Oakland's Lillard top rookie

lillard_damian_blazers.jpg

Oakland's Lillard top rookie

The buzzer-beating, game-winning 3 Damian Lillard made over Ryan Anderson and the New Orleans Hornets won’t change the current state of the Rookie of the Year race much, but only because the Portland Trail Blazers’ point guard already was lapping the field.

While No. 1 pick Anthony Davis was the overwhelming choice in a preseason survey of NBA general managers – who don’t always personally fill out the survey, I’m told – to win the award, a direct poll of a half-dozen assistant coaches and scouts – the ones who do the detailed advance reports on opponents, including player evaluations – has Lillard as a heavy favorite at the season’s quarter-pole.
 

Davis, of course, has made only 10 appearances and six starts this season due to a concussion and then a sprained left ankle, but Lillard, the sixth overall pick, has been so impressive that several pollsters believe Lillard may not relinquish his lead even once Davis is healthy and rolling.
 

“Poise and pace,” said one Eastern Conference assistant coach when asked what impressed him most about Lillard. “He does not get too rattled when things are going bad and when they are good he appears to keep the same focus. He shoots it well and makes good passes, but the poise and pace, while obscure, are more important to his success. He is not afraid of the big moment, either. Which is big.”
 

The talent evaluators were asked to give their top seven rookies and Warriors small forward Harrison Barnes made five of six lists but the highest ranking he received was fourth overall. The one scout who left him out of his top seven had Barnes as eighth. The consensus magnificent seven: Lillard; Davis; Terrence Ross (Toronto, SG, 8th pick); Kyle Singler (Detroit, SF, 2011 33rd pick);  Dion Waiters (Cleveland, SG, 4th); Barnes (Golden State, SF, 7th) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Charlotte, SF, 2nd).
 

Also receiving votes were Pistons center Andre Drummond, the ninth pick; Mavericks small forward Jae Crowder; Timberwolves point guard Alexey Shved, who played six years with CSKA Moscow before signing as a free agent with Minnesota last summer; and Toronto’s Jonas Valanciunas, a Lithuanian power forward drafted fifth last season who stayed overseas because of a prohibitive buy-out clause in his existing contract.
 

Washington Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal, the third pick, and Kings power forward and fifth overall pick Thomas Robinson were the most glaring absentees from anyone’s top seven list, although there are extenuating circumstances for Beal: He’s played all season without a bona fide point guard, third-string AJ Price and free-agent pick-up Shaun Livingston filling in for injured John Wall. Robinson could argue that he hasn’t played with a legitimate point guard this season, either, but he also hasn’t been able to get past Jason Thompson, who the Kings signed to a five-year contract extension last summer, and veteran Chuck Hayes, in the rotation on most nights.
 

If there’s one other notable missing name, it’s Hornets guard Austin Rivers, who was third on the GM survey behind Davis (76.7 percent) and Lillard (20 percent) with 3.3 percent.
 “Rivers has not really caught on to the NBA game yet,” said one Northwest Division assistant coach. “He’s still trying to find where he fits. He seems to be a very good right-handed driver but he’s not really spacing the floor with his shot yet.”

Kerr clarifies Cousins' lack of NBA All-Star Game minutes

Kerr clarifies Cousins' lack of NBA All-Star Game minutes

OAKLAND -- Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Wednesday that the limited minutes allotted to former Kings center DeMarcus Cousins in the All-Star Game Sunday was unrelated to a pending trade.

Cousins played only two minutes -- the shortest stint by any All-Star since Connie Hawkins in 1971 -- because that was the big man’s wish.

“I asked every guy before the game started how much they wanted to play,” said Kerr, who coached the Western Conference All-Stars for the second time in three seasons. “He told me he wanted to play two minutes. He was serious. He said he was banged up. It had nothing to do with (a trade).”

After six-plus seasons in Sacramento, Cousins was traded to New Orleans shortly after the All-Star Game, with the official announcement coming Monday.

Kerr initially thought Cousins was requesting to be limited to two minutes per half. When Kerr and assistant coach Mike Brown conveyed that plan, Cousins was quick to clarify.

“He said, ‘No, no: two minutes total,’” Kerr recalled.

When Kerr pointed out that Cousins actually played two minutes, 24 seconds, the newest Pelican flashed a sense of humor.

“I went over? By 24 seconds?” Cousins said. “That should be a fine for you, coach.”

Warriors big men Pachulia, West close to return

Warriors big men Pachulia, West close to return

OAKLAND -- The Warriors reconvened Wednesday and received good news, going through a light scrimmage that for the first time in weeks included centers Zaza Pachulia and David West.

The better news for the Warriors is that both were upgraded to questionable and could return as soon as Thursday night, when they face the Clippers at Oracle Arena.

“I would say there’s a good chance both of them would play tomorrow,” coach Steve Kerr said. “We’ll see.”

Pachulia has missed the last eight games after straining his right rotator cuff on Jan. 29 at Portland.

“The pain is gone,” Pachulia told CSNBayArea.com. “I can’t say I’ll be cleared, but there is no more pain.”

Pachulia is expected to reclaim his starting role despite Kerr’s acknowledging that JaVale McGee has been “fantastic” while starting the last eight games.

“I haven’t decided yet,” Kerr said. “I’ve got to make that decision. I want to make sure first that (Pachulia) is healthy. And it depends, too, on what happens with David. Is David healthy? Are they both playing? There’s kind of a domino effect on all of this stuff.

“I would anticipate that, ultimately, Zaza will be back starting. I liked that whole rotation. JaVale has helped us dramatically, and he’ll be playing a role. It’s a center-by-committee situation. But right away, we’ll see how we play it.”

West has missed the last 14 games with a non-displaced fracture in his left thumb, sustained Jan. 18 against Oklahoma City.

West was to undergo an X-ray late Wednesday, after which it was anticipated he would receive a clean slate.

The only players that did not scrimmage are All-Stars Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. All four were given an extra day off in the wake of their participation in All-Star Weekend in New Orleans.

“Just being in New Orleans for those four days, there’s no rest whatsoever,” Kerr said. “Those are the guys who played the most minutes. The All-Star break is such a great time to recharge.”