Joe Lacob still confident Warriors can win NBA Finals despite changes

Joe Lacob still confident Warriors can win NBA Finals despite changes

SAN FRANCISCO – For the many observers dismissing the Warriors as legitimate championship contenders next season, the man at the top of the franchise has a message:

“There are nine or 10 teams that legitimately have a shot, or they think they do,” Warriors CEO Joe Lacob told NBC Sports Bay Area on Tuesday. “That’s great for the league. And we’re one of those teams.”

The Warriors’ five-year run as a favorite to reach the NBA Finals, and likely win it, is over. The general consensus, based on deductive logic, is that they are not among the league’s top five teams but still have what it takes to be among the top 10.

That’s the direct result of losing back-to-back Finals MVP Kevin Durant (to Brooklyn), trading influential veteran Andre Iguodala (to Memphis), reaching a buyout with reliable third guard Shaun Livingston and losing four-time All-Star Klay Thompson for at least the first half of the season as he rehabilitates his surgically repaired ACL.

The remaking of the roster, with combo guard D’Angelo Russell the prize offseason acquisition, has left only three players – Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Kevon Looney – set to enter training camp Sept. 30 with more than one season as a Warrior.

All of which means the first month or two will be as much about training and measuring progress as actually counting victories.

“By All-Star break, we’re going to see where we are,” Lacob said. “I personally have great faith in our coaching staff and our players. I like any team that has Steph, Klay and Draymond. When you add D’Angelo Russell to that, I’ll take that.

"I don’t know of any other team that has more than two All-Stars, and we have four. From that standpoint, we have a shot to be pretty good by the second half of the year.”

A quick check of the 2019 All-Star game rosters supports Lacob’s statement. Several teams have two All-Stars, none has more. Yet the Lakers’ All-Stars, LeBron James and Anthony Davis, are widely considered to be among the league’s five best players. The Clippers’ All-Stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are considered among the league’s top 15, at worst.

The 76ers, however, have four potential All-Stars: Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons participated in 2019, and Al Horford and Tobias Harris certainly have the goods to make the team in 2020.

That the Warriors are down two starters and four of the team’s top eight players has only slightly dampened Lacob’s confidence and ambition.

“When he came here, he chose us,” Lacob said of Durant. “We had three great years. Two championships. Three Finals. He chose, for whatever reason – I can’t tell you because I don’t know, exactly – to do something different.

“So, we had to be aggressive about the transition, more aggressive than we might have been otherwise. We were fortunate to get D’Angelo Russell, a 23-year-old All-Star. And all of a sudden, we still have four All-Stars. Maybe not Kevin Durant, but four All-Stars. And we got younger.”

[RELATED: Why Russell thinks joining Warriors will bring out his best]

The Warriors ended the postseason with nine players 28 or older. The current roster has only three players over age 26.

So it’s reasonable to expect trying times – and to believe that, under these conditions, making the playoffs is an achievement and winning a first-round series would be a triumph.

By the time next April rolls around, Lacob himself might see it that way.

Warriors’ still-mounting injuries a big blow to young players’ development

Warriors’ still-mounting injuries a big blow to young players’ development

SAN FRANCISCO -- In the waning moments of the Warriors' latest loss Friday night, their bench resembled the front row of a fashion show more than a functioning NBA roster.

Toward the end of the bench, All-Star guard Stephen Curry sat in a black suit jacket, covering a massive cast protecting his broken left hand. To Curry's left, center Kevon Looney sat in a gray suit, his immediate future in peril as he continues to seek answers about an injured hamstring.

That type of visual has become commonplace over the last month.

Over that stretch, 11 Warriors players have been sidelined with injuries, crippling a roster that seemed armed with an outside shot of making the playoffs on opening night just three weeks ago.

The latest blow came Saturday morning, when an MRI confirmed that D'Angelo Russell had suffered a sprained thumb, sidelining him for at least two weeks. Over his previous six games, the guard had averaged 29.7 points on 48 percent shooting from the field, including a 52-point, nine-rebound performance against Minnesota, so his absence will be felt.

That's because the Warriors are in roster transition, marked by their youthful core.

When Jordan Poole and Eric Paschall were drafted in June, the expectation was that the rookies would be brought along slowly, learning behind Golden State's battered All-Star cast. The myriad injuries changed that, though, forcing both into more minutes than initially anticipated.

While Paschall has flourished in that spot (15.6 points and 4.6 rebounds in 30.8 minutes per game), Poole has struggled. Since Curry's injury in the fourth game of the season, Poole has shot 29 percent from the field, and he has hit just five of his last 28 shots over his last two contests.

The trickle-down effect started on the eve of training camp, when Warriors general manager Bob Myers announced that center Willie Cauley-Stein would miss most of October with a foot strain. Two days later, rookie Alen Smailagic rolled his ankle and Looney strained his hamstring in the same controlled scrimmage.

Last month, Curry broke his hand, sidelining the guard until at least February. Two nights later, forward Draymond Green tore a ligament in his left index finger. On Monday, two-way guard Damion Lee fractured his hand.

Amid all those injuries, Warriors coach Steve Kerr trotted out his ninth starting lineup of the season Friday, with two-way guard Ky Bowman at the point. For a moment, it worked.

Midway through the third quarter, Bowman intercepted a pass, ran cross court and dunked over Grant Williams, cutting the Celtics' lead to three. Two minutes later, Alec Burk stripped Boston guard Brandon Wanamaker, setting up a fast-break layup that gave Golden State a brief 82-80 lead before the Celtics rallied and held on in the fourth quarter.

The Warriors' current reality is much different than their immediate past. After winning 78 percent of their games over five years, they now find themselves with a roster that lost Kevin Durant to free agency, while Curry and Klay Thompson's rehabs are expected to last until at least February. Their 2-11 record is the NBA's worst.

[RELATED: How die-hard Warriors fans can stay optimistic]

Minutes after the final buzzer Friday, there were reminders of potential hopes lost. Curry's hand swelled out of his cast as he walked near a team official. In the locker room, Paschall sported an ice pack on his right hand, and Poole reconciled an ankle injury that he said wouldn't affect him.

As the Warriors packed for another road trip, potentially with just eight healthy bodies for the foreseeable future, another reminder that the team's development is coming at a hefty price was evident.

Warriors' D'Angelo Russell out at least two weeks with right thumb sprain


Warriors' D'Angelo Russell out at least two weeks with right thumb sprain

Add another one to the list.

After leaving Friday night’s loss to the Celtics with a thumb injury, an MRI has confirmed a right thumb sprain for All-Star guard D'Angelo Russell.

Russell will not travel with the team on the upcoming four-game road trip and will be re-evaluated in two weeks.

Golden State’s already lengthy injury report adds another name, as the team now stands with just nine healthy players as the team embarks for New Orleans on Saturday to kick off the trip.