Mailtime Who will be the first shooting guard off the bench?Will it be Brandon Rush or Jarrett Jack? Or could Mark Jackson bring in Jack toplay point guard and move Curry to shooting guard? Ben, Bay Area.Steinmetz: All of the above are possible.Its a tough one to call because so much has to play out.And honestly, I dont see the same pattern developing game after game aftergame. I see Jackson making substitutions depending on the game situation and itcould change.My hunch is that Rush has a chance of starting, which wouldtake him out of the mix in terms of bringing him off the bench. What I seehappening most of the time is for Jack to be the first guard off the bench, butsome games hell probably come in for Curry and other games hell come in forThompson.Thats the luxury of having a player such as Jack. You canbring him in to play either of the backcourt positions and the best part isthat hes capable of defending both guard positions.Curry and Thompson are more limited than that, with eachpretty much limited to only guarding their own positions.Why did the Warriors keep Kent Bazemore over DominicMcGuire? Was it about the guaranteed contract? McGuire can guard twos, threesand fours. Ned, Bay Area.Steinmetz: I dont think the guaranteed contracthad anything to do with it. McGuire didnt have a guarantee last year and hesout of work now so he would have likely taken a non-guarantee again.The makeup of the Warriors has changed since last year.McGuire found a niche last season at the small forward and power forward spotsin large part because of injury and his ability to defend.This year the Warriors added a rookie small forward inHarrison Barnes and a small forwardpower forward in Draymond Green. For asmuch as McGuire helped the Warriors last season, hes a relatively limitedplayer and youve got to find out about Barnes and Green.I think the Warriors also wanted to avoid a situation inwhich a player such as McGuire was taking minutes from either Barnes or Green.And when you get into the day to day and are trying to win every game, itseasy seeing Jackson calling McGuires number perhaps too much.As for Bazemore, hes also a versatile defender, only he cando it more at the one, two and three positions. Bottom line is Bazemore hasmore of an upside than McGuire.Could Patrick Ewing get the Warriors openassistant spot? Loco, Parts Unknown.Steinmetz: Thats not going to happen. TheWarriors already have hired Bob Beyer, who was an assistant coach the past fiveseasons for the Orlando Magic.Beyer replaces Wes Unseld Jr., who took a job with theMagic. The Warriors have their assistant coaching lineup set with MichaelMalone, Pete Myers, Beyer and Darren Erman.Yahoo Sports reported on Thursday that Ermann had beenelevated into Unseld Jr.s spot. In any event, the Warriors assistant coachingstaff is complete at this point.Do you think Harrison Barnes will be in the Rookieof the Year discussion? Jerry, Los Angeles.Steinmetz: I see Barnes having a nice rookieseason, but I dont see him in the Rookie of the Year discussion. Typically,the winner of the Rookie of the Year is a someone who starts and plays a lot ofminutes and usually its on a team that isnt very successful.Id say my frontrunner for Rookie of the Year is DamianLillard, who will probably be the starting point guard in Portland. Im noteven sure Barnes will start for the Warriors. He could come off the bench, andif thats the case hell likely play between 15-20 minutes game.Then again, even if Barnes does start he will probably getabout that many minutes. The Warriors have re-signed Brandon Rush, and so hesgoing to have to play some. And dont count out Richard Jefferson.I also see the Warriors focusing heavily on trying to makethe postseason. To do that, theyre going to have to win every game theypossibly can, and with that thinking, its easy to see Jackson going more withveteran players.
OAKLAND -- No one among the Warriors had a deeper desire to beat the Cavaliers than Stephen Curry, and his performance Monday gave every indication that he wanted it as badly as he needed it.
And after losing the point-guard battle to Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving in four successive games, all Warriors losses, it was past time for Curry as the back-to-back MVP to stand up and make a statement.
His response was impressive: 20 points (7-of-20 shooting), 11 assists, four steals and a 126-91 rout by the Warriors. He was plus-23 over 31 minutes.
“He was making shots, it’s as simple as that,” Irving said. “In transition, off pick-and-rolls, doing what he does and that makes him a great player.”
Irving’s response: 17 points (6-of-19 shooting), two assists and a game-high-tying (with teammate LeBron James) six turnovers. Irving was minus-12 over 29 minutes.
“Steph was great,” coach Steve Kerr said. “A phenomenal first half, I think he had 10 assists. His energy was great and he set the tone. He put a lot of pressure on the defense.”
Curry has been playing with renewed vigor lately, his mentality changing shortly after the Warriors on Christmas Day in Cleveland blew a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter, taking a 109-108 loss. Curry took only 11 shots, scoring 15 points.
He was particularly good in the first half, scoring 14 points on 5-of-11 shooting, with 10 assists and three steals. Curry clearly came to destroy.
“It was a great way to start, just a foot on the gas pedal,” Curry said.
Curry’s game, along with the victory, may silence some of the narrative suggesting the Cavaliers have his number. Though he was displeased with one aspect of his game, Curry happily accepted the outcome. Or that Irving hadn't caught up to him.
“I obviously wanted to play well; I didn’t want to walk off the floor with anything more than what I think is a solid, aggressive game,” he said. “I didn’t shoot the ball as well as I wanted to. Some shots I normally make didn’t go down.
But I can live with that knowing I took care of the other stuff I was supposed to do on the floor. Really, what was all in my head was that I definitely wanted to leave this arena tonight with a solid performance and obviously get the win.”
OAKLAND -- There was a single play Monday night that delighted Warriors fans more than any other in a 126-91 win over the Cavaliers, and it was not any of five 3-point bombs dropped by Oracle Arena favorite Stephen Curry.
Nor was it the high-velocity collision between Draymond Green and LeBron James, which resulted in Green being assessed with a Flagrant Foul 1 and the Warriors cranking up their intensity to another level.
No, the most satisfying play of all was on defense, and it was made by offensive wizard Kevin Durant, who sent a resounding message to the Cavaliers and, moreover, to James, Cleveland’s superstar forward.
With 9:48 left in the third quarter and James driving in for a dunk, Durant responded by rising up and cleanly stuffing the shot, sending James sprawling helplessly to the floor as the Warriors gained possession and raced the other way.
“That block at the rim was definitely great,” Draymond Green said. “If LeBron dunks on him right there, the momentum swings, he’s excited and everything can possibly swing. Yeah, he made a stand. Got a big block for us and we got off to the races. That puts momentum completely in our favor.”
With the crowd pumping up the volume, the Warriors, already in control, finished the job. And don’t think Durant isn’t aware of the effect such a play has.
“Yeah, especially when you’re at home, when you get a block against anybody, the crowd is into the game and they really enjoy that,” he said. “Around the league now, in every arena, fans are starting to respect defense. They can sense that it’s a momentum shift when you get a big block or a huge steal or a block.”
It also put momentum, on a personal level, in Durant’s favor. Despite the fact that Curry has won the last two MVP awards, it’s widely believed that James and Durant are the top two players in the NBA.
James has three championship rings, while Durant has none. James has four MVP awards, to one for Durant. When the two met in the 2012 NBA Finals, when Durant was with the Thunder and James with the Heat, Miami won in five games.
Durant, who entered the league four years after James, is at the point in his career that he believes he’s ready for anything James may have. Furthermore, since coming to the Warriors last summer, Durant clearly embraces the opportunity to beat James.
Durant posted 36 points and 15 rebounds when the teams met in Cleveland on Christmas Day, and posted 21 points, six rebounds, five assists, three blocks and two steals on Monday. KD, on an individual basis, is now 2-0 this season against LeBron.
“Guarding one of the best players in the league, and somebody that can score in different ways and impact the game from different ways, whether it’s in transition or the pick-and-roll or (isolation), I just tried to stay locked in and relied on my teammates,” Durant said.