Warriors

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

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USATSI

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."

Luka Doncic developing into NBA superstar as clash with Warriors looms

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USATSI

Luka Doncic developing into NBA superstar as clash with Warriors looms

If the Warriors bring the same defensive intensity they took into Memphis on Tuesday, they’ll give themselves a reasonable chance to win Wednesday night in Dallas.

Anything less, and they’ll be food for the kid.

Three months and eight days before he can walk up to a bartender and legally order anything he wants, Luka Doncic already is taking whatever he wants within the NBA.

The league that provided a platform for such gifted 20-year-olds as Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and Kevin Durant has never seen one quite like Doncic, who is driving the Mavericks into a new era of relevancy.

His across-the-board statistics are astonishing and testify to his impact. He’s the only player in the league that is in the top 10 in triple-doubles (first, six), assists (second, 9.3 per game), scoring (fourth, 29.5), player-efficiency rating (fourth 30.91), minutes (fourth, 35.0) and rebounds (10th, 10.7).

But those superlatives, which set Doncic apart, represent only the tangibles. It’s his background and intangibles that are making him not only a fabulous player but also put him on the fast track to superstardom.

The 6-foot-7 Slovenian guard/forward has the complete panache kit. The hubris to dribble between the legs of a defender. The audacity to demand the ball and take the shot in the final seconds of a close game. The no-look passes reminiscent of vintage Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. The physical theatrics that speak the universal language of swagger.

Put another way, Luka’s game has elements of the late, great Drazen Petrovic, Bird, Magic, Kobe and LeBron.

He’s a “bad motherf-----," James said after he and Doncic exchanged lightning strikes in a 119-110 overtime victory by the Lakers on Nov. 1 in Dallas.

James had 39 points, 16 assists and 12 rebounds in 43 minutes. Doncic had 31 points, 15 assists and 13 rebounds in 38 minutes. Doncic now has 14 career triple-doubles, two more before his 21st birthday than Magic Johnson (seven) and LeBron (five) combined before theirs.

So, naturally, when Luka totaled 42 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds in a 117-110 win over the Spurs on Monday, LeBron was compelled to comment via Instagram.

“He’s one BAD MOFO!!!!!. I tried to tell y’all.”

Doncic is one of two players in NBA history to open a season with at least 250 points, 100 rebounds and 90 assists in his first 10 games. The other? A legend named Oscar Robertson.

After facing Luka for the first time, last December, Warriors All-Star Draymond Green didn’t bother to skimp on the praise.

"That dude good," Green said after a 120-116 Warriors win. "He got it. He going to be a problem. He already a problem, but he's going to be really good for a long time. He is exciting to watch. He has kind of lifted that franchise."

Luka was, at that time, 19. He had played a total of 30 NBA games.

But Doncic had been a pro, sort of, for six years, since he was 13. That is not a typo but was his age when he signed a five-year contract with Real Madrid to play on the under-16 team. He was 16 when he made his actual pro debut. At age 18, a month before he was drafted by the Mavericks, he became the youngest person to be named Euroleague MVP.

And now he’s banging on the door of the NBA’s MVP discussion that centers mostly on Houston’s James Harden, who won it in 2018, and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, who won it last season.

Luka is the primary reason Dallas (8-5) is fifth in the Western Conference and making a bid to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2016. He has help -- notably seven-foot-three Kristaps Porzingis -- but Doncic is this team’s wheels, motor, horn and hood ornament.

“This guy can do anything he wants to on a basketball court," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, a former teammate of Bird, told reporters in Dallas on Monday. "He's having one of those magical runs right now. It's a phenomenal thing to watch It's a phenomenal thing to be a part of."

And here come the Warriors, who aren’t the rampaging bunch of recent years but have gotten much better after being the NBA’s worst defense through the first 12 games.

With D’Angelo Russell – wonderful on offense, generally nonchalant on defense – sidelined with a hand injury, coach Steve Kerr is starting his best defensive lineup. The guards: Glenn Robinson III and Alec Burks. The forwards: Eric Paschall and Green, who assumes point guard duties on offense. The center: Willie Cauley-Stein. With them playing the bulk of the minutes over the last three games, the team’s defensive rating (103.0) is fifth-best in the league.

[RELATED: Warriors' hard work finally 'rewarded' with win in Memphis]

If the Warriors bring their best stuff, they have a chance. It’s only a chance, though, because the kid isn’t partial to being contained.

Warriors' hard work finally 'rewarded' with skid-busting win in Memphis

Warriors' hard work finally 'rewarded' with skid-busting win in Memphis

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- For much of the young season, the Warriors have been in search of a small piece of continuity. 

With three of its four All-Star pieces out due to injury, the quest has been arduous for the Warriors, leading to the team's longest losing streak in since 2012. 

Those troubles momentarily paused when the Warriors beat the Grizzlies 114-95 on Tuesday to snap a seven-game losing streak while validating the progress the team has made in recent weeks. 

"I'm happy for the guys," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "They've been playing hard and working hard and It's good to see them rewarded."

Tuesday's win comes as the Warriors have played just well enough to lose in recent games. In Friday's loss to the Celtics, the team held the Eastern Conference leaders to just 40 percent from the field, with Boston guard Kemba Walker making just 6 of his 19 shots. Two days later, the Warriors held the battered Pelicans to 41 percent from the field, before losing 108-100. Entering Tuesday, the team allowed teams to shoot just 41.1 percent over their last two outings. 

Keeping with a recent trend, Golden State held the Grizzlies to just 40 percent from the field and forcing 14 turnovers. Rookie of the Year candidate Ja Morant struggled much, making just 7-of-20 from the field as the Warriors diversified its defensive sets for most of the night. 

"We came out and competed hard and executed the gameplan like we talked about and I'm proud of the guys," Warriors forward Glenn Robinson said. "I knew it was coming because of the way we played, we're trying to play hard and play the right way." 

"I think we just challenged ourselves," Warriors forward Draymond Green added. "That's something we've talked a lot about, getting better on the defensive end and we've been stepping up to the challenge." 

For much of the season, the team's defensive woes have coincided with its uncommon rash of injuries. The trend started on the eve of training camp when the Warriors announce Willie Cauley-Stein would miss most of October with a foot strain. Two days later, rookie Alen Smailagic rolled his ankle and Looney strained his hamstring in the same controlled scrimmage. 

In the last month, Curry broke his hand, sidelining the guard until at least February. Two nights later, forward Green tore a ligament in his left index finger. Last week, two-way guard Damion Lee fractured his hand. All the while, one of the league's most vaunted defense has plummeted to last in the league. 

Even as injuries mounted, signs of promise were apparent around the locker room. Rookie Eric Paschall is averaging 16.7 points and 4.8 rebounds, including a 30-point performance in Sunday's loss to the Pelicans. Veteran guard Alec Burk -- who signed a one-year contract with the team last summer -- is averaging 13.5 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 11 games. 

"The great thing with these guys is they've stayed with it every step of the way," Kerr said. "They haven't taken a day off, they haven't stopped working." 

[RELATED: Warriors get good news on Looney, Smailagic]

"You can definitely see that there's some improvement," Green added. "And with the improvement, we've been talking after each game about 'We're getting there, we're getting there, just keep on working.'" 

While their recent play has been promising, the real progress will be dictated by what the Warriors have been about for nearly a decade. 

"We've also been talking about don't get comfortable with just being there," Green said. "Don't get comfortable with 'Hey we're getting better.' Let's try to make this 'Hey, we're getting better' equal some wins."