NBA mailbag: Don't count out Jefferson at SF

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NBA mailbag: Don't count out Jefferson at SF

MailtimeWho do you think will start at small forward thisyear? Brett, Albany, Calif.Steinmetz: It's funny. I've been asked thatquestion several times this offseason, and I'm about to give my third differentanswer. But that just shows you that there are legitimate choices there interms of a starter.At first I thought rookie Harrison Barnes would be thelikely starter at small forward. But Im starting to think that wont be thecase. No reason, in particular, just that its asking a lot to have a rookie,albeit the No. 7 pick, be as your starting small forward when you think as anorganization you have a playoff team. And thats what the Warriors are thinkingthey might have.That leaves Brandon Rush and Richard Jefferson. After I initiallyanswered that I thought Barnes would likely start, I began to give Rush morethought. After the Warriors re-signed him this offseason, he made it clear thathe wanted to be the starter. And Rush makes some sense. He's an improvingplayer coming off a nice season, and it would seem to be the next step in hisgame. Rush at the small forward spot would give the Warriors three excellentlong-range shooters, and no doubt, Rush is probably a better defender at thispoint than Barnes.But after more review, I think Jefferson figures in theequation, and could be the starter. Here would be the thinking behind that Its possible that Barnes isnt ready to start right off the bat, and Warriorscoach Mark Jackson prefers to bring Rush off the bench.That wouldnt be hard to see, considering Rush oftenprovided a spark last year as a leader of the teams second unit.Under that scenario, it makes sense to start Jefferson, whoshot 42 percent from 3-point range last season and brings much-needed experienceto the team.One potential issue with starting Jefferson, though, is howthen would Jackson find playing time for both Rush and Barnes? That wont beeasy. A few weeks back, Jackson acknowledged that the small forward positionwas wide option.Well, that certainly seems to be the case.Assuming Andrew Bogut and Stephen Curry stayhealthy, whats your win prediction for this year? Adam, Parts Unknown.Steinmetz: Its a little early for specificpredictions. I think the Warriors have a chance to compete for one of the lasttwo playoff spots in the Western Conference. I also think for that to happen, alot has to go right. Obviously, Andrew Bogut and Stephen Curry have to behealthy for most of the season.But its not just about Bogut and Curry staying healthy.Its about how fast this team comes together, considering they largely haventplayed together. The other thing is, while they may be a better reboundingteam, they still are below averaged defensively.Theyve got nice depth now, and that should certainly makethem better. There is also some uncertainty in terms of teams such as Portland,Houston, Phoenix and Minnesota, so things could fall into place in that regardfor Golden State.But I think theyre going to have to be better than eitherUtah or Dallas, and thats going to be a challenge. Reason I say that isbecause I see Oklahoma City, the L.A. Lakers, San Antonio Spurs, L.A. Clippers,Memphis Grizzlies and Denver Nuggets as playoff teams.So, the question is can the Warriors beat out the four teamsI mentioned above and then either Dallas or Utah? Gonna be tough.The Warriors have had a lot of roster turnover thepast two years, with as many as 16 new players depending on how you look at it.Only Stephen Curry, David Lee and Andris Biedrins have been around longer thantwo years. So, my question, even in this time of unprecedented turnover, isnt16 players in two years some kind of record? Bob, Napa, Calif.Steinmetz: Well, that ones going to demand alittle research, and so Ill look into it. But off the top of my head, Idstill say no. Id say its happened before. It just feels like teams have beendismantled in a hurry in the recent past, whether its Portland of last year orWashington a little bit or Minnesota when David Kahn took over. It feels likeNew Orleans is going to have an entirely different roster than it did two yearsago.But no doubt, the Warriors have turned over a lot in thepast two years personnel-wise. Thats why I think its going to take a littlebit for them to learn how to play together.

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.