Warriors

It's time for the world to give the Warriors' defense the praise it deserves

It's time for the world to give the Warriors' defense the praise it deserves

SALT LAKE CITY -- Maybe now the pretty finally will give way to the gritty. And the constant talk of beautiful ball movement and gorgeous jump shots can be shouted down a bit by the noise the Warriors make on the other end of the court.

Through eight games this postseason they have done enough fantastic work on defense for that component of their game to get its overdue props.

Studying the offensive actions of their opponents -- with particular emphasis on the most dangerous scorers -- and applying what they’ve learned is the primary reason the Warriors are 8-0 this postseason.

They held Portland’s Damian Lillard to 43.3-percent shooting in the first round, and limited sidekick CJ McCollum to 40 percent -- 30.8 percent after Game 1.

In sweeping the Utah Jazz in the Western Conference Semifinals, the Warriors identified Gordon Hayward and Joe Johnson as the two players most likely to do damage on offense. Hayward shot 40 percent, Johnson 31.6.

The Warriors are No. 1 among playoff teams with a defensive rating of 96.9, far and way the best of any team in these playoffs. It’s better than that of the 2014-15 Warriors, whose 97.4 rating was the best of that postseason.

They’re first in field-goal defense, holding teams to 40.7 percent. They’re first in rebounds, first in blocks, first in deflections, first in points allowed and No. 1 in limiting the assist totals of opponents.

Draymond Green, the Defensive Player of the Year candidate, is the catalyst for the defense. He’s excellent in isolation, fabulous in communication and superb at recognition. But Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala also make an impact on that end.

But the real key to this team’s defensive success is its high collective IQ and the ability to switch with ease. It helps that 10 players on the roster fall are between 6-foot-6 and 6-9.

Yet Warriors conversation generally revolves around Durant’s unique scoring ability, Thompson’s picturesque jumper and Stephen Curry’s wizardry, whether handling the ball or shooting.

“We’ve got guys like Dray, Klay, myself, Matt (Barnes), all the way down the line,” Durant said after the clinching Game 4 win over the Jazz. “When Steph switches off, he’s really good. When you can guard multiple positions, it takes a lot of teams out of their actions.

“We score the ball. But we preach defense every single day. It’s not just ‘Let’s outscore our opponents.’ We’re going to try to stop you, and then we’re going to try to run the score up.”

This is not exactly new for the Warriors. They’ve been a top-five defensive team in most crucial categories for four seasons. For the regular season just concluded, they were No. 1 in field-goal defense, 3-point field goal defense, blocks, steals, turnovers forced and points per shot.

And never has their defensive ferocity been more evident than the first quarter of closeout games. The Warriors held the Blazers to 29.6-percent shooting in the opening quarter of Game 4, and held the Jazz to 24 percent Monday night.

So, yes, this team known mostly for its offensive pageantry is playing championship- level defense. It’s the ugly side of the game, and sometimes difficult to appreciate. Yet defense is what anchored such champions as the Jordan Bulls, the Bad Boy Pistons, Pop’s Spurs and the Miami Heatles. Those teams seemed to get proper notice.

It’s long past time the Warriors get theirs.

“I hope so,” Brown said. “These guys work hard defensively. They communicate well and they understand when they make mistakes. We don’t have to show 30 examples of them making the same mistake, because they pick up on it very easily and they try not to do it the next time. And for the most part they don’t.

“So hopefully they’ll start, as a group, to get some recognition on that end of the floor.”

Four biggest takeaways from Warriors media day

Four biggest takeaways from Warriors media day

OAKLAND -- The Warriors on Monday practically glided through media day. It was relatively tranquil, a welcome respite from the sensory assault of the last two years, and for that, they can thank LeBron James and the Lakers.

While national media descended upon Los Angeles, the Warriors still had plenty of issues that required addressing. Here are four takeaways from Warriors Media Day.

Is this the end?

The theme of the day seemed to underscore the possibility that the Warriors we’ve come to know are soon to part. From general manager Bob Myers and coach Steve Kerr and down to the players, there was a faint sense of finality.

The one thing we know for certain is that this is the final season at Oracle Arena.

“The goal is going to be to enjoy this journey this year -- all of it, the highs, the lows, the in between,” Myers said.

"We're not going to go this whole season talking about how much uncertainty it is as far as contracts,” said Draymond Green, who will be eligible for free agency in 2020. “We've got the team that we've got right now you've got to win with that team.

“When all that stuff comes up, it will get handled. But right now we're all together, and that's the most important thing is trying to be the best that this team can be.”

Kerr spent most of last season conveying the difficulties of winning back-to-back NBA titles, as well as chasing The Finals for a fourth consecutive season. His approach to this season is more, um, relaxed.

“Last year, we made it through,” Kerr said. “It was a grind, and we won. And I think we should look at that as its own experience, and this year as a brand new one. And there's no doubt if we can get back to the Finals and it's another nine-month haul, we're going to have some bumps in the road and it's not going to be easy.

“But I do think there should be a slightly different theme this year. We are playing with some house money. We won three of the last four championships. Our place in the history of the league is pretty secure.”

Block out the noise

Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson will be asked about their futures. Green will be asked about his. The Warriors will have to contend with sideshows in every town.

Stephen Curry, the lone All-Star whose future is not up for discussion, would like to shut down the “future” questions that began Monday.

“That doesn't matter right now,” he said. “We have five preseason games, 82 regular-season games and hopefully 16 wins in the playoffs. And then you can ask all the questions you want.

“I think KD is going to have that perspective, DeMarcus [Cousins] had that perspective, even Draymond and Klay with their contract situations, you can nit-pick everything, and that's what's going to happen. It's part of what we do for a living.

“But the best teams and the best individuals are able to shut that out when it comes to playing basketball and enjoy the opportunity that we have as a team to do that.”

Thanks, LeBron

As mentioned earlier, much of the low-key atmosphere at Warriors Media Day can be traced back to the events in L.A., where James sat before a room of hundreds.

The Warriors were cool with that. They don’t mind the some of the attention being diverted from the Bay Area to Southern California.

“Everybody loves something new,” Durant said. “This is our third year together now, so you guys kind of know who we are and have shown things. Obviously us having DeMarcus, but I think him not playing early on is taking away a little bit of allure of us as a team from a media perspective, I guess.

“But it's the same ol' story with us, same ol' personalities, and we are who we are when you walk in here. Just having a whole new team down in Los Angeles, just gutting that whole team out and bringing in the biggest face in basketball and sports, obviously that's going to be a sexier story.”

Shaun Livingston, drafted by the Clippers in 2004, knows what it’s like when the SoCal media comes out in full force. He welcomes the relative quiet.

“Definitely takes some of that spotlight away,” he said. “But it's good, it's great for the league, it's great for the Lakers, even better for the Western Conference, with obviously L.A. being more competitive now with a guy like LeBron coming to play.

“So I think it's positive. It's only positives. Talked to my guy Luke [Walton, Lakers head coach and former Warriors assistant], wished him the best, incredible opportunity for all those guys down there. It should be fun. Definitely should be fun this year.”

Fun with in-laws

Curry’s sister, Sydel, got married in August. Her name now is Sydel Curry-Lee, as her husband is Damion Lee, who aspires to become Stephen Curry’s teammate with the Warriors.

Lee signed a two-way contract and will be present when training camp begins Tuesday.

“It's fun,” Stephen Curry said of being around Damion. “He's part of the family, obviously. We spent a lot of time the past two years especially working out. He's been out here in the Bay with Santa Cruz and whatnot, and I've been rooting him on when he was in Atlanta last year playing. To have him obviously in training camp as a two-way player back and forth, the opportunity he has to impact our team, it would be fun, and obviously I get to keep close eyes on him.”

Lee, a Drexel product, appeared in 15 games with the Atlanta Hawks last season, starting 11. The 6-foot-7 wing is hoping to impress the Warriors enough to at some point see his two-way deal converted to a standard NBA contract, as happened with Quinn Cook last season.

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Kevin Durant keeping his 'options open' with latest one-and-one contract

Kevin Durant keeping his 'options open' with latest one-and-one contract

OAKLAND -- Kevin Durant’s decision in July to sign another contract that allows him to leave the Warriors after one more season generated a stir of anxiety within the fan base, and he said nothing Monday to calm anyone’s nerves.

Ultimately, Durant said, the direction he chose was about self-belief and maximum flexibility.

“It was one of those things where you’re just confident in your skills, and you just kind of want to take it year by year,” he said at Warriors Media Day. “To keep my options open, it was the best thing for me.

“I could have easily signed a long-term [contract], but I just wanted to take it season-by-season and see where it takes me.”

Insofar as Durant is expected to opt out next summer, as he has in the previous two summers, Warriors CEO Joe Lacob acknowledged the team would have to “re-recruit” Durant throughout the season and again during free agency.

General manager Bob Myers, a former agent, reiterated that Monday.

“For any player -- and having had that history as an agent -- what players want, in my experience, is they want to get paid fairly," Myers said. "They want to win, and they want to like going to work, just like all of us. We want to be successful, make fair money and have fun. That’s our job, to create an environment for our players. And I think we do a pretty good job of that.”

Durant will be eligible next July to sign a super max deal worth $220 million with the Warriors, who will have his Bird rights.

“I hope Kevin’s here,” Myers said. “I hope he plays until he’s 50. He’s fantastic, obviously what he’s done for us, and what I hope he continues to do goes without saying.”

Durant clearly wants to keep his mind on the upcoming season, the only one he knows for certain will be spent with the Warriors.

“This whole year is going to be a fun, exciting year for us all, and I’m looking forward to just focusing on that,” he said. “We’ll see what happens after the year.

“If you take it a day at a time, just stay in the present as much as you can, that’s what I try to do.”

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