Mailtime Assuming the Warriors re-sign Brandon Rush and adda backup power forward, is this a playoff team? Robert, Petaluma,Calif.Steinmetz: On paper its the closest theWarriors have been to being a playoff team since 2007-08, when they won 48games.Now, Im not saying this is a 48-win team. Im saying thisis the best roster the Warriors have had since that time. However, here comethe disclaimers.First, the Western Conference is still a bear. OklahomaCity, the Lakers, the Clippers, the Spurs and the Memphis Grizzlies are allmore talented than the Warriors.As long as Dallas has Dirk Nowitzki, I think theyre going tomake the playoffs, particularly because I think they did enough to maintainthis offseason. So, that leaves two openings and teams such as the Warriors,Denver, Houston, Portland, Utah, Phoenix and Minnesota.Can the Warriors compete with that group? Yes, assumingtheyre healthy. And, really, thats what so much of this comes down to. CanStephen Curry and Andrew Bogut play full seasons or relatively close to fullseasons? That will, in many ways, dictate the Warriors season.If theyre healthy, I think the Warriors can compete for oneof the final two playoff spots in the West. I see the Warriors as a teamknocking on the door of .500 again, if healthy and if theyre knocking onthat door it means theyll be in the vicinity.I think if everything goes right for them, maybe this teamcan climb above .500. If theyre banged up or have some bad luck, then I thinktheyre under. But as of right now, yes, I think the goal for the team and thefans should be the playoffs.Whats going on with Brandon Rush? Mark, PaloAlto.Steinmetz: You want to talk about the normalcourse of things this is the normal course of things a lot of time with arestricted free agent. Particularly with the way the Warriors have handled itfrom back in the regular season and shortly thereafter.Its not accurate to say nothing is going on with Brandon Rush,because something could break at any time with another team signing him to anoffer sheet. At the same time, its the kind of situation that could lingerbecause some teams are likely very leery of signing Rush to an offersheet.See, the Warriors have made it clear that Rush is a priorityfor them and that they want to re-sign him. Rush made 3 million last season,so youve got to figure the Warriors are willing to go somewhere in thevicinity of 5 million per season to keep him.So, the question is this: Why would another team sign Rushto an offer sheet, knowing the Warriors are going to match? Not only that, theWarriors could take up to three days to match, meaning that the team thatsigned Rush to the offer sheet might have to remain idle during thattime.Its one thing to come up with a whopper of an offer likeMinnesota did with Nicolas Batum or Houston did with Jeremy Lin but Rush isdifferent. Hes not so coveted that a team is going to offer him that kind ofmoney.So, again, I could see this lingering for a while, and if itdoes, it does. But you never know maybe a team like Minnesota, which struckout on Batum, might be trying to put something together for Rush.But the reality is that the Warriors are in control of theRush situation, and they know it.Any word on whether the Warriors are interested inAndray Blatche? Ryan, Santa Clara.Steinmetz: Oh, lordy, I hope not. Few players inthe NBA have underachieved like Andray Blatche. He came into the league withcomparisons to Kevin Garnett, but hasnt turned out to be a shell of the playerGarnett wasis.Blatche seems to be everything the Warriors are trying tosteer away from these days. Owner Joe Lacob and general manager Bob Myers havebeen stressing the importance of bringing in character people, and thats notthe reputation Blatche has.From a practical standpoint, what concerns me most aboutBlatche is that he seems to have lost all the athleticism he once had. Thatmeans hes a player without know-how and a player without athleticism.Ill pass on him, and Im sure the Warriors will,too.
MEMPHIS -- The Grizzlies bolted out of the starting gate and never looked back.
The Warriors weren't exactly gaining on them anyway.
"We couldn't have played much worse," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said, "and I thought (the Grizzlies) were great. They came out, took it to us.
The Grizzlies led by as many as 30 points in the second half - the biggest advantage by any Warriors opponent this season. Seven Memphis players finished in double figures, including Zach Randolph and JaMychal Green with 14 points each.
"We stayed poised, we stayed in control, we stayed aggressive," Gasol said. "We played to win. We didn't play not to lose."
Kevin Durant led Golden State with 21 points, while Stephen Curry added 17 points and Ian Clark finished with 10 points. Curry and backcourt starter Klay Thompson (eight points) were a combined 8 of 28 from the field, including 3 of 14 outside the arc.
Memphis had a double-digit lead early, led 61-38 at halftime and kept building in the third quarter.
Golden State ended a four-game winning streak. The Warriors had won 16 of 17, the lone loss in the stretch coming 132-127 in double overtime to Houston on Dec. 1
Kerr benched his starters with 10 minutes left and Memphis leading 93-65.
It was just one of those rare nights for Golden State, which entered with the league's best record at 20-3. The Warriors had a season low in points, a season high in turnovers (23) and were close to their season low in shooting percentage (44.2 percent).
Golden State's 38 first-half points were its fewest in any half this season.
"We weren't on the same page. We were trying to force too many things," Thompson said, adding that "(the Grizzlies) definitely took us out of our rhythm early, and we let that affect us on the offensive end and the defensive end."
The lead ballooned to 68-38 when Memphis scored the first seven points of the second half, and the Grizzlies held an 87-65 lead after three quarters.
"It was one of those nights," Durant said.
Warriors: C Zaza Pachulia was a late scratch with a right wrist contusion. Anderson Varejao started his first game of the season (and first with Golden State)... Damian Jones made his NBA debut in the fourth. Jones was selected with the 30th overall pick out of Vanderbilt in last summer's draft. ... Curry's 3-pointer in the third quarter tied him with Steve Nash for 17th career in 3-point field goals.
Grizzlies: Gasol made a 3-pointer in the third quarter. The 7-foot-1 center has now made a shot from outside the arc in eight of the last nine games. ... JaMychal Green (14 points, 10 rebounds) recorded his fifth consecutive double-double. .Memphis trailed for only 31 seconds in the game, 3-2.
Clark had his high school number retired Friday night at Germantown High in a Memphis suburb. Clark, who attended college at Belmont, is the only former Germantown player to make the NBA. Several teammates, including Durant, Draymond Green and Curry, attended the ceremonies.
TOO MUCH WARRIOR LOVE
Gasol has grumbled this year when opposing fans have packed into FedExForum and subtly mentioned it Saturday night.
"We did a good job of keeping their crowd out of the game for the most part," he said. "I think our crowd won. We didn't let their fans get too excited throughout the game."
Warriors: Continue a five-game trip at Minnesota on Sunday. The five-game swing matches the longest stretch away from home for Golden State this season.
Grizzlies: Play their only road game over a two-week stretch traveling to Cleveland on Tuesday night. The teams then travel to Memphis to face each other Wednesday in a back-to-back.
In rising to the level of NBA elite the past few seasons, the Warriors have had to vanquish many ghosts along the way. The Memphis Grizzlies once fell into that category.
After a five-year stretch during which they lost 14 of 17 games against the Grizzlies – including eight in a row in Memphis – the Warriors now treat FedEx Forum like any other road venue. They’ve won four of the last five at the “Grindhouse.”
They’ll try to continue their recent domination when the teams meet Saturday night. Largely behind spells of fantastic defense, the Warriors (20-3) have won 16 of the last 17, including the last four in a row.
Though punctured by injuries, the Grizzlies (16-8) have managed to overachieve, winning five in a row under first-year head coach David Fizdale, a former Warriors assistant.
Warriors by 12.5
MATCHUP TO WATCH:
Zaza Pachulia vs. Marc Gasol. Already one of the best centers in the league, Gasol’s work at both ends has kept the Grizzlies afloat despite injuries to several key teammates. Though Pachulia will get the initial assignment, expect the Warriors to send a variety of defenders at “Big Spain.” Containing him is surest way for the Warriors to maintain control of the game.
Warriors: 9-1. Grizzlies: 7-3.
Only two NBA players are averaging better than 19 points, four assists, 1.5 blocks while shooting at least 40 percent beyond the arc: Warriors forward Kevin Durant and Gasol.
Warriors: F Andre Iguodala (rest) and F Kevon Looney (R ankle sprain) are listed as out.
Grizzlies: F Vince Carter (R hip flexor strain) and G Troy Daniels (illness) are listed as questionable. G Mike Conley (lower back injury), F James Ennis III (R calf strain). F Chandler Parsons (L knee bone bruise) and F Brandan Wright (L ankle surgery) are listed as out.
The Warriors have won the last six in a row and eight of the last nine.
THREE THINGS TO WATCH:
Class is in session? With Conley out, rookie Andrew Harrison gets the primary assignment against Stephen Curry. Harrison is rangy enough (6-foot-6) to present problems. The Kentucky product also is the kind of blue-chip recruit Curry loves to take to school.
Who becomes the equalizer? Iguodala excels in the role of stabilizing the offense and creating havoc on defense. He’s unique enough that his absence will be felt. The Warriors need someone to fill that void. Pat McCaw and Shaun Livingston are the top candidates.
Beware the grind: Memphis is terrific at keeping it close and finding a finishing kick. They’re 12-0 in games that go into overtime or are decided by five or fewer points. So far this month they’ve come back to win despite trailing in the fourth quarter by 14 against Orlando, 13 against Portland and 10 against New Orleans.