Plenty at stake for some Warriors in Las Vegas


Plenty at stake for some Warriors in Las Vegas

The Warriors summer league team has begun practicing in LasVegas in preparation for their first game on Friday night. Three Warriorsrookies Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli and Draymond Green will make theirpro debuts for the Warriors, but theyre not the only ones with something atstake.

RECAP: Warriors' roster, schedule set for 2012 Summer League
The Warriorswill also have three second-yearplayers on their roster: Charles Jenkins, Jeremy Tyler and ChrisWright.Heres a run-down of each player, and what to look for oncethe games begin:Harrison Barnes: The strength of Barnesgame is at the offensive end. He is a smooth jump shooter with a solidmid-range game and a 3-point shot that is improving.What the Warriors would like to see most, however, fromBarnes this summer is an ability to defend. Warriors owner Joe Lacob andgeneral manager Bob Myers have said they believe Barnes is a much betterathlete than given credit for.If thats the case, theres no reason Barnes, who is6-foot-8, cant excel at that end of the floor. Well get a first taste ofwhether he can this week.Well also get a read on whether its realistic to pencil inBarnes as the starter at small forward or whether that may have towait.Festus Ezeli: The Warriors are high onEzeli, and why shouldnt they be? After Andrew Bogut and David Lee, theWarriors front line is very thin, and so theres an opportunity for Ezeli toget minutes.For Ezeli, his job description should be relatively simple:Rebound, defend and take fouls at the rim. If he can show in Vegas hes capableof doing those things, it will bode very well for him heading into trainingcamp in the fall.Draymond Green: He had a tremendouscollege career at Michigan State, but there are concerns about him being atweener. The fear is that hes not big enough to be a power forward and notquick enough to play small forward.But theres another scenario, and its this: What if Greenis too quick for power forwards to defend and too strong and skilled on the boxfor small forwards to cover? We could get the first glimpse of that inVegas.If thats the case, Green could be a significant contributordown the road.Charles Jenkins: Until further notice or until the Warriors sign a free-agent point guard Jenkins is the de factobackup to Stephen Curry. Jenkins had a nice rookie season, taking advantage ofinjuries to players ahead of him, but it remains to be seen whether he canhandle a full-time backup role for 82 games.That vision should become clearer this week. Theres noreason Jenkins, with an NBA season under his belt, shouldnt be one of theWarriors best players in summer league. Heck, Jenkins should be one of thebest players in the entire league.And there will be no better time than in the next week or soto start determining whether Jenkins could possibly handle the full-time backuprole at point. Because at this point, thats what he is: Stephen Currysbackup.Jeremy Tyler: It would not be anunderstatement to say that this is a big summer league for Tyler. Its not thatTyler had a disappointing rookie season, its just that he didnt necessarilyprove to anyone that he can be a positive factor on an NBA team.One of the knocks on Tyler is that he lacks intensity. Thatis one area where Ezeli is said to excel. If theres a matchup or competitionto watch in Vegas, it would be the one between Tyler and Ezeli.Chris Wright: He doesnt have aguaranteed contract for 2012-13, so Wright must prove himself. One thing Wrighthas going for him is his athleticism, which is off the charts.Thats important because the Warriors are a team lacking inthat department. But Wright must also show hes made progress on his perimetergame, most notably becoming a better 18- to 20-foot shooter.Wright played power forward at Dayton, but hes trying tobecome a small forward at the NBA level.

Curry bounces back in blowout, wins point guard battle with Irving

Curry bounces back in blowout, wins point guard battle with Irving

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.”

Durant gets personal with stuffing of LeBron, stops any momentum for Cavs

Durant gets personal with stuffing of LeBron, stops any momentum for Cavs

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.