Warriors

Warriors takeaways: What we learned in win 112-103 over Pelicans

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AP

Warriors takeaways: What we learned in win 112-103 over Pelicans

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With Kevin Durant sick, Klay Thompson resting and Stephen Curry injuring himself early Tuesday night at Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, the Golden State Warriors (56-24) got their best bench performance of the season in a 112-103 win over the Pelicans (33-48). 

In the Warriors' sixth straight win, the bench unit combined for 65 points, helping Golden State stay in contention for the league's second-best record. 

Here are the takeaways from Tuesday's game. 

Steph's Scare

Curry went down early in the second half as a result of two words the Warriors never want to hear: rolled ankle. 

While the Warriors say that it's a mild foot sprain and that he was sat out for 'precautionary reasons,' the question remains, with two games left in the season and a first seed wrapped up: Why even play Curry in the first place?

That's a question for Steve Kerr and co. going forward, and it will certainly have ramifications for Wednesday's game in Memphis. 

Jacob Evans shows signs of growth

When Warriors general manager Bob Myers drafted Evans, the hope was that the rookie could find an instant role on the team as a defender. Instead, he toiled for much of the season in the G League, sparking some whispers about his long-term viability. 

That changed Tuesday when Evans, playing 90 minutes from his hometown of Baton Rouge, finished with 11 points, five rebounds and three steals. 

It's been a long season for Evans, but if Tuesday was any indication, he could still have a future in this league. 

[RELATED: Magic quits as Lakers president, and seems thrilled about it]

Damion Lee keeps shooting

The Splash Brother-In-Law poured in 20 points, on 7-of-13 shooting from the field. 

As Golden State's two-way player, Lee has played well during his time with the Warriors, providing quality shooting. Earlier this season, he played well enough to garner buzz about possibly getting his contract converted to a guaranteed deal for the postseason. 

For now, with the season finale Wednesday evening, Lee will be looking to continue to add to his highlight tape for the summer. 

Rookie Alen Smailagic eager to prove he's ready for the Warriors, NBA

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APUSATSI

Rookie Alen Smailagic eager to prove he's ready for the Warriors, 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 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 center-forward 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. 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 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 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 he as a 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.

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.” 

Warriors' Jordan Poole hopes to make immediate impact in Golden State

Warriors' Jordan Poole hopes to make immediate impact in Golden State

OAKLAND -- The Warriors' newest first-round pick Jordan Poole found himself in rare circumstances Monday afternoon. 

With injuries to Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant, Poole became the first Golden State first-round pick in half a decade to join a team that wasn't a prohibitive title favorite. Particularly given the notable absences on Golden State's roster, Poole hopes to make an immediate impact in his rookie season. 

"It's an amazing organization, I'm just coming in and I know only so little about the entire situation," Poole said during his introductory press conference Monday. "Hopefully, we can find a way to bring everybody back."

Poole -- who the Warriors took 28th overall in last week's NBA draft -- joins Golden State as the franchise ponders its own uncertain future. In the next week, their two top free-agent targets -- Durant and Thompson -- will decide if they'll re-sign with the team. However, both will be expected to sit out most, if not all, of the 2019-20 season with major rehabilitation timetables. The absence of both players, who averaged nearly 47 points per game combined, will leave opportunities for Poole. 

Throughout his collegiate career, Poole proved to be a capable scorer. In his sophomore season at Michigan, he averaged 12.8 points per game, shooting a team-high 37 percent from 3-point range. With the Warriors, Poole believes he can help overcome Golden State's supplemental scoring woes.

"I wouldn't feel pressure," Poole said. "I feel like scoring is a strength of mine and it's something has gotten me to this level and it's upgraded me as an individual so I think that's another reason why they've wanted me here." 

"I have a really good opportunity obviously with Klay out ... but just coming in learning, whether it's in practice and summer league and being a sponge and taking everything in," Poole added. "The opportunity will present itself, but being able to feel like I can make an impact and if there's an opportunity I'm definitely going to try to take it."

Minutes into Poole's press conference, Warriors general manager Bob Myers pointed out the makeshift stage was just under Draymond Green's basket at the practice facility, then gestured across the way to point out Stephen Curry's post-practice basket. The message was simple: Work hard and you will be rewarded. 

“We’ll give you every chance to meet all of your goals and expectations. But most of it is going to be because of the work you put in,” Myers said. 

While a competent scorer, Poole's defense was maligned during his college career. With a habit of ball-watching and poor closeouts, Poole will need to follow a strict learning curve to get on the floor under head coach Steve Kerr. "I think that I know that personally and obviously everyone else knows that as well," Poole admitted. "But it's an improvement that I plan on making. I've made it from high school to freshman year to sophomore year. That just comes with time and physically and your body. I'm still learning my body but it's something I'm working on a lot. Being able to be a two-way player offensively and defensively."

The Warriors are doing their part to make sure Poole is groomed. Just after the rookie was drafted, Green texted Myers conveying his approval of the pick. A week later, Poole walked into Rakuten Performance Center to find that his locker was right next to the former Defensive Player of the Year. Additionally, during the press conference, Poole cited Curry as a player he'd model his game after. In the coming months, it will be Curry, alongside Green, who will mentor the guard as he tries to make a mark in his rookie season.

[RELATED: No shortage of similarities between Draymond, Paschall]

"I think it's a huge compliment that I'm around some of the best offensive players, if not the best offensive players in the game," Poole said. "Night in, night out just practicing against Steph and Klay, being able to just find ways to challenge them and being able to have that experience in practice going throughout the season, it grows. So I think I'm just extremely blessed to be in the situation I'm in."