Warriors

How injuries forced Warriors to bet on young core faster than expected

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AP

How injuries forced Warriors to bet on young core faster than expected

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Warriors' move across the Bay promised a major shift in the organization. Kevin Durant's departure and Klay Thompson's ACL tear cemented it. 

In the latest twist, Golden State still is battling the injury bug. In the last three days, the team has announced injuries to big men Kevon Looney, Willie Cauley Stein and Alen Smailagic.

The Warriors' summer of change brought eight new players into the fold, all but two of whom are younger than 26. Now, with injuries thinning the Warriors' margin for error, the growth of their young core is more imperative than ever. 

"It's what the crucial theme of this season is," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Thursday afternoon. "Player development."  

On the eve of training camp, Warriors general manager Bob Myers announced Willie Cauley-Stein would miss most of October with a foot strain. Two days later, Smailagic rolled his ankle and Looney strained his hamstring in the same controlled scrimmage. Looney's injury is not expected to be serious long-term. 

The injuries are forcing Golden State to be creative with its frontcourt for the team's preseason opener against the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday. Of the four centers expected to make the team, only Omari Spellman is healthy. On Thursday, Kerr said second-year big-man will "probably" start Saturday, while Eric Paschall -- a 6-foot-7 forward -- will also get time in the frontcourt. 

"I'm kind of used to playing the five, so in a game, if I got to play three, four or five, it doesn't really matter to me," Paschall said. "I'll adjust and do the best I can." 

The need for youth is a change of pace for Golden State. Last season, the Warriors were the league's sixth-oldest team, built around a superstar core of Durant, Thompson, Stephen Curry and Draymond Green.

With Durant gone, Thompson rehabbing a torn ACL and an influx of new players, Green and Curry have been de facto assistant coaches. Following practice Thursday afternoon, Curry assisted D'Angelo Russell -- who signed a four year, $117 million deal in July -- in a bevy of shooting drills, while Green set an example shooting 3-pointers across the gym as Paschall looked on. 

"I'm just trying to learn the tricks that come in the NBA," Paschall said. "All these guys, especially Draymond, Steph, seeing all their tricks on the floor, just trying to pick that up and do my best to apply that to my own game." 

Paschall's presence was appropriate. The forward is the latest Warriors draft pick to garner comparisons to Green, something the rookie has welcomed. But if Paschall wants to get on the court, he'll have to follow a familiar blueprint Green perfected early in his career. 

"Find a niche," Paschall said. "That you could bring to the floor. So if Draymond's tired, I can go get him, play defense, do whatever I have to do to keep it productive. It doesn't have to be scoring. It could be defensively, getting stops and keeping guys in front of you, getting rebounds. Little loose ball plays, like little stuff like that could make a difference in the game."

[RELATED: Warriors' Lee sick of Curry family questions, wants respect]

The youth movement will face its first test Saturday evening when the Lakers -- a preseason title pick from many NBA observers -- come to open Chase Center. The preseason opener will be the biggest barometer of the Warriors' progress so far. 

"I think they've all done a really good job," Kerr said. "It's hard to single out anybody yet. I think I'll wait until we actually play a game. I think we need to give it time before we start having that conversation." 

Warriors vs. Pelicans watch guide: Lineups, injuries, player usage

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USATSI

Warriors vs. Pelicans watch guide: Lineups, injuries, player usage

Sooner or later, the Warriors eventually would run into an opponent keeping doctors as busy as they are. That will be the case Sunday afternoon in New Orleans when they face Pelicans.

Pregame coverage on NBC Sports Bay Area begins at 3 p.m. PT, with tipoff from Smoothie King Center scheduled for 4:10.

Even with an injury list that runs seven deep, the wounded Warriors (2-11) might not find a better opportunity to snap a losing streak that has reached six games. Their first win of the season was a 134-123 triumph on Oct. 28 at New Orleans.

The Pelicans (3-9) have seen their roster diminished by more than half, leaving them without at least three starters, as well as three more rotation players. Of their top 10 players, only point guard Jrue Holiday and shooting guard E’twaun Moore are healthy.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

Warriors

F Eric Paschall
F Draymond Green
C Willie Cauley-Stein
G Glenn Robinson III
G Ky Bowman

Pelicans

F Kenrich Williams
F Nicolo Melli
C Jason Hayes
G E’twaun Moore
G Jrue Holiday

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 (right ankle sprain) and G Klay Thompson (left ACL rehab) are listed as out.

Pelicans: G Frank Jackson (left neck contusion) and G JJ Redick (left great toe sprain) are listed as questionable. F/C Derrick Favors (lower back spasms) and F Brandon Ingram (right knee soreness) are listed as doubtful. G Lonzo Ball (right Adductor strain), G Josh Hart (left knee/ankle sprain), F Darius Millier (right Achilles rehab), C/F Jahlil Okafor (left ankle sprain) and F Zion Williamson (right knee surgery rehab) are listed as out.

[RELATED: Dubs' Cauley-Stein explains origin of his mouthguard grills]

ROTATION OUTLOOK

Warriors: The Warriors are back to nine available players. ... Russell’s absence leaves them with Bowman as the only point guard on the roster, so he might play at least 35 minutes. As was the case against Boston on Friday, Green will assume many of the ball-handling duties. ... The Warriors scored a season-high 134 points in the Oct. 24 game, with six players scoring in double figures. Three of those players (Curry, Lee and Russell) are unavailable today. ... The Warriors outrebounded the Pelicans 61-41 in the previous game.

Pelicans: If every player on the injury list is ruled out before tipoff, the Pelicans will be down to eight available players. ... Under new vice president of basketball operations David Griffin, the Pelicans over the summer separated their training/medical staff from that which also serves the NFL's Saints. The hope was that their previous misfortune with injuries would abate. ... Though rookie center Jaxson Hayes has played in all 12 games, he has yet to make a start. That could change today. He totaled 19 points (9-of-11 FG) in 24 minutes against the Warriors on Oct. 24.

Officials: Ken Mauer (crew chief), Mark Lindsay, Leon Wood.

Warriors' Willie Cauley-Stein explains origin of his mouthguard grills

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USATSI

Warriors' Willie Cauley-Stein explains origin of his mouthguard grills

When Warriors center Willie Cauley-Stein smiles on the court, he puts the gold in Golden State. His teeth shine with customized mouthguards that look like grills. 

“I ain’t think it would look that good, but they looked real," Cauley-Stein described. "They fit real."

The grills are standard plastic mouthguards, embellished with extra bling created by a jeweler friend who makes specialized pieces for athletes. They’re molded in a tray, just like braces.

Cauley-Stein has been wearing a real grill since college. He keeps up the look at work with a collection of mouthguard grills in rose gold, white gold and crystal, with the crystal version marked with two X’s. 

The two X’s are for a friend who passed away this summer.

“His name is Rexx, two X’s, so I’m carrying that on,” Cauley-Stein explained. 

[RELATED: Slew of Warriors injuries hinders young core's development]

Cauley-Stein also has two X’s tattooed over his left eye. His skin is a canvas of tattoos that tell the story of his life. The gleam on his teeth gives him one more way to stand out. 

“A lotta people are like, ‘This dude doesn’t care about hoops, he’s got a freakin’ grill in his mouth!’ But it’s a mouthpiece!” he exclaimed.