Nelly gives Randolph his blessing

Nelly gives Randolph his blessing

For a guy who supposedly doesn't like Anthony Randolph, Warriors coach Don Nelson is about to give him more offensive freedom than he does most second-year players he's ever coached.At least that's what Nelson says.With the return of big men Andris Biedrins and Ronny Turiaf just around the corner, Nelson said he will move Randolph to his natural power forward position and give the kid all the responsibility he can handle."You ain't seen nothing yet," Nelson said about Randolph after Sunday's practice. "He's going to be a blessed guy if he can mentally prepare himself and handle what I'm going to give him. As long as he grows and matures and understand what we're doing -- and it was a very good practice today for him -- the sky's the limit in how I can use him and go to his strengths."Of course, this is the same Randolph who has been the subject of recent trade rumors. Although the Warriors have said Randolph is unlikely to be going anywhere.And it's the same Randolph who has had his share of ups and downs with Nelson in the past year-plus.Nelson has been using Randolph a lot at backup center this season, and he saying there was a reason for it."I've always expected a lot out of him," Nelson said of Randolph. "I think he's right on schedule. What I've been able to do as a backup center and be creative that way has now opened the door for him to be a four and do the same things, and to have a better understanding."It's very easy to do what I want to do against fives. They don't guard you, they don't get into you. I think now he's ready to be a four and do the same kinds of things. So, we'll see. But I'm excited to see how it's going to work."Nelson had Randolph handling the ball for most of Sunday's practice, most of the time initiating the offense as a point-forward. To a lesser degree, Vladimir Radmanovic might have the same kinds of opportunity."Those guys better know they're blessed because there's nothing more fun for a player than to be in control of the ball and be able to make some plays. And I think (Randolph) has the ability to do that," Nelson said. Andris Biedrins (strained abdominal muscle) and Ronny Turiaf (sprained left knee) both participated in parts of practice, and Nelson said they're about "a week or so" from returning.

Rise of Stephen Curry assisted in making Chase Center a reality

Rise of Stephen Curry assisted in making Chase Center a reality

SAN FRANCISCO -- On a cool Tuesday by the bay, the Warriors celebrated The House Being Built On The Sweat And Adoration Of Stephen Curry. And it was quite the spectacle, from the church choir warming festivities to the heavy-equipment cranes performing a synchronized dance routine.

After nearly five years of visualizing and planning and plotting and adjusting -- and, above all, turning around a once-hapless NBA franchise -- the Warriors successfully navigated the maze of litigation, coming out reaching for hard hats and shovels.

Construction on what officially will be known as Chase Center, built at a cost upward of $1 billion, can commence because there are no further legal hurdles to clear. The Warriors moved from Philadelphia to San Francisco in 1962, and then to Oakland in 1971, and now they’re packing up and crossing the bridge back to San Francisco.

How did Warriors CEO Joe Lacob and co-owner Peter Guber, who completed the purchase of the team in November 2010, accomplish such an enormous feat?

They planned early. They hired in 2011 a polished dealmaker in president/COO Rick Welts. They were unfailingly optimistic and persistent and adaptable. They listened. They made concessions. They would not and could not, ever, give up.

It’s basically the same strategy that helped them land Kevin Durant, who was the only player at the ceremony.

But there are two more factors that absolutely were critical. One, Lacob and Guber asked for no public money. And, two, they steadily improved their product.

Which brings us back to Curry. The quest for a new building benefitted mightily from the new owners inheriting Curry, who in revolutionizing the sport also revived a dormant franchise. He is the primary reason for the newly robust state of the Warriors, who followed Curry to their first championship in 40 years.

“That gave us tremendous momentum,” Guber acknowledged after the nearly two-hour ceremony in Mission Bay. “It gave us tremendous market awareness. It gave us the strength to know we could hit our numbers. It gave us the strength to know that the San Francisco Bay Area was getting a team that wasn’t a flash in the pan, but one that was built to sustain itself.”

Suddenly, the Warriors were the hottest team in California, no matter the sport. Try walking a block in the Bay Area during working hours without seeing someone rocking Warriors gear. Popularity raises the profile and also has influence.

If the Warriors choose to retain the name “Golden State,” instead of reclaiming the designation “San Francisco” Warriors, as they were known from 1962 to 1971, that also could be traced back to rise of Curry and his ability to lift his teammates and, by extension, the entire region.

Lacob said Tuesday that there’s a good chance the Warriors retain the name “Golden State,” echoing comments made by Welts on the CSN Warriors Insider Podcast of Jan. 5. The reasoning, according to the Warriors, is that the name has become widely recognized and, now, synonymous with success -- much as the former Boston, now New England, Patriots of the NFL.

“We are the Golden State Warriors,” coach Steve Kerr said. “It’s not up to me, but I don’t want it to change. It’s a unique name; it’s the only one like it in the league. I would like to see that remain. I fully believe we are still the Bay Area’s team, no matter whether we’re playing in Oakland or San Jose or San Francisco.”

There was much joy in the room, particularly on stage, Tuesday afternoon. Along with Lacob, Guber, Welts, Kerr and Durant were San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and Chase bank executive Thasunda Duckett. All seven had complimentary things to say, with Durant even facing an artists’ rendering of Chase Center and saying “it’ll be fun playing in there.”

Curry was not attendance Tuesday, though he has appeared a previous gatherings regarding the new building.

Chase Center, covering 11 acres, is scheduled to open in the summer of 2019, two years behind the original projections stated by Lacob and Guber back in 2012, long before they secured naming rights. From multiple lawsuits to a major site change to more lawsuits, the road to Groundbreaking Day was fraught with challenges.

The organization overcame them all, with a crucial assist from the point guard.

Mailbag: Should Sharks trade a d-man for scoring help?

Mailbag: Should Sharks trade a d-man for scoring help?

Tuesday’s practice was canceled, as the Sharks boarded an afternoon charter flight to Los Angeles with the dads in tow for the annual fathers trip. That leaves us some extra time for a mailbag…

Why is no line set over halfway through the season? (Kevin Cocquyt @KevinCocquyt39)

The shuffling up of lines is one of those aspects of the game that I think gets overblown a bit. I can’t put a number on how many times Pete DeBoer has prefaced his reply to a question about the latest line changes with the phrase, “we’re not married to any lines…”

That said, I do think the preference would be to ice a more consistent top six at this point. The fact that they haven’t found a left wing to consistently skate on the top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski is concerning. On the second line, it remains to be seen if Kevin Labanc can stick with Logan Couture, or if he’ll start to fade a bit in his first NHL season. The other players that started the season on the second line, Joonas Donskoi and Mikkel Boedker, have been moved all up and down the lineup all season long (more on that below).

Tomas Hertl’s absence has thrown a monkey wrench into all of this, of course. Assuming he gets back next month, there’s still plenty of time to get the lines sorted out for the playoff push. Regardless, though, they are almost always fluid, and keep in mind when DeBoer made a major change to his lines last playoff run – moving Patrick Marleau up to the second line and Chris Tierney to center the third line in the middle of the Nashville series – the Sharks finished off the Predators in the second round and went on to beat the Blues in the Western Conference Final.

So I guess my message here would be, don’t panic all that much at this point. It’s a long season.

Largest surprise and disappointment with the Sharks halfway through the season? There's a lot to pick from on both fronts. (Drew Cormier @DrewCormier)

I’ll give you one obvious and one maybe less obvious for both.

I’ll start with biggest surprise. It has to be Labanc. I know he tore up juniors last season, but this is still a kid who just turned 21 years old and wasn’t a high-round draft pick (sixth round, 2014). I knew the organization was high on him, and I even had him down as a dark horse player to make the team out of camp, but to come up so soon, and play regularly on a top scoring line and score seven goals – more than Donskoi, Boedker, Tierney, Joe Thornton and Joel Ward – is impressive, and, frankly, surprising.

One guy that’s gone under the radar a bit, though, is Brenden Dillon. The 26-year-old defenseman is simply faster and more mobile than he was last season, and he’s really made this defense corps one of the best in the NHL one-through-six. I know the numbers don’t show it, as Dillon has just four assists and a minus-five rating, but he’s a better player than he was last season.

As for disappointment, Boedker remains at the top of that list, even after his hat trick against the Oilers. He just doesn’t seem like the type of player that fits in with this forward group. At this point, I have to think there’s some buyer’s remorse there with Boedker owed $4 million a season through 2019-2020.

But another player that just hasn’t taken that next step so many thought he would is Donskoi. He was downright electrifying on some nights in the playoffs last season, and I thought this season we might see him get to 15-20 goals and 40-50 points. Instead, he’d be on pace for just 28 points in a full 82-game season. I thought he’d be better.

What do you think [Justin] Braun is worth? Can he be used as part of a deal for a top scoring forward? We need extra scoring. (Backhand Shelf @ChrisRivs)

I can understand the concern with the Sharks’ lack of scoring, and that many of their key forwards seem to be underperforming. Perhaps adding a little more scoring punch to their roster at the trade deadline is something that Doug Wilson will explore.

But, I don’t see any way this team will move one of its top four defensemen for a scoring forward. The strength and identity of this team this season has been its defensive structure and its ability to limit the opposition from getting shots and scoring chances in front of goalie Martin Jones. Moving Braun, or any of their other big minute defensemen, just wouldn’t make any sense.

I do, however, expect they’ll lose at least one of their current top six before next season, either through a trade or the expansion draft. That could very well be Braun, who might not get protected. In the meantime, though, they need him on the blue line.