Warriors desperately need big man help after preseason loss to Lakers


Warriors desperately need big man help after preseason loss to Lakers

SAN FRANCISCO – When the Warriors we’ve come to know splintered in July, coach Steve Kerr decided to get risky. Partly out of principle, partly out of circumstance.

Kerr likes to play small. Loves to play small. Flood the floor with versatile players capable of defending multiple positions on one end, for easy switching, while also being a scoring threat on the other. This approach served the Warriors well, five consecutive trips to the NBA Finals, with three championships.

That success came largely on the efforts of Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Klay Thompson, Shaun Livingston and, the last three years, Kevin Durant. They had experience, length, intellect and anticipation. Steph Curry did his part, too, but as an ultra-dangerous scorer at the point, he was spared some of the broad defensive responsibilities.

Kerr and the Warriors were trendsetters, to a degree. Other coaches, Don Nelson and Mike D’Antoni to name two, have relied on similar strategy, but none has succeeded as Kerr has.

With Iguodala, Livingston and Durant gone, all replaced by younger but unaccomplished players, it’s risky to stay small. Without a legitimate rim protector behind the new crew, it’s downright hazardous.

The Warriors opened the preseason against the Lakers on Saturday with 6-foot-9, 275-pound Omari Spellman, scrapped after one season by the lowly Hawks, starting at center. His backup was 6-10, 240-pound Marquese Chriss, a 2016 lottery pick discarded by three teams in three years. Both are listed as forwards but were forced to move over with injuries sidelining 7-foot newcomer Willie Cauley-Stein and 6-9 staple Kevon Looney.

The Lakers, with 6-10 forward Anthony Davis and 7-foot center JaVale McGee, wasted no time punishing the rim. McGee was 3-of-3 from the field, all dunks, in the first five minutes. Davis was 7-of-7 in the paint, with five dunks.

Undersized and overmatched, the Warriors couldn’t prevent the parade of dunks and layups and were outscored 22-8 in the paint. The Lakers rolled to a wire-to-wire 123-101 victory.

“I’m not too concerned by the result,” Kerr said. “But we do have to play better defense, for sure. We will work hard on that next week.”

This was the first time these Warriors had played together, so it’s not fair to conclude there won’t be incremental improvement. There is a lot of youth, but there is enough talent, and enough wisdom on the bench and in uniform.

“Repetition and communication are important,” said Draymond Green, perhaps the wisest defensive player in the league. “The effort has been there. We have a lot of stuff to figure out. With just three days of practice with eight or nine new guys, it’s a lot of stuff to figure out. And we will, when we start communicating and figuring out the rotations.”

They also need to figure out how to get bigger. This roster was constructed, on the fly, to play small; Cauley-Stein is the only true vertical threat. Over four seasons in Sacramento, he was a decent lob threat but a poor protector. Looney better fits the profile of a switching defender.

Kerr says the front office is addressing ways to add a big man, a need made more acute by the ankle injury sustained by 6-10 rookie Alen Smailagic, who is out indefinitely.

“We are in a tough spot at that center position,” Kerr said. “Not just in terms of the season being two-and-a-half weeks from now but just training camp. Positionally, you need multiple guys at each spot to be able to practice and run your drills. We’re in a little bit of strange spot that we weren’t anticipating.”

The problem is as much about the Warriors being small as it is about them not having enough versatility and expertise to elsewhere to offset that.

Seeking size and knowledge last March, the Warriors summoned Andrew Bogut out of retirement. Realizing they need size now, they worked out 7-3 Hasheem Thabeet, who is 32 years old and has been out the NBA since 2014. Doing anything will require some wizardry from general manager Bob Myers and cap specialist David Kelly.

Playing small can work wonders with the right roster. The Warriors don’t have that roster.

“That’s where Looney and Willie Cauley-Stein come into play,” Kerr said. “We need their length and athleticism and ability to play that center spot. Badly. Hopefully, their absences won’t last too long and maybe we’ll be fortified at that center spot and more able to match up with big teams like the Lakers.”

Not only the Lakers. The Jazz, with 7-2 Rudy Gobert. The Trail Blazers, with 7-foot Hassan Whiteside. Rockets big man Clint Capela is only 6-10 but plays above the rim. Clippers big man Ivaca Zubac, at 7-1, could pose a problem.

[RELATED: Cauley-Stein brings receipts after C-Webb's Dubs prediction]

Teams not expected to make the playoffs will be seeking payback for recent years of Warriors abuse. The Suns, with 7-foot-1 Deandre Ayton. The Pelicans, with flying Zion Williamson. The Dallas freaking Mavericks have four players standing at least 6-11, including 7-3 Kristaps Porzingis, and Oklahoma City has 7-foot Steven Adams and 6-11 Nerlens Noel.

Maybe Spellman will provide. Maybe Chriss has matured, as Green implied, and Myers/Kelly can sneak him in the back door. The weakness is neon to all, and the Warriors know it.

Why John Oliver name-dropped Warriors' Marquese Chriss in NBA-China monologue


Why John Oliver name-dropped Warriors' Marquese Chriss in NBA-China monologue

Warriors big man Marquese Chriss has been the talk of training camp, but he apparently caught the eye of comedian John Oliver -- or his writers room -- long before that. 

On Sunday's episode of "Last Week Tonight" on HBO, Oliver recapped China's backlash against the NBA following Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey's since-deleted tweet in support of pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong. Oliver called China's uproar over Morey's tweet "absurd," before facetiously criticizing Morey for letting Chriss go in a trade last season. 

"You wanna be angry at him, how about the fact he traded away power forward Marquese Chriss as part of a three-team deal with the Kings and Cavaliers back in February?" Oliver joked. "Chriss is [6-foot-10] with a 7-foot wingspan, plays way above the rim and can mix it up in the post. Yes, granted, he's had his issues on the Suns -- I'm not denying that. But he's the exact type of athletic big man that could have balanced out [Russell Westbrook and James Harden] especially when he's coming off the bench for P.J. Tucker.

"What I'm saying, Daryl, is your tweet about Hong Kong was totally fine -- nothing to apologize for there -- but when it comes to Marquese Chriss, you f----d up, Daryl!"

Oliver then quipped he wasn't "even a Rockets fan," but one of "competent midseason roster moves."

The Warriors signed Chriss to a non-guaranteed contract in September. The No. 8 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft has impressed his Golden State teammates and coaches, providing the Warriors size up front and rebounding -- two things they've lacked in the preseason with much of their frontcourt banged up. 

During the segment, Oliver criticized the NBA for its handling of the aftermath of Morey's tweet, which Morey walked back and the league apologized for. Following the league's apology, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said that Morey "enjoys that right [to freedom of speech] as one of our employees." Chinese state broadcaster CCTV did not show a pair of the league's preseason games played in China last week. 

[RELATED: What we learned in Dubs' second preseason loss to Lakers]

Oliver noted that "the NBA has put itself in a tight spot," but contended that the league would be unable to navigate out of it. In wrapping up the segment, he invoked Chriss once more. 

"And the reality is here that the NBA can either have a commitment to free speech, or they can have guaranteed access to the Chinese market, but they cannot have both," Oliver argued. "This will not be the last time that they'll be forced to choose, and my fear is they'll trade one for the other -- which would be the worst trade since Daryl Morey shipped out Marquese Chriss."

Warriors takeaways: What we learned in 104-98 preseason loss to Lakers

Warriors takeaways: What we learned in 104-98 preseason loss to Lakers


The Warriors took their first trip away from Chase Center and it didn't go as planned. 

Even with the Lakers sitting LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the Warriors -- who sat Draymond Green and D'Angelo Russell -- lost 104-98, their second defeat of the preseason. 

The Warriors struggled from the field most of the night and got off to a poor start, making just 19 percent of their first-quarter shots. 

To catch you up on the loss, here are three takeaways from the game.  

Steph and others struggle from the field

Following a 40-point performance last time out, Stephen Curry couldn't carry that over to Southern California, finishing 6 of 17 from the field on the night. 

Curry -- who has long struggled to shoot at Staples Center -- shouldn't be concerned with the long-term effects of the bad shooting night. Still, his performance set the tone for the rest of the roster, as Golden State finished 36.2 percent from the field. 

Rookie Jordan Poole -- who came into Monday's game shooting 47 percent in the preseason -- made just 3 of his 17 shot attempts, while Eric Paschall finished 2-of-7.

The rookies were bound to have a bad game after their respective hot starts to the preseason. Like Curry, they have a chance for redemption Wednesday against the same Lakers team. 

Golden State still can't rebound 

For much of the week, Warriors coach Steve Kerr lamented his team's poor rebounding effort. On Monday, Golden State did little to quell Kerr's concerns, as the team was outrebounded once again, 48-46. 

Dwight Howard was a big reason for the Warriors' struggles, grabbing 12 of his game-high 13 rebounds in the first half. Los Angeles took a 35-24 rebound advantage into halftime. 

With Kevon Looney and Willie Cauley Stein out, Golden State will have many nights like these. The key will be how effectively the Warriors' offense can counteract the problem. 

Chriss continues to impress

Marquese Chriss has been the surprise of camp, providing a badly-needed presence in the frontcourt. On Monday, he continued his solid play, finishing with 14 points and 11 rebounds. 

Currently on a non-guaranteed deal, Chriss is proving he belongs on the regular-season roster. Due to his emergence, the Warriors find themselves in a conundrum heading into the final weekend of camp. With little cap space, the team will either have to cut a player to make room for Chriss, or make a trade to unload a salary off the books.

[RELATED: Warriors' offseason gamble on Chriss appears it will pay off]

Either way, it's becoming more and more likely Chriss will be on the Warriors' roster on Opening Night.