Warriors

Curry officially in the Steph Zone: Give him the ball

Curry officially in the Steph Zone: Give him the ball

OAKLAND -- There are times when he needs only one clean splash to know where he is headed and for teammates and opponents to know what’s coming.

And don’t let him drain two in a row.

That’s when it’s popcorn time for the Warriors and their fans -- and sheer dread for the opposition.

That’s where Stephen Curry is right now, both feet planted in the Steph Zone. Two games into these Western Conference Finals, the Warriors are up 2-0 and Curry’s shots are falling from all over the court, drenching the Spurs while turning Oracle Arena into his personal cheering section.

“To see him knock down those shots and play with that aggression, and it's definitely better for us and better for the rest of the guys in the group as well,” Kevin Durant said Tuesday night, after Curry scored a game-high 29 points on 13 shots in a 136-100 rout. “He's shooting from two, three feet behind the 3-point line. Man, that's impressive. It's definitely been fun to watch.”

Since going 6-for-20 on May 6 in Game 3 of the conference semifinals at Utah, Curry is averaging 33.0 points on 57.4-percent shooting, including 48.6 percent from deep.

The Warriors are halfway to the NBA Finals largely because he has torched San Antonio for 69 points in 70 minutes, shooting 56.4 percent (22-of-39) from the field and 52 percent (13-of-25) beyond the arc.

Now, this is Gregg Popovich and San Antonio we’re talking about, the team that historically takes pride in not allowing 3-point specialists to get comfortable beyond the arc. Non-shooters can launch all they like, but the Spurs crowd shooters such as Curry. They chase and they close out and anything less means an earful of Pop.

They’ve so far mostly failed to meet that demand when it comes to Curry, and it hasn’t mattered much even when they’re in the immediate vicinity.

Asked about his recent play, Curry cited the challenge of the postseason.

“This is playoff time, and if you're not excited and don't get that adrenaline rush and get locked into the moment, you're going to miss out,” he said. “So, thankfully, I'm playing well, playing aggressive and confident, shots going in, trying to be locked in in every other aspect of the game too.”

The Warriors talked of avoiding a repeat of Game 1, in which a sluggish and sloppy first quarter dropped them into a 30-16 hole that forced them come together and fight for the victory. Curry scored 19 points in the third quarter, igniting the comeback.

He made sure Game 2 would be different, coming out in the first quarter and scoring 15 points. The Spurs, stifled by nasty Warriors defense, had 16.

“Stephen Curry has been doing a great job of really setting a tone, shooting the ball, being aggressive, attacking, him and Kevin,” Shaun Livingston said. “We just kind of follow suit.”

That’s the thing about Curry and 3-balls. When they start dropping, it becomes an almost tangible thing, certainly to the other team. Defenses get wrecked, inevitably leading to a sense of despair.

“I’ve been on the other end of it and it’s not fun,” Brown said. “You’re frightened to death to begin with, and once he hits one you’re on alert. And if he hits two in a row, it’s like a floodgate that opens up that you really can’t plug.”

With due respect to anything anybody else can do, no sequence in the NBA is more intoxicating for his team while demoralizing the opponent than when Curry makes three triples in a row, as he did in final five minutes of the first quarter in Game 2.

The effect is something Durant, a first-year Warrior, is seeing for the first time on a regular basis.

“He gets everybody else open once he gets it going like that,” he said. “He creates so many open shots for everybody else. You know, it’s just the team we have. If he’s got it going, give him the ball. If Klay has it going, give him the ball. Same with me, same with anybody.”

Curry has got it going. Give him the ball.

Teams will continue to call about Klay Thompson and Warriors will keep laughing

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AP

Teams will continue to call about Klay Thompson and Warriors will keep laughing

There is a single reason teams keep sniffing out the availability of Klay Thompson, and it’s far more easily understood than the myriad reasons the Warriors keep telling them no.

No fewer than four teams have either reached out or considered reaching out, the latest being revealed as the detested Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Warriors, of course, declined them, perhaps after general manager Bob Myers put Cavs GM Koby Altman on speakerphone so everybody at Warriors HQ could double over with team-building laughter.

The Cavs got the same answer as was previously heard by the Pacers and the Timberwolves, and maybe even the Celtics, whose interest was rumored though never actually substantiated.

All four teams, though, along with maybe few others, all reached the same conclusion. They looked at the Warriors, studied their prime core, and concluded that Thompson was the most available member.

Clearly more available than Stephen Curry, who is the face of the franchise.

Likely more available than Draymond Green, whose two-way versatility and temperament are vital to the grand ambitions of the Warriors.

And infinitely more available than Kevin Durant, who arrived two years after Minnesota shot its shot -- by dangling Kevin Love -- and evolved into their most impressive overall player.

So it’s Thompson who gets his tires kicked. He’s 27 years old, has two years remaining on his contract and, most germane, seems to be the least emotionally invested star in the organization. That is may not be true, but it’s an easy conclusion based on appearances and the misguided thought that the Warriors don’t value him as much as they do the others.

Wrong.

“It's really cool,” Thompson said Wednesday, referring to being pursued and prized. “It shows the Warriors believe in me and these other teams want me to be a part of their success. So I appreciate it. I've been in trade rumors forever. Everyone has. Except for maybe LeBron James, Steph — well, even Steph early in his career.”

Any team that asks about Thompson is aware that the Thompson-Love deal gained considerable traction in 2014 before it was vetoed by then-adviser Jerry West and newly hired head coach Steve Kerr.

If the Warriors were thinking about it then, why not later?

They have their reasons, beginning with the fact they’ve experienced more success over the past three seasons than at any time in franchise history, winning two championships in three seasons and becoming a regular in the NBA Finals. Why even consider breaking the squad that so clearly is the cream of the NBA?

Another reason is that the Warriors have come to fully understand Thompson’s role in their competitive prosperity. He’s a gunslinger that manages to be highly productive without spending much time with the ball, and his fabulous defense makes that end of the court so much easier for Curry. The Thompson-Curry backcourt is the best in the league and already in the discussion for the best ever.

There is another component that is rather understated. Thompson is the ultimate zero-maintenance All-Star. In a locker room of varied personalities, some loud, nearly all opinionated, he’s like a breeze that is cool enough be felt yet never so much it feels imposing.

The Warriors have come to appreciate Thompson being the closest thing to a wind-up All-Star in a league where that is exceedingly rare. Give him a jersey, a ball and some shoes and let him go.

So, no, he’s not leaving anytime soon. The only way he goes before he becomes a free agent in 2019 -- at which time he’s likely to take a peep around the NBA -- is if the Warriors somehow take a tumble in the standings or try to low-ball him.

Until then, teams may continue to ask. They have to as a strategy to improve themselves while diminishing the league’s powerhouse. Understanding this, the Warriors will take the calls and appreciate the humor of it all.

Former Warriors forward wins BIG3’s Best Trash Talker

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USATSI

Former Warriors forward wins BIG3’s Best Trash Talker

Stephen Jackson is known as one of the biggest characters in Warriors history. 

The 14-year NBA veteran always let you know what he was thinking. Some things never change. 

Jackson, now playing for the Killer 3s in the BIG3, was awarded the league's Best Trash Talker award on Wednesday. 

Serving as the Killer 3s co-captain with Chauncey Billups, Jackson is currently leading the league in scoring. At 39 years old, Jackson is averaging 21.6 points per game over 31.7 minutes per game. 

In four seasons with the Warriors, Jackson poured in 19.4 points and 5.0 assists per game. Over 14 years in the NBA, he averaged 15.1 points per game. 

Former Warriors big man Al Harrington was voted Too Hard to Guard with his 15.3 points per game.