Warriors

Steph Curry, Buddy Hield are betting favorites to win NBA 3-Point Contest

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USATSI

Steph Curry, Buddy Hield are betting favorites to win NBA 3-Point Contest

The 3-Point Contest became the highlight of NBA All-Star Weekend sometime in the last handful of years. This season, that promises to remain the case.

With a loaded field that boasts names such as Steph and Seth Curry, defending champion Devin Booker, Damian Lillard, Buddy Hield, Kemba Walker, Dirk Nowitzki and more, it'll overshadow all other events as the most anticipated competition of the annual showcase.

It's a stacked group. You have the best shooter in league history in Curry -- Steph, that is. Seth isn't too shabby either, as evidenced by his 48.5 percent shooting from 3-point range so far this season. Booker has already proven capable of winning the event. 

Lillard holds the NBA record for most 3-pointers in the first three seasons of a career, although Hield -- who ranks fourth in the league in 3-point makes with 183 -- is on pace to break it later this year. Walker is right behind Hield in fifth with 170 makes, and he's the host. Nowitzki might be the most prolific shooting 7-footer in the history of basketball, and this is his chance to go out on top.

All of this is to say, it's anyone's game. But, naturally, some entrants are favored more so than others.

It's no surprise that Steph Curry has the best odds to win the event, as he's already done so in 2015, and he'll surely want to put on a strong performance in his former hometown.

[RELATED: Curry on brother: Seth is 'going to try to whoop my a--']

Hield isn't far behind (in terms of betting odds) though, and that speaks to his rapid ascendance over the last one-and-a-half seasons in the pantheon of great NBA shooters.

He could make a statement to move further up that group with a winning performance at All-Star Weekend in Charlotte. But don't expect Curry (either of them) -- or anyone else for that matter -- to make it easy on him.

Warriors' Willie Cauley-Stein explains origin of his mouthguard grills

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USATSI

Warriors' Willie Cauley-Stein explains origin of his mouthguard grills

When Warriors center Willie Cauley-Stein smiles on the court, he puts the gold in Golden State. His teeth shine with customized mouthguards that look like grills. 

“I ain’t think it would look that good, but they looked real," Cauley-Stein described. "They fit real."

The grills are standard plastic mouthguards, embellished with extra bling created by a jeweler friend who makes specialized pieces for athletes. They’re molded in a tray, just like braces.

Cauley-Stein has been wearing a real grill since college. He keeps up the look at work with a collection of mouthguard grills in rose gold, white gold and crystal, all marked with two X’s. 

The two X’s are for a friend who passed away this summer. “His name is Rexx, two X’s, so I’m carrying that on,” Cauley-Stein explained. 

[RELATED: Slew of Warriors injuries hinders young core's development]

He also has two X’s tattooed over his left eye. Cauley-Stein’s skin is a canvas of tattoos that tell the story of his life. The gleam on his teeth gives him one more way to stand out. 

“A lotta people are like, ‘This dude doesn’t care about hoops, he’s got a freakin’ grill in his mouth!’ But it’s a mouthpiece!” he exclaimed. 

Warriors’ still-mounting injuries a big blow to young players’ development

Warriors’ still-mounting injuries a big blow to young players’ development

SAN FRANCISCO -- In the waning moments of the Warriors' latest loss Friday night, their bench resembled the front row of a fashion show more than a functioning NBA roster.

Toward the end of the bench, All-Star guard Stephen Curry sat in a black suit jacket, covering a massive cast protecting his broken left hand. To Curry's left, center Kevon Looney sat in a gray suit, his immediate future in peril as he continues to seek answers about an injured hamstring.

That type of visual has become commonplace over the last month.

Over that stretch, 11 Warriors players have been sidelined with injuries, crippling a roster that seemed armed with an outside shot of making the playoffs on opening night just three weeks ago.

The latest blow came Saturday morning, when an MRI confirmed that D'Angelo Russell had suffered a sprained thumb, sidelining him for at least two weeks. Over his previous six games, the guard had averaged 29.7 points on 48 percent shooting from the field, including a 52-point, nine-rebound performance against Minnesota, so his absence will be felt.

That's because the Warriors are in roster transition, marked by their youthful core.

When Jordan Poole and Eric Paschall were drafted in June, the expectation was that the rookies would be brought along slowly, learning behind Golden State's battered All-Star cast. The myriad injuries changed that, though, forcing both into more minutes than initially anticipated.

While Paschall has flourished in that spot (15.6 points and 4.6 rebounds in 30.8 minutes per game), Poole has struggled. Since Curry's injury in the fourth game of the season, Poole has shot 29 percent from the field, and he has hit just five of his last 28 shots over his last two contests.

The trickle-down effect started on the eve of training camp, when Warriors general manager Bob Myers announced that center 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.

Last month, Curry broke his hand, sidelining the guard until at least February. Two nights later, forward Draymond Green tore a ligament in his left index finger. On Monday, two-way guard Damion Lee fractured his hand.

Amid all those injuries, Warriors coach Steve Kerr trotted out his ninth starting lineup of the season Friday, with two-way guard Ky Bowman at the point. For a moment, it worked.

Midway through the third quarter, Bowman intercepted a pass, ran cross court and dunked over Grant Williams, cutting the Celtics' lead to three. Two minutes later, Alec Burk stripped Boston guard Brandon Wanamaker, setting up a fast-break layup that gave Golden State a brief 82-80 lead before the Celtics rallied and held on in the fourth quarter.

The Warriors' current reality is much different than their immediate past. After winning 78 percent of their games over five years, they now find themselves with a roster that lost Kevin Durant to free agency, while Curry and Klay Thompson's rehabs are expected to last until at least February. Their 2-11 record is the NBA's worst.

[RELATED: How die-hard Warriors fans can stay optimistic]

Minutes after the final buzzer Friday, there were reminders of potential hopes lost. Curry's hand swelled out of his cast as he walked near a team official. In the locker room, Paschall sported an ice pack on his right hand, and Poole reconciled an ankle injury that he said wouldn't affect him.

As the Warriors packed for another road trip, potentially with just eight healthy bodies for the foreseeable future, another reminder that the team's development is coming at a hefty price was evident.