LeBron James isn't 'same animal' about winning, David Griffin believes

LeBron James isn't 'same animal' about winning, David Griffin believes

By now, you know the set up for the upcoming NBA season. 

The Warriors, fresh off five straight NBA Finals appearances, are wounded, limping into the new campaign without Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and DeMarcus Cousins. Klay Thompson is recovering from a torn ACL and is expected to be out until at least the All-Star break.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Western Conference got better. Anthony Davis joined LeBron James with the Lakers. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George teamed up on the Clippers, Russell Westbrook now is a Rocket and Mike Conley now calls Utah home. 

With the Warriors licking their wounds, many expect James and the Lakers to battle the Clippers for conference supremacy. 

Will James, fresh off his first missed postseason since 2005, still have the same juice he used to? Current Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations and former Cavaliers general manager David Griffin has his doubts. In a wide-ranging conversation with Sports Illustrated's Jake Fischer, Griffin noted how James' drive appeared to dissipate after he and the Cavs beat the Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals.

"There wasn’t a lot else for him,” Griffin told Fisher of James' mindset after that title. “I don’t think he’s the same animal anymore about winning.”

James has faced criticism of late, with a number of people proposing that he only joined the Lakers due to his desire to live in Southern California and that his play in Year 1 with the Lakers showed he no longer craved a title run as he once did. 

[RELATED: Klay thinks Warriors have many years of title contention ahead]

The three-time NBA champion will have a chance to prove Griffin and the rest of his doubters wrong this season. With Griffin trading Davis to the Lakers, James now has the co-star he was missing last season and a roster that is better suited to form a title-contender around him.

At 34 years old, James and the Lakers will need to manage his load in order to keep him healthy for what LA hopes is a lengthy postseason run. If he's healthy come playoff time, we'll see if James still has that winning drive when he and the Lakers face the likes of the Clippers, Warriors and Rockets with the title hanging in the balance.

Steph Curry admits he wanted Knicks to draft him instead of Warriors

Steph Curry admits he wanted Knicks to draft him instead of Warriors

Well this certainly is going to ruin the day for Knicks fans everywhere.

On the most recent episode of Showtime's "All the Smoke" with Stephen Jackson and Matt Barnes, Warriors superstar Steph Curry made one thing explicitly clear.

"I wanted to go to New York and thought I was going to New York," the three-time NBA champion said. "At the draft -- in the green room -- like, 'Oh, get to the eight spot and New York can get me.'

"And then I got the call from (then Warriors GM) Larry Riley, like 'We're going to pick you in the seventh spot.'"

Over the years, we've read stories about how Curry's father, Dell, and his agent, Jeff Austin, didn't want Curry to land in Golden State. But I don't think we have heard it straight from the two-time NBA MVP himself.

Here's an excerpt from a May 2015 article by Marc Spears, who worked for Yahoo at the time:

Riley also liked that Curry was the son of a successful and respected ex-NBA player. Riley sold then-Warriors coach Don Nelson on Curry as well. Austin and Dell Curry still tried to keep the Warriors away from Stephen Curry. But Austin told then-Knicks president Donnie Walsh that unless they could trade up, he expected Golden State to draft Curry. Austin said Walsh didn't believe him because the Warriors already had guard Monta Ellis.

"I said, 'Larry, I like you a lot and respect you a lot, but don't take Steph. This is not the right place for him,' " Austin said. "We wanted him in New York."

Said Riley: "Dell was the same way. He was almost cold."

If Curry ended up in the Big Apple, you never know how things would have turned out. But Knicks fans, of course, will tell you the franchise would have won multiple titles by now (which is entirely possible).

[RELATEDCurry unveils story behind why the Wolves didn't draft him]

Let's end this by reminding everybody that Curry's career high came on Feb. 27, 2013 when he scored 54 points against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

Warriors fans should thank Larry Riley every day.

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Warriors' frustrations bubbling to surface after team reaches new low

Warriors' frustrations bubbling to surface after team reaches new low

SAN FRANCISCO -- The hope is that Stephen Curry returns sometime after the All-Star break and, even before he has a chance to shoot holes through a defense, gives the Warriors a few elements they desperately need.

That is, at the most optimistic, at least 10 games away. Realistically, more like 15.

Meanwhile, the Warriors are facing the stiff headwinds that blow during the dog days of January. They’re stumbling. Tumbling. They’ve lost 12 of their last 13 games, and their showing Wednesday night may have been the most fretful yet.

In the course of being thrashed, 129-96, by the Utah Jazz, there were too many moments when the despair was profoundly evident. Flat-footed and often careless on defense. A lack of passion and purpose on both ends. And, of course, moments of frustration.

“When you’re losing a lot of games and you’re beaten up, it’s not easy,” coach Steve Kerr said. “We’ve lost 12 of 13. It’s no fun. Draymond (Green) got a technical for slamming the ball down and I guess the official (fourth-year ref Jacyn Goble) had to call it.

“Draymond came over and said, ‘You don’t think I’m frustrated?’ And the official said, ‘I know you’re frustrated, but I still have to call it.

“That’s how we feel. We’re frustrated. And I’m frustrated.”

With young players forced to learn in real-time, veterans trying to produce while also tutoring and coaches biting their tongues, a perfect storm of wretchedness has descended upon the franchise that spent most of the past five years as the boss of the NBA.

Draymond submits another line (five points, four rebounds, two assists) uncharacteristic of his career and also is assessed his 12th technical foul in 33 games.

D’Angelo Russell scores 26 points, but generally gazes as drivers whoosh by and rebounds float past his ear.

Willie Cauley-Stein shoots 0-for-5 and stands motionless as Rudy Gobert swoops in for a dunk.

Rookie Jordan Poole shoots 0-for-6 and is showing signs of regression after four encouraging games.

“It’s tough,” Russell said. “We’re playing the cards that we’re dealt. It’s not easy winning in this league. But what you can do is continue to compete, continue to learn what you do well as an individual, what you can be better at as an individual and then, hopefully, that can be part of meshing with the other guys on the team.”

There have been nights when this was apparent. Remember the four-game win streak last month that included a double-digit win over Houston? The Warriors took Denver into overtime last week before being derailed by their shortcomings, and then beat Orlando two nights later.

There was no sign of such progress Wednesday, much less any chance of upsetting a Jazz team playing better than anybody in the league.

It looked as if the Warriors saw defeat coming and surrendered to it.

“We don’t have a consistent effort,” Russell conceded.

“They are a great team,” Glenn Robinson III said. “They move the ball and play together. I think that we can learn a lot of things from them.”

Hmm. Might that be a subtle hint that some of those zero-pass possessions D-Lo seems to manufacture several times a game might be counterproductive?

There was a lot of talk about the young guys -- rookies Eric Paschall and Poole, and second-year guard Jacob Evans III -- needing time to adjust to the ways of the NBA, its physicality and demanding schedule. And while there is some truth to that, the Warriors on this night and a few others have fallen victim to their own inertia.

[RELATED: Outsider Observations: Stop comparing Paschall to Draymond]

Maybe it crested against the Jazz, who outrebounded the Warriors 56-37 and drained 11 more 3-pointers (17-6) while shooting 53.8 percent from the field. Utah missed 11 free throws and still won by 33.

Kerr used the term “demoralized” several times after the game, and it seemed fitting to the effort. But it’s Game No. 46, and it must be played. Then, too, the checks still cash.

“It’s no fun losing,” Kerr said. “But you have to go out and we have another game in two days and you have to keep pushing and keep plugging away.

“Nobody is going to feel sorry for us, especially after the last five years.”