Theres a school of thought out there among some Warriorsfans in which things really begin to come together during the 2012-13season.The Warriors finally have a center, and Andrew Bogut is apretty good one when hes healthy. Stephen Curry, fingers crossed, willhopefully return and his right ankle will be completely healed.And theres also the matter of the Warriors draft pick. Ifthe Warriors get a break or during the NBA lottery, theyll end up getting atop-seven pick and be able to add to their talent pool.In other words, things seem to be locking in.But theres a wild card out there, and unknown that couldwind up throwing a monkey wrench into the plans. That wild card is MichaelMalone.Malone, of course, is the Warriors top assistant coach andhes sure to get a few sniffs come this offseason. But hes more than just theWarriors No. 1 assistant. Malone is considered one of the best young assistantcoaches in the game and it seems only a matter of time before he becomes a headcoach.And if this is Malones time to get a head job, then theWarriors will be negatively impacted.As far as assistant coaches go, few if any have moreinput and influence than Malone. If you sit outside a practice at the Warriorsfacility, it is Malones voice mostly heard echoing within the gym.When the Warriors are in a tight game, and need a bucket, itis Malone who draws up the plays in the huddle. When head coach Mark Jacksonpaces the sidelines, it invariably is Malone who approaches him with asuggestion or gives him advice.The Washington Wizards, Orlando Magic, Portland TrailBlazers and L.A. Clippers, and maybe another team or two, figure to have headcoaching openings this offseason.And its likely Malone will be a candidate in one or more ofthose places. It sure seems like Malone could have a busy summer. There alreadyhas been a report that the Magics Dwight Howard wants Malone to be Orlandoshead coach. And there is a history between Clippers point guard Chris Paul andMalone, both of whom were in New Orleans.In other words, the Warriors have all their importantplayers signed and under contract for next season. The big unknown, however, iswhether their top assistant coach will return.
Having destroyed three highly regarded opponents in their toughest week of the season, the Warriors on Sunday face an altogether different kind of challenge.
This time, it’s simply waking up.
The Warriors will pursue their seventh consecutive win, facing the Orlando Magic at Amway Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 9 a.m Pacific., the earliest game of the season for the Warriors.
The last time the Warriors (37-6) played such an early game in the Eastern Time Zone was March 26, 1995, also in Orlando.
The Magic (18-27) will want to be on alert for Warriors star Stephen Curry, who torched Orlando for 51 points last Feb. 25, his last visit to Amway Center.
Warriors by 12.5
MATCHUP TO WATCH:
Kevin Durant vs. Aaron Gordon: It’s the most efficient high-producer on offense (Durant) vs. one of the top five athletes in the league (Gordon). Durant is taking apart all defenders, and Gordon isn’t known for his D. No, the South Bay native is most known for his ability to fly. Durant’s task will be to minimize lob attempts while keeping him off the offensive glass for easy put backs.
Warriors: F/C David West (L thumb fracture) is listed as out.
Magic: G Evan Fournier (R foot soreness) is listed as questionable. G Jodie Meeks (R thumb sprain) and G C. J. Wilcox (L Achilles tendinitis) are listed as out.
Warriors: 9-1. Magic: 3-7.
The Warriors have swept the Magic in each of the past three seasons, compiling a six-game win streak during which they’ve won by an average of 10.8 points per game.
THREE THINGS TO WATCH:
EARLY FOCUS: After such astonishing success in a grueling week, with three emotional games, the Warriors may be susceptible to a letdown against inferior competition. Will they be able to summon the intensity from the start?
THE BIG MEN: Zaza Pachulia will have his hands full with Nikola Vucevic, the USC product who is one of the league’s more skilled scorers in the paint. Vucevic is not much of a defender, though, so Pachulia may find a few opportunities via the back cut or the pick-and-roll.
INSIDE D: If ever there were an offensive team begging to be defended by a zone, it is the Magic, who are 25th in field-goal percentage and, even worse, 28th in 3-point shooting percentage. The Warriors should be in good shape if they limit penetration.
Late in the first half of Wednesday night's game against the Thunder, Warriors center Zaza Pachulia made hard contact with Russell Westbrook, sending the Oklahoma City star sprawling to the ground.
The referees reviewed the play and gave Pachulia a flagrant foul.
Replays show Pachulia appearing to stand over Westbrook and none of his Thunder teammates coming to his defense.
Raja Bell, a 12-year NBA veteran who was briefly a Warrior during the 2009-10 season, was not happy with the reaction of the Thunder players.
"You are supposed to come flying across the court. You don't have to punch him, because that's a lot of money. But he should catch a forearm across his shoulder, a shove in the back, you ain't gonna knock down Russell Westbrook, the everything to the team I'm playing on, who feeds me, who makes me better, you ain't gonna do that and just stand over him and ice grill him. Not a chance," Bell said on Thursday during the NBA Crossover show on CBS Sports.
The incident started a war of words between Westbrook a Pachulia following the game.
"I don't know. He hit me kind of hard. But it's alright. I'm going to get his ass back. Straight up," Westbrook said when asked about what happened on the play.
He was then asked if he noticed Pachulia standing over him.
"I didn't see that until just now, but I don't play that game. I'm going to get his ass back. Whenever that is, I don't know, but I don't play that game," Westbrook said.
Pachulia responded to Westbrook's comments moments later.
"I can't worry about that kind of comment. I'm part of an amazing team and we have a great goal of winning a championship. I'm all in with my energy, 100 percent. So we're thinking about this team, staying healthy, moving forward, getting better, getting to the playoffs and playing for the championship. That's what I'm thinking about. I'm not thinking about those kind of comments.
"That team is not there, so they may be thinking about other stuff like getting me back. Okay, you can get me back. But again, it's my 14th year, we all know what my game is, to play hard, not dirty. If it was a hard foul, it was a hard foul. It wasn't dirty at all. I'm not worried about this," Pachulia told the media.