Warriors player review from Vegas

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Warriors player review from Vegas

LAS VEGAS -- Some observations from two days of basketball involving 10 Warriors players:David Lee -- He looks to be in a little better shape now than he was at this time last year. Through two days of workouts, he still looks like the player he's always been.Monta Ellis -- He seems to be in very good shape, and in fact, played more pickup games than anyone in the gym on Friday morning. His jumper looks a little rusty, but he's still got a shot off anytime he wanted.
Klay Thompson -- No doubt, Thompson has deep range, and he seems pretty heady, too. After watching Thompson drain a long 3-pointer on Thursday night, Stephen Curry turned to an observer and said: "That kid is going to be good."RELATED: Monta, Warriors hold court in Las Vegas
Jeremy Tyler -- Tyler struggled a little bit against the likes of Louis Amundson and Ekpe Udoh, which shouldn't be unexpected for a rookie, and a very young rookie at that. At times Tyler struggled to keep up with the pace of the game.Charles Jenkins -- Jenkins has an extremely strong body and appears to have pretty solid overall game. He doesn't shoot the 3-pointer as well as the mid-range shot, and he's going to need to figure out how to be more clever finishing at the rim. Either that, or he's going to need to develop an in-between game.Stephen Curry -- His jump shot still looks as good as it ever did. Curry played about three or four games on Friday morning, and didn't seem to be bothered by the right ankle, which he had surgery on in May. He also appears to have gotten a touch, bigger, stronger.Lou Amundson -- He looked better during the past two days than he did at any time last season. He's done a nice job of protecting the rim and not allowing easy buckets. Clearly Amundson is healthier than he was at any point during last season after dealing with separate back and finger injuries.Dorell Wright -- He spent a lot of time handling the ball and trying to create for teammates, something he didn't do a whole lot of last year. It seems as though Wright's game continues to evolve and he's no longer simply a spot-up shooter.Jeremy Lin -- He's always going to play hard, which he certainly did on Thursday and Friday, and he seems to have tweaked his jump shot a little bit -- for the better. But you can see a battle brewing for a roster spot involving Lin and Jenkins.Ekpe Udoh -- Udoh's face-up game looks much better than last season. A year ago, as a rookie, Udoh was hesitant to take his open 17-footer above the foul line, but not anymore. Udoh still considers himself a defense-first type of player, but he should be a tad more efficient on offense this season.

Don't tell David West Cavs-Warriors means nothing: 'We need to win this'

Don't tell David West Cavs-Warriors means nothing: 'We need to win this'

OAKLAND -- Don’t tell David West that the game between the Cavaliers and Warriors on Monday is without significant consequence. He has played too long, seen too much. He knows better.

“This is a very important game for us,” West said Sunday, “because this is the last time we’re going to be able to measure ourselves against these guys.

“The only other time we’d get to face them would be in The Finals.”

Reaching The Finals was in the back of his mind when West signed with the Warriors last July. After scanning his options and doing his research -- including conversations involving Andre Iguodala, Draymond Green, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and coach Steve Kerr -- he chose to come to the Bay Area to continue his quest to reach the NBA’s ultimate series.

At age 36, West has gone 933 games, and another 83 counting the playoffs, and gotten no closer to The Finals than back-to-back dismissals in the Eastern Conference Finals. West in both instances was a member of the Indiana Pacers, and the team that stood in the way both times was the Miami Heat.

That would be the Heat featuring LeBron James, who has since returned to Cleveland.

So, yes, Warriors-Cavs is is a big deal to West. It’s why he’s here.

“Obviously, it’s a regular-season game,” he said. “But for us, every game means something. That’s probably another driving force of why I wanted to be a part of this team. And why I chose San Antonio last year. When you’re playing with a group of this caliber, with these types of expectations, every game, every night, means something. There’s no dropoff or letdown and no room to let up. That’s a vital part of being in the NBA.

“But right now in the NBA, there are distinct levels of basketball. And I just wanted to be a part of the highest level.”

It gets no higher than the Warriors and Cavs. They’ve met in The Finals in each of the past two seasons, with each team winning one, and most conceivably will meet again in June.

Meanwhile, the sights and sounds on the road to the playoff is unlike that which he experienced with the former New Orleans Hornets or the Pacers or the Spurs. Those were good teams. The Warriors, coming of an NBA-record 73-win season, not only are favorites to win it all but perceived as the league’s super team.

It’s as if the Warriors have a bounty on their heads every time they take the court.

“When we play against younger teams, or teams with guys that don’t have a lot of experience, the point guard wants to prove he can stay on the floor against Steph,” West said. “Small forwards want to prove they can hang with KD. Same thing guys coming after Draymond; he’s a target. Then you have a bunch of Klay (Thompson) clones out there. You can see the guys that are modeling themselves after Klay. So when they play against him, they measure themselves against him.

“We all feel that. When you’re a part of this kind of group, that’s what makes the challenge so much fun.”

With Warriors-Cavs, the fun is in knowing that you’re facing the best, the reigning champs from Cleveland, who dethroned the Warriors. And on Monday, the Warriors will be trying to defend their turf.

“We need to win this; we need to win them all,” West said. “We know it's a high-intensity, emotional game. There will be a lot of people watching and a lot of energy in the building. We will have to control our energy and be the more fundamentally sound team.

“We have to be the team that hits more singles and doubles than they do. We don’t need home runs.”

Prepping for Cavs, Curry returns to roots on and off the floor

Prepping for Cavs, Curry returns to roots on and off the floor

OAKLAND -- Stephen Curry turned back the clock a few days ago, returning to Davidson College.

Not in person but in spirit.

His latest haircut is, Curry says, the shortest he has allowed in at least a couple years and reminiscent of the close-cropped look he sported at Davidson. What’s different now is the beard. Invisible until a few years ago, it’s longer and fuller than desire and genetics had previously allowed.

“Proud of this beard,” Curry said Sunday, 50 minutes after the Warriors concluded practice. “Very proud.”

In the days running up to Warriors-Cavaliers II on Monday at Oracle Arena, Curry has transformed his dome. He is, once again the baby-faced assassin, only this time the look is accompanied by grown-man facial hair.

Curry’s new look comes on the heels of making alterations to his game. He’s playing with more force, being more assertive with the ball and taking a few more shots. His aggression has shifted into a higher gear.

“Lately, he’s been getting the rock and being aggressive and playing his game,” teammate Kevin Durant said of Curry. “Since that Cleveland game, he’s been playing on another level.”

Since that Cleveland game. That’s what it comes back to for the Warriors and for Curry. That Cleveland game, played on Christmas Day, is three weeks behind them yet the single-most eye-opening experience of the season. The Warriors led by 14 with 9:35 left and by 13 with 8:17 remaining and by 3 with 1:14 to play.

And lost, again, as in Game 7 of The Finals, on a late shot by Cavs guard Kyrie Irving.

“That was definitely a moment,” Curry said. “The Memphis game (Curry scoring 40 points but the Warriors blew a 24-point lead in a 128-119 loss on Jan. 6) was a moment. The Lakers game earlier in the year (a 117-97 loss on Nov. 4) was a moment. You’ve got to understand what went wrong in those kinds of games and figure it out as you go through, knowing you’re going to have some more slipups.”

Curry since the Christmas Day loss has advocated for more pick-and-roll action and gotten it, most notably with Durant as his partner. Curry wanted more time at point guard, and he's gotten it. His numbers have improved, and his overall effect has been more noticeable.

In eight games since Christmas Day, Curry has averaged 20 shots and 27.1 points per game. In the eight games up to and including the loss at Cleveland, he averaged 15.6 shots and 19.9 points.

Yet the real test comes when Curry sees the Cavaliers, against whom recent games have not been pretty. His last four games against Cleveland -- Games 5-7 of the NBA Finals and Christmas Day -- have produced 21.7 points on 36.6-percent shooting, 2.5 assists and 3.7 turnovers.

There’s another reason Curry wants to kill his Cavs demons, which began forming as the Warriors became the first team in league history to go up 3-1 in the NBA Finals and lose the series. That was mere months after Curry mentioned that the visiting locker room at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland still smelled of the champagne with which Warriors celebrated after winning The Finals in 2015.

Curry is tired of hearing about, well, his Cavs demons, whether the noise is coming from fans or players or folks he barely knows.

Playing golf in the Safeway Open pro-am at Silverado in October, Curry got an earful from playing partner Harold Varner III, who happens to be an Ohio native and, of course, a Cavs fan.

“He waited until the ninth hole because he was a little unsure about how I’d take it, how much of a good sport I would be,” Curry recalled. “And then, once he tested the waters, he didn’t hold back the rest of the round. But it was all in good fun.”

This is not the kind of “good fun” Curry cares to hear any more. As the Cavs come to town, he’s back in a familiar place, with folks doubting him, wondering if he has what it takes.

And he’s playing as if he has something to prove, just as he did at Davidson.