Warriors

Warriors meet in hopes of regaining chemistry that has made them great

Warriors meet in hopes of regaining chemistry that has made them great

OAKLAND — After their third defeat in four games, each with a similar pattern, the Warriors convened Wednesday for what might reasonably be considered an emergency session.

The defending champs are in peril, and they know it.

The popular choice to win a third consecutive NBA Finals, the Warriors are playing a lot of bad basketball, as their fabled team culture faces its toughest challenge since Steve Kerr took over as coach in May 2014.

An open forum seemed like a good idea. And, according to Draymond Green, the dialogue was widespread.

“A lot of people spoke up,” Green said. “Which was good.”

The Warriors have plenty of air to clear, so why not get started after a 33-point loss at Oracle Arena — their worst home loss in nearly 400 games under Kerr?

“We sucked,” Green said of the 128-95 loss to the Boston Celtics. “We got embarrassed.”

As accurate as Green’s statement is, it merely stamps the surface of the issue. There is a very different overall team chemistry from the previous four seasons. Those Warriors were together in ways that transcended the court. These Warriors are not.

Asked about the vibe of the team, Green took a lengthy pause before replying.

“I don’t see a problem with the vibe of the team,” he said, quickly moving off the subject.

Green doesn’t miss much. But he’s not seeing — or not sharing — what’s evident.

The Warriors are less than the sum of their parts, and the reasons behind it are varied. There is little doubt some of it is related to the state of Kevin Durant, who has been far more sullen and contentious this season than he was in his first two as a Warrior. And more sullen and contentious over the past two months than he was in October.

There is general belief within the organization that this is Durant’s last season as a Warrior. The team is bracing for his departure, which need not affect this season.

But Durant has been less engaged than he was in either of his first two seasons with the team. He continues to put in work and produce, but his body language often is not as positive as that of his teammates. He also has become more isolated.

Furthermore, there have been clear indications of at least a modicum of discord between Durant and Kerr, the latest coming Tuesday when Durant expressed bewilderment over what exactly the coach wants from his players.

Joy? Anger? Which is it?

The Warriors lately haven’t had much of either. They have been too passive for too many stretches of games and, of course, losing yanks the joy from any team with aspirations.

“Coming off a loss like last night forces you to take a look in the mirror, whether you’re a coach or a player or anything within the organization,” Kerr said. “We all have to look at ourselves. I definitely did that last night and didn’t like what I saw in terms of my own coaching job.

“So we came in, had a good film session, we talked about our flaws and where we need to get better. And we had a good practice.”

The hope is that good practice habits lead to better game habits, which might result in winning, which should improve overall team spirit. It has to start somewhere, and an effort to ensure players and coaches are in sync is Step One.

“As far as (Kerr) getting us ready, there’s more that he can do,” Green said. “There’s always more than he can do. There’s always more our entire coaching staff can do.

“On the flip side of that, there is way more that we can do as players. They can do all that they can do, and if we come out lacking energy and dead like we did last night, it’s not going to matter.”

[RELATED: Dubs 'excited' to add Bogut as 'insurance policy' up front]

Both Green and Kerr vocalized a need for greater intensity, particularly early in games. The Warriors have fallen behind by considerable margin in the first quarter of their last four losses. That’s usually indicative of players being unprepared and uninterested or, maybe, a combination of the two.

“We can use the old cliché line: ‘Every time we step on the floor, we want to get better,’ “ Green said. “But we didn’t do that last year, and we still ran through the playoffs. So it’s easy to take that mindset again.

“I don’t want to live on the edge like that. And, hopefully, the switch flips on.”

Eighteen regular-season games remain for the Warriors to solve the internal unrest, pull out of this depression and look like their championship-level selves again. Can they?

We’ll know it when he we see it.

Rockets send absurd James Harden tweet after Giannis wins 2019 NBA MVP

Rockets send absurd James Harden tweet after Giannis wins 2019 NBA MVP

On the day the Raptors held their championship parade, the Golden State Warriors took out a full-page ad in the Toronto Star congratulating the franchise on its first NBA title.

Classy gesture by a classy organization.

You know which franchise isn't classy? The Houston Rockets.

Shortly after Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo was voted the 2019 NBA MVP on Monday night, the Rockets’ official account sent a tweet that was an attempt to congratulate The Greek Freak. Really it was just a thread trying to make the case that James Harden should have won the award.

The voting had been tabulated and the award had been handed out, yet the Rockets still we’re trying to argue for their guy. They couldn't even get a simple congratulatory tweet right.

This seems par for the course coming from a franchise that cried for a "fair chance" during the second-round playoff series with the Warriors and sent a memo to the NBA claiming the refs cost them the NBA title in 2018.

Oh, and let's not forget about owner Tilman Fertitta's epic rant after the Rockets' Game 6 loss to the Warriors, in which he said his team should have cut the Warriors’ throats in Game 5 when Kevin Durant suffered a strained right calf.

[RELATED: CP3 refutes trade request rumors]

Considering how much losing the Rockets have done over the last few years, it's surprising they haven't figured out how to lose with class.

This should have been Giannis' night. Instead, the Rockets again tried to make it about themselves.

Warriors draft pick Alen Smailagic eager to prove he's ready for NBA

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USATSI

Warriors draft pick Alen Smailagic eager to prove he's ready for NBA

OAKLAND -- The Warriors have a timetable for the development of Alen Smailagic that seems reasonable for the 18-year-old rookie from Serbia.

Give him two years, and maybe he’ll be ready.

But if you bring that timetable to Smailagic, he pounces and swats it into the fourth row.

“I don’t think so, that it’s going to take me two or three or four years,” he said Monday after a news conference introducing the team’s rookies. “I think I’m going to do good this year. I already told them that I don’t want to just wear the jersey. I really want to play.”

He gets points for confidence. Smailagic (pronounced Smile-a-GEECH) sees the Warriors trying to fill a roster with a plethora of openings and visualizes himself pulling on his jersey, No. 6, and jogging onto the floor at Chase Center next October.

The Warriors, after all, could use a skilled 6-foot-10, 225-pound forward/center that plays hard and has a high basketball IQ. Smailagic flashed those assets last season, while playing 818 minutes, spread out over 47 games, for the team’s G League affiliate in Santa Cruz.

That that he accomplished that as the youngest player in G League history persuaded the NBA Warriors, fearing another team may come after their secret stash, to move up and use the first of two second-round picks (39th overall) to select him. Because Smailagic was 17 at the time of the 2018 NBA Draft, he was ineligible to be chosen. To play pro ball in America, the G League was his only option.

“They didn’t disrespect me because of my age,” Smailagic said of his experience in Santa Cruz. “They really wanted me to play and they reacted to me like I’m a professional.”

Though Smailagic was projected to go late in the second round, somewhere between pick Nos. 50 and 60, the Warriors heard enough from Santa Cruz coach Aaron Miles and general manager Kent Lacob that they didn’t want to risk losing him.

Indeed, there is a firm belief within the organization that he has considerable potential, perhaps enough to be a starter, if not a true impact player. That potential, however, is years away.

“He’s going to be a player in the league,” one Western Conference scout told NBC Sports Bay Area on Monday. “He can be really good if his body continues to mature. There is no question about his desire or his skill.

“But I think he’s a couple years away.”

If Smailagic can make the roster as a two-way player -- a distinct possibility -- that would be a triumph for someone much more uncertain about his command of English than his game, and whose previous experience was in the European junior leagues.

Smailagic, nicknamed Smiley for obvious reasons, says as he grew and gravitated toward basketball, he studied Warriors superstar Kevin Durant -- “He’s really tall and he can jump, he can dribble, he can shoot. He can do everything” -- and also Kings forward Nemanja Bjelica, another native of Serbia.

[RELATED: Warriors' Jordan Poole ready to capitalize on opportunity]

Asked if he cared to pattern himself after Durant or Bjelica or anyone else, Smailagic wasted no time replying.

“No. I didn’t have that kind of mindset, because I want to play how I play.”