Warriors

Rio Olympics filled with star players outside of Team USA

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Rio Olympics filled with star players outside of Team USA

RIO DE JANEIRO -- From Kyrie to KD, DeMar to DeMarcus, many players on the U.S. Olympic men's basketball team are so well known to NBA fans they can simply go by first names or nicknames.

The Americans have 12 NBA players on their roster, headlined by former MVP Kevin Durant and featuring multiple All-Stars. Kyrie Irving, DeMar DeRozan and DeMarcus Cousins played on the team that won the gold medal two years ago in the Basketball World Cup.

There are plenty more players in the tournament who either are familiar faces or could soon be. There are a record 46 current NBA players set to play in the Olympics, the league said, along with 18 more former players.

"We know that there are great basketball players all over the world," U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "Over 20 percent of the NBA is international now and so there's a deep respect for the game, for the international game, and we hope that we'll be able to show that respect in the matter in which we play here in Rio de Janeiro."

A look at some players to watch when competition begins Saturday:

DARIO SARIC , CROATIA. The "will he or won't he join the 76ers" questions were as frequent as the losses last year in Philadelphia, but the team got good news in July when the former lottery pick signed with the 76ers . The 6-foot-10 forward played the last two seasons with Turkish team Anadolu Efes and looked NBA-ready when he averaged 14 points and 10 rebounds while winning MVP honors of the Olympic Qualifying Tournament that Croatia won to earn its spot in Brazil.

YI JIANLIAN , CHINA. Once so highly regarded that he was the No. 6 pick in the 2007 draft, Yi's NBA career didn't amount to much. But he remains a solid international player who was the MVP of the FIBA Asia championship last summer when his team clinched its Olympic berth, and the 7-footer scored 18 points in an exhibition game last month against the U.S., China's opening opponent on Saturday.

GUILLERMO "WILLY" HERNANGOMEZ , SPAIN. The New York Knicks noticed him while scouting Kristaps Porzingis, who was playing for the same professional team in Spain. So they acquired the rights to the 2015 second-round pick of Philadelphia and signed him last month so he could join the team next season. In the meantime, the 6-10 center gets valuable experience playing for his country while Marc Gasol is sidelined while recovering from a broken foot.

BOGDAN BOGDANOVIC , SERBIA. Not to be confused with and not related to the similar-sounding Bojan Bogdanovic, a Brooklyn Nets guard who plays for Croatia. Bogdan Bogdanovic could someday join him in the NBA, as the Sacramento Kings own his rights after a recent trade with the Phoenix Suns. He has chosen to remain in Europe at least for next season and showed the Kings what they will be missing when he had 26 points and eight assists in the championship game of the Olympic qualifying tournament the Serbians won last month.

DOMANTAS SABONIS , LITHUANIA. The son of Hall of Famer Arvydas Sabonis played for Gonzaga and after being drafted by Orlando in the first round was traded to Oklahoma City in a deal for Serge Ibaka. At 6-10, he could give the Lithuanians an imposing front line alongside the 6-11 Jonas Valanciunas of the Toronto Raptors.

PATRICIO GARINO , ARGENTINA. The San Antonio Spurs have done pretty well with an Argentine on their roster, and they added another alongside Manu Ginobili when they signed Garino last month. The 6-7 swingman scored 14.1 points per game last season in helping George Washington win the NIT championship, and playing for the Orlando Magic's summer league team averaged 12 points in three games.

Kobe Bryant memorial service has Warriors prepping for emotional day

Kobe Bryant memorial service has Warriors prepping for emotional day

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Warriors exited Chase Center on Sunday after adding another defeat to their tally, this time against the New Orleans Pelicans. But Golden State, along with the remainder of the NBA, is preparing to reckon with its toughest loss in years.

The league momentarily will come to a standstill Monday, when all eyes will fixate on Staples Center in Los Angeles for the memorial service of Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, who died last month -- along with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others -- in a helicopter crash.

Golden State pillars Draymond Green, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are expected to attend the service, along with general manager Bob Myers. But the other Warriors, armed with memories of their hero, will be left to reconcile his death in the confines of practice and search for closure in a familiar setting.

"It's going to be emotional," Warriors big man Marquese Chriss told NBC Sports Bay Area on Sunday. "I think it's going to bring back up a lot of emotions that everybody was feeling on the day that it happened. I think people aren't going to know how to feel. It's going to make it real."

The practice court serves as a unique reminder of Bryant's death. That's where the team received the news five weeks ago, just as it began pre-practice workouts.

An assistant coach relayed the initial message, and practice soon was stopped as Warriors players and staff gathered their thoughts.

"You could hear a pin drop in there," rookie forward Eric Paschall said. "It was stopped."

From the bowels of the billion-dollar basketball facility, Warriors assistant Jarron Collins walked through the adjoining weight room, up the steps and down a corridor to Chase Center's main court to tell Chriss the news. Chriss, then on a two-way contract and away from the team as to not burn his NBA service time, was floored when he heard it.

Chriss and Bryant once shared an agent, Rob Pelinka, who represented them both before he became the Lakers' general manager in 2017. The legendary Lakers guard even stopped by Chriss' college pro day at an LA-area high school ahead of the 2016 NBA Draft, bringing a buzz with him into the gym.

"It was dope to see his energy," Chriss said. "He walked into the gym, and the energy in the gym changed. He had a presence about him. Everybody wanted to talk to him, kind of pick his brain and be around him."

Similar stories are told throughout Golden State's locker room. Thompson -- whose father, Mychal, still calls Lakers games for the local radio affiliate -- met Bryant when he was a child, and he occasionally worked out with him at UC Irvine.

“He was obviously the best player in the world at the time," Thompson remembered after Bryant's final game at Oracle Arena in 2016. "I just remember watching him work out, how methodical [he was] and attention to detail he gave to every drill. It inspired me a lot.”

When Thompson was charged with marijuana possession during his junior year at Washington State, Bryant sent him an expletive-filled text.

“He said, 'Forget about that,' said it with a couple expletives and, 'Just go out there and kill,' " Thompson recounted.

“I have a potty mouth,” Bryant added that evening when asked about the exchange. “I just told him, 'Listen, man, we all make mistakes. You can’t worry about that stuff. Just keep your focus on basketball, and everything will work itself out.' "

While Thompson personally knew Bryant for much of his life, Green admired the five-time NBA champion from afar as a kid. Nonetheless, he still finds himself reconciling the loss of his idol.

"I think I'm still at the point where every time you see it, you're like, 'Damn.' Like is it a real thing?" Green said Sunday. "I don't know. Maybe tomorrow brings closure. Maybe it don't."

The topic of Bryant's memorial brought Green back to the first time he played against the guard at Oracle, which forced the forward out of his routine.

"I'm never really a guy to get star-struck," Green said. "There's two people that I've ever been star-struck by in this league, and that's Kobe and Grant Hill."

"I was finishing my pregame shooting, and Kobe was coming out," Green added. "And you have your stuff you have to do in the back when you're done shooting, and so I finished my shooting and Kobe was coming out, and I just sat on the end of the bench, and before I knew it, 20, 25 minutes had passed, and I was late as hell to finish my pregame prep, but that was just a moment for me where I was stuck like, 'Wow, I just saw Kobe work out.' "

When Green wasn't in awe of Bryant, he wanted counsel from him. Four years ago, following Green's suspension for Game 5 of the 2016 NBA Finals, he sought Bryant's advice in the wake of criticism during a time Green called "the lowest point" of his career. After hearing Green vent, Bryant responded with a message: "You’re chasing something so much bigger. How do you ever expect anyone to understand you?"

Green keeps the advice close to this day. 

"It helped me a lot," he said. "Because you kind of deal with things a certain way, and when you're dealing with things a certain way, you can only do what you think is best at the end of the day. But when you get reassurance from someone who's been through it at the highest level that the way you're dealing with something is like OK, it gives you that confidence to carry out whatever it is in the way you think it was right. It gives you that green light, like it's cool."

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Now, as his Warriors teammates say one last goodbye Monday, each will try to follow Green's credo in carrying on Bryant's legacy.

"The way you approach this game," Green said. "I think if there was anything he could ask for, that's what he would ask for. That he gave everything he had to it."

Watch Steph Curry impress in sharp pre-game warm-up as return nears

Watch Steph Curry impress in sharp pre-game warm-up as return nears

Steph Curry didn't take the floor during the Warriors' loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday. 

The injured Golden State star did beforehand, however, looking game-ready as he went through a pre-game workout. 

Curry hasn't played since breaking his left hand on Oct. 30. He was cleared for contact in practices Saturday, scrimmaging with his teammates for the first time since picking up the injury and subsequently undergoing two surgeries. The 31-year-old said Saturday that lingering nerve damage in his left hand has taken some getting used to, but that he is targeting a March 1 return

Former Warriors Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin dealt with the same injury during their NBA careers. Mullin had three separate hand surgeries during his, and he said Curry's biggest adjustment will come from playing with his teammates again.

"He practices at game pace," Mullin said of Curry on Sunday during Warriors Pregame Live. "He takes game shots all the time. His fitness will be there. It's (about) getting acclimated to the players around him, finding the spacing and the timing."

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Though Curry didn't injure his dominant hand, he relies on his left a lot to pass and when he finishes at the rim. He won't lose trust in his shot, but Richmond thinks the two-time MVP has to ensure  

"I went through that same injury [and so did] Mully," Richmond said Sunday. "It's all about confidence when you come back. ... I think, for him, he wants to find that confidence that it can be hit, and then he can come back from it." 

The Warriors owned the NBA's worst record after Sunday's loss, which clinched their third losing streak of six games or more. Curry's return won't lift Golden State out of the league's cellar, but it undoubtedly will lift his teammates' spirits in an otherwise dreary season.