OAKLAND Warriors coach Mark Jackson has shown in recentgames hes not afraid to use his second unit to finish out games. In two of thepast three games both against Sacramento Jackson played his substitutes incrunch time.On Monday, Jackson spent the majority of his post-practiceinterview talking about that approach. Heres the interview:Question: Is it possible to get moreintegration between the first team and second team. In other words, is itpossible not to go with either all the starters or all the subs at the end ofgames?Mark Jackson: Not really. The idealsituation is youre giving your starters a breather and youre expecting to goback to them. Towards the end of the third, make a substitution, a couple ofsubstitutions with Ekpe (Udoh) going in and Brandon (Rush) going in (for twostarters). Thats integration as far as Im concerned. Bottom line, once youve got the other three guys out Ultimately, that second unit duplicated what they did in the previous matchup(in a win over Sacramento on Tuesday). They were the better unit.Question: Why couldnt Dorell Wright getback into the game in the fourth quarter and overtime. He looked like he wasplaying well (24 points in 28 minutes)?Mark Jackson: I guess there are differentinterpretations of extremely well. (The Kings) had 34 points in the thirdquarter. I would argue the case that nobody played well. You give up 34 pointsin the third quarter and they dominate on the offensive board, you may besatisfied. It may look good to somebody else, but to me, we lost the gamebecause of turning the ball over, not rebounding the basketball and not gettingback in transition. And giving up 34 points was a huge part of it.Question: Is it possible for your team togive up 34 points in a quarter and one or two players not be on the hook forthat?Mark Jackson: Yes, yes its verypossible. Dorell played extremely well offensively and looked like his oldself so its nothing against him. That second unit -- it would be awfully foolish of me to take any of them outand look to get anything. I knew what I was getting from them. Sacramentoscored 15 points in the fourth quarter.We got back in the ballgame. To me it wouldnt be a smartmove at all putting anybody in the game whether theyre playing great or not.That unit was in sync on both sides. We were scoring and getting stops. Wefound ourselves with the ball, in control down the stretch. So to me that wasthe right way to go.Question: Do you feel it might bebeneficial in the future to get a mixture of starters and bench players?Mark Jackson: That unit has played greatand theyve forced me to stay with them. In an ideal world, Id go back to mystarters. I look forward to the day where my starters are getting it done. I can say to my bench: Youvedone your job, now starters finish them off. My hand has not been forced thusfar.Question: What Im getting at more is acombination of Mark Jackson: I know what youre gettingat. When five guys play to the level that we expect on both sides of thebasketball, then that day will come. But Im not going to throw guys on thecourt because its time for them to go in.No, its time for you to get stops, run back on transition,compete on a level that we talk about competing at. And thats where Im at asa coach. Question: Whats the message you want tosend to the starters?Mark Jackson: Its really not a message.The message is watching. The same team that just scored 34 on you, somehowcant score against the five guys on the floor. I dont have to send a message.And were sugarcoating it if we believe its anything else. Those five guysthat finished the ballgame somehow limited the guys who were dominating us onthe glass, limited the transition points and took care of the basketball andfound a way to score.It would be foolish of me to try to put somebody else in oranother group in to create what I just stumbled into and found.Question: Could there be a message evenif you didnt want to send a message a message to the starters that you dontbelieve in them?Mark Jackson: No. The proof is in thepudding. I believe the game before that I stuck with them. I have confidence inwhoever does what we practice and preach about doing, that the results willcome. Thats where my confidence is. Not the names on the jerseys, not whos,but whoever is doing what we talk about doing. I have confidence that theresults will come and those guys will be on the floor.Question: But isnt the second unit justa better defensive unit than the first unit?Mark Jackson: Heres my question: Are youwatching? And Im not insulting you. Are you watching the energy, the effort,the focus, the attention to detail, the commitment? Are you saying they both goabout it the same way? Therefore I have no choice. Theyre committed (secondunit) and they find a way to play like their lives depended on itQuestion: If both the first unit andsecond unit reach their defensive potentials, I would say the second unit is going to be a better defensiveunit.Mark Jackson: I wouldnt say that. Iunderstand youve got a defensivestopper in Dom (Dominic McGuire). I think hes the lone defensive stopper onthat second unit. If youre talking about Ekpe (Udoh), he was part of the groupthat was dominated by Jason Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins. Somehow those guysunderstand their flaws and they tie into together and buy in as a unit.Question: So, thats what the first unithas to do find a way to be better defensively as a group?Mark Jackson: I think they do it attimes, no question. But weve got to find a way to do it consistently in orderto have the results we want.Question: How can they learn how to do itconsistently if they dont get back into games to get to do it?Mark Jackson: The good news is they havea chance to do it. I dont start the game with the team that ended the game. Sothey have every opportunity to get it done and Ill ride with them forever.Whoever it is. To me, as a coach, the bottom line is getting wins and gettingthe job done. I dont care who does it. Ive got nothing but love for each andevery one of my guys. I love both units. But in fairness to this team, thisorganization and this fan base Ive got to put the guys that are getting afterit on the floor.No matter how it is perceived in terms of talent notmatching up. I know what it takes to win. Somehow going with that group, got usback in the ballgame, put us in a position to win it and sent the game intoovertime with everything go against them to start.Question: Is that battle worth losing thewar over?Mark Jackson: What war?Question: That if youre going to makethe playoffs the starting five is going have to do it. Conventional wisdom isthe five off the bench cant get you to the playoffs.Mark Jackson: Let me tell you something,Im not that guy. Im not going to sit and watch guys go through the motions,guys not execute, guys not battle and just score points and ha-ha,hee-hee.No, the fact of the matter is Im here to win. I know whatwinning basketball looks like and Im not going to have guys out there notdoing what we talked about doing.The proof is in the pudding. We watch film, we talk aboutit. This isnt an individual thing, this is a collective thing. That first unitwasnt getting it done, and theyll be the first to tell you that. And Id be afool as a coach to put them out there just so we can score 105 points and loseand say Yippee, they ended the game. Not going to happen.
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.”
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.