Finding motivation key for Warriors in three-peat bid


Finding motivation key for Warriors in three-peat bid

At first glance, everything looks rosy for the two-time defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors in their bid to become one of the league’s all-time great dynasties. All the key players are back from their title teams, and Steph Curry is off to one of the best starts of his pro career.

Curry set another NBA record on Sunday by making seven three pointers in the Warriors’ win at Brooklyn. That made it seven straight games with at least five made three pointers, breaking the old record set by George McCloud during the 1995-96 season.

Meanwhile, Kevin Durant seems to be enjoying all the media attention over his upcoming free agency. Durant poured in 41 points at Madison Square Garden last Friday after patiently answering questions from New York area reporters at the morning shootaround about his possible interest in joining the Knicks.

Draymond Green continues to be a defensive stopper and stat stuffer, dishing out a season-high 13 assists in the win at Brooklyn. But after that, there are a few concerns for Steve Kerr and his coaching staff.

All-Star guard Klay Thompson is off to a slow start while also dealing with questions about his upcoming free agency. Thompson is just 5-36 from the three-point line this season and hasn’t had a 20 point game yet during the Warriors’ 6-1 start. Thompson will come out of his early slump very soon, hopefully not on Monday against the Bulls.

No one’s really sure when free agent addition DeMarcus Cousins will make his debut after Achilles’ tendon surgery last season, and Cousins had to apologize to Kerr after getting thrown out of the game in New York last Friday for arguing with a referee while wearing street clothes.

It will be fascinating to see what kind of fit the temperamental Cousins will turn out to be with such a professional group like the Warriors. Is there a chance “Boogie” could disrupt the air-tight chemistry Kerr has built in the Bay Area?

A bigger short term concern for Kerr will be getting better production from his bench. Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston have missed games because of injuries, and both are past their primes. Free agent big man Jonas Jerebko looks like a nice addition, but Golden State could use another athletic wing player in the mold of the departed Patrick McCaw and Ian Clark. Actually, more consistent scoring from any bench player would be welcome.

Jordan Bell, Damian Jones and Kevon Looney will provide rebounding and hustle plays, but only Bell figures to remain in the rotation when Cousins is ready to play again.

Granted, every one of the other 29 teams would love to deal with the minor concerns that Kerr and the Warriors are facing right now. But ask any player who has been a part of three straight NBA championship teams, and he’ll tell you the biggest challenge is finding the motivation to keep striving for excellence during the regular season portion of trying for title No. 3.

Kerr is uniquely qualified to lead this group and you can bet he’ll draw on his experience from playing on that second Bulls’ three-peat team to have the Warriors running at peak efficiency when the playoffs begin next April. Even fighting boredom during the regular season, Golden State shouldn’t have much trouble finishing with the top seed in the West and the NBA’s best overall record.

The Bulls will have one advantage tomorrow night. Golden State could be a little tired playing its third road game in four nights, but the Warriors have such a huge talent advantage that it probably won’t make much difference. With that in mind, here are three ways to try to keep the game close.

1. DEFEND THE THREE-POINT LINE: The Bulls did a much better job in this area during Saturday’s win in Atlanta, and it will be a point of emphasis from the coaching staff throughout the season. Problem is, Golden State has three of the best shooters in NBA history and Curry is in the middle of one of the hottest streaks of his career.

2. ATTACK THE BASKET: Durant has improved tremendously as an interior defender since joining the Warriors, but none of the three players Golden State will use at center have great positional size. Zach LaVine needs to challenge the Warriors’ defense by getting into the paint to draw fouls and set up his teammates for open looks. Who knows, maybe Cam Payne will make seven three-pointers again!

3. POINTS FOR PARKER: Jabari Parker continues to look more comfortable in his role as the facilitator for the Bulls’ reserve group, and he’s also part of the closing fourth quarter unit playing with LaVine. Parker will be guarded at times by Iguodala, and it will be interesting to see if Jabari can get the better of this matchup between two former Illinois high school stars.

Tune in to NBC Sports Chicago Monday night at 6:30 for Bulls Pregame Live from the United Center Atrium. Kendall Gill, Will Perdue and Kelly Crull join me to take you through all the main storylines, and after the game goes final, flip back to NBC Sports Chicago for reaction from both teams on Bulls Postgame Live, followed by Bulls Outsiders. Our pre and post game coverage is also available on the new My Teams by NBC Sports app.

Report: Vote scheduled for ‘20-to-22’ team NBA return plan, expected to pass

Report: Vote scheduled for ‘20-to-22’ team NBA return plan, expected to pass

The NBA is expected to have a plan to resume its season approved by owners at a vote on Thursday, June 4, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports.

The news comes on the heels of a call with the Board of Governors Friday that yielded nothing definitive. Four potential formats for relaunching the season and a target date of July 31 to resume play were reportedly floated.

But the above report from Wojnarowski marks the most marked progress towards the league formally agreeing on a return-to-play plan to date.

Predictably, the precise details of the plan are not yet known. In conjunction with Zach Lowe and Ramona Shelburne, Wojnarowski reported that the plan is expected to feature invitations for “20-to-22” teams.

That would mean no invite for the Bulls — perhaps a blessing in disguise (or dressed plainly). The Bulls are currently paused with the 24th-best record in the NBA at 22-43, and are 8.5 games back of the eighth-seeded Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference.

Still, the team opened the Advocate Center Friday morning with clearance from both Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Chicago officials. Players in the area will be permitted to undergo NBA-sanctioned treatments at the facility, an opportunity which Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn have already taken advantage of. Voluntary, socially-distanced, individual workouts may begin Wednesday when Chicago is expected to enter Phase 3 of its reopening. Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley will be en route to the city soon.

The NBA suspended its season on March 11 after Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus. A resumption bid seems on the cusp of coming to fruition.

Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | Art19

How story of Michael Jordan secretly practicing with Warriors was unearthed

How story of Michael Jordan secretly practicing with Warriors was unearthed

Before Michael Jordan rejoined the Bulls, he was a Warrior for 48 hours. Figuratively, of course.

No, Jordan didn’t officially sign (or even consider the notion) with the Warriors during the MLB strike that punctuated his first retirement amid the 1994-95 NBA season. But he did secretly practice with the Dubs multiple times whilst retired — and, with rare purpose, dominated multiple All-Stars in midseason condition. 

That story was unearthed on NBC Sports’ “Sports Uncovered” podcast. Some of the people behind the production of the podcast, NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson, Ryan McGuffey and Tony Gill, joined Jason Goff on the most recent episode of the Bulls Talk Podcast to discuss the behind-the-scenes machinations behind its creation.

McGuffey called the secret Jordan-Warriors practice runs the “golden uncovered nugget” of the podcast. And it came about rather serendipitously, in a chance interview with Tim Hardaway.

“The Tim Hardaway interview kind of fell in our lap. He was in our office one day and it was like, ‘Hey, do you want Tim Hardaway?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah!’” McGuffey said. “I mean, he was an All-Star. I don’t know if it’ll give us anything, I don’t know if it’ll lead to anything. 

“Sometimes the interviews you don’t plan for are the ones that become a stone that you turn over and you’re like ‘What is this?’ And Tim Hardaway made a comment, I asked about the Berto Center practices and whether or not he understood what was going on here in Chicago. And he said, ‘I’m gonna get in trouble for saying this.’ ... When a guy says that, you know you got something."

They did, indeed. From there, on recommendation from Hardaway, the crew got in touch with Rod Higgins, then an assistant coach with the Warriors, now the Atlanta Hawks' VP of basketball operations. As detailed in the podcast, it was through a connection with Higgins that Jordan was even allowed to participate in the practices in the first place.

McGuffey and company entered their sit-down with Higgins ready to pry, equipped with volumes of follow-up questions and previously-researched points. But Higgins was ready to share.

“We reached out, found Higgins with the Hawks and reached out to them and told them exactly why we wanted to do the interview. We said this is the story, here’s what’s been said and can you validate?" McGuffey said. "And he didn’t validate it, he didn’t double down, he tripled down and gave us more facts, more details.”

You can hear those details by listening to the Sports Uncovered podcast here, via the embedded player below or wherever you get your podcasts.

Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | Art19