Stephen Jackson: 'I just want to play, man'

703408.jpg

Stephen Jackson: 'I just want to play, man'

Warriors forward Stephen Jackson is on his way to the BayArea and hes ridiculously excited to be doing so. Which is kind of strangeconsidering the way he left here a few years back forcing his way out notlong after getting a three-year contract extension.I love the Bay Area, Jackson said from Minneapolis, wherehe was waiting on a connecting flight to San Francisco. Ive been talking toAndrew (Bogut) and we didnt get to play together much in Milwaukee. But with anew coach, a new organization thats different, Im looking forward toit.Jackson got into coach Scott Skiles doghouse in Milwaukee,and Skiles doghouses are tough to get out of. Jackson never really did, andthe Bucks were more than happy to part ways with him.
Its not like I was being a jerk in Milwaukee, Jacksonsaid. I was coming to practice, first one in the gym and the last one toleave. I was supporting the team. I respected every decision Scott Skiles madebecause I knew I wanted to play again, Knew I was going to playagain.But who would have thought it would be for the Warriors?Jackson, of course, was a key member of the 2006-07 We Believe playoff team.After that, he started talking contract extension and eventually got one inNovember of 2008: a three-year 27 million extension.A year later, he was traded after making a general nuisanceof himself and making it clear he didnt like the direction the Warriors weregoing in. So, how does Jackson think hell be received by the Bay Areafans?I think it will be mixed emotions from the fans, Jacksonsaid. But you know, Ive never been anywhere where everyone has loved meanyway. But Oaklands got loyal fans and once I start playing and we win somegames, I think theyll support me.Jackson said he watched Wednesday nights Warriors-Celticsgame and liked what he saw. When told that the trade of Monta Ellis for Bogutlikely signified the Warriors were giving up on the playoffs, he wasnt havingit.STEINMETZ: With Bogut a Warrior, Curry's role should change
They can say we wont make the playoffs all they want,Jackson said. Im trying to make a push there. What are they? Two or threegames out? Theyve got some good young guys. I like (rookie Klay) Thompsonsgame and if David Lee keeps playing like he is, we can make a push.I know its a different situation from last time (WeBelieve: 2006-07), but they said we couldnt do it then, either, and we did it.Same thing. It only takes a game or two to put together a winningstreak.Of course, one of the issues in Milwaukee was that Jacksondemanded a contract extension (hes signed through 2012-13) and didnt get one.So, is his contract situation going to be an issue for him with GoldenState?Im going to play this year out, Jackson said. If theywant me for the future, we can talk about an extension this summer. If theydont, we can part ways and then maybe I go to a contender. But I just want toplay. And I can play. I hate that I have to prove again that I can play, but Iknow what I can do. When the situation comes this summer, well figure itout.Jackson said hell wear No. 7, and he hopes to be in uniformfor Fridays game against the Bucks, of all teams.Ill wear Lucky No. 7, Jackson said. See if its lucky forme Its a different situation now than it was back with Baron and that team,but Im willing to play my role and do whatever is asked.You know me, Im the ultimate team player. I know itsStephs (Curry) team and Im willing to do what they want. I just want to play,man.

LeBron considering return to Team USA under 'great mastermind' Popovich

LeBron considering return to Team USA under 'great mastermind' Popovich

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- LeBron James might make another run at Olympic gold with Gregg Popovich.

James, who already has two gold medals, said that Popovich taking over as coach of the U.S. team will influence his decision on whether to play in the 2020 Tokyo Games.

"It factors a lot," James said Saturday as the Cavaliers prepared to host Popovich's San Antonio Spurs. "I've said that before. He's just a great mastermind of the game of basketball."

James skipped last summer's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro to get rest after leading Cleveland to an NBA championship. But he's still connected with Team USA and Popovich replacing outgoing coach Mike Krzyzewski could be enough to draw James back to the Olympics.

James will be 36 in 2020, but his game is showing no signs of decay and the three-time NBA champ has relished his previous Olympic appearances. He was a key member of the American teams that captured gold in Beijing (2008) and (2012), performances that helped him and the U.S. squad erase some of the disappointment from taking bronze in Athens (2004).

Krzyzewski, the Duke coach who led the U.S. team to three consecutive gold medals, had a hand in naming Popovich as his successor.

For James, the pick was perfect.

"Team USA is in good hands with him," James told The Associated Press in 2015. "It was in good hands with Coach K. It's almost like 'The Godfather.' We hand it off to Michael Corleone now."

Earlier this week, James said he considers Popovich, who has led the Spurs to five NBA titles, "the greatest coach of all time. I've said that over and over and over. You have to be sharp, mentally and physically, when you go against his ballclub. If you were an NFL player, it's probably the same as going against a (Bill) Belichick team.

"What they're going to do, they're going to do and you have to try to figure it out."

James has lost twice to teams coached by Popovich in the NBA Finals - in 2007 with Cleveland and in 2014 with Miami. He admires the way the 67-year-old coach has adjusted and adapted over the years.

"A guy that's been able to do what he's done in an era of basketball where it's changed so much and he's been able to have a growth mindset and be able to change with the game," James said. "Obviously Tim Duncan was a huge part of that because Timmy was allowed to change with the game as well, but he's just continued to build around Timmy and Manu (Ginobili) and Tony (Parker) and bring pieces in and out throughout his whole tenure."

On Saturday, the Spurs will play their first game without center Pau Gasol, sidelined indefinitely with a broken left hand.

James said that won't change San Antonio much - because of Popovich.

"It doesn't matter who is in the lineup for the Spurs," James said. "They'll play Spurs basketball and Pop will have them ready. I mean, what's their record, 33-9, I believe? And if you asked me how things would change without Timmy D., they still pushing forward, man. It's just nothing out of the ordinary."

Green: Wins over Cavs, OKC and Rockets 'our best week of the season'

Green: Wins over Cavs, OKC and Rockets 'our best week of the season'

It may have helped that they had been at home for roughly three weeks.

It surely was to their benefit that the NBA schedule provided three days without a game before they confronted perhaps one of the most rigorous weeks of the season.

The Warriors, however, still had to do the work. They still had to finish.

They still had to beat the team that had roughed them up 22 days earlier, and then squelch another squad coming into Oracle Arena on a wave of emotion and, finally, take to the road and get back at a team that handed them a loss in Oakland.

Done, done and done. And in such a fashion that forward Draymond Green referred to it as “our best week of the season.”

In putting away the Rockets 125-108 on Friday in Houston, the Warriors closed out the traditional worker’s week with a 3-0 record against three teams they could see in the postseason. They’d already routed the defending champion Cavaliers 126-91 on Monday and struck down the Thunder 121-101 on Wednesday.

“It’s three good teams in a row,” Kevin Durant told reporters in Houston. “We definitely wanted to come out and make a nice statement, and I think we did that.

“We always can get better. We can’t relax against Orlando, Miami and Charlotte, teams that can creep up on you and have been playing well lately.”

The Magic, Heat and Hornets -- all dreadful to mediocre -- are the kinds of teams that force the Warriors to compete. They don’t stir the senses like the Cavs or the Thunder or the Rockets, three teams with credentials that demand attention from a Warriors team that sometimes cruises against lesser competition.

So this week was not just about winning games. These weren’t just wins, they were emphatic statements, profound evidence that the team remodeled last summer around the addition of Durant is coming together in the heart of the season.

The defense was tight, with Cleveland shooting 35.2 percent, OKC 42.2 percent and Houston 20.0 percent from beyond the arc, which is the only place that matters for the Rockets.

The Warriors resorted to one of their signature turbocharged third quarters to separate from the Rockets. Shooting 61.9 percent and scoring 9 points off Houston turnovers, the Warriors outscored Houston 37-22 in the third, stretching a five-point halftime lead to 20 going into the fourth quarter.

The Warriors now have an NBA-best differential of plus-250 points in the third quarter this season.

“It’s just something that we put an emphasis on,” Green said. “Coming out and getting off to a good start in the second half. Not coming out flat and giving another team life or letting them go on a run and then trying to make it up. And once we go on our run, we can get rolling pretty well and make it tough on other teams.”

That was the case this week, as the Warriors topped 50 percent from the field in all three victories.

Durant scored 32 points against Houston and averaged 31 points over the last three games. Stephen Curry put in 24 points and averaged 22.7 for the week. Green, meanwhile, averaged 12.7 points, 10.7 rebounds, 7.7 assists and 3.7 blocks.

“It was our best week of the season because we’ve gotten better each time we’ve stepped on the floor this week,” Green said. “And that’s what’s most important. It’s not about blasting these three teams. It’s about getting better, and trying to reach our end goal. In order to do that, you have to get better each and every time you step on the floor.

“We did that these three games, so that’s the most important thing. That’s why it’s been a good week, not because of the margin of the wins that we had.”