Warriors

James Harden makes bold MVP prediction the day before facing Warriors

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USATSI

James Harden makes bold MVP prediction the day before facing Warriors

Programming note: Watch the pregame edition of Warriors Outsiders on Thursday night at 6 p.m. PT streaming live on the MyTeams app.

Nobody is playing better basketball right now than James Harden.

Over the Rockets' last 10 games, the reigning MVP is averaging 40.8 points, 8.9 assists, 6.8 rebounds and 2.2 steals, while shooting over 41 percent from deep (and 43.8 percent overall).

Speaking of MVP -- does he have his eyes set on back-to-back trophies?

“I need it. I need it for sure. And I'm going to get it," Harden said to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. "Individually, I got to bring it every night and make sure the guys around me in that locker room are on the same level.

"It’s a great feeling. Individually, I got to make sure I’m on my A game every night, and that's not just scoring. That’s being a leader every night. That's making sure I’m communicating with my guys and we're putting ourselves in positions to win games."

The Rockets are winning games, as they are 9-1 during Harden's incredible 10-game stretch. And it's even more impressive when you consider Chris Paul missed the last five games because of a hamstring strain. 

The MVP chase is wide open this year and Harden has as good a shot as anybody. You got to respect the fact that he's willing to make bold statements because it puts pressure on him to continue to deliver on a nightly basis. It's similar to Draymond Green saying he's going to win Defensive Player of the Year or that he's going to "start lighting their a** up."

When you're that good, you got to manufacture some motivation. And you would think Draymond and the Warriors will be motivated to slow down Harden on Thursday night at Oracle Arena...

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

Warriors' Steph Curry participates in drills, inching closer to return

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USATSI

Warriors' Steph Curry participates in drills, inching closer to return

SAN FRANCISCO -- After a full month of increasingly intense individual workouts, Stephen Curry on Tuesday joined his Warriors teammates on the practice court for the first time since last October.

That wasn’t quite enough for Curry, though, as he then stayed behind for individual shooting drills after most of the Warriors had wrapped up their sessions and headed for the showers.

The only indication that Curry’s return is not imminent was his attire. He was the only player wearing a red jersey, signifying “no contact” status.

“We were calling him Tom Brady today,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said after the team’s first practice after the All-Star break. “Don’t touch Steph.”

“But he took part in everything, other than our scrimmage. We scrimmaged at the end, and he didn’t do that. But he took part in everything else and he’s looking great.”

Though there is no official date for Curry’s return -- he underwent surgery to repair a fracture of the second metacarpal of his left hand -- the Warriors are scheduled to issue an update on March 1. If all goes well, it’s conceivable Curry would immediately begin scrimmaging, with a possible return a few days later.

Asked about Klay Thompson’s status, Kerr indicated he’s not expecting Curry’s sidekick to return this season.

“With Steph, there’s a definite timetable,” Kerr said. “It’s easy to look and say that in a couple weeks, Steph is going to be ready to play. I don’t know exactly what day.

“But Klay is a long way from that. I don’t even entertain any thoughts of Klay playing this year.”

While Thompson is rehabbing a surgically repaired torn ACL, which often requires a year or more before making a full recovery, Curry met all recovery benchmarks in the wake of fracturing his left hand on Oct. 30.

Curry was able to participate in defensive drills, skill work and some offensive scripting, Kerr said. He will be limited Wednesday when the team goes through its next practice.

The last step for Curry will be to endure one or two live scrimmages.

“I don’t know when he’s going to be allowed to scrimmage,” Kerr said. “It’s not this week or anything. But he looks really good. He’s gaining strength, gaining confidence. He has been putting himself through some brutal workouts, so his conditioning is about as good as it can possibly be for somebody who hasn’t been able to scrimmage.”

There has been a measure of debate within the NBA community about whether it’s wise for Curry to return to a team bound for the draft lottery. Kerr is focused on the obvious benefits, even if it’s 15 to 20 games.

“It’s going to be a different role for him,” he said. “He only got three games before his injury. It’s important for him to feel the difference. It feels different for us. With all these young guys we’re trying to teach them on the fly, a lot of things that we’ve taken for granted over the last five years, we can’t take for granted anymore. Steph needs to feel that.”

[RELATED: Light years 2.0: Lacob says Dubs 're-imagining the dynasty']

The Warriors have 27 games remaining. After March 1, that number drops to 21. Their final 20 begins with a four-game homestand from March 5 to March 12. Assuming there are no setbacks, it’s likely Curry will return during that stretch.

Warriors 're-imagining the dynasty' during down season, Joe Lacob says

Warriors 're-imagining the dynasty' during down season, Joe Lacob says

The Warriors, with their 12-43 record, are behind every team in the NBA this season. But team owner Joe Lacob still is finding ways to be "light years ahead" again. 

While Golden State is hoping to win every game, Lacob admits the front office has a lot of focus on free agency and the NBA draft. After five straight trips to the Finals, the Dubs are looking at a top draft pick this June. 

It won't be this year, but Lacob and the rest of the Warriors have their eyes on the Larry O'Brien Trophy in the very near future

“The great thing about this is we can re-imagine the next dynasty,” owner Joe Lacob told USA TODAY Sports during the NBA’s Tech Summit during All-Star weekend. “I think it’s been a good year for us to take stock with where we’re at and try to recreate.”

The Warriors traded six players before this year's NBA trade deadline. They also acquired four future second-round draft picks and a top-three protected first-round pick in 2021. Golden State's headline move was trading guard D'Angelo Russell to the Minnesota Timberwolves for small forward Andrew Wiggins. 

But the cherry on top for Lacob was the 2021 pick the Warriors received from Minnesota.

"We already had a high pick in 2020 and it's not considered the greatest draft," Lacob explained to NBC Sports Bay Area's Greg Papa during Warriors Pregame Live on Feb. 10. "But 2021, considered a very good draft. So, that was the key. It wasn't about multiple picks. It was about that pick."

[RELATED: Kerr laughs off Warriors' ugly season with funny tweet]

The Warriors will have a high draft pick this year and likely another valuable one from the T-Wolves next year. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson both will be healthy to join Wiggins and Draymond Green again as well next season.

Much of this season is a mirage of what the Warriors will put on the floor at Chase Center in a few months. Every dynasty takes a break.

Rarely can a new one arise this quickly, but Lacob sure will try.