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.”

Livingston on Kerr: 'He’s our leader ... somebody that we count on'

Livingston on Kerr: 'He’s our leader ... somebody that we count on'

OAKLAND -- Though much has been said about the agonies and challenges facing Steve Kerr, including speculation about when, or if, he’ll return as head coach of the Warriors, little has been put into words that capture the significance of his absence.

This is perhaps because it can be difficult to explain how one man is able to influence a roster of supremely talented athletes, at the wealthiest point of life, with wildly divergent personalities, at different career stages.

Veteran guard Shaun Livingston, a man who knows perspective as well as anyone in the NBA, took a moment Saturday to cut through the palaver and pity to offer a clear and vivid illustration of Kerr’s value as a man and as a coach.

“It’s just his presence, his personality,” Livingston began. “His character, the way he fits in with us. He’s kind of the battery pack, in the sense that he makes everybody go. He keeps us all (in harmony), everybody from staff, training staff, coaching staff to the players.

“He bridges the gaps, in the sense of communication, and he makes it light.”

In short, Kerr’s value to the franchise is far greater than his duties as a coach. He has an easy, breezy charisma insofar as he’s so comfortable submerging his own ego while being remarkably good at making everyone matter.

Moreover, Kerr is decidedly inclusive, explicitly emphatically open to ideas. He’s an outreach specialist whose sensibilities are contagious.

All of which helps create a sprightly and genial workplace, something the Warriors sought when they hired Kerr to replace the swaggering and dogmatic Mark Jackson in May 2014.

“Every day it’s something new, in a sense, and that’s hard to do,” Livingston said. “We’re here for six to nine months for the past couple years, seeing the same faces. So it is kind of like a job. But (Kerr) makes it more like a game and tries to make sure we’re enjoying ourselves out there.”

Kerr wants to live his life and coach basketball around four basic tenets: joy, mindfulness, compassion and competition. Maintaining a balance of the four can be difficult, especially when Kerr is dealing with the searing pain that has him on the sideline for an indefinite period.

But Kerr never strays far. His players seem to see and, more important, feel that.

Draymond Green and Kerr, each volatile in his own way, don’t always see eye-to-eye. Yet Green on several occasions has noted that Kerr “always seems to find the right thing to say, at the right time.”

Veteran David West points out that anyone who spends any time around Kerr can sense his basic humanity. Veteran Andre Iguodala, one of the team’s co-captains, speaks of Kerr’s curiosity and desire to broaden his horizons.

Stephen Curry, the other co-captain, kept the ball from the Warriors’ Game 4 win over Portland last Monday night, punctuating a series sweep, and gave it to Kerr, who missed Games 3 and 4 while coping with this prolonged post-surgery pain.

Lead assistant Mike Brown, the acting head coach in Kerr’s absence, concedes he has benefited from being around Kerr and this team.

“The tone he sets is the best I’ve been around,” said Brown, who has been involved in the NBA since 1992. “This is a special, special situation, and he’s big reason why.”

So it’s not just Livingston who throwing rose petals at the boss. He just happened to convey in a few words the effect Kerr has on the team and within the building.

“He’s our leader,” Livingston said. “He’s somebody that we count on.”

Warriors update health status of Livingston, Barnes

Warriors update health status of Livingston, Barnes

OAKLAND -- One day after every member of the Warriors participated in a full scrimmage, the official health updates were released.

Veteran forward Matt Barnes, out since April 8, is listed as probable for Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals that begin Tuesday at Oracle Arena.

Veteran guard Shaun Livingston, out since sustaining a finger/hand injury in Game 1 of the first-round series against Portland on April 16, is listed as questionable -- but with an asterisk.

“Hopefully, we’ll be ready for Tuesday,” Livingston said after a light workout Saturday.

Livingston informed NBCSportsBayArea.com earlier this week that he would have been available, hypothetically, if the Warriors were facing a Game 7.

As for Kevin Durant, who missed five weeks with a knee injury before returning April 8, only to sustain a calf strain in Game 1 against the Trail Blazers, he’s fully available.