attention to it,” McKinnie told NBC Sports Bay Area. “All I can do is just come out, put my work in and perform. Whatever happens from there, that’s out of my control. I can only control what I do and how hard I go. Everything outside of that, it’s front-office business. I can’t control what goes on up there.”

With two centers on the sideline – Willie Cauley-Stein (mid-foot sprain) and Kevon Looney (hamstring) – general manager Bob Myers is seeking a way to add Chriss, a 2016 lottery pick (No.8 overall) by the Kings.

The need for a big man and the way Chriss is playing – he’ll make his second consecutive start Monday night against the Lakers in Los Angeles – imperils McKinnie’s hold on his roster spot.

“We did have a lot of injuries to the bigs, so we definitely need some bigs,” McKinnie conceded. “Outside of the ones that are hurt, we’re a little smaller than a lot of teams.

“But I’m coming in here every day and competing. Whether you’re guaranteed or non-guaranteed, unless you’re totally solidified, you’ve always got to compete, whether it’s for a job or a spot or more minutes. Competition is always first nature.”

In 37 preseason minutes, McKinnie has been less than dazzling, scoring nine points on 4-of-12 shooting from the field, including 1-of-5 from beyond the arc. He has grabbed 13 rebounds, as well as contributing three assists and two blocks.

“I know where I’ve been,” he said. “With this basketball thing, I’ve been at the bottom of the totem pole. Being here, with this organization, experiencing what I experienced last year, having a role on a championship-contending team, this is the highest I’ve been. I’m really self-motivated, because I know where I’ve been, and I know what it’s like to be at the bottom.

“I want to stay here. And continue to be here for years to come.”

Kerr expressed relief that he is coaching instead of facing the decisions looming before Myers.

“These guys are all working hard,” Kerr said. “And you know it’s their dream to play in this league. You wish you could keep everybody. But the nature of camp is generally that you’ve got to release four or five people, and it’s no fun at all.”

If the Warriors decide to keep McKinnie, it will be out of familiarity with the system and culture, as well as his rebounding ability.

If they decide to move him and cut him, it will be out of a greater need elsewhere on the roster.

Either way, McKinnie has a clear-eyed view.

“I definitely feel like I’m a mentally strong person,” he said. “I’ve been through a lot, on and off the court. When it comes to basketball, it’s for a job. People go through much tougher times. I’ve seen people go through (stuff) way harder than getting cut from a basketball team.”

[RELATED: Warriors reportedly push Myers to keep Chriss]

That’s the voice of McKinnie past, when there were nights when he barely knew the name of the city where he would lay his head. When he barely knew his teammates, some of whom had full-time day jobs.

No matter how this turns out, McKinnie is prepared. He’ll continue to live the fairy tale. Or he’ll remember the lessons of survival when the fairy tale went no further than his imagination.

Warriors rookie Eric Paschall is finding his way during the preseason

paschallpooleap.jpg
AP

Warriors rookie Eric Paschall is finding his way during the preseason

SAN FRANCISCO -- Four months ago, the Warriors had a pretty good idea they wanted to select Eric Paschall with their second-round pick. 

Following a four-year college career, Paschall -- though listed at 6-foot-7 -- impressed with his athleticism, defensive prowess and basketball IQ. Only one question remained: Would he fall to the 41st pick?

"We were kind of holding our breath," Warriors coach Steve Kerr admitted Sunday afternoon. "Hoping for him to fall and it happened. We're lucky to have him." 

As the Warriors get through training camp, Paschall is beginning to make good on Golden State's trust. Through two games, he's averaging 11 points, three rebounds in 22 minutes. More importantly, with big men Kevon Looney and Willie Cauley Stein injured, he's been tasked to guard multiple positions defensiveness, often the opponent's best player, impressing the staff along the way.  

"Really excited about Eric," Kerr said. "The strength, the explosiveness. He may be undersized from a height standpoint but he's got long arms so he makes up for some of that. To me, he fits right in, maybe even stands out on an NBA floor athletically from a strength and explosion standpoint."

Six months ago, Paschall - who signed a 3-year, fully guaranteed $4.2 million deal, in July -- was competing for a third straight Final Four appearance with Villanova, playing against zone defenses and the structure of college basketball. When he entered his first preseason game, Kerr tasked him to guard All-NBA big man Anthony Davis. 

In the second quarter of last week's loss to the Lakers, LeBron James took a pass at half court, dribbled three times and barreled into Paschall's chest for an easy layup, emphasizing the rookie's steep learning curve. 

"It's kind of weird because you see these guys, AD is on the cover of [NBA 2K] and my first game I have to guard him," Paschall said. It's kind of crazy but I'm glad Coach trusts me enough to go out and guard those guys."

An adjustment has manifested off the court as well for Paschal. Long a resident of the East Coast, he wasn't much of a driver and still doesn't have a license, despite being 22 years old. Following practice Sunday afternoon, Paschall waited outside Chase Center as fans walked with a bag packed for a weeklong trip, waiting for fellow rookie Jordan Poole to take him to San Francisco International Airport for the team's trip to Los Angeles. 

While Paschall has impressed thus far, his NBA dreams weren't destined. Despite averaging 26.0 points, 11.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game as a junior at Dobbs Ferry High School (NY), Paschall only garnered interests from mid-major schools like Virginia Commonwealth, George Mason and Providence before enrolling at nearby Fordham. After transferring to Villanova following a coaching change, Paschall won two national titles but was just a second-round pick. in June's NBA draft

"My whole life I've been underrated, Paschal told NBC Sports Bay Area. "To be able to be here is a blessing in itself."

Entering the season, Paschal comes to an organization in transition. Three months removed from Kevin Durant's departure, coupled with the Klay Thompson's knee injury, the Warriors are left to navigate the start of the season with eight new additions. Nonetheless, the team has established stars like Draymond Green and Stephen Curry, who have defined roles. As his tenure progresses, Paschal hopes to be added to the Golden State's lineup of stars. 

"Eventually, I feel like I can come into my own at this level," Paschal said. "But now, especially as a rookie, you just have to do what they say and do what you got to do to stay on the court but I feel like eventually in this league I'll be able to play my game and I hope it's with the Warriors." 

"I feel like I ended up being in a great spot," he added. "They gave me a great contract and I feel like in these next few years, I feel like I can contribute, to try to do what I can to just bring whatever they want me to bring to the table."