Warriors

NBA rumors: LeBron James already recruiting Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler

NBA rumors: LeBron James already recruiting Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler

Say what you will about LeBron James, but he's no fool.

The three-time NBA champion knows that despite the promise his Los Angeles Lakers showed early on this season, they have a long way to go to catch the two-time defending NBA champion Warriors.

So, with a historic free-agent class set to hit the market July 1, James reportedly has already started putting in work with some of the biggest stars who will be available this offseason, ESPN's Brian Windhorst reported Thursday.

"Have you seen the Lakers' roster at the moment?" Windhorst said on "Pardon The Interruption." "I don't think LeBron is in position to be too picky. From what I understand, he has already begun the recruiting process. I've heard he has had contact with Kawhi Leonard. I've heard he's had contact with Jimmy Butler. There's no tampering enforcement with players ... LeBron is Tamperer-in-Chief of the Lakers right now."

Spicy,

Leonard and Butler are just two of the big names set to hit the market this summer. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving both are expected to opt out of their contract and become free agents, while Klay Thompson, Tobias Harris and Kemba Walker also will be available. 

The Lakers have been such a mess lately, it seems like their best options are to hope Irving wants a reunion with James or that Butler didn't enjoy playing with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons during his brief stint with the Philadelphia 76ers. 

Most expect Leonard to leave Toronto for Los Angeles, just not for the Lakers. The Clippers have long been seen as the front-runners to sign the 2014 NBA Finals MVP, but it's hard to count out the lure of playing with James and trying to bring an NBA title back to the Lakers' franchise.

Durant doesn't appear to be an option for the Lakers and most believe Thompson will re-sign with the Warriors.

Harris or Walker could be a "break glass in case of emergency" option for the Purple and Gold.

[RELATED: How KD's early Final absence affects Warriors' matchups]

If the Lakers are unable to land a marquee free agent, they will once again have to turn to the trade market as a way to try and level the playing field with Golden State.

But if the Lakers can't get LeBron the help he needs, it could be another long year in Tinseltown.

Run TMC's return reminds Warriors of what could have been for trio

Run TMC's return reminds Warriors of what could have been for trio

SAN FRANCISCO -- Two hours before the Warriors' latest loss, organizational luminaries Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin stood in a dark corner just inside the Gatehouse adjoining Chase Center.

Seconds later -- as they'd done hundreds of times before -- they came out one by one to a screaming crowd as host Greg Papa announced each by name, creating all the makings of an on-court reunion. Except it wasn't, with athletic sneakers being replaced by orthopedic soles and a microphone in place of a basketball, the legendary triumvirate began their first of four appearances on NBC Sports Bay Area this season.

"Always look forward to it," Hardaway admitted. "You know being with my guys, hanging out with them. Talking to them is just a magical moment."

As the fans surrounding them Wednesday night already know, the trio's "Run TMC" era was more known for what could've been than the end result: A core broken before its promise was met.

Seeds of Wednesday's reunion were planted more than 30 years go when Golden State picked Mullin No. 7 overall in the 1985 NBA Draft. Three years later, after the Warriors and Mullin flirted with the idea of trading the wing to the Knicks, Golden State drafted Richmond, a burly guard from Kansas State, who led the Wildcats to the 1988 Elite Eight. A year later, Hardaway -- known for his "UTEP Two-step" crossover -- was drafted to complete the trio.

Following a 37-45 first year together, a buzz began to grow around the Bay Area. To capitalize on the attention, the San Francisco Examiner sponsored a contest to name the newly christened big three. After more than 1,500 entries -- including Joint Chiefs of Stats; Blood Thirsty Gym Rats from Hell; Heat, Meat and Sweet -- a handful of names were presented to the backcourt, who picked "Run TMC", an ode to the multiplatinum Queens-based rap group Run DMC.

"You know back then it wasn't email," Mullin remembered. "They actually wrote it down and stuck it in a ballot box. And pick one out, threw away a few. We all agreed on it. It's kind of incredible how it stuck, but it was pretty cool."

Over the next six months, the group would help the Warriors build one of the most prolific offenses of all-time. In 82 games, Golden State averaged 116.6 points per contest as Richmond, Mullin and Hardaway accounted 72.5 points per game. Each player ranked in the top 20 in scoring, helping the Warriors win 44 games, securing a playoff berth as the No. 7 seed. For context on the advanced offense, the trio's scoring averaged wasn't surpassed until 2017, when Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry averaged 72.7 points per game.

In their first game of the 1991 season, the Warriors scored a league-record 162 points, beating the Denver Nuggets by four in the highest-scoring regulation game in NBA history. The key to the offense was coach Don Nelson, whose wide-open system gave the league a change of pace from the rugged style of the early 90s.

"They were a dynamic scoring trio," Warriors coach Steve Kerr remembered. "If you remember the league at that time it had gotten really physical and everybody was betting the hell out of each other and you had these three guys on the West Coast who were running around having a really good time."

The strategy worked in the first round of the NBA playoffs when the Dubs knocked off the second-seeded San Antonio Spurs in five games. But they may have cultivated their own demise a week later when they invited Run DMC on the team bus to the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Arena ahead of Game 3 of Western Conference finals against the Lakers. Days removed from a Game 2 road win at the Forum, the Queens-based group announced the Warriors starting lineup as Magic Johnson, James Worthy and the rest of the Lakers seethed on the other end of the court.

"Everybody was excited and how can we match up that hype? You know, Run TMC, let's do Run DMC, you know what I mean?" Mullin said. "So it was a perfect fit on a not a perfect night. Not at all."

The Lakers placed Johnson on Hardaway and Worthy on Mullin, who hit just 4-of-14 shots from the field after scoring 41 in Game 2. The Warriors hit just one field goal over the final 5:50 in the third quarter, as the Lakers won 115-112, taking control of a series they'd eventually win in five games. The loss was black marked by a pregame show -- like the team -- that belonged in a different era.

"Think about that man," Mullin said Wednesday. "That was ahead of its time. Now rappers are at all the games, right? So that might've pissed off the Lakers, but looking back ..."

"That's how it all started," Richmond chimed in.

Five months later, any future plans for progression imploded when Nelson traded Richmond to the Sacramento Kings in exchange for 6-foot-9 power forward Billy Owens, the third pick in the 1991 NBA Draft. The move was a result of friction between Richmond and Nelson, coupled with the league-wide assumption that a championship could not be won without a formidable frontcourt presence. It left the team in shock.

"I didn't feel that that time," Richmond said. "It was a lot of sh-t going on. I was numb."

"It was kind of tough to deal with when he got traded," Hardaway added. "That was like the beginning to the end. That was our brother, that was our family, you know, and he's getting traded away from us. You're not going to see me not hang out with him. We had a heck of a team, but it was just, it was just a void."

In the short term, the move helped Golden State. The Warriors won 55 games a year later, as Owens earned All-Rookie honors after averaging nearly 15 points per game. However, over the next 15 years, Golden State only reached the postseason once, becoming one of the worst organizations in professional sports.

"We had so much success in the years that we played together and usually when you have success with a unit like that, you tend to stick them together," Richmond said. "And so our short period of time together, we always get together and say, "What if? What if that happened?" So I know me going to Sacramento and not having these guys with me was a tough task."

[RELATED: Rehabbing Klay drills halfcourt shot at Chase Center]

Late Wednesday night, the group's impact on Golden State lore was evident. Following the player introductions, each man slapped hands with fans, played pop-a-shot on live television and discussed the current iteration of the Warriors. But like each time they come back as one, a cloud remained of a destiny unfulfilled.

"It's fun to play the 'What if?' game, especially cause you're never going to know," Mullin said. "So like tonight we're going to say we would have won five champions to the right, no doubt about that. It'll leave you scratching your head. That's part of being in it, you know?"

Warriors takeaways: What we learned in 124-122 overtime loss to Knicks

Warriors takeaways: What we learned in 124-122 overtime loss to Knicks

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO -- In the battle of the worst teams in the NBA, the Warriors came up short.

In their latest effort -- a 124-122 overtime loss to the dysfunctional Knicks (5-20) at Chase Center -- the Warriors (5-21) were bullied from the start as New York built a 22-point first-half lead. 

For much of the season, Golden State's veteran core has been warned that these types of starts will not end in its favor, considering the Warriors' lack of talent. On Wednesday, the team didn't take heed to the message, losing their second straight game. 

Here are the takeaways.

Warriors get bullied early

Bad starts have been the norm for this iteration of the Warriors and Wednesday was no different. Through the first 24 minutes, the Knicks built an 18-point halftime lead as Julius Randle, Marcus Morris Sr., and rookie RJ Barrett scored 44 points combined through the first two quarters.

The Warriors responded after halftime, outscoring the Knicks 37-21 over a stretch in the second half and showed the effort they should have put forth at the beginning of the game. D'Angelo Russell sent the game into overtime with a late 3-pointer.

In previous years, with a star-studded roster, Golden State could afford such starts with Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson looming in the wings. Now, with a younger cast, these types of starts can't happen. 

Solid game from Draymond Green

In a season he's not expected to score, Green did just that Wednesday evening, finishing with 14 points in 34 minutes. 

Playing mostly point forward role, he grabbed 10 rebounds and dished out 12 assists, helping Russell and Glenn Robinson reach double figures. With three minutes left in regulation, Green found Russell for a 3-pointer to bring the Warriors within two points. On the next possession, he grabbed a rebound, found Russell again, leading to another score to tie the game. 

This year has been a trying one for the three-time champion as he's trading wins for lessons, putting his arms around the young roster. But as he showed, Wednesday, he's still got some game. 

Eric Paschall rookie wall?

Sure looks like it after his latest output. In 17 minutes, Paschall finished with just six points on 2-of-6 from the field. Entering Wednesday, he was one of the best rookies in the league. However, he's shooting just 39 percent from the field over his last three games as a hip injury is impeding his progress. 

In Wednesday's loss, he was battered, frequently grimacing, even after jamming his hand. 

No matter how good Paschall was at the start of the season, a rookie wall was inevitable. His response in the coming days will be vital.