2011-2012 Warriors season preview -- playoffs on horizon?

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2011-2012 Warriors season preview -- playoffs on horizon?

It will be very simple to evaluate the coaching job that Mark Jackson does with the Warriors this season.Very simple, indeed.Jackson has virtually the same group of core players that coach Keith Smart had a year ago when the Warriors went 36-46. That was a 10-game improvement over the previous season 2009-10 -- which wasnt a bad little bounce.Still, owner Joe Lacob thought the Warriors needed to get better in the coaching department and so he hired Jackson, a man with no experience, but plenty of confidence.Jackson promised the playoffs on the day he was hired, backing up a guarantee Lacob already had made to Warriors season-ticket holders. That will be quite a challenge considering Jackson will trot out the same starting five on opening night assuming Stephen Curry is ready to go -- that Smart had the previous season.So, can Jackson get more out of Curry, Monta Ellis, Dorell Wright, David Lee and Andris Biedrins than Smart? Well, thats the big question.Jackson may have a slightly better bench than Smart had last season, but thats also open to interpretation. This season, the Warriors will rely heavily on rookie Klay Thompson, veteran center Kwame Brown and second-year power forward Ekpe Udoh.Last season Smart rode with Reggie Williams, Vladimir Radmanovic, Acie Law and Lou Amundson for stretches.None of that matters to Jackson, who doubled down on his prediction earlier this week.Im not changing, Jackson said. We will be a playoff team. Thats not going to change.For that to happen, the Warriors, who finished 12th in the Western Conference a year ago, will need to leapfrog four teams and make sure that no team that finished behind them a year ago jumps over them such as the greatly improved L.A. Clippers.The only way that happens is if Jackson can somehow turn a team very similar to the one Smart coached into a solid defensive team. Jackson has been matter-of-fact about that happening, but its only fair to be skeptical.One man who is not skeptical is Lacob, who said he believes in Jackson and his staff on a recent Chronicle Live show.Said Lacob: We have a better coaching staff, top to bottom (than last year)." In truth, that remains to be seen. But well sure know if its true by the end of the season.
ROSTER BREAKDOWN- Andris Biedrins, C, 7-0, 240: Full rebound from Biedrins unlikely but he should bounce back some- Kwame Brown, C, 6-11, 270: He will help, no doubt, but hell be frustrating at times, too- Stephen Curry, PG, 6-3, 186: Its difficult not to be concerned with Currys ankle issues- Monta Ellis, SG, 6-3, 185: Ellis task in 2011-12: Become a more well-rounded player- Charles Jenkins, PG, 6-3, 220: Hes had a solid training camp, but can Jenkins keep it up when regular season begins?- David Lee, PF, 6-9, 240: Like Ellis, Lee must sacrifice some for the good of the team- Dominic McGuire, SF, 6-9, 236: Tough wing defender who can play some power forward if Warriors go small- Brandon Rush, SG, 6-6, 225: The more Rush plays the more likely it is that rookie Klay Thompson is struggling- Ish Smith, PG, 6-0, 175: You could make a case Smith is the only true point guard on the roster- Klay Thompson, SG, 6-7, 205: Outside of not shooting well, Thompson showing ability to do other things- Jeremy Tyler, PF, 6-10, 260: May be more beneficial for Tyler to play for Dakota Wizards, where he can get playing time- Ekpe Udoh, PF, 6-10, 245: He seems like the Warrior most poised to take game to next level- Chris Wright, PF, 6-8, 226: Warriors like his work ethic and athleticism, but hell likely play mostly in D-League- Dorell Wright, SF, 6-9, 205: Hes had a quiet preseason but is important piece if Warriors are to be successful

Iguodala making loud free agency case to Warriors in Durant's absence

Iguodala making loud free agency case to Warriors in Durant's absence

OAKLAND -- It was with impeccable timing, for the Warriors and for Andre Iguodala, that he has spent recent weeks summoning all the best parts of his game.

He has been a disruptive force on defense, as usual, but at a time when the Warriors needed something extra at both ends of the court, he is providing an abundance of offensive electricity.

Iguodala came through once more on Sunday as the Warriors suffocated Memphis in the fourth quarter to take a 106-94 win at Oracle Arena. Though the team’s Sixth Man again scored at an efficient clip -- 20 points on eight shot attempts -- his ability to energize teammates from Stephen Curry to Draymond Green to Klay Thompson and beyond is no less significant.

“We feed off his energy when we see him get a rebound or get a steal, push up the court, make a crazy inside-out dribble and finish at the rim, knock down threes or play-make for other guys,” Curry said. “It’s fun to watch.”

Iguodala’s rise has coincided with the loss of Kevin Durant, the team’s leading scorer and someone who plays the same position. With Durant out, Iguodala has taken on additional playing time, which can be risky for someone in his 13th season.

“He’s been fantastic,” coach Steve Kerr said. “He looks incredibly athletic, bouncy and fresh. He’s a pro. The guy just knows how to take care of his body. He’s done a great job of stepping up in KD’s absence and recognizing what we need from him.”

The Warriors have played 13 games since Durant went down with a knee injury, and Iguodala has played in 11 of them, shooting 44 percent from deep and 61.8 percent overall. The man who shot 62.3 percent from the line in his first three seasons as a Warrior is at 70.1 percent this season. Leadership also is part of the package.

“I try to read (what’s needed) when I get into the game,” Iguodala said. “Try to bring that energy. And, more than anything, lead by example. Not say too much. Just show it.”

When Iguodala is sprinting up and down the court, rising and dunking on one end, stripping balls away on the other, the Warriors are appreciably better team. If the Curry-Durant-Green-Thompson foursome is the engine, Iguodala is the turbo boost.

“We’re a completely different team when he’s as aggressive as he’s been of late,” Green said. “When he’s moving the way he’s been moving -- he’s beating everybody down the floor -- it makes us a completely different team. “

Igoudala’s minutes have spiked, from 23 per game in November, to 26 in December, to 27 in January and February, to almost 29 in March.

“I don’t want to run his minutes up too much,” Kerr said. “But if he has to play a couple extra minutes while KD is out, then that’s fine.”

It’s fine with Iguodala and it’s paying off for the Warriors.

Iguodala hopes it pays off, literally, when he becomes a free agent in July.

Though free agents entering their 14th season don’t often command big money, he is making a very impressive audition for the Warriors or any team that might be interested in his services.

Iguodala has made it clear he’d prefer to stay in the Bay Area, and at this rate the Warriors may have to find the necessary coins to bring him back.

Instant Replay: Warriors finish strong, grind past Grizzlies

Instant Replay: Warriors finish strong, grind past Grizzlies

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND -- There was plenty of tension and more than a few pulse-stopping moments, but the Warriors found a way to win their seventh consecutive game.

The Warriors’ 106-94 victory Sunday over the admirably recalcitrant Memphis Grizzlies was a work in persistence and overcome moments in which the worst of their work was on full display before a sellout crowd at Oracle Arena.

Klay Thompson scored 31 points to lead the offense. Stephen Curry had 21 points and a game-high 11 assists, Andre Iguodala had 20 and Matt Barnes finished with 10 as the Warriors evened the season series with the Grizzlies at 2-2.

The Warriors (59-14) fought off numerous Memphis rallies but turned up the defense in the fourth quarter, holding the Grizzlies to 13 points on 5-of-25 (20 percent) shooting over the final 12 minutes.

The Warriors offset 18 turnovers, giving the Grizzlies 16 point, by shooting 54.2 percent from the field.

Mike Conley scored 29 points to lead Memphis, which fell to 40-33.

STANDOUT PERFORMER

As good as the Splash Brothers were, and they were superb, it was Iguodala’s play at both ends that made a major difference.

Iguodala’s line: 20 points (7-of-8 shooting from the field, 2-of-3 from beyond the arc, 4-of-5 from the line), a team-high-tying seven rebounds, four assists, two steals and a blocked shot. He played 32 minutes and was plus-9 for the game.

TURNING POINT

After the Grizzlies pulled into an 81-81 tie with 25.2 left in the third quarter, the Warriors responded with a 15-5 run to go up 96-86 on a 3-pointer by Curry with 4:57 remaining.

Memphis got no closer than nine in the final minutes.

INJURY UPDATE

Warriors: F Kevin Durant (L knee sprain and bone bruise) is listed as out. C Damian Jones is on assignment with Santa Cruz of the NBA Development League.

Grizzlies: C Marc Gasol (L foot strain) was listed as questionable and declared out prior to tipoff. F Chandler Parsons (L knee rehab) was listed as out. C Deyonta Davis and F Jarell Martin are on assignment with Iowa of the D-League.

WHAT’S NEXT

The Warriors travel Monday to Houston, where on Tuesday night they face the Rockets at Toyota Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:05 p.m.