Warriors

Warriors believe they're headed in right direction despite 5-22 record

Warriors believe they're headed in right direction despite 5-22 record

SALT LAKE CITY - The Warriors have lost a lot in the last six months. 

The most obvious wound is the gutting of its Hall of Fame roster, and the injuries that crippled it. But perhaps the most essential damage to the team's evolution is its most recent struggle: Failing to close out games talent used to be able to overcome. 

In its latest effort -- a 114-106 loss to the Jazz -- the Warriors led for much of the first half before Utah took control in the third quarter. The loss came at a strange time for Golden State as their three All-Stars -- Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry -- were nursing injured back in California and their prized rookie Eric Paschall was in the locker room due to a hip injury. 

Nonetheless, the league's worst team left Vivint Smart Home Arena seeing enough progress to believe they're heading in the right direction, even if the scoreboard says otherwise. 

"There is a lot of good stuff," Warriors coach Steve Kerr admitted. "But you want that to lead to a win and that's coming."

Remnants of Kerr's positivity showed through the first 24 minutes Friday evening. In the first quarter, they held the Jazz to 39 percent from the field, outscoring Utah 14-8 in the paint. By the end of the first half, they built a 56-49 lead, marked by promising plays from its young core. 

Six minutes into the first quarter, 6-foot-8 big man Omari Spellman pulled down a rebound, went the length of the court, bullying his way for a layup to give Golden State a 20-18 lead. A quarter later, center Marquese Chriss blocked Jazz guard Royce O'Neal at the rim, ran the length of the floor and received a pass for an easy dunk on the other end, pushing Golden State's lead to 13. 

Following halftime, the Jazz responded by outscoring the Warriors 37-28 in the third quarter. Bojan Bogdanovic scored 10 of his game-high 32 points over the stretch, as Utah made a run that was all-too-familiar to Golden State. 

"They picked up their pace in the third quarter," Kerr said. "I'm sure they were not happy with their pace in the first half and so they played a great third quarter and put a lot of pressure on us."

Worse, even after the Warriors briefly took a 104-103 lead with just over two minutes left, the Jazz went on an 11-2 run to close the game, underscoring one of the team's biggest problems this season. Through 27 games, the Warriors are among the worst teams in the last five minutes of games. During the timeframe, they're posting a putrid 92.9 offensive rating, with a net rating of -33.6. 

For context, the 2017-18 Warriors -- featuring a healthy Curry, Green, Thompson and Kevin Durant -- posted a 112.2 offensive rating in clutch situations, finishing third in the league, leaving a mark the current battered Warriors are trying to fulfill.  

"I think we can win a lot more games than we have," said Chriss. "We've been in games that we could win and honestly that we should win. People try to say that our team is down and things like that but we're competing with teams that have their full roster. This team is full of fighters and teams that want to win." 

While the team is frustrated, their latest performance comes with a caveat. Clutch performances are built through experience, an attribute the league's third-youngest team has yet to gain. 

"I remember being in this position earlier in my career where you get the taste of winning, but you don't really know how to do it, you may just get lucky that night," said 23-year old guard D'Angelo Russell. "Other teams in the league that are solidified, they find a way to win and those other teams that aren't supposed to win find a way to lose so I think it comes with growth and experience."

[RELATED: Burks wants to stay with Warriors]

Late Friday evening, just before he left Salt Lake City for a late-night flight back to the Bay Area, recovering from yet another close loss, Kerr made a declaration for his young team, despite optics of the contrary. 

"I like where we're heading," he said. "I really do. I know it might sound crazy because of our record, but I think we're going to start winning some games. I think we're getting better."

NBA rumors: Warriors trade Willie Cauley-Stein to Mavs for 2020 draft pick

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AP

NBA rumors: Warriors trade Willie Cauley-Stein to Mavs for 2020 draft pick

The Warriors have started to make moves, and Willie Cauley-Stein is the first to go, as the center reportedly has been traded to the Mavericks.

The Warriors reportedly will acquire a 2020 second-round draft pick from Dallas for Cauley-Stein.

The trade of Cauley-Stein gives the Warriors salary cap space and roster flexibility, and the ability to convert one of their two-way players, Ky Bowman or Marquese Chriss, to a guaranteed contract.

With the Warriors out of the playoff race, it makes sense for them to trade some of their players for future assests. Cauley-Stein likely is just the first to go. Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III are the two other Warriors players that should be dealt before the Feb. 6 NBA trade deadline.

Cauley-Stein signed a two-year, $4.46 million contract with the Warriors last offseason. The second year of the deal is a player option, so he could stick around Dallas next season.

Dallas was in need of a center after their starter, Dwight Powell, ruptured his Achilles tendon earlier this week.

In 41 games with the Warriors, Cauley-Stein averaged 7.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks.

Now that Cauley-Stein is out of the picture, expect Chriss and Omari Spellman to see a majority of the time at center. Draymond Green could also slide over and pick up some minutes at the center spot.

Why Andre Iguodala thinks Steph Curry shouldn't play again this season

Why Andre Iguodala thinks Steph Curry shouldn't play again this season

The plan is for the Warriors to provide an update on Steph Curry's status at some point in early February.

And the expectation is that the two-time NBA MVP will return to game action at some point this season.

Does Andre Iguodala think Curry should return to the court? When answering that question Friday morning on ESPN's "First Take," the 2015 NBA Finals MVP began with a joke.

"Selfish reasons -- no. He hurt the left hand, you can't play golf with the left hand if it's hurt."

Iguodala then provided what we think is his actual opinion on the matter.

"I think he needs to get a real break, in terms of being able to relax," the soon-to-be 36-year-old explained. "That long run -- mental reasons.

"I think it's good for him mentally to be able to step away, be able to get a nice breather. He's gonna come back on a wrath next year."

Going to five straight NBA Finals definitely took a toll on Curry, his teammates and the entire franchise. This "gap year" truly could end up being a good thing in the long run.

But the three-time NBA champion is dying to get back on the court, and it would be pretty surprising if he remains sidelined until next season -- despite the fact the Dubs have the worst record in the NBA and their draft lottery odds are at stake.

[RELATED: Steph shares his favorite Stack Jack story: 'I was crying']

As for Iguodala's status -- he is still waiting on the Memphis Grizzlies to strike a trade before the Feb. 6 deadline. If no deal comes to fruition, you can assume the two sides would agree on a buyout and Iguodala would be free to sign with any team other than Golden State.

But don't worry Warriors fans -- a reunion seems inevitable this summer.

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