Warriors

Can Rockets replicate success Warriors had with Steph Curry, Kevin Durant?

Can Rockets replicate success Warriors had with Steph Curry, Kevin Durant?

When Kevin Durant first joined the Warriors in 2016, skeptics wondered if Golden State could make it work.

Would Durant and Steph Curry be able to co-exist? Would there be enough shots for Durant, Curry and Klay Thompson? Would everyone remain happy with their role and numbers?

Those questions were answered pretty quickly. It took a few months, but Durant, Curry and the Warriors gelled midway through their first season together. They went on to claim the 2016-17 NBA title and ran it back the next season en route to a sweep in the 2017-18 NBA Finals.

Everyone seemed happy. Everyone got their shots. The third season wasn't as smooth, but it still almost ended with a third consecutive title.

After losing the 2019 NBA Finals to the Toronto Raptors, Durant decided it was time to move on and signed with the Brooklyn Nets.

But looking back, the experiment was a success. Durant and Curry co-existed, forming one of the most dominant duos in NBA history. Thompson didn't "sacrifice" as much as people thought he would, and ended up signing a max contract with the Warriors this offseason.

Now, a new duo — James Harden and Russell Westbrook — has critics wondering if the players can co-exist.

Both are MVPs and two of the most ball-dominant players in the NBA. So, will the Houston Rockets' experiment work? Harden believes it will.

“When you have talent like that, it works itself out" Harden told The Houston Chronicle's Jonathan Feigen. "You communicate. You go out there and compete possession by possession. You figure things out. Throughout the course of the season, you figure things out. That’s just what it is. When you have talent, you have guys with IQ, you have guys willing to sacrifice, it always works itself out.”

Harden used a key word there. Sacrifice.

The players on the Warriors were willing to sacrifice for the greater good.

Are Harden and Westbrook capable of making the same sacrifice? Harden is confident their longstanding friendship will help matters.

“It works,” Harden told Feigen. “It’s that trust factor. I trust him; he trusts me. And with the group that we already have and the things we already accomplished, it should be an easy transition for him to be incorporated right in and things are going to go.”

While Harden and Westbrook went to the NBA Finals in 2012 as members of the Oklahoma City Thunder, neither has returned since. Both have reached the conference finals in recent years but have gone no further.

Other Western Conference teams have loaded up, but Houston is bringing back a team that is mostly intact from last season and swapped Westbrook for an aging and injury-prone Chris Paul.

So maybe this is finally Houston's year.

[RELATED: Warriors could be 'terrifying' in 2019]

“That’s my boy right there, since I was like 10 or 11 years old,” Harden said of Westbrook. “Obviously, we were teammates for [three] years. Now, we’re at different stages of our careers. I’m excited for the opportunity. I hear a lot of negative things: you can’t, he can’t, they can’t. But we’ll figure it out. I’m excited for the opportunity. I know the rest of the organization is. It’s time.”

The Warriors were able to turn the Curry-Durant partnership into two NBA titles. How many titles, if any, the Rockets can grab with Harden and Westbrook is to be determined. But they certainly have the talent to bring the Larry O'Brien Trophy back to H-Town.

Warriors vs. Lakers watch guide: Lineups, injury report, player usage

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USATSI

Warriors vs. Lakers watch guide: Lineups, injury report, player usage

LOS ANGELES -- When they take the court Wednesday night to face the Lakers, the Warriors will be starting at the possibility of an unwanted first under coach Steve Kerr.

They’ve had losing streaks of two, three and four games -- but never of five.

That’s what they’ll own if they can’t find a way to upset the Lakers. Pregame coverage on NBC Sports Bay Area begins at 6 o’clock, with tipoff from Staples Center scheduled for 7:10.

While the Warriors (2-9) have lost their last four games by an average of 10.8 points, though two of them were close, Los Angeles (8-2) has lost only once since opening night.

If there is anything at all for the Warriors to exploit, it’s the absence of Anthony Davis, who reportedly will sit due to a variety of minor ailments.

 

PROJECTED LINEUPS

Warriors

F  Glenn Robinson III
F  Draymond Green
C  Willie Cauley-Stein
G  Jordan Poole
G  D’Angelo Russell

Lakers

F  LeBron James
F  Kyle Kuzma
C  JaVale McGee
G  Danny Green
G  Avery Bradley

 

INJURY REPORT

Warriors: G Stephen Curry (left hand fracture), G Jacob Evans III (left adductor strain), G Damion Lee (right hand non-displaced fracture), F Kevon Looney (neuropathy), F Alen Smailagic and G Klay Thompson (right ACL rehab) are listed as out.

Lakers: F Anthony Davis (right shoulder, rib soreness) is listed as doubtful but expected to sit out. C DeMarcus Cousins (right knee rehab) and G Rajon Rondo (right calf strain) are listed as out.

 

ROTATION OUTLOOK

Warriors: The biggest challenge they face is containing LeBron. Expect no fewer than four different players (Eric Paschall, Alec Burks, Green and Robinson) coming at James, who is doing a fine job directing the LA offense . . . Russell has been fabulous on offense, averaging 38.3 ppg since returning from a three-game stay on the injury list. He might be particularly motivated against the team that drafted him . . . The Warriors are becoming accustomed to playing with a small roster, but the return of C Omari Spellman after a one-game absence gives them three big men, with Marquese Chriss and Cauley-Stein. All three will be needed against the length of McGee and backup Dwight Howard.

Lakers: After missing the first four games with an injury, Kuzma has played in the last six games, coming off the bench averaging 12.3 ppg. If Davis sits, as expected, he likely will get the start ... Though still listed at SF, James is excelling at PG. Always a terrific passer, he is leading the NBA in assists (11.0). His averaging 12.0 apg and 2.8 turnovers over the last six games ... With LeBron leading the way, the Lakers recorded 39 assists, their highest total since April 2009, in a win at Phoenix on Tuesday ... Ex-Warriors G Quinn Cook has played in all 10 games, averaging 15.5 minutes and 5.6 ppg off the bench ... The Lakers are 5-19 against the Warriors over the past six seasons. In the six seasons before that, they were 20-4. The tide may be turning.

Officials: Ed Malloy (crew chief), Karl Lane and Matt Boland. 

Steve Kerr explains why Warriors-Lakers rivalry doesn't really exist

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USATSI

Steve Kerr explains why Warriors-Lakers rivalry doesn't really exist

LOS ANGELES -- Standing in the lobby of UCLA's Mo Ostin Center, Warriors coach Steve Kerr found himself in a unique scenario in his latest trip to Southern California. 

During his coaching tenure, he's won 80 percent of his games against the team he grew up rooting for, including 10 of the last 12 matchups. Now, in a trend Kerr knows all too well, his team seems to be declining as the Lakers are ascending, prompting a familiar question from the coach Wednesday afternoon.

"Have the Warriors and Lakers ever been up at the same time in the history of our league?"

The current iteration of each team's roster indicates the answer is a resounding "no." Four months ago, Los Angeles acquired all-star big man Anthony Davis, pairing him with LeBron James to form one of the league's best duos. Additionally, Lakers GM Rob Pelinka surrounded the core with two-way veterans like Avery Bradley and Danny Green. 

Meanwhile, Golden State's season remains in peril. No longer the prohibitive favorites to win the title, the Warriors have fallen from contention altogether. In five months, they have lost vital pieces, including Kevon Looney, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and superstar guard Steph Curry to injury. By Wednesday evening, Golden State could conceivably suit up just nine players at Staples Center. 

The current circumstances mirror the history between both teams. In four postseason matchups, the Lakers have never lost. When the Warriors won their first title on the West Coast in 1975, the Lakers failed to make the postseason. Twelve years later, when the teams played in the first round of the 1987 postseason, the top-seeded Lakers took care of the fifth-ranked Warriors in five games. Four years later, the eighth-seeded Warriors lost again in the first round in four games. 

Fast forward to 2015-2019, where the Warriors won three titles in five years while the Lakers were rebuilding, failing to reach the playoffs over that stretch. The course seemed to change 16 months ago, when superstar forward LeBron James signed with the team in free agency. Los Angeles responded by a 20-14 start, including a 127-101 Christmas Day drubbing of the Warriors at Oracle Arena. 

Then a groin injury -- suffered in the matchup against the Warriors -- sidelined James for much of the season. Adding to the peril, front office turmoil led to the resignation of Vice President Magic Johnson before the season finale and the eventual ousting of coach Luke Walton. 
 
"It looked to me like they were going to be pretty good," Kerr said. "And then they had their own challenges with injuries and other stuff."

Now, Lakers are on top. Following a victory Tuesday night in Phoenix, they're at the top of the Western Conference. Davis -- who isn't expected to play Wednesday night against Golden State -- is averaging 26.3 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game, while James continues to be one of the league's best players, solidifying one of the best cores in the league. 

"It's not surprising," Kerr admitted. "LeBron is one of the best passers in the history of the game. He's got Anthony to work with as a pick-and-pop guy, as a lob threat. You talk about two of the most talented players in the game and they both have great feels so it's not at all surprising."

[RELATED: Warriors must fix ugly defense to avoid hitting rock bottom]

Hope may be on the way for Golden State to balance the matchup going forward. Curry, Green and Thompson are all expected to be healthy by the start of next season, bringing back the core formidable enough to go against Los Angeles. 

"They've been good for a long time," Kerr said. "And they're good again and we're trying to get there."