Warriors

Trail Blazers waive former Warriors center Festus Ezeli

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AP

Trail Blazers waive former Warriors center Festus Ezeli

It's safe to say that things have gone completely opposite of what Festus Ezeli expected over the last year. 

After signing a two-year, $15 million deal last offseason to join Portland, Ezeli has been waived by the Trail Blazers, this according to the team's Twitter account. 

In August of 2016, Ezeli was ruled out for six weeks after undergoing a left knee infection, but two months later, he suffered a setback after the knee swole up.

His recovery got worse and in March of 2017, Ezeli underwent surgery on his left knee and was ruled out for the entire 2016–17 season.

Ezeli played three seasons with the Warriors, winning an NBA title in 2014-15. He averaged four points and four rebounds a game during his time with Golden State. 

Warriors' talent masked sloppy mistakes in season-opening win over OKC

Warriors' talent masked sloppy mistakes in season-opening win over OKC

OAKLAND -- Missed shots, open looks coming up empty. Passes into crowds, sometimes at the feet of 7-footers, becoming turnovers. And then there was the dribbling, one man sometimes reducing four teammates to passive observation.

That was the Warriors on Tuesday night, getting away with being far less than their usual selves and still winning a game they tried to give away.

“It happens,” Stephen Curry said after the Warriors peeled scratched out a 108-100 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“But you can’t get bored of winning, and finding ways to finish it out. It’s the NBA. A win is a win. We’ve got to call out those mistakes as we try to get better.”

Draymond Green, trying too had to create something special rather than settle for the basic, committed six of the team’s 20 turnovers. Though he grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds, he didn’t dodge his miscues.

“We turned the ball over a ton, myself being Exhibit A, just kind of forcing it,” Green said. “We’ve got to let the game come to us. Hit singles, not home runs. When we do that, the home run play just seems to happen. You’ve got to let it happen and like I said, that will come with time and in getting in more of a rhythm.”

The Warriors at times looked like a team of strangers -- or imposters. Klay Thompson, scorching the nets in preseason, missed 15 of his 20 shots, and seven of his eight attempts from beyond the arc.

“We kept shooting ourselves in the foot with turnovers,” Kevin Durant said. “Then Klay . . . when is Klay going to miss that many open threes?”

Most of the third quarter, when the Warriors typically give opponents 12 minutes of hellfire, was a disaster. Their 10-point halftime lead (57-47) was gone in less than four minutes, the Thunder opening the second half with a 22-9 burst, forcing Kerr to call a timeout with the Warriors trailing 69-66 and 7:16 left in the quarter.

“They came out attacking us and we were kind of on our heels,” Green said. “That’s a very good basketball team over there. They started making shots and were feeling good. We had several chances in that first half where we probably should have went up 20 points, and we didn’t. Turnovers, offensive rebounds. They were only down 10 at half and they came out swinging.”

The Warriors didn’t really find themselves. They were dribbling when they usually move the ball. They were standing still when they usually are moving. They were rushing up shots when they’re usually passing teams silly.

“We had a lot of mistakes,” Curry said. “They played well, especially in the third quarter trying to make it interesting. We understand the process of building up, we have a lot of things to work on, details both offensively and defensively, but a win is a win. Got to keep it moving.”

The Warriors, simply on their wealth of gifts subdued a Thunder team that was without starting guards Russell Westbrook (R knee arthroscopic surgery) and Andre Roberson (L patellar tendon surgery).

So, to be clear, OKC’s performance was more about pluck than talent.

As for the Warriors, they were precisely as not advertised. Kerr has been indicating that the first couple weeks could look choppy. Game 1 surely did, and they’ll have to be better to have success when going on the road this weekend. 

Warriors' Kevon Looney, Damian Jones pass first test with flying colors

Warriors' Kevon Looney, Damian Jones pass first test with flying colors

OAKLAND -- If the performances of Tuesday night are a preview of what to expect until December or January or whenever DeMarcus Cousins is cleared to play, the Warriors need not worry much about their young big men.

Which would be a massive relief, insofar as the primary players around youngsters Damian Jones and Kevon Looney have established credentials as productive professionals, if not All-Stars.

“He has an extreme amount of potential, and we’re trying to unlock that this year,” Stephen Curry said of Jones.

Jones played 174 minutes in his first two NBA seasons. Making his first start Tuesday on opening night, he played 27 minutes and acquitted himself very well, finishing with 12 points (on 6-of-7 shooting from the field), three rebounds, three blocks and two assists in a 108-100 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Kevon Looney, the other half of the young center combo, played 18 minutes, totaling 10 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and two blocks. He was a team-best plus-23.

Getting 22 points, 13 rebounds, five blocks and four assists out of Jones and Looney is a welcome performance -- surely more than the Warriors could have expected.

“DJ was great,” coach Steve Kerr said. “He gave us exactly what we would have hoped: the lob threat, the presence inside and the ability to battle a great center in Steven Adams. He put his size up against him and battled him.

“Kevon was fantastic, too. He came off the bench and gave us great minutes. Those two guys were really, really key.”

The Warriors can’t know what they’re getting from Jones because he is so inexperienced. They at least have an idea with Looney, who played big minutes in crucial postseason games last spring en route to the Warriors winning a second consecutive NBA championship.

What’s certain is that the Warriors have to rely on them. The 30-something veterans who dominated the minutes at center last season -- JaVale McGee, Zaza Pachulia and David West -- no longer are on the roster.

It’s up to Jones, 23, and Looney, 22, and Jordan Bell, 23, to deliver.

“We had veterans that played those positions last year,” Kevin Durant said. “You had Loon, a younger guy, learning from D-West, Zaza and JaVale.

“But this season we’ve got young guys anchoring that spot. With Steven Adams contesting everything at the rim, getting off the body of the bigs, it allowed us to get offensive rebounds. And Loon was great at rebounding the basketball for us and making plays, kicking out for wide-open 3s. He could have gotten five or six assists, with so many open shots he got for us.”

Looney’s eight offensive rebounds accounted for exactly half the Warriors’ total.

Jones, with two blocks inside the final five minutes of the game, including one on Adams in the paint, thwarted a couple Thunder opportunities -- and issued a warning to the rest of the NBA.

The Warriors are young in the middle, but don’t mistake that for being passive or naïve to the ways of the league.

It was one night, against a solid opponent, but there is reason to believe the Warriors will be OK at center -- so OK that the youngsters will deserve minutes even when Cousins does return.