Warriors

Clark earns essential minutes for Warriors: 'They embraced me'

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Clark earns essential minutes for Warriors: 'They embraced me'

The growth of Ian Clark as a Warrior goes back to training camp in September, when the Belmont University product was hustling hard for a job that would keep him in the NBA.

Clark won the job, the final spot on a crowded roster. He soon progressed to relevancy and now has become essential.

He is getting minutes with the defending champions, was a part of the team that posted the best regular season in NBA history. Life is good for a young guard making his way.

“I go play golf with Steph (Curry) and Andre (Iguodala) and HB (Harrison Barnes),” Clark said. “I had a relationship with Brandon Rush because we played together in Utah. I have a relationship with Draymond Green because I played Summer League with him when I came out in my first year.

“They embraced me. Of course, on the court, we all get along because we see each other every day. But off the court, that’s when I really felt like a part of the team.”

With Curry sidelined by a knee sprain and playing only 38 minutes over five games in the first-round playoff win over Houston, Clark has moved from the end of the bench and right into coach Steve Kerr’s playing rotation.

“He earned it,” Kerr said Friday. “You never know what to expect from a guy who hasn’t been in the playoffs. And he responded so well. He looked incredibly poised and confident out there.”

Clark played 16 minutes in the series-clinching Game 5 Wednesday night, scoring seven points and getting three steals. He played mostly well over 13 minutes in Game 4 and was particularly good in Game 3, his most complete performance in the series. His layup gave the Warriors a late lead until seconds later, when James Harden drained a game-winning jumper.

“The reason we went to him in the Houston series is we needed more movement and he’s a really good cutter,” Kerr said. “He came in Game 3 and did a great job of getting our offense going with his movement and cutting. Ian’s a really good player. He’s shown that he’s not afraid of anything.”

Clark, 25, is playing his first full season in the NBA. He credits the team’s veterans, particularly Iguodala, for giving pointers about the game, helping him adjust to the ways of the league and generating dialogue off the court.

“He’s on me constantly, throughout the games and in practice,” Clark said of Iguodala. “Even on the plane when we’re talking after the game. He’s been the guy that’s been on me the most. He holds me accountable. That’s why I’m in the position I’m in now.”

Though only 6-foot-3, Clark is getting minutes at both guard positions, playing off guard when Shaun Livingston is at the point and point guard in relief of Livingston.

If Iguodala is an “uncle” figure, Curry is like a big brother – a proud big brother. He’ll be watching from the sideline for at least another week as the Warriors move into the conference semifinals.

“He’s ready for the moment,” Curry said of Clark. “Every time I’ve been hurt and I look at him, he kind of gives me that nod, ‘Like, I know. It’s about to be my turn. I got you.’ It’s that kind of vibe. And that’s not just for show. He actually believes it and has been going out and playing well.”

Warriors vs. Clippers watch guide: Lineups, injuries and player usage

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USATSI

Warriors vs. Clippers watch guide: Lineups, injuries and player usage

LOS ANGELES -- Somewhere behind the tsunami of conversation and debate devoted to DeMarcus Cousins making his return to the NBA on Friday, the Warriors and Clippers will play a basketball game.

Coverage on NBC Sports Bay Area begins at 6:30 p.m. with Warriors Pregame, with tipoff at Staples Center scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

Though Cousins’ Warriors debut will be the focal point of every fan around the globe, the team has a compelling bit of business at hand.

They’re trying to extend a six-game winning streak against a team they no longer dominate.

The Warriors (31-14) had beaten the Clippers 12 consecutive times before taking a 19-point loss at Oracle Arena last January. The teams have split their last four games, including the first two this season: a Clippers 121-116 overtime win on Nov. 12 in L.A., and the Warriors taking a 129-127 victory on Dec. 23 in Oakland.

The Clippers (24-20) remade their roster over the last two summers and had been better than projected before losing their last four games. They own the seventh-best record in the Western Conference and 12th-best in the league.

This is the Warriors’ first trip to Staples since the highly publicized squabble between Kevin Durant and Draymond Green on Nov. 12.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

Warriors
F Kevin Durant
F Draymond Green
C DeMarcus Cousins
G Klay Thompson
G Stephen Curry

Clippers
F Danilo Gallinari
F Tobias Harris
C Marcin Gortat
G Avery Bradley
G Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

INJURY REPORT

Warriors
C Damian Jones (left pectoral surgery) is listed as out.

Clippers
F Luc Mbah a Moute (left knee soreness) is listed as out.

ROTATION OUTLOOK

Warriors
Though Cousins will start, he’s not likely to play more than five consecutive minutes, which leaves the possibility of limited action in each quarter. The remaining minutes are expected to go to Kevon Looney and Draymond Green. Jordan Bell, already on the fringe of the rotation, is the odd man out.

Curry (42) and Durant (35) combined for 77 points in the last meeting between the teams.

Backup PG Shaun Livingston has been effective since returning after a brief absence with knee soreness, shooting 10-of-15 from the field over his last four games. He had a season-high 13 points against the Pelicans on Wednesday.

Clippers
Guard Lou Williams is the most dangerous bench scorer in the league. He’s averaging 18.7 ppg, tops among all reserves. He’s averaging 22.5 ppg over his last 12 games.

Backup C/F Montrezl Harrell has been so effective, he consistently plays more minutes than Gortat. His 11 double-doubles lead all reserves.

Williams and Harrell are the primary reasons the Clippers lead the NBA in bench scoring (52.6 ppg). The Warriors are 28th (30.2).

Yes, guard Patrick Beverley remains a Clipper and will get minutes, if only to annoy Curry. It’s fair to say they have a longstanding adversarial relationship.

Officials
Eric Lewis (chief), Gediminas Petraitis, Brandon Adair

Draymond Green's agent reveals his one main wish for DeMarcus Cousins

Draymond Green's agent reveals his one main wish for DeMarcus Cousins

Draymond Green might be more excited for DeMarcus Cousins' return than DeMarcus Cousins is for DeMarcus Cousins' return (that makes sense, right?)

Draymond's agent, B.J. Armstrong, also is very happy that Boogie will be back in action Friday night against the Clippers. He loves Cousins' game and is a big fan.

But Armstrong is hoping Cousins' time with the Warriors isn't just defined by points, rebounds and assists.

"The one thing that I'm really wishing for him is not to be a good teammate but to be a great teammate," Armstrong recently said on The Pure Hoops Podcast. "It's really important as a player, it's really important for your relationships that you have.

"When it's all said and done as a player, you'll remember these moments. This is a significant moment for him."

Yes, it is.

Cousins is hoping for a big pay day this summer in free agency, and obviously a lot of that will depend on how he performs the next few months and how his Achilles responds.

But the rest of the NBA will be paying very close attention to how he impacts the Warriors' chemistry, his standing in the locker room and how he handles somewhat of a lesser role on the court.

The good news for the four-time All-Star is that his teammates have his back 100 percent.

"We'll do everything in our power to make sure he succeeds," Andre Iguodala told reporters after Golden State's win Wednesday night. "That's everybody in the locker room. That's really our focus."

That support is key, and Cousins will rely on it at various points throughout his comeback. It's also important that the help is reciprocated. 

[RELATEDHow Cousins will help Warriors in these three specific areas]

"I just hope he understands the importance of being a great teammate -- not a good teammate -- a great teammate," Armstrong reiterated. "Because that is the most important thing. You walk away from the game -- every player -- hopefully you walk away with some friends you made over the years.

"I just hope Boogie experiences one of the joys of this league -- is to become a great teammate ... his teammates are so excited for him ... I just hope that Boogie appreciates that because he has some great teammates right now.

"This is a priceless moment for him and a very key moment in his career."

Drew Shiller is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders. Follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller