Warriors

Warriors confident in D'Angelo Russell despite rough preseason debut

Warriors confident in D'Angelo Russell despite rough preseason debut

SAN FRANCISCO -- Four months ago, the Warriors acquired perhaps the best consolation prize a team could get when losing a top-five talent like Kevin Durant.

A 23-year old All-Star guard, D'Angelo Russell was one of the most efficient pick-and-roll initiators in the NBA last season, helping the Brooklyn Nets to a playoff berth. 

Entering his first season in Golden State, Russell -- one of the team's eight roster additions -- simultaneously is adjusting to his third home in four years, while adopting a motion offense predicated on constant movement and little playcalling. Now, following a subpar debut in Saturday's 123-101 preseason loss to the Lakers, Russell still is finding his role on the team. 

"It's all brand new to us," Russell said Saturday evening. "We got a lot of new guys. I'm trying to figure it out, including myself. It's not really second nature for a lot of us yet. It's just the more we play, the more we practice, watch film on it, the easier it'll get I think."

Russell, who scored four points while shooting 2-of-9 from the field, showed signs of rust early on. His first shot attempt, a contested 26-foot 3-pointer, barely drew iron. By the end of the first quarter, he missed three of his first four shots finishing minus-14 through the first 12 minutes. 

This is a much different offense for the young guard, though. In 81 games last season, Russell initiated the pick-and-roll 49.9 percent, finishing fifth in the league. While Russell pushed the Nets to the third-best pick-and-roll team, the Warriors finished second-worst in the league in such actions.

Under Kerr, Golden State has opted for a motion offense predicated on little playcalls and players moving within a basic set of rules. 

"It's just make the reads and go, and just for the most part, don't stop moving and good things will happen," Warriors guard Steph Curry said. 

Despite the outcome, Russell did show signs of promise. In the first quarter, he found Curry for a wide-open 3-pointer. Minutes later, he threw a pinpoint pass between four defenders to rookie forward Eric Paschall, leading to a put-back dunk. With Klay Thompson out until the All-Star break, Russell's exploits will need to be shown on a nightly basis, which Kerr is confident will happen. 

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"The main thing is he just has to get his legs underneath him," Kerr said. "You saw him make some brilliant passes. He's a wonderful passer, and I think he's going to make a huge impact on our team, handling the ball, and distributing, and making shots.

"He's not a guy who plays a ton of pickup ball in the summer. So, he uses the preseason to get his conditioning, and you could see he wasn't quite there, and nor did I expect him to be on game one."

Alfonzo McKinnie wants to stay but is prepared if Warriors tenure ends

Alfonzo McKinnie wants to stay but is prepared if Warriors tenure ends

SAN FRANCISCO -- Fairy tales indeed can come true, as one did last autumn for Alfonzo McKinnie. After four years hopscotching the world in pursuit of an NBA career, he landed on the roster of the defending champion Warriors.

Life was great. His work and perseverance had paid off. Two years after scrapping by in makeshift gyms in Luxembourg and Mexico, he was teammates with Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. McKinnie bought a house for his mother and still had money in his pocket.

One year later, the 6-foot-8 forward is discovering that fairy tales don’t always stay true.

There is a reasonable chance the status McKinnie earned one year ago will go to someone else.

The Warriors acknowledge a need for size, and Marquese Chriss, the 6-10 forward/center who signed a non-guaranteed contract two weeks ago, has impressed players and coaches with his work ethic, adaptability and cognition.

“Marquese is doing great,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Sunday. “He’s probably been the surprise of camp, given that he came in late on a non-guaranteed, one-year contract.”

The Warriors cannot upgrade Chriss’ contract and add him to the roster unless someone else is waived or traded. The simplest sacrifice is McKinnie, whose contract is not fully guaranteed until January. None of the free-agent acquisitions are eligible for trade, and the Warriors won’t be moving second-year guard Jacob Evans III or any of their three rookies.

McKinnie is a 27-year-old reserve, making him a trade candidate.

“I hear it, but I try not to pay attention to it,” McKinnie told NBC Sports Bay Area. “All I can do is just come out, put my work in and perform. Whatever happens from there, that’s out of my control. I can only control what I do and how hard I go. Everything outside of that, it’s front-office business. I can’t control what goes on up there.”

With two centers on the sideline -- Willie Cauley-Stein (mid-foot sprain) and Kevon Looney (hamstring) --  Warriors general manager Bob Myers is seeking a way to add Chriss, a 2016 lottery pick (No. 8 overall) by the Kings.

The need for a big man and the way Chriss is playing -- he’ll make his second consecutive start Monday night against the Lakers in Los Angeles -– imperils McKinnie’s hold on his roster spot.

“We did have a lot of injuries to the bigs, so we definitely need some bigs,” McKinnie conceded. “Outside of the ones that are hurt, we’re a little smaller than a lot of teams.

“But I’m coming in here every day and competing. Whether you’re guaranteed or non-guaranteed, unless you’re totally solidified, you’ve always got to compete, whether it’s for a job or a spot or more minutes. Competition is always first nature.”

In 37 preseason minutes, McKinnie has been less than dazzling, scoring nine points on 4-of-12 shooting from the field, including 1 of 5 from beyond the arc. He has grabbed 13 rebounds, as well as contributed three assists and two blocks.

“I know where I’ve been,” he said. “With this basketball thing, I’ve been at the bottom of the totem pole. Being here, with this organization, experiencing what I experienced last year, having a role on a championship-contending team, this is the highest I’ve been. I’m really self-motivated, because I know where I’ve been, and I know what it’s like to be at the bottom.

“I want to stay here. And continue to be here for years to come.”

Kerr expressed relief that he is coaching instead of facing the decisions looming before Myers.

“These guys are all working hard,” Kerr said. “And you know it’s their dream to play in this league. You wish you could keep everybody. But the nature of camp is generally that you’ve got to release four or five people, and it’s no fun at all.”

If the Warriors decide to keep McKinnie, it will be out of familiarity with the system and culture, as well as his rebounding ability.

If they decide to move him and cut him, it will be out of a greater need elsewhere on the roster.

Either way, McKinnie has a clear-eyed view.

“I definitely feel like I’m a mentally strong person,” he said. “I’ve been through a lot, on and off the court. When it comes to basketball, it’s for a job. People go through much tougher times. I’ve seen people go through [stuff] way harder than getting cut from a basketball team.”

[RELATED: Warriors reportedly push Myers to keep Chriss]

That’s the voice of McKinnie past, when there were nights when he barely knew the name of the city where he would lay his head. When he barely knew his teammates, some of whom had full-time day jobs.

No matter how this turns out, McKinnie is prepared. He’ll continue to live the fairy tale. Or he’ll remember the lessons of survival when the fairy tale went no further than his imagination.

Eric Paschall fitting in with Warriors, making good early impression

Eric Paschall fitting in with Warriors, making good early impression

SAN FRANCISCO -- Four months ago, the Warriors had a pretty good idea they wanted to select Eric Paschall with one of their two second-round draft picks.

Following a four-year college career, Paschall -- though listed at 6-foot-7 -- impressed with his athleticism, defensive prowess and basketball IQ. Only one question remained: Would he fall to the 41st overall pick?

"We were kind of holding our breath," Warriors coach Steve Kerr admitted Sunday. "Hoping for him to fall, and it happened. We're lucky to have him."

As the Warriors get through training camp, Paschall is beginning to make good on Golden State's trust. Through two preseason games, he's averaging 11 points and three rebounds in 22 minutes. More importantly, with big men Kevon Looney and Willie Cauley Stein injured, Paschall has been tasked to guard multiple positions on defense, often the opponent's best player, and impressed the staff along the way.

"Really excited about Eric," Kerr said. "The strength, the explosiveness. He may be undersized from a height standpoint, but he's got long arms, so he makes up for some of that. To me, he fits right in, maybe even stands out on an NBA floor athletically from a strength and explosion standpoint."

Six months ago, Paschall -- who signed a three-year, fully guaranteed $4.2 million deal, in July -- was competing for a third straight Final Four appearance with Villanova, playing against zone defenses and the structure of college basketball. When he entered his first preseason game last Saturday, Kerr tasked him to guard All-NBA big man Anthony Davis.

In the second quarter of last week's Warriors loss to the Lakers, LeBron James took a pass at half court, dribbled three times and barreled into Paschall's chest for an easy layup, emphasizing the rookie's steep learning curve. 

"It's kind of weird because you see these guys, AD is on the cover of [NBA 2K] and my first game I have to guard him," Paschall said. "It's kind of crazy, but I'm glad Coach trusts me enough to go out and guard those guys."

An adjustment has manifested off the court as well for Paschall. Long a resident of the East Coast, he wasn't much of a driver and still doesn't have a license, despite being 22 years old. Following practice Sunday afternoon, Paschall stood outside Chase Center with a bag packed for a week-long trip, waiting for fellow rookie Jordan Poole to take him to San Francisco International Airport for the team's trip to Los Angeles. 

While Paschall has impressed thus far, his NBA dreams weren't always a sure thing. Despite averaging 26.0 points, 11.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game as a junior at Dobbs Ferry High School (NY), Paschall only garnered interests from mid-major schools like Virginia Commonwealth, George Mason and Providence before enrolling at nearby Fordham. After transferring to Villanova following a coaching change, Paschall won a national title in 2018, but he was just a second-round pick in June's NBA draft.

"My whole life, I've been underrated," Paschall told NBC Sports Bay Area. "To be able to be here is a blessing in itself."

Entering the season, Paschall comes to an organization in transition. Three months removed from Kevin Durant's departure, coupled with the Klay Thompson's knee injury, the Warriors are left to navigate the start of the season with eight new additions. Nonetheless, the team has established stars like Draymond Green and Stephen Curry, who have defined roles.

As his tenure progresses, Paschall hopes to be added to the Golden State's lineup of stars.

[RELATED: McKinnie prepared for end with Warriors]

"Eventually, I feel like I can come into my own at this level," Paschall said. "But now, especially as a rookie, you just have to do what they say and do what you got to do to stay on the court, but I feel like eventually in this league, I'll be able to play my game, and I hope it's with the Warriors." 

"I feel like I ended up being in a great spot," Paschall added. "They gave me a great contract, and I feel like in these next few years, I feel like I can contribute, to try to do what I can to just bring whatever they want me to bring to the table."