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Kerr: Golden State's 'killers' make them special breed


Kerr: Golden State's 'killers' make them special breed

The Greatest Show on Earth used to be the circus. Now, without question, it's the Golden State Warriors and their ringleader Stephen Curry who is making everyone in the NBA jump through hoops to catch up.

After Wednesday's 134-121 win over the Wizards, who put up as good of a fight as can be expected under the circumstances, the Warriors (45-4) won their eight in a row in their march towards history of eclipsing the 72-win Chicago Bulls. Curry scored 36 of his game-high 51 points by halftime.

John Wall set a season high with 41 points  with 17 of 25 shooting. He made 3 of 4 three-point shots while Curry drained 11 of 16. It's a pace that's impossible to keep up against the most prolific scorer in the game.

“John is a stud," said Don Newman, an assistant coach for the Wizards who is filling in for Randy Wittman who is away on personal leave. "He comes to war, he loves the game, and he's one of those guys who has a big, big heart.” 

The San Antonio Spurs set the standard, implementing a pressure offense like the Mike D'Antoni Phoenix Suns but with better defensive principles. 

The Warriors, with Steve Kerr as a first-year coach, took it to the next level when they won the NBA championship last season after 67 wins -- and now they've gone beyond even that. GM Bob Meyers, an agent-turned-front-office guru and former player at UCLA, has built a roster that has star power, elite wing defenders, versatile bigs and flat out scorers who can play in the open court or half court.

"I couldn't have imagined this level of play," Kerr said. "It's a sign of our roster, what a great job Bob and his staff is doing putting a roster together and the competitiveness of our players. We got some guys, they're killers. They hate to lose. That's one of the reasons we're able to maintain a pretty high level of play."

Everyone can't be Golden State because Draymond Green, a 6-9 "tweener," is rare. He's not the most athletic player in the world but he's fundamentally sound. Assign a player against him who is too small like Jared Dudley and he'll post him up and score at will. Put a traditional big on him like Marcin Gortat, Green will stretch to the three-point line and bury the open shot or beat him off the dribble. Try to double the ball out of Green's hands, he'll find the open man because Golden State can spread the floor with four other shooters like Harrison Barnes, Klay Thompson, Andre Igoudala, Mo Speights and Leandro Barbosa.

RELATED: All of Steph Curry's three-pointers vs. the Wizards

Green had a triple-double on just five shots with 12 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds. He also added five blocked shots. When Curry needed a breather, they went with a former Wizard, Shaun Livingston, in the fourth quarter. He scored eight of his nine points there to keep them 8-12 points ahead.

When the Wizards were OK with Kevin Seraphin leaving as a free agent and moving Nene to be Gortat's backup at center before the season, this is what they hoped to capture with pace and space. Realistically, transforming a team into a juggernaut over night isn't going to happen. They want to integrate these stretch principles, which they have successfully with Dudley starting at power forward, but maintain their defensive posture.

The latter part has been the issue. The Wizards have allowed an average of 118 points in their last six games. Curry's three-point accuracy joins a long line of shooters who have had a field day against this defense, from C.J. Miles (8 of 9) to Paul George (7 of 8) to Wesley Matthews (10 of 17). 

The way to beat Golden State isn't to try to be Golden State, but mixing up coverages, turning them over and hoping at some point Curry and Thompson cool off from long range. The Wizards trapped Curry more in the second half to slow him down when they made their run to make it a one possession game.

"I don't think it's trying to match them small. It's just going out there and playing basketball. You play big against those guys, Draymond Green he's proven he's a good defender in the low post guarding bigger guys and he spaces the floor on the offensive end," Wall said. "I don't think anybody is doing everything they're trying to do. It's very rare you'll be able to say that because they have two shooters that you probably haven't seen in the backcourt at one time. Everybody, the whole NBA is starting to play small. That's just the evolution of the NBA, how the new era is going."

They'd like to get a younger version of Drew Gooden, a 6-10 stretch four who is 34. They need a physically strong wing defender who can slot ahead of Otto Porter, who has been unspectacular at times now that he's the starter, and Kelly Oubre, a 20-year-old rookie who still has a lot to learn but has the greater physical tools. 

In a league of their own, Golden State is poised to be the standard bearer in the NBA. Not San Antonio, which is older.

"Our roster is perfectly suited for the modern game because we can adapt. We can play small but we also have a good big lineup with (Andrew) Bogut and Draymond. Draymond is kind of key to all that," Kerr said. "He's whatever we need him to be. He can guard anybody on the floor. We can play him at the 4, the 5, he can switch out on the point guards. It's hard to find guys like that. I know the modern game is getting smaller and smaller with more three-point shooting. Our roster is well-suited for that. We adapt to whatever we're facing each night."

On this night, the Wizards couldn't adapt to Curry. But they have gotten used to the rock-star treatment they get everywhere they go. The Warriors had to gut out a win at the Philadelphia 76ers over the weekend on a buzzer-beating shot. This was the seventh sellout at Verizon Center for the Wizards.

"Our guys are used to this now. The media horde in the Finals maybe our guys weren't quite used to it. That was something we had to get accustomed to. Maybe it took a couple games to settle down in that series," Kerr said of their eventual six-game win vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers. "Once you go through that experience, everything pales in comparison. The media hype is with us every game. It doesn't bother us. In fact I think some of our guys thrive on it, the energy of the crowd.

"Philadelphia was electric the other night. That hasn't been the case in that city for the last few years obviously. The crowd was fantastic. Every game is a big game. It makes us better. It gets us prepared, ready. It puts us on edge."

MORE WIZARDS: Warriors win shootout with Wizards 134-121: Five takeaways

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Three things to watch for Wizards' regular season opener against the Heat

Three things to watch for Wizards' regular season opener against the Heat

The Washington Wizards open their regular season on Thursday night against the Miami Heat. Tipoff is at 8 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington. 

Here are three things to watch...

Will Howard play?

Just one week ago, it would have seemed near impossible that Dwight Howard, the Wizards' biggest offseason acquisition, would be ready to play in the season opener, but after three solid days of practice, it can't be ruled out. The Wizards plan to evaluate him throughout the day on Thursday to determine if he can take the court in what would be his first live game action with his new team.

Howard, 32, missed the entire preseason and nearly all of their practices leading up to the opener with a strained piriformis muscle. Though reports have been encouraging from his three practices, he is not yet in game shape. Even if he can play, expect him to be limited. If he can't play, Ian Mahinmi will get the start.

Heat are banged up

Miami is not only coming off a game the night before, as they lost in their season opener to the Orlando Magic, but they are missing some key guys. Dion Waiters, James Johnson, Wayne Ellington and Justise Winslow are out due to injuries.

That will leave Miami perilously thin at the guard and small forward position. That happens to be an area of the roster where the Wizards are especially deep, now with Austin Rivers as the backup shooting guard behind Bradley Beal and with first round pick Troy Brown Jr. behind Otto Porter Jr. and Kelly Oubre Jr.

That said, Waiters and Ellington being out means Dwyane Wade may get more run and, as we saw in the preseason, he is still very hard to stop. He is capable of a big night, especially given it's so early in the year and he doesn't yet have the wear-and-tear of a long season.

Can Beal reach the next level?

One of the most important indicators of how much better the Wizards will be this season is the continued improvement of their young players. John Wall, Porter and Oubre are included in that and particularly Oubre, who is entering an important season in the final year of his contract.

But the guy who improved more than anyone last year and has a chance to take another big leap this season is Beal. Now with one All-Star nod under his belt, what does he have for an encore? 

If Beal can get his scoring average up even higher from the 22.6 he put up last season, he could enter the All-NBA conversation. And he now has more help than ever with Rivers behind him. Beal should, in theory, be more fresh each night with Rivers taking away some of his workload. 

The Heat offer a good matchup defensively for Beal with Josh Richardson. He is one of the more underrated players in basketball and is a menace on the perimeter.

"I've been a fan of his since I played him in college at Tennessee," Beal said. "He's always been a pest. He's super athletic, sneaky athletic. And I feel like he developed his shot to where you have to respect it. If you go under [on screens], he's shooting it."


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With eyes set on NBA fashion world, Swaggy Picasso is quickly making a name for himself in the custom sneaker game

With eyes set on NBA fashion world, Swaggy Picasso is quickly making a name for himself in the custom sneaker game

Lloyd Ferguson had always been infatuated with sneakers. He had long been interested in painting and abstract art. It wasn't until he was 17-years-old that he realized his biggest passions in life could converge and someday become his livelihood.

It was 2011 and the annual event Sneaker Con had stopped in Washington, D.C. Ferguson, who grew up in Silver Spring, Md., came across a vendor table with customized shoes. An artist was taking popular designs from Nike, Adidas and other brands and turning them into unique and entirely original concepts.

Ferguson approached the artist and found out all he could in terms of the process and the necessary supplies to make similar shoes of his own. A seed had been planted for years later when Ferguson would make his own mark in sneaker art and become who many now know as Swaggy Picasso.

Let's rewind a bit. Before Ferguson knew customized sneakers would be a realistic path, basketball was his biggest passion. He was good at it, enough to play at Wheaton High School and later at Montgomery College. It also became a connection to his mother who passed away when he was just 13-years-old. 

Much of Ferguson's childhood was affected by the deteriorating health of his mom, who had a stroke when he was seven and as a result became paralyzed from the waist down. He often visited her while she recovered in a nursing home and, as her condition worsened, he remained linked to her through his success in the sport.

"I wanted to make my mom happy because that was the last thing she saw me doing when I was a kid. I carried that on for her," Ferguson said. "It's just been hard. I just used the things that make me happy to get me through it."

Playing college basketball was an important achievement for Ferguson, but it was short-lived. He eventually turned to art classes and as he regained those skills, he circled back to that day at Sneaker Con and how shoes were the perfect canvas. 

He started by cleaning and repainting shoes for friends and soon realized executing his own designs could be more fulfilling creatively and more lucrative. Several years in, Ferguson is starting to make a name for himself.

His Instagram account @SwaggyPicasso has allowed him to get exposure for his work. The first one that popped online was a Maryland flag-themed pair of Jordan Taxi 12s. One thing led to another, and now Lakers guard Josh Hart has an order on the way inspired by New Jersey-based artist Kaws.

"Ever since then, I've been going H.A.M. with all the painting and it's been amazing," Ferguson said.

Ferguson says his projects can take anywhere between five hours to two days. They require an extensive preparation process before the painting even begins. He will either sketch the concept on the shoe itself or on paper and go from there.

Ferguson's workshop is in his home in Silver Spring where he lives with the pastor of his church. He tries to do two shoes per day and will often stay up until the early hours of the morning to put in the finishing touches of his designs.

"I wake up every morning as the happiest man alive because I'm using my abilities and then putting it on the things that I love most which is shoes. It's just amazing," he said.

Swaggy Picasso is just starting to blow up and and all of it is overwhelming. He next  hopes to design shoes for Wizards players like John Wall and Bradley Beal and many more NBA stars. 

He is also designing a pair of shoes for NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller, set to debut on Thursday night's broadcast of the Wizards' season opener against the Miami Heat. Ferguson will attend the game and plans to wear a unique design himself, a pair of Yeezys inspired by the Batman villain 'The Joker.'

With a love for basketball and sneakers, the NBA is the logical destination for Ferguson's work. He wants to create one-of-a-kind shoes for NBA players for a living and someday open his own shop where sneaker heads can walk in and get their own custom designs.

Ferguson appears well on his way to reaching those goals, but at only 23 is now just enjoying the journey.

"I never knew I would get this far or that people would notice me," he said. "It's still mind-blowing because it's like this is really happening."

A full feature video on Ferguson's life and work is available exclusively in the new MyTeams app. Click here to download it