Warriors

How Lakers are giving Warriors repeated reminders of size they lack

How Lakers are giving Warriors repeated reminders of size they lack

The best of Dwight Howard disappeared in 2012, and what remains of the three-time Defensive Player of the Year is a serviceable big man in the rotation of a Los Angeles Lakers team with championship aspirations.

That was enough Monday night to remind the Warriors during their 104-98 loss of an issue they must address if they expect to compete at the highest levels of the Western Conference.

They’ve got to get bigger and more bullish, particularly in the paint.

Which, at this point, makes it imperative that they find a roster spot for 6-foot-10, 240-pound Marquese Chriss.

With Howard bullying his way to 13 rebounds in 22 minutes and 7-foot teammate JaVale McGee snatching five boards in 17 minutes, Los Angeles rode a 48-38 advantage in paint points to send the Warriors out of Staples Center in defeat.

“It’s just really, really frustrating,” coach Steve Kerr told reporters in LA. “If we don’t get that cleaned up, we’re in huge trouble this year. We know that.”

Though the Warriors snagged only two fewer rebounds (48-46), it was evident for the second time in two games they had problems with the bumping and banging of the LA big men.

Through three preseason games, a pattern is developing. The Warriors have lost the rebounding battle in all three games, including by 11 in the preseason opener against LA and by one against the Minnesota Timberwolves, a notoriously poor rebounding team.

Some of this can be blamed on the absences of Willie Cauley-Stein (mid-foot sprain, out until November) and Kevon Looney (hamstring strain, out indefinitely). The season opener is nine days away, and they were projected to share the bulk of the team’s minutes at center.

For now, the load is being shared by 6-9, 270-pound Omari Spellman and Chriss, with 6-10, 245-pound Kavion Pippen playing scant minutes the last two games. Spellman, who started the preseason opener, has 17 rebounds in 51 minutes. Chriss, who started the last two games, has 28 rebounds in 65 minutes.

Rookie forward Eric Paschall, whose listed height of 6-foot-9 is an exaggeration, closed at center Monday night. He has only nine rebounds in 70 preseason minutes.

“You’ve got to defend without fouling, and you’ve got to rebound,” Kerr said. “If we do those things then you’re got a chance. Without it, we’re in big trouble.”

In addition to the rebounding deficit, the Warriors also are committing the kind of pushing-and-grabbing frustration fouls typical of teams operating at a size disadvantage. Paschall and Chriss each were whistled for five fouls while both played 26 minutes.

The result was the Lakers having a 39-23 advantage in free-throw attempts.

“Between the rebounding and the fouling, those were the areas we talked about the most,” Kerr said. “Especially over the last four or five days. Once we got a couple games under our belt, where you could really see it, that’s all we’ve talked about.

“That’s why this was a really disappointing game, especially in the first half.”

The Warriors are well aware that their lack of size presents their biggest physical challenge. But playing the Lakers four times this preseason is perfect for providing a constant reminder.

The lack of size is a real problem, and the length of the Lakers shines a harsh light on it. Anthony Davis, McGee and Howard totaled 32 rebounds in 53 minutes in the Oct. 5 opener, when Chriss had been on the roster for four days.

He now looks like the most skilled offensive big man on the roster.

[RELATED: Why John Oliver name-dropped Chriss in NBA-China monologue]

Chris has made smart passes, averaging 4.0 assists this preseason. He has shot 11-of-19 from the field, 8-of-8 from the line. He provides the vertical spacing expected of Cauley-Stein and some of the savvy play we’ve seen from Looney.

Most of all, Chriss is big, strong and springy, and he engages in the paint. He is easily the team’s most impressive big man and certainly is outplaying his non-guaranteed contract.

The Warriors know the problem, and the sight of Howard exposing it means it’s visible to all. It’s not going to go away unless they address it.

NBA rumors: Warriors 'not pushing' to trade guard D'Angelo Russell now

NBA rumors: Warriors 'not pushing' to trade guard D'Angelo Russell now

When the Warriors acquired D'Angelo Russell as part of Kevin Durant's sign-and-trade with the Nets this past offseason, and signed the star point guard to a four-year, $117 million contract, it seemed like a bit of an odd fit.

How would Russell fit with fellow point guard Steph Curry? What about when shooting guard Klay Thompson became healthy? More than anything, it looked like Golden State added a great trade asset. 

But the Warriors reportedly are in no rush to trade D-Lo. 

“If it is something that they’re going to do quickly, like before the end of this month, I wouldn’t say they’re pushing for it,” one NBA general manager recently said to Heavy.com's Sean Deveney. “Maybe they have a deal in mind, maybe they’re sitting on something and laying low. But I’d be surprised.

That’s not how they’d approach it, I’d think. You want to create a market if you are going to trade a player like him, you want to pit teams against each other, drive up the price. You don’t want to lock into one deal. But the market thing, that’s not really happening yet. They’re not pushing the market for him.”

If the Warriors do indeed have a trade in mind, they soon can start taking calls. The NBA's collective bargaining agreement prohibits the Dubs from parting ways with Russell until Dec. 15. 

Since acquiring the All-Star, general manager Bob Myers has made it clear the Warriors have no intentions of getting rid of Russell. 

"We didn't sign him with the intention of just trading him," Myers said to reporters on July 15. 

Russell has been a bright spot on the 5-19 Warriors when healthy. He has been limited to only 12 games while dealing with a sprained right thumb, but has averaged a career-high 22.3 points, 6.2 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game. 

[RELATED: Why R.J. Hampton and LaMelo Ball might interest Warriors]

The Warriors truly won't be able to evaluate the 23-year-old's future with the team until he has played more with Curry and the rest of the injured Dubs.

Golden State has until the Feb. 7 trade deadline to move Russell, but as of now, that doesn't seem to be at the front of the team's priority list.

Warriors' Steve Kerr shouts out Larry Bird on NBA legend's birthday

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USATSI

Warriors' Steve Kerr shouts out Larry Bird on NBA legend's birthday

On Larry Bird's 63rd birthday, Warriors coach Steve Kerr tipped his virtual cap to the Basketball Hall of Famer. 

Kerr shared Yahoo Sports' retrospective video on Bird's career on Twitter, imploring "all you young NBA fans out there" to watch and get a sense of just how good Bird was. 

In his 13-year career, Bird was a 12-time All-Star, nine-time All-NBA first-team member, three-time champion and three-time MVP. The trash-talking forward shot 50.9 percent from inside the arc and 37.6 percent from 3-point range, emerging as one of the league's sharpest shooters in the nascent 3-point era. 

[RELATED: Why Hampton, Ball might interest Warriors]

Bird retired as the NBA's 11th-leading scorer all-time, averaging the 12th-most points per game in league history (24.3) through 1992. The "Hick From French Lick" made a clear impression on Kerr, and the Warriors coach recalled being starstruck when he played against Bird during his second NBA season. 

“You know my name,” Kerr said to KNBR in a 2017 interview, recounting when Bird said hello to him before a game. "[I said,] 'Hey guys, Larry Bird knows my name!'"