Warriors make purchase of D-League team official

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Warriors make purchase of D-League team official

June 28, 2011WARRIORS PAGE WARRIORS VIDEO

CSNBayArea.com staff

As reported Monday by Comcast SportsNet Bay Area's Matt Steinmetz, the Warriors announced the purchase of the NBA Development League's Dakota Wizards.

The Warriors are hosting a conference call with general manager Larry Riley today. We will have a report from CSN Insider Matt Steinmetz later today.

Here is the official release from the team:
PRESS RELEASE
OAKLAND, CA The Golden State Warriors, led by Co-Executive Chairmen Joe Lacob and Peter Guber, have purchased the Dakota Wizards franchise in the NBA Development League from Bismarck Professional Basketball LLC, it was announced today at a press conference in Bismarck, North Dakota. The Warriors will become the fourth NBA team to currently own and operate their own NBA D-League affiliate, joining San Antonio, Oklahoma City and the Los Angeles Lakers. Per team policy, terms of the agreement were not announced.

The Wizards will remain in Bismarck during the 2011-12 D-League season the franchises 17th in North Dakota and the club will explore options of a potential move to Northern California the following season. Jim Weyermann, one of the most successful and respected business figures in minor league sports and current President of the San Jose Giants, has been named the Vice President of New Franchise Development for the Warriors and will oversee all operational aspects of the D-League team from a business standpoint, including a potential relocation to Northern California.

The purchase of the Wizards will result in the ceasing of the Warriors D-League affiliation with the Reno Bighorns, which served as the teams affiliate each of the last two years. Dakota will mark the Warriors third D-League affiliation (also Bakersfield Jam from 2006-07 to 2008-09) since the inception of the league prior to the 2006-07 season. The Wizards concluded the 2010-11 season with a 19-31 record and in fourth place in the eight-team Eastern Conference.

Were really excited about the opportunity to acquire an NBA D-League team and view it as a proactive decision, said Lacob. As we have previously mentioned, one of our goals is to provide our organization with any elements that we think could provide us an advantage. The fact that we will now operate our own D-League team complete with our coaches and organizational philosophy will put us in a better position to evaluate and develop potential NBA players, including any of our first or second year players who may spend a stint in the D-League. We think this is a critical step and another plus for our organization. And, we could not have found a more qualified candidate than Jim Weyermann to oversee the team from an operations standpoint.

Additionally, wed like to thank Steve McCormick and the ownership group of the Dakota Wizards for their professionalism during this process. We are looking forward to working with the staff in Bismarck this season and feel this was the ideal situation due to their strong and passionate community.

Under NBA and D-League rules, the Warriors will have the ability to build and determine their own roster, but will not own the rights to the Dakota players unless the team signs a specific player to an NBA contract. No other NBA team will share this affiliation with Golden State. Last season, the Wizards were the D-League affiliate for the Memphis Grizzlies and Washington Wizards.

Im really encouraged by this acquisition of a D-League franchise and applaud Joe and Peter for their commitment in this area, said Warriors Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Larry Riley. We have always emphasized the D-League as an organization and, quite honestly, have had very good results and success with the players that we have either signed or developed in the D-League. I think this simply enhances our chances for that trend to continue. The fact that we have an opportunity to align ourselves with an established organization in Bismarck will aid in the overall process.

Im excited about this new opportunity and challenge, said Weyermann. I have a great appreciation and understanding for how minor league organizations can serve as a tremendous resource for their parent clubs. The Warriors are in the business to win basketball games and the acquisition of the Wizards will enhance their chances of achieving their long-term goals on the court.

First, Id like to thank the tremendous fans of Bismarck for their continued support of the Wizards, said Wizards owner Steve McCormick. The community has embraced the team for many years dating back to the CBA and IBA days. The new ownership group that will soon be in place, headed by Mr. Lacob and Mr. Guber, is extremely committed and I can assure you that the organization is in capable hands. Our fans will be the beneficiaries of that commitment during the upcoming 2011-12 season.

For more information on the Golden State Warriors, visit www.warriors.com. For more information on the Dakota Wizards, visit www.nba.comdleaguedakota, or the NBA Development League homepage at www.nba.comdleague.
Courtesy Golden State Warriors media relations.

Bullied by Bucks, Kings unable to match playoff intensity

Bullied by Bucks, Kings unable to match playoff intensity

SACRAMENTO -- The NBA learning curve is steep. On Wednesday night in Sacramento, the young Kings faced one of the league’s up and coming players and a team fighting for a playoff spot. The atmosphere was foreign and the Kings didn’t respond well in the 116-98 loss to the Bucks.

Milwaukee came out of the gate and bullied the Kings. They threw a young Sacramento team all over the court on their way to a 69 point half. To add to the insult, some of the Bucks veterans even taunted the Sacramento crowd as they shot a stunning 61.4 percent from the field before the intermission.

“I think we got pushed around a little bit in the first half,” rookie Skal Labissiere said. “But they’re trying to make the playoffs still. They’re trying to make the eighth spot. So we have to be a little bit more physical with them and not let them punk us around.”

What the Kings saw from the Bucks is the mindset of a team fighting for a playoff spot. Wednesday night’s contest is what you see in the tail end of a season when one team has something to play for and the other has gone with a youth movement.

“They’re playing physical, they’re not backing down from nobody,” Buddy Hield said. “They have something they’re playing for. Obviously we don’t right now because our season is out of reach.”

Sacramento’s veterans looked at the game as a learning experience for the younger players. They need exposure to this type of game late in the season. They need to see what the expectations will be in a year or two when the Kings hope to be in a similar situation.

“These guys have to go through it, they have to learn it and then hopefully when we make the playoffs in the coming years, they’ll be able to understand that it jumps to another level,” Garrett Temple said. “The first 50 games is one level, the the next 30 is another and that playoff is different animal.”

Building a winner usually comes in stages in the NBA. By the time you sneak into the playoffs, you have already come close once or twice and the first round matchups are usually against seasoned winning clubs.

That is something the Bucks will learn soon enough. With the win, they are now tied for the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff chase, but nothing is certain. They currently sit a game out of the eight spot and just 2.5 from falling to ninth and missing the playoffs entirely.

If they squeak in, they will play either the Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics or Washington Wizards in Round 1.

Every game is magnified when you have something at stake late in a season and the Kings were never able to match the intensity of their opponent.

All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo put on a show. The star forward dominated every player the Kings threw at him on his way to a 32-point, 13-rebounds, six-assist performance.

“People think I’m crazy to say that - if he gets a 3-point shot, he’ll be the best player in the league,” Temple said of Antetokounmpo. “He can penetrate, he has great court vision, can handle the ball, not to mention he’s 6-11 and a wiry strength that you don’t understand unless you’re play against him. He can literally play 1-5 in this NBA and he has a mismatch at every position.”

Labissiere drew the first look on Antetokounmpo and it didn’t take long to see that the rookie was overmatched by his opponent’s versatility. Willie Cauley-Stein had some success early in the second half, using his length and getting physical with the star forward, but the game was already decided.

It’s a process. With a youth movement comes games like the one against Milwaukee. All you can ask for is effort, which Sacramento has shown. Despite the team’s 3-11 record since the All-Star break, there is progress, especially from the core of first and second year players.

“They’re getting better and better,” Tyreke Evans said. “They’re still learning the game, but as they’re playing, they’re working hard. They’re working hard in practice, getting reps up. It’s going to take time, it’s not going to happen overnight. They’re going to have good games, they’re going to have bad games. You’ve got learn from it.”

Sacramento is in the middle of a seven game stretch against teams tuning up for the playoffs. The schedule doesn’t get any easier Friday when the Kings travel to Oracle Arena to face the Golden State Warriors. It’s another chance to learn on the fly.

Now the bullpen's veteran, Kontos picking up where Core Four left off

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USATSI

Now the bullpen's veteran, Kontos picking up where Core Four left off

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — On a rainy morning early in camp, George Kontos walked through the clubhouse at Scottsdale Stadium with an oversized envelope in his hand. Often times that’s bad news, the sign of a player who has been handed MRI results. For Kontos, it was a sign of his standing in the bullpen.

With the Core Four era officially over, Kontos has picked up where his longtime teammates left off. He has taken over for Javier Lopez as the Giant who organizes spread pools, squares, team golf tournaments and bullpen dinners. He has at times taken on Jeremy Affeldt’s role as a target of clubhouse jokes. When the Giants return home, it will be Kontos who takes Sergio Romo’s spot as the catcher for the first pitch.

“I wouldn’t mind doing that, so I’m sure that’s something I’ll do as well,” he said, noting that he caught Draymond Green and Metallica last season. “Whenever Sergio wasn’t available for some events they would ask me to do it.”

For the rest of the responsibilities, Kontos won’t have to be asked. With Lopez and Affeldt retired and Romo and Santiago Casilla pitching elsewhere, Kontos is all of a sudden the longest-tenured member of the bullpen, and it’s not particularly close.

Mark Melancon and Will Smith are in camp for the first time. Derek Law and Steven Okert are coming off rookie seasons. Josh Osich and Cory Gearrin have two seasons with the Giants and Hunter Strickland has three. Kontos is entering his sixth season in San Francisco. Not bad for a pitcher who shuttled repeatedly between San Francisco and Triple-A Fresno from 2012-2014. 

“I think it goes to show that hard work and doing your job and following the example of the guys who were here actually works,” Kontos said. “If you keep your head down and work hard and do your job, good things tend to happen.”

When Kontos first showed up in 2012, he was put between Lopez and Affeldt in the clubhouse. Every spring thereafter, Kontos was asked if he wanted to move to a different locker. He never did, and as Affeldt neared retirement, he saw in Kontos a player who could one day pick up the leadership baton for the bullpen.

“Most guys don’t really want that role, even if they have time. A lot of guys just want to pitch, but there’s so much more to a team than just pitching,” Affeldt said. “George has kind of always shown leadership in different ways. He was the guy that ran the hardest or worked out more than anyone else, and we always ripped on him for it, but that’s also a part of his drive to be the best and it shows the discipline that leaders have.”

At a recent event for sponsors, Kontos found that the ribbing isn’t limited to the clubhouse. “I guess I’m the new Affeldt,” he said, laughing, after taking a series of jabs during speeches from other members of the organization. That’s not a bad thing, not after a second-half slide during which Giants coaches and executives privately lamented the lack of energy and joy in the clubhouse. The original Affeldt believes the role is a key one.

“The reason you want to be able to be ripped on is that you want to show that to the younger guys,” Affeldt said. “If I don’t talk to you, I don’t like you. If I’m making fun of you, we’re just having fun. We’re ribbing like brothers.”

The back-and-forth can help a team get through the 162-game grind. While Kontos has grown comfortable in that respect, he has found new ways to grow on the field. 

“When he first got here he was predominantly a four-seam guy, and he two-seamed it a little and threw a lot of sliders,” pitching coach Dave Righetti said. “He can cut it now. He can still use his slider. He’s got a changeup and he threw a nice curveball last year. He’s adapted. He can keep pitching, and if he stays in shape, for quite a while. A lot of hitters are one-way type of guys now and George is able to do different things now to different guys. He’s done a hell of a job doing that.”

Kontos threw his four-seam fastball 44 percent of the time when he broke into the big leagues, but that dropped to 12 percent last season, per BrooksBaseball.net. He threw his two-seamer a career-high 22 percent of the time last season, and his cutter — a pitch he didn’t prominently feature until 2014 — 33 percent. In his first full season with the Giants, 51 percent of Kontos’ pitches were sliders; last season it was 22 percent. Throw in the curveball and changeup and you’ve got a starter’s repertoire coming out of the bullpen. 

Kontos came into professional baseball as a starting pitcher, but he has quietly been one of the more effective relievers in the National League over the past three seasons, ranking 15th among NL relief pitchers with a 2.49 ERA. Over the past two years, he ranks in the top 20 in the league in relief outings (130) and innings (126 2/3).

That durability has put Kontos in an odd spot. The pitchers he learned from were late-innings guys, but Kontos has been viewed as a better fit for the sixth and seventh. He often comes on with a starter’s runners on base, and Bruce Bochy knows he can ask Kontos to warm up multiple times without worrying about him being down for the count. 

“He’s been a staff-saver,” said Righetti. 

That has led to a long career in orange and black. With tenure comes added responsibility, and in a rebuilding bullpen, Kontos is ready to fill in for role models who have since departed.

“With Javi gone now, it’s one of those things that whether you want it or not, you’re going to be one of the guys,” Affeldt said. “And he has the background to step up and do that leadership stuff.”