Warriors

Game preview: Warriors-Wizards

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Game preview: Warriors-Wizards

The Warriors, winners of nine of their last 12 games, have fully crept into believable.

Further proof that the Warriors (12-7) may belong in the mix of the NBA’s better half came on Friday night with a road win against the well-built Brooklyn Nets. The belief will become reality if Golden State can continue its trend of improved play through the remaining three quarters of the season.

While the Washington Wizards (2-14) don’t seem like the most significant threat, today’s game in Washington is part of a building momentum. It's these stretches of schedule that create playoff teams.

Here are some other things to watch for during Saturday’s game between the Warriors and Wizards:

Feeding on the weak

The Warriors will need to beat the bad teams. They didn’t do it at home against Orlando (7-12) earlier this week but they did start this current road trip with a win at Detroit (6-15). Wins during the early part of the trip are important, including Saturday’s game in Washington (2-14) and Monday’s game against the Charlotte Bobcats (7-11).

Tougher road contests against the Miami Heat (12-5) and the Atlanta Hawks (11-5) sit on the back end of the season-long, seven-game road trip.

Saturday cannot be a letdown. The importance of a win against the Wizards is telling of what type of team the Warriors could be.

The tale of two rookies

Lottery picks are emblematic of hope for most downtrodden franchises. When a franchise feels hopeless, and the top pick appears equally as lost, the outlook becomes frigid.

Wizards rookie Bradley Beal offers a frosty breath in the cold, losing climate of Washington. The third overall pick in last summer’s draft is struggling in the early season, shooting 34.9 percent. The unreasonable pressures placed on young players are only exasperated in losing environments, and with John Wall out, Bradley is in a tough spot. He did have one of his best games Friday night in Atlanta when he scored 18 points, but he’s been inconsistent and a target of frustration for the two-win Wizards.

Then, there’s Harrison Barnes, who is feeling plenty of warmth. The Warriors' top pick, and seventh overall, may begin to find himself in Rookie of the Year conversations as an impact player with the now-relevant Warriors. The athletic forward placed himself within the league's spotlight when he posterized Minnesota Timberwolves' Nikola Pekovic in November.

But he’s been more than just a highlight. The North Carolina product finds himself in the right situation with the winning Warriors, starting in all 19 games and finding a role as a well-rounded wing who has contributed to Golden State’s success. He averages 10.8 points and 5.9 rebounds when the Warriors win.

Curry keeps it going

It’s not about Stephen Curry being an All-Star by name. Expectations are what they are for the young guard who carries all of Golden State’s expectations on disloyal ankles. But the focus for Curry needs to remain playing within the Warriors' current winning system.

This includes maintaining his play as the team’s long-wished-for point guard. Curry scored 28 points on Friday night and now has six consecutive games with 20 or more points. In the team’s last six games, the 24-year-old is averaging 22.5 points and 8.8 assists per game.

 It's Curry's current 6.5 assists per game, the highest average of his career, that is benefiting the Warriors most. His numbers are consistant, in both wins and losses, and it will be important for the team’s success that Curry continues to be a constant. If he can lead the team in taking care of the ball and limiting turnovers Saturday, the team should be successful against Washington.

There’s the guy

The real David Lee has emerged. The star forward the Warriors have been waiting for has arrived, and on Friday night he recorded his first 30-point, 15-rebound game with the franchise.

Lee is averaging a double-double, scoring 18.2 points and collecting 10.9 rebounds per game. Keep the bottle of Korbel on ice for after the game just in case; Lee's fourth rebound tonight will be the No. 5,000 in his career.


Damian Lillard: 'I'm not joining nobody' like Kevin Durant did, unless...

Damian Lillard: 'I'm not joining nobody' like Kevin Durant did, unless...

Kevin Durant. LeBron James. Chris Paul. Paul George. LaMarcus Aldridge. Kyrie Irving. Gordon Hayward.

Those just some of the superstars to change teams in the last few years in pursuit of a championship.

But don't expect Damian Lillard to add his name to that list.

While speaking on the latest episode of Complex's Everyday Struggle, the Blazers point guard was asked about the possibility of joining up with other stars to try to win a title.

"I mean, like I said about [former Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge], I wouldn't have done it. For me, I'm not joining nobody," Lillard said.

When it was brought up that he'd join LeBron if given the chance, Lillard responded by saying this: "I'm not joining nobody. I would not win a championship before I go and team up and do all that. Unless it was something I couldn't control."

A hypothetical scenario was posed to Lillard: Let's say you're 34 years old (Lillard is currently 27 years old) and you had the chance to join two of your superstar friends on another team. You still wouldn't do it?

"I’m saying this because this is how I feel, not how I feel at the moment. That’s just how I feel about it. I think if that’s what somebody wants to do, I’m not mad at them for doing it. I’m just telling you what I’m not going to do. That ain’t how we get down," Lillard responded.

To wrap up the topic, Lillard was asked if he holds it against any player that does decide to team up with other superstars.

"Nah, if it make them feel good, if they comfortable doing it, then do you," Lillard said.

Trapped by social media monster, KD taught a harsh lesson

Trapped by social media monster, KD taught a harsh lesson

Kevin Durant has publicly pummeled himself into swollen submission, and he was the first to say he deserved every punch after falling thumbs first into the trap set by the monster we adore.

That would be social media and its maliciously seductive bait.

It’s addictive, and mesmerizing enough to have folks staring into the light of smartphones at all hours of the night or walking down the sidewalk at midday bumping into others caught up in the same maze.

Caught up in the insanity last Sunday, Durant got too honest and too cheeky. His response to a question posed on Twitter -- essentially seeking deeper reasons for his decision to leave Oklahoma City for the Warriors -- exposed some raw opinions, belittling his former Thunder teammates, as well as the organization while also directly criticizing coach Billy Donovan. Only star guard Russell Westbrook, the other half of what once was OKC’s dynamic duo, was spared.

It was KD unfiltered, inadvertently sharing with the Twitterverse the kinds of blunt assessments he most assuredly would rather keep confined to his inner circle. That much we can assume insofar as his points of view were issued in the third person.

After realizing firestorm ignited by his “oops” moment, Durant deleted both responses, though far too late to avoid embarrassment.

So there he was Tuesday on stage during TechCrunch Disrupt SF summit, smacking himself with both fists, kicking himself with both feet and offering up a stream of apologies that seemed as sincere as any we’ve heard from someone caught in a compromising position.

“I use Twitter to engage with fans,” Durant said. “I happened to take it a little too far.

“That’s what happens sometime when I get into these basketball debates about what I really love, to play basketball. I don’t regret clapping back at anybody or talking to my fans on Twitter. I do regret using my former coach’s name and the former organization I played for.

“That was childish. That was idiotic, all those types of words. I regret doing that and I apologize for that.”

Durant, who according to USA Today sent a personal apology to Donovan, didn’t stop the self-flagellation there.

“I look like an idiot,” he told the newspaper. “My peers are going to look at me like an idiot. All the jokes -- bring ‘em. I deserve it.

“The second I realized what I did, I felt like (bleep). Like I said, I look at that stuff as a joke and a big game. Sometimes when I’m in it, I take it too far and I’m in it too much, too deep. But it’s just out of sight, out of mind. I won’t fall into that problem again. I definitely have to move on and not worry about anybody on Twitter, even though it’s fun. You know what I mean?”

The many available forms of social media can be fun indeed. They can, if properly utilized, be informative. They also represent a form of conversation rife with pitfalls.

Rarely a week goes by without a high profile individual -- athletes, entertainers, politicians et al -- going full jackass on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram or some other device. Photos of private parts meant for an individual have been inadvertently shared and, therefore, gone viral.

How many poor souls that have fallen into this trap been forced to respond by saying they’ve been hacked?

A man like Durant, with almost 17 million Twitter followers, deserves kudos for taking the time to engage with his audience. But once down that path, it can be exceedingly perilous. Durant disclosed that his gaffe was upsetting enough to disrupt both his appetite and sleep pattern.

Honesty is a noble trait. Brutal honesty can be provocative. Brutal honesty attached to withering critique can result in disastrous consequences.

Durant is a smart guy who made a dumb mistake. He stepped into muck that was hip deep. This is going to stick to him for a while, as it should.

It’s a harsh lesson, but some of the most enduring lessons are learned the hard way.