Warriors

Warriors' rookie Eric Paschall back to looking like a long-term keeper

Warriors' rookie Eric Paschall back to looking like a long-term keeper

SAN FRANCISCO -- No one in the Warriors' front office or on the coaching staff knows the extent of Eric Paschall’s NBA potential. Neither does he. In the fourth month of his career, he has provided ample evidence to engage debate.

After his first six weeks: Solid Rookie of the Year candidate.

After the next five weeks, during which endured assorted aches and pains in his joints: Uh, um, well, maybe he’s solid rotation player.

After the last two: He can start for any team and produce under pretty much any condition.

Paschall shed some light on his progress Saturday night after doing his part and more to lift the Warriors to a 109-95 win over the Orlando Magic. Making his second start since Dec. 11, he scored 20 points, grabbed nine rebounds and added two steals in 35 minutes.

He was a difference-maker, looking much more like the player we’d glimpsed in the first six weeks than during the five that followed.

There is, he acknowledged, a reason for that.

“I feel those injuries were kind of a blessing in disguise in terms of my body and getting the proper rest I needed,” he said of discomfort felt in both hips during various stages of December.

“Your rookie year is probably your longest year because right after college you’re going to pre-draft workouts, flying across the country for a workout, maybe have a back-to-back workout. Right after that, you go into training camp for summer league. Right after that, you go into training camp. So, you don’t really get a lot of time off. That was really good for me in terms of my body and having time to recover.”

This point, which can be lost in translation, is particularly applicable to Paschall because he played four years of college ball, 27 games as a freshman at Fordham and 110 at powerhouse Villanova. The Wildcats played deep into March.

Coming to the Warriors this season, when much of their roster was being rebuilt, Paschall dived into the opportunity to play. A lot. He averaged a team-high 33 minutes over his first 22 NBA games, 19 of which he scored in double figures. He didn’t hit the vaunted “rookie wall.” He was thrown up against it.

Paschall missed two games in mid-December due to soreness in his left hip. He missed two more games in late-December with what was described as a contusion on his right hip.

As he made several attempts to play through the discomfort, it was apparent he was not struggling. His production took a steep drop, as did his minutes. He scored 70 points in the first four games of December, 73 over the next 11, bleeding into January.

Paschall’s 20-point game Saturday was his first since he rang up 24 points on Dec. 2. His nine rebounds were the most since he pulled that same amount on that same night.

Citing Paschall’s solid play over the previous four games, it was an easy call for coach Steve Kerr to start the 6-6, 250-pound rookie at power forward Saturday for the ailing Draymond Green.

The reward was efficiency (8-of-14 shooting from the field, 2-of-5 from beyond the arc) and impact and indicated, again, that Paschall is better suited to power forward than small forward, where he also has spent some time.

“It’s just more floor spacing,” Kerr said. “He’s so quick off the dribble and he’s got that burst at the rim, so when he’s at the four, even with a great athlete like Aaron Gordon out there, he still has the space to go to the rim and create a play.

“At the three, it’s a little more difficult to do that because you have more big guys in the paint. It’s an easier position for Eric to play, and he was fantastic.”

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After initially suggesting his game is no different at small forward than it is at power forward, Paschall agreed with Kerr’s assessment.

“Yeah, I understand why he says that, in terms of just being able to attack,” he said. “Now that I think about it, I would say spacing at the four is (beneficial).”

There is little debate about that. And no debate at all that Paschall has the physical tools and mental makeup to prosper in the NBA.

Three reasons for Warriors to stay engaged in season's final 23 games

Three reasons for Warriors to stay engaged in season's final 23 games

SAN FRANCISCO -- A season that began with the Warriors having a reasonable chance to nab a bottom-four playoff seed in the Western Conference has devolved into bottomless pit of despair leaving them with only three reasons to plod through the final 23 games.

The first is to witness the return of Stephen Curry and get a glimpse of how much better he can make Andrew Wiggins, Marquese Chriss and, of course, Draymond Green.

That discovery will be made once Curry has found at least a modicum of rhythm, which should take five or six games. But, hey, he’s Stephen Curry, so there is every reason to believe any four teammates, at any given time, will benefit from his presence.

Nobody needs Steph more than Draymond, who even as he mentors some of his young teammates has found no compelling reason to summon the passion that is the foundation of his greatness. Draymond is, at best, tolerating this season, and sometimes not very well.

Curry’s presence will make the serial losing less expected/efficient but a bit more tolerable.

The second reason is to occasionally glance at their record and the standings while the NBA’s worst teams are jockeying for position in the May 19 draft lottery.

The Warriors, at 12-47, go into the weekend with a 4.5-game lead in the race to the bottom. That’s substantial, and it’s likely to expand during the four-game stretch beginning next Tuesday, when the Nuggets come to Chase Center. Denver will be followed by the Raptors, the 76ers and the Clippers.

Of Golden State’s final 21 games, 13 come against probable top-four postseason seeds and four more against teams currently with a firm grip on a postseason berth.

The third and final reason is that paychecks will keep coming, at least for the 12 Warriors holding standard contracts.

Though the members of the 10-man coaching staff will extol the virtues of development, they already have a pretty good idea which players can help them next season and perhaps beyond. They know rookies Eric Paschall and Jordan Poole have something offer. They still believe Ky Bowman can help.

But game after game, they’re navigating a roster composed of, with the exceptions of Kevon Looney and Green, rookies, veterans out to prove they belong in the NBA and guys with G League backgrounds still seeking a place in the league.

The result is lineups that often play as if they are five different guys, from five different gyms, that met five minutes ago.

“We are putting some lineups that haven’t been together all year,” coach Steve Kerr said after the Warriors swallowed a 30-point loss to the Lakers. “Having said that, a lot of careless one-handed passing, crosscourt and right into the defenders’ arms. A lot of plays that just had nothing to do with continuity and everything to do with poor fundamentals.”

It was apparent that Kerr was trying to suppress his internal rage, and he did not succeed.

So I asked the coach who guided the Warriors to the NBA Finals in each of his first five seasons on the sideline, how he managed to stay sane in the face 47 in 59 games and five losing streaks of at least five games – including a 10-gamer that lasted three weeks.

“That’s a loaded question,” Kerr said. “I think, for the most part, our guys have handled this season pretty well under the circumstances. We’ve handled our business well. Our guys have competed, worked hard, the staff has worked hard.

“But it’s frustrating. Everybody is in the business because we are competitors. We love to compete. We’ve had more than our share of winning over the last five years, we recognize that and right now we are taking it on the chin. We understand that is part of life too and we are dealing with it.”

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That’s where the Warriors are, agonizing over but living with losing. It’s familiar to longtime Warriors fans that remember the 60-loss seasons, the stitched-together rosters and a succession of coaches that often resembled the game of musical chairs.

But it’s painful to those fans that climbed aboard the train five or six years ago. Almost as painful as it is to Kerr and Green, who surely detest every minute of it.

James Harden-Giannis Antetokounmpo beef adds new wrinkle to Warriors rumors

James Harden-Giannis Antetokounmpo beef adds new wrinkle to Warriors rumors

We have a new NBA beef and the Warriors soon could be in the middle of it. *Places tinfoil hat on*

In an exclusive interview with ESPN's Rachel Nichols, James Harden fired some daggers at reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. Harden was asked about The Greek Freak's joke during the NBA All-Star Game Draft in which he elected to take Boston Celtics star Kemba Walker over Harden because he wanted "someone who can pass."

Harden was not amused.

"I average more assists than him, I think," Harden said of Walker. "So, I don't see what the joke is. But I didn't even see it. I don't pay attention to stuff like that. I just know none of them can mess with me. When it's all said and done, they'll appreciate it more. I wish I could just run with seven feet and run and just dunk. That takes no skill at all. I got to actually learn how to play basketball and how to have skill, you know? I take that any day."

My lord, someone get the fire extinguisher out. 

Antetokounmpo has become one of the best players in the NBA and has become the object of the Warriors' affection as they look for a way to extend their dynasty past the prime of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.

While the Milwaukee Bucks star won't be a free agent until 2021, reports have surfaced claiming the Warriors acquired Andrew Wiggins and the Minnesota Timberwolves' 2021 first-round draft pick (top-three protected) in order to be able to put together a package to trade for Antetokounmpo should he ask for a trade if the Bucks flame out of the playoffs.

Any trade package also would include the Warriors' 2020 first-round pick, which should be in the top five.

While acquiring Antetokounmpo is a long shot, his new beef with The Beard makes him even more enticing to Warriors fans.

Harden and the Rockets have been trying and failing to knock off the Warriors for years, constantly hitting their head against a hatch held closed by the greatness of Curry, Kevin Durant and Thompson.  

The Warriors and Rockets rivalry has been the No. 1 hatefest in the NBA for years, but if the Dubs can somehow lure Antetokounmpo to the Bay it will go another level. Harden and Russell Westbrook trying to knock off Curry, "the guy with no skill" and the Warriors in the playoffs would be the definition of must-watch.

Sorry, I'll take my tinfoil hat off now.

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Harden also once again claimed no one in NBA history has seen double teams the way he has, clearly dismissing a whole history of dominant NBA players, including Curry.

"I feel like I'm the best player [in the NBA]," Harden told Nichols. "Yeah, throughout the course of the year I don't see double teams for anybody else. Usually, you see a double team after you a 50-point night, 60-point night. If I have an 18-point night the next night I'm seeing double teams. Which is pretty cool. The NBA has never seen it before at half court. So I'm just trying to figure out how to obviously be great in that."

Curry's absence from the NBA this season clearly has made some forget his greatness.

The Warriors' dreadful season is heading to a close. Once at full strength next season, there's no doubt they'll be on a mission to remind the entire league how dangerous they are -- Giannis or no Giannis.