Warriors

Marquese Chriss could be Warriors' best reclamation project in 15 years

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USATSI

Marquese Chriss could be Warriors' best reclamation project in 15 years

SAN FRANCISCO – Marquese Chriss came to the Warriors barely two weeks ago as someone who had been with three franchises in three years but was unable to forge a bond with any of them. Which led to the lazy conclusion:

With such tremendous size and superior athleticism, there must be something else that turned off his previous employers.

Now that he’s set to officially join the Warriors, more than a week after his addition to the team was obvious, Chriss is facing the last best chance to reinvent himself and his image. To shred the narrative that followed the 6-foot-10, 240-pound Sacramento native to the Bay Area.

Beginning next week, when the NBA season opens, Chriss will have plenty of opportunities to show everyone why, at age 18, he was deemed worthy of a lottery pick, No. 8 overall, in 2016.

It’s conceivable, perhaps likely, that Chriss, now 22, will be the opening-night starting center for a Warriors franchise that has been the league’s most successful over the past five years.

“Marquese will definitely be out there opening night,” coach Steve Kerr said before tipoff against the Lakers in the preseason finale Friday night at Chase Center.

Though Kerr did not declare a starter, Chriss is the only person competing for the spot that has been healthy and productive this preseason.

Now, though, he has to turn it up. These next few weeks, when he will be given more opportunity than in any of his first three seasons, represent his crossroads. Because he is on a team with an established culture of winning – and with a high tolerance for individuality – Chriss is perfectly positioned to fully resuscitate his NBA career.

“He already has made the most of the opportunity,” Kerr said. “He’s a great young man. He’s really been fun to coach. He’s eager to learn. He’s very talented athletically, can run and jump and really move. He’s advanced as a passer; I wasn’t aware of how well he could screen and pass at the top of the key. That’s been probably been the highlight for us, watching him and how effective he is in that spot.

“The biggest growth has to come defensively.”

While Chriss is willing to mix it up in the paint and make efforts to protect the rim, he is following the likes of Andrew Bogut, Draymond Green and Kevon Looney as hubs of the defense. Chriss also is being asked to become a younger, more roundly skilled JaVale McGee.

Chriss is getting plenty of help from teammates and coaches trying to nudge him toward that level. Assistant coaches Ron Adams and Jarron Collins have been putting him through drill. Green has been in his ear, barking and guiding him.

The idea is that he can help immediately. There is no knowing when center Willie Cauley-Stein, out for the entire preseason, will be able to play. Looney has missed two weeks and is scheduled to resume scrimmaging in the coming days. Omari Spellman missed the game Wednesday with back soreness but should be OK for opening night.

Chriss, with his package of skills, is worth a peek ahead for the Warriors. Only three players on the roster – Stephen Curry, D’Angelo Russell and Cauley-Stein – are higher draft picks.

“It’s exciting to think about Marquese as a prospect for us for the future. We haven’t had a high draft pick here in seven or eight years. To get a 22-year-old who was a high lottery pick, it means a lot, adding that kind of talent to the roster. . ..”

“If it’s a good fit for both sides and we can figure out a way to make it work, and he were to continue to develop, it’s a really exciting thought that he could be part of our group for years to come. That would be the hope. And I think that would be something both sides would be thrilled with.

“But there’s a lot of work ahead.”

If that work is completed and Chriss becomes a starting-caliber NBA center, it will be the franchise’s biggest reclamation-project success since 2005, when then-GM Chris Mullin traded Speedy Claxton and Dale Davis to New Orleans for Baron Davis.

[RELATED: Chriss grateful for Warriors opportunity]

Despite still being in his chronological prime, Davis was thought by some to past his NBA peak. He had a history of injuries. He was disgruntled in New Orleans. Yet he was a gamble the Warriors, given their lowly status, had to take. It lifted the entire organization for several years.

While Chriss lacks the resume and NBA credibility BD brought to the Bay, he’s also nearly four years younger. And the Warriors are in a much different place on league’s status list.

Chriss is not in position to alter the course of the franchise, but he can alter the trajectory of his career. The Warriors can celebrate themselves in an entirely new way if he does.

Warriors' hard work finally 'rewarded' with skid-busting win in Memphis

Warriors' hard work finally 'rewarded' with skid-busting win in Memphis

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- For much of the young season, the Warriors have been in search of a small piece of continuity. 

With three of its four All-Star pieces out due to injury, the quest has been arduous for the Warriors, leading to the team's longest losing streak in since 2012. 

Those troubles momentarily paused when the Warriors beat the Grizzlies 114-95 on Tuesday to snap a seven-game losing streak while validating the progress the team has made in recent weeks. 

"I'm happy for the guys," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "They've been playing hard and working hard and It's good to see them rewarded."

Tuesday's win comes as the Warriors have played just well enough to lose in recent games. In Friday's loss to the Celtics, the team held the Eastern Conference leaders to just 40 percent from the field, with Boston guard Kemba Walker making just 6 of his 19 shots. Two days later, the Warriors held the battered Pelicans to 41 percent from the field, before losing 108-100. Entering Tuesday, the team allowed teams to shoot just 41.1 percent over their last two outings. 

Keeping with a recent trend, Golden State held the Grizzlies to just 40 percent from the field and forcing 14 turnovers. Rookie of the Year candidate Ja Morant struggled much, making just 7-of-20 from the field as the Warriors diversified its defensive sets for most of the night. 

"We came out and competed hard and executed the gameplan like we talked about and I'm proud of the guys," Warriors forward Glenn Robinson said. "I knew it was coming because of the way we played, we're trying to play hard and play the right way." 

"I think we just challenged ourselves," Warriors forward Draymond Green added. "That's something we've talked a lot about, getting better on the defensive end and we've been stepping up to the challenge." 

For much of the season, the team's defensive woes have coincided with its uncommon rash of injuries. The trend started on the eve of training camp when the Warriors announce 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. 

In the last month, Curry broke his hand, sidelining the guard until at least February. Two nights later, forward Green tore a ligament in his left index finger. Last week, two-way guard Damion Lee fractured his hand. All the while, one of the league's most vaunted defense has plummeted to last in the league. 

Even as injuries mounted, signs of promise were apparent around the locker room. Rookie Eric Paschall is averaging 16.7 points and 4.8 rebounds, including a 30-point performance in Sunday's loss to the Pelicans. Veteran guard Alec Burk -- who signed a one-year contract with the team last summer -- is averaging 13.5 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 11 games. 

"The great thing with these guys is they've stayed with it every step of the way," Kerr said. "They haven't taken a day off, they haven't stopped working." 

[RELATED: Warriors get good news on Looney, Smailagic]

"You can definitely see that there's some improvement," Green added. "And with the improvement, we've been talking after each game about 'We're getting there, we're getting there, just keep on working.'" 

While their recent play has been promising, the real progress will be dictated by what the Warriors have been about for nearly a decade. 

"We've also been talking about don't get comfortable with just being there," Green said. "Don't get comfortable with 'Hey we're getting better.' Let's try to make this 'Hey, we're getting better' equal some wins."

Warriors takeaways: What we learned in 114-95 win over Grizzlies

Warriors takeaways: What we learned in 114-95 win over Grizzlies

BOX SCORE

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- For much of the season, the Warriors have been searching for a complete performance amid an unusual amount of injuries. 

They achieved that goal Friday evening, beating the Memphis Grizzlies 114-95 at FedEx Forum with nine inactive players. 

In its best performance of the season, the Warriors used a big second quarter to blow the game open. Rookie Eric Paschall finished with 17 points, aiding an offense carried by Alec Burks, finishing off an impressive bounce-back performance after losing to New Orleans Sunday evening.

Here are the takeaways from Tuesday night 

Alec Burks

After signing a one-year deal last summer, Burks has used his time with the Warriors to revitalize a once-promising career. On Tuesday, he continued towards that goal, scoring 29 points and grabbing eight rebounds in 36 minutes. 

Despite missing all of training camp with an ankle injury, Burks has become a dependable scorer, averaging 13.5 points through 11 games. Two weeks ago in Houston, he scored 28 points, adding eight rebounds, showing his promise. 

Burks seemed destined for big things after the Jazz selected him No. 12 overall in the 2011 NBA Draft. Through his first five seasons, he averaged 10.6 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. However, a series of stress fractures limited Burks to just 100 games from 2014 through 2016, and he has not played in more than 75 games in a season since 2013-14. 

But if he continues to play at his current level, he could not only revitalize his career, but play his way into a lucrative deal.   

Defense

Keeping with a recent trend, the Warriors were stout defensively Tuesday evening, holding the Grizzlies to just 40 percent from the field and forcing 14 turnovers. 

Grizzlies Rookie of the Year candidate Ja Morant struggled all night, making just 7-of-20 from the field as the Warriors diversified its defensive sets for most of the night. On occasion, they'd switch from a traditional man-to-man sets to a 2-3 zone. 

The performance is on par with Golden State's output of late. Entering Tuesday, the team allowed teams to shoot just 41.1 percent over their last two outings. 

While the Warriors have shown improvement, Tuesday's performance did highlight the team's need for a frontcourt presence as the Grizzlies outscored them 52-46 in the paint.

[RELATED: Looney, Smailagic clearned for on-court work]

Second-quarter magic

For years, the Warriors have used big runs to blow games wide open. Despite not having most of its All-Star core, Golden State gave a glimpse of the past. 

After Memphis took a two-point lead following the first quarter, Golden State outscored Memphis 33-16 in the second quarter. Alec Burks scored 10 of his game-high 29 points as the Warriors held Memphis to just 36 percent in the first half. 

Following Tuesday's shootaround, Warriors coach Steve Kerr cited that the team is finally getting comfortable playing with each other despite Golden State's myriad of injuries. If the team can keep up the recent trend, it will bode well for their development as its stars rehab.