Kawhi Leonard out for Game 3 vs Warriors


Kawhi Leonard out for Game 3 vs Warriors

SAN ANTONIO -- Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard will not face the Warriors in Game 3 of Western Conference Finals on Saturday night at AT&T Center.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich made the announcement prior San Antonio’s Saturday morning shootaround.

“In the end, I guess it’s my decision,” Popovich told reporters. “He’s not thrilled that he’s not playing. But he’s not ready, so we’re not going to play him.”

Leonard came into the series with a sprained left ankle, sustained against the Houston Rockets in the conference semifinals. The injury was aggravated in the third quarter of Game 1 at Oracle Arena and he did not play in Game 2 on Tuesday.

The Spurs started Jonathan Simmons at small forward in Game 2.

Warriors' Kevon Looney, Damian Jones pass first test with flying colors

Warriors' Kevon Looney, Damian Jones pass first test with flying colors

OAKLAND -- If the performances of Tuesday night are a preview of what to expect until December or January or whenever DeMarcus Cousins is cleared to play, the Warriors need not worry much about their young big men.

Which would be a massive relief, insofar as the primary players around youngsters Damian Jones and Kevon Looney have established credentials as productive professionals, if not All-Stars.

“He has an extreme amount of potential, and we’re trying to unlock that this year,” Stephen Curry said of Jones.

Jones played 174 minutes in his first two NBA seasons. Making his first start on opening night, he played 27 minutes and acquitted himself very well, finishing with 12 points (on 6-of-7 shooting from the field), three rebounds, three blocks and two assists in a 108-100 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Kevon Looney, the other half of the young center combo, played 18 minutes, totaling 10 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and two blocks. He was a team-best plus-23.

Getting 22 points, 13 rebounds, five blocks and four assists out of Jones and Looney is welcome performance, surely more than the Warriors could have expected.

“DJ was great,” head coach Steve Kerr said. “He gave us exactly what we would have hoped: the lob threat, the presence inside and the ability to battle a great center in Steven Adams. He put his size up against him and battled him.

“Kevon was fantastic, too. He came off the bench and gave us great minutes. Those two guys were really, really key.”

The Warriors can’t know what they’re getting from Jones because he is so inexperienced. They at least have an idea with Looney, who played big minutes in crucial postseason games last spring en route to the Warriors winning a second straight championship.

What’s certain is that the Warriors have to rely on them. The 30-something veterans that dominated the minutes at center last season -- JaVale McGee, Zaza Pachulia and David West -- are no longer on the roster.

It’s up to Jones, 23, and Looney, 22, and Jordan Bell, 23, to deliver.

“We had veterans that played those positions last year,” Kevin Durant said. “You had Loon, a younger guy, learning from D-West, Zaza and JaVale.

“But this season we’ve got young guys anchoring that spot. With Steven Adams contesting everything at the rim, getting off the body of the bigs, it allowed us to get offensive rebounds. And Loon was great at rebounding the basketball for us and making plays, kicking out for wide-open 3s. He could have gotten five or six assists, with so many open shots he got for us.”

Looney’s eight offensive rebounds accounted for exactly half the Warriors’ total.

Jones, with a pair of blocks inside the final five minutes of the game, including one on Adams in the paint, thwarted a couple Thunder opportunities -- and issued a warning to the rest of the NBA.

The Warriors may be young in the middle, but don’t mistake that for being passive or naïve to the ways of the league.

It was one night, against a solid opponent, but there is reason to believe the Warriors will be OK at center, so OK that the youngsters will deserve minutes even when Cousins does return.

Warriors' long goodbye to Oakland starts by honoring past with eye to future

Warriors' long goodbye to Oakland starts by honoring past with eye to future

OAKLAND -- This was the 2,022nd Warriors game in Oakland since Franklin Mieuli first experimented with the concept of a regional franchise, and nobody is likely to commemorate the first -- March 1, 1963, at the old Oakland Auditorium by Lake Merritt against the Cincinnati Royals, who now are the Sacramento Kings.

See how history works with the Warriors? When it comes to what they do, they are exemplary. When it comes to where they do it, they hamster-wheel with the best of them. The past is vague, the present is all too real.

Beginning with Tuesday night’s 108-100 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder in their final season opener in the Nickel-Dime -- at least until Joe Lacob decides he needs a new arena to service his East Bay constituents in 2035. Given that the night was marked by championship rings, and banners were distributed and displayed for all to see, as well as another Warriors win that had a few flaws to go with a lot of upticks.

But there also was a pensive atmosphere that comes from knowing that the place where the memories were made soon will be a memory itself. It was a festival of the fabulous (the new rings have everything but a mini-fridge), the familiar (the new banner looks like the two others, a hat-tip to the hobgoblin of conformity) and the fleeting (those half-centuries just fly right by, don’t they?).

This Oakland’s-Last-Time won’t be a running theme, mind you. The Warriors have more of the bidness to do, and the opener showed both rust and resourcefulness on both sides.

Stephen Curry had 32 points, nine assists and eight rebounds in 36 minutes to more than negate the first of what likely will be several miserable shooting nights by Klay Thompson. Kevin Durant always was in evidence, if not always in rhythm. Paul George started slowly for Oklahoma City but rallied to make the Thunder competitive in the second half despite Russell Westbrook's absence. And Kevon Looney and Damian Jones combined (22 points, 13 rebounds in 44 minutes) to make one excellent center.

But the game also was a cavalcade of rubbery legs and burning lungs, typical of an opening night in a new and pacier game. The Warriors didn’t spend as much time on the pregame hoopdeblah as they have in the past, and they started the actual game quickly, but as coach Steve Kerr said: “We could have been up 16 or 18 at halftime; they weren't shooting at all. But we let our guard down, we turned the ball over and we didn't rebound. We’re not in shape yet. I don't think either team is. That’s not going out on a limb there.”

It also could have been the ennui of the moment, given that the theme du jour outside the huddle was “This is the Warriors’ last (fill in your favorite development here) in Oakland.” The Chase Center is on schedule, damnably so for the East Bay customer base, so this will be a conversation point before and during games like these, in which neither team either was at full strength or at full throttle.

There is a sense that shoes are about to drop with this franchise, and the comfort of having the best team in familiar digs is about to be turned on its head. There is but one more regular season to enjoy and endure to revel in and kvetch about before the free agency hydra comes calling, and the moving fans pull up to the loading dock for a place whose NBA history is, well, kind of ethereal.

The Warriors have seen a lot of local-ish ports of call since leaving Philadelphia in 1962, and they have not marked their travels all that specifically. They’ve played home (or glorified neutral-site) games in San Jose and Bakersfield and Sacramento and Richmond and Phoenix and Eugene and Seattle and Fresno and San Diego and Salt Lake City.

More intriguingly, their travels have been so varied and sporadically delineated that with their move to San Francisco only a year away (give or take the odd construction delay), nobody either inside or outside the organization actually knows the last time they played a game inside The City limits -- and we do mean “The CITY.”

You see, the Cow Palace isn’t in San Francisco proper but Daly City, just outside the city and county line, and box scores from the era are a little thereadbare not only on statistics but basic geography. We believe the last game played in actual tax-paying San Francisco was in March 1971 against Detroit at Civic Auditorium -- now Bill Graham Civic Auditorium -- but nobody can verify it.

It will become important at some point to someone, but for the moment, there is this moment. The Warriors have one last championship to reach (they could become just the second team ever to reach five consecutive NBA Finals) and one last championship to win in Oakland, combined with two, three and eventually four new centers joining a familiar cast of megastars. Everything is as it was.

Until it isn’t.