Draymond Green's injury forces Warriors to further invest in youth

Draymond Green's injury forces Warriors to further invest in youth

SAN FRANCISCO -- Tucked near his locker about 70 minutes before Saturday's matchup against the Charlotte Hornets, Warriors forward Draymond Green raised both of his hands in front of his eyes in bewilderment. 

Comparing index fingers, Green took a look at his left pointer -- one he admitted featured a torn ligament suffered in Friday's loss to the Spurs -- and shook his head. 

Green's injury -- one of Golden State's seven on Sunday's injury report -- puts him out for at least "a few games," putting the Warriors' season in further peril.

The origin of Green's ailment came in the first half of Friday's loss when he attempted to contest a Trey Lyles pump fake, jamming the finger on Lyles' shoulder as the big man drove towards the lane. While he finished the night with six points, eight rebounds and seven assists, most of his performance was done with one hand. Unable to grip the ball, most of his actions were done with his right hand. 

Even when his son -- Draymond Jr. -- visited to the sideline to offer a hug and kiss with the loss in hand, the elder Green was sure to keep the hand at a distance. 

As Green reconciled the new shape of his finger, D'Angelo Russell -- who sprained his ankle Friday evening -- walked with a limp across the room to his locker. 

The visual encapsulated Golden State's young season. So far this year, five players have missed games due to injury, including star guards Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry, who will be re-evaluated in February. Of the healthy bodies on the roster Sunday night, none owned a guaranteed roster spot last season. With Curry, Thompson and Russell out, Steve Kerr named Ky Bowman -- one of Golden State's two two-way players -- the team's starting point guard. 

With injuries piling up, the Warriors are forced to invest in a young core with limited experience. So far, the process has seen progress. On Friday, rookie guard Jordan Poole scored eight of his career-high 20 points in the second quarter, while Damion Lee scored 16 points, including two 3-pointers.

Through the first 24 minutes, Golden State converted on 52 percent of its 3-pointers. However, they were outscored 70-55 over the final 48 minutes. In the third quarter, Golden State was outscored 40-31 by the Spurs.

To get players up to speed, Kerr has opted to simplify Golden State's motion offense, opting for more pick-and-roll centric strategy. By Saturday, amid the news of yet another injury, Kerr facetiously enlisted the help of The Athletic's Tim Kawakami to play Sunday's game.

[RELATED: Very different starting lineup last year]

“Are you busy?” he asked. 

“I’m very expensive," Kawakami responded. "and you’re hard-capped.”  

As for Green, the forward says he plans to be a presence around the team and plans to accompany the battered Warriors on their upcoming three-game road trip in hopes of salvaging an already slipping season.

Kobe Bryant gained more influence from being 'girl dad' than NBA star

Kobe Bryant gained more influence from being 'girl dad' than NBA star

LOS ANGELES -- Greater Los Angeles seemed to come to a silent halt for two hours Monday, folks pausing long enough to clear the fog of mourning and gaze at TV screens set to different channels but showing the same program.

The Kobe Channel. Once again, perhaps for the last time, Kobe Bryant was uniting a region infamous for its divisions and cliques.

For a ceremony billed “A Celebration of Life,” speakers lined up to address 20,000 people inside Staples Center, along with millions of viewers in Southern California, across the country and around the world. It became apparent over the last four weeks and on this day that Kobe’s tragic death at 41 had stripped away many of his sharp edges.

But each one of those edges was softened, too, by the fact that he was living and dying alongside his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.

For as much as Kobe was admired for his unbridled bravado and ability to rise to the moment, he also had detractors. Of course, he did. It’s the lot of all superstars who dare to be so brazen in their desire to crush the spirits of foes. It's what comes with trying to push teammates beyond their self-imposed limits.

A level of antipathy also is a natural outcome for a man who faces sexual assault allegations and later, after charges are dropped, acknowledges his accuser "did not consent to this encounter."

That was Kobe in 2003, three years before the birth of Gianna “Gigi” Bryant. Her death was such a blow that it fractured hearts -- particularly those of mothers sympathizing with Kobe’s widow, Vanessa -- still cool to Kobe.

"Kobe was the MVP of girl dads,” Vanessa Bryant said. “He never left the toilet seat up. He always told the girls how beautiful and smart they are."

The phrase “girl dad,” has been uttered more frequently since Jan. 26 than perhaps the previous 100 years. Kobe used it, was proud of it and now it’s a trend.

A trend that reached Michael Jordan on Monday, a middle-aged man known for ruthlessness. The tides of his tear ducts were rising as he approached the podium. As he started speaking, they were sliding down both sides of his nose and finally over his top lip and into his mouth. But MJ continued on, and he was magnificent.

“I am inspired by what he’s done and what he shared with Vanessa and what he shared with his kids,” Jordan said near the end of his 10-minute speech. “I have a daughter who is 30; I became a grandparent. And I have two twins that are 6. I can’t wait to get home to become a girl dad. And to hug them and to see the love and the smiles that they bring to us as parents.

“He taught me that, just by looking at this tonight. Looking at how he responded and reacted to the people he actually loved. These are the things that we will continue to learn about Kobe Bryant.”

Kobe’s commitment to women goes beyond his wife and their daughters, Natalia, Bianka and Capri. He was coaching Gianna’s team. He followed the WNBA. He took Gianna to Connecticut to see the UConn women’s team play.

The only coach to speak on this day was Geno Auriemma, the leader of the fabled UConn women’s basketball program. The only collegiate player to speak was University of Oregon star Sabrina Ionescu. The only active pro player to speak was Diana Taurasi, who takes particular pride in having the “White Mamba” nickname bestowed upon her by Kobe.

Kobe reached out to women athletes, making them feel special. He might have done it for himself, simply as another of the many layers of his life. He surely did it for his daughter.

“The same passion we all recognized in Kobe, obviously Gigi inherited,” Taurasi said. “Her skill was undeniable at an early age. I mean, who has a turnaround fadeaway jumper at 11?"

[RELATED: How Warriors prepared for emotions of Kobe's memorial]

It was profoundly evident that the man who was sentenced to a measure of time as America’s most polarizing athlete had all these years later become a unifying force, bringing together male and female athletes. He was a bond that connected a region notorious for conflicts between races, ethnic groups and neighborhoods, as well as economic disparity.

Kobe is the reason Boston Celtics legend and Hall of Famer Bill Russell on Sunday put on a Lakers jersey, No. 24, with the name “Bryant” on the back -- and wore it to a Lakers-Celtics game. In LA.

For two hours Monday, Kobe and Gianna had millions riveted to TV screens. That was the power of the man, and it gained authority through the relationship he had with his daughter. Few really knew him, but he now is as immortalized as her father.

Why Steve Kerr called Dragan Bender's Warriors debut 'really positive'

Why Steve Kerr called Dragan Bender's Warriors debut 'really positive'

Dragan Bender had a solid debut in a Warriors uniform Sunday night.

The 22-year-old recorded six points, five rebounds, three assists and one block in Golden State's 115-101 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.

He went 2-for-5 from 3-point range and was plus-one in 20 minutes off the bench.

"It seems like Dragan picks things up really easily ... did a good job last night of recognizing what we were trying to run," coach Steve Kerr told reporters after Monday's practice. "I'm excited about him. He's a really talented player and he could be a good fit for us.

"He's just gotta get comfortable. And it's not an easy thing to do coming in this late in the season. But he's doing a good job."

So what does he have to do to stay with the Dubs beyond his current 10-day contract?

"Just gotta compete and play the role we want him to play, which is pick-and-pop," Kerr said. "Defend his position and understand our schemes. The early look is really positive. He has a good feel for the game.

"We're gonna give him every opportunity."

Bender has five more games -- Tuesday vs. the Sacramento Kings, Thursday vs. the Los Angeles Lakers, Saturday at the Phoenix Suns, Sunday vs. the Washington Wizards and Tuesday at the Denver Nuggets -- to prove his worth.

[RELATED: Ex-Dubs big Spellman dominating for Wolves' G League team]

"It's definitely not a long time, but just take it day-by-day," Bender said Monday when asked if he's feeling a sense of urgency. "See where it goes. Just enjoy the process, enjoy the experience out here."

The goal is to be in uniform when the Warriors host the Toronto Raptors next Thursday.

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