Warriors

Durant: 'Unbelievable teammate; he's the reason why we're so tight'

Durant: 'Unbelievable teammate; he's the reason why we're so tight'

In late July 2016, the Warriors invited JaVale McGee to training camp to compete for the final roster spot.

He signed a non-guaranteed contract for the veteran's minimum of $1.4 million.

It's safe to say that McGee exceeded expectations.

"He's an unbelievable teammate. He brought everybody together. He's the reason why we're so tight," Kevin Durant explained on The Bill Simmons Podcast. "His spirt. His open spirit. He's just always in a good mood. Just his own person. And everybody kind of gravitates to it.

[REWIND: JaVale gifts Draymond-themed blanket to every Warriors teammate]

"He was friends with everybody in a different way. A lot of people don't know that."

Over his first 15 appearances during the regular season, McGee averaged just 3.9 points and 1.9 rebounds over 6.6 minutes per contest.

But across the next two plus months -- 36 games and 10 starts -- he registered 7.1 points and 3.5 rebounds in 10.8 minutes per night.

In the first round of the playoffs against the Blazers, he averaged 9.8 points and 4.3 rebounds while shooting over 78 percent from the field.

He scored 12 points in Game 4 at Utah, and 16 points in Game 3 at San Antonio.

"He adds value to your locker room," Durant explained. "That's what underrated when you're playing on a good team, or a team that's thinking about a championship, versus a team that has so many other distractions -- because now, JaVale when he is on a bad team is a distraction -- now with us, it's an asset because he's bringing us all together."

McGee is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in July and it's unclear what the market will be for the 29-year old.

Drew Shiller is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders and a Web Producer at NBC Sports Bay Area. Follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller

How DeMarcus Cousins will help Warriors in these three specific areas

How DeMarcus Cousins will help Warriors in these three specific areas

Programming note: Watch DeMarcus Cousins and the Warriors take on the Clippers on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. PT, streaming live on the MyTeams app.

On Friday night, DeMarcus Cousins will play in his first NBA game since he tore his left Achilles tendon on Jan. 26, 2018. The whole basketball world will be watching as he makes his Warriors debut.

But one thing you shouldn't do is set lofty expectations, as it's going to take him time to find his rhythm and comfort zone.

As you keep your eye on Boogie's every move, pay close attention to how he is performing in the following three areas:

PASSING

Over his first six seasons, Cousins averaged just 2.7 assists per game. But in 2016-17, he dished out 4.6. And last year, he racked up a career-high 5.4 assists per contest.

The night his season came to an end, he recorded a season-high 11 assists in fewer than 30 minutes. He is more than willing to be a facilitator and is now surrounded by more talent than ever.

The Warriors cut off the ball a lot so even if he isn't double teamed, the four-time All-Star should be able to find teammates for layups or open jumpers left and right.

3-POINT SHOOTING

In the Steve Kerr era, the Warriors have never really had a big man like Cousins who can step out and consistently knock down 3-pointers. Then again, the NBA hasn't seen many big men like Cousins, period.

Cousins attempted just 69 3-pointers combined over his first five seasons in the league. But that all changed in 2015-16 when he jacked up 210 triples.

In 2016-17, he went 131-for-363 behind the arc (36.1 percent), and in 48 games last year he went 104-for-294 (35.4 percent). Steve Kerr recently said that the Warriors aren't going to slow down their pace for Cousins, which means a lot of his 3-point attempts will probably come with him trailing the play in transition. 

His defender has to respect his ability to space the floor, so Cousins' presence is going to open things up for his teammates.

[RELATEDDeMarcus Cousins' NBA return comes right as Warriors stars catch fire]

DEFENDING PERIMETER PLAYERS 

The biggest challenge facing Cousins will be containing guards and wings. Teams are going to try to isolate him in 1-on-1 situations (we are looking at you, James Harden) and test Boogie's ability to slide his feet.

When engaged, the two-time All-NBA selection has shown he's capable of being a very good defender. Last year, he tied his career high with 1.6 steals a game and also averaged 1.6 blocks (his career high is 1.7).

How much will his lateral quickness be impacted by the Achilles tear? We are going to find out very soon.

Be sure to watch the video above to see examples of everything we just discussed.

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

How Warriors look, feel hitting the home stretch; inside life of a reporter

ask_kerith_toyota_web.jpg
Illustration by Tara Funk

How Warriors look, feel hitting the home stretch; inside life of a reporter

Editor’s note: Kerith Burke, NBC Sports Bay Area’s Warriors reporter, will take you inside the two-time defending NBA champions as only she can each Friday with the Ask Kerith Mailbag, presented by Toyota. Send her a question on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #askkerith

Tip-Off

It's Boogie Day.

DeMarcus Cousins makes his season debut tonight against the Clippers, and it comes at a time when the Warriors are rolling. Six straight wins. Three consecutive games of 10 or fewer turnovers. Wednesday against the Pelicans, the Warriors tied their franchise record for threes in a game with 24.

The Warriors have it figured out right now, so Boogie returns at a good time for the team. There are no trouble spots that would be exacerbated by adding a new piece.

There still will be an adjustment period when they insert one of the NBA's best centers, who hasn’t played for 12 months and now is part of an offense that's totally new to him. Be patient with Boogie.

Game On!

@goldenstatewarriorsreign In your honest opinion, do you think the Warriors can continue the good fortune they’ve had these last couple of games? I feel we are finally on the home stretch especially since Cousins returns Friday, but what is your insight?

The Warriors won seven of their last eight games, and the loss was to the Rockets in overtime on a James Harden buzzer-beater.

Some of these wins included beat-downs against the Suns, Knicks and Bulls, teams the Warriors most definitely should beat. But wins are wins, and when you’re trying to build good habits and find a rhythm together, things can click into place easily against struggling opponents. That’s fine. The Warriors also brought the arsenal against the Nuggets and the Pelicans, two tougher opponents. The consistency they’re finding over this stretch is solid.

During the L.A. segment of the road trip that starts tonight, the Warriors will be riding the high of Boogie’s return. Keep a phrase in mind: “Big man’s gotta eat.” That’s what the players are saying about feeding Boogie some buckets to get his game going. They will go out of their way, probably passing up open shots sometimes, to get him involved and build his confidence.

It feels safe to predict a better game against the Lakers than the 26-point Christmas dud. Upcoming games against the Celtics, Sixers and Spurs catch my eye. I think the players would say something like, we don’t have good fortune, we make good fortune.

It’s after the New Year, DeMarcus Cousins should be coming back tonight, and the All-Star break will come quickly after that. That “home stretch” feeling is approaching. In this moment, with their health, the Warriors are going to be difficult to beat. This might not be a 60-win season, but that’s not important. The playoffs are.

@MuranakaRyota what’s the best part of interviewing Warriors players? #AskKerith

These guys always have something to say. That goes beyond the game. They’re outspoken about things affecting our country, and they’re not afraid to share their opinions. Not all athletes are in the situation where they feel free to do that. It’s a luxury to work with players who are well-read and willing to discuss big topics. “Stick to sports” is silly.

They’re also geniuses at basketball. KD can give a quick scouting report on nearly everyone in the league because he studies the game so much. Watching film is a hobby. Draymond will call out plays before an opponent runs them because he’s so familiar with their tendencies.

Whether it’s X’s and O’s or big-picture stuff, the Warriors have some profound things to share during interviews.

@drew12Bulls For those of us who live outside the market and watch on League Pass, are your days any different when the Warriors are on national TV?

Yes, my work is different depending on if a game is on my network, NBC Sports Bay Area, or if a game is only being broadcast nationally on ESPN or TNT, for example.

For NBC Sports Bay Area, I do two pre-game hits. A hit is an on-camera appearance where I discuss a topic live with the guys on the studio. Monte Poole joins me for one of these hits. During the game, I share at least two stories on-cam, plus off-cam things such as Jarron Collins’ thoughts at halftime or observations I collect from the huddles. If the Warriors are ahead at halftime and the end of the game, I do interviews with the players. And then I have one last hit in the postgame show. In total, that’s about eight to 10 things per game.

During national games, I have my pregame and postgame duties, and maybe a player interview at the end if the Warriors win. I join the beat writers on press row to watch the national games.

@_davidbradley1 Who travels with the team? Do you leave night of game or next day?

More people than you might imagine travel with the team. It’s all the players, all the coaches, the director of team operations, the training staff, film editors and the broadcasters. You know about Fitz, JB, Tim Roye and I, but a director, a producer and a graphics person are behind the scenes on the broadcast. too. The Warriors also bring their great social media and studio team to share pics and create videos on the team's media channels. Add some players' family and friends, and it's a full flight.

The travel schedule varies regarding same-day or next-day flights.

@dinophone1 @KerithBurke @ToyotaFanZone How do you handle all the travel/work through a long season?!

Traveling with the team makes my job MUCH easier. For the second time in the mailbag, I'm using the word luxury because I know how good I have it. Every flight is direct. Every flight is comfortable. Every flight has food.

My time covering college basketball prepared me on a small scale for this job. While I didn’t travel on the same plane as the UConn Huskies, I learned how to pack efficiently, how to move swiftly through airports and hotels, and what demands my reporting role would have on my personal life. Nights, weekends and holidays all belong to the job.

I learned I need sleep and a workout routine if I’m going to do this job in a healthy way. I learned I need to do better maintaining my relationships with friends when I rarely see them in-season.

I’ve mentioned before that having this job with the Warriors would be impossible if I didn’t have a strong relationship with my partner. Even when it comes to holding what I believe is the best sideline-reporting job in the country, my husband and I talked about the demands of the job and what it would mean for our lives. His support makes it possible to keep living my dream.

@rj1975 In terms of sideline reporting, who in the industry are your mentors? #AskKerith

Doris Burke does it better than anyone. Kristen Ledlow and Cassidy Hubbarth are great, too. When I was just starting in broadcasting, I wanted to be like Erin Andrews.

It’s important to learn from the people around you. When I was a local sports reporter, Mark Armstrong was my boss and one of the best writers I’ve worked with. As a reporter, Mark approached everyone with a benefit-of-the-doubt sensibility AND a functioning BS detector. I listened to how he phrased questions.

When I started covering UConn, my producer, Gerard Guilfoyle, walked me through many things to put the polish on my work. I was so green, ha. His experience running game broadcasts and knowing how to tell a brief, punchy story helped me hone my abilities.

And now, my producer Phil Pollicino and I communicate about the best ways to share interesting things about the Warriors. It’s a team effort. I am a collection of influences!

High Five

This week’s goes to Klay Thompson, dunk machine! He has five dunks in the last two games.

For giggles, I asked him after the Pelicans game if he’d ever be interested being in the dunk contest during the All-Star festivities. He gave me the flattest NO ever. He likes the honor of being an All-Star, but the spectacle of the dunk contest isn’t for him.

Follow Kerith on Twitter @KerithBurke and on Instagram @warriorskerith, and, of course, watch her on NBC Sports Bay Area’s Warriors coverage all season.