Now that the Warriors are close to re-signing Brandon Rushand signing Carl Landry, their offseason work is pretty much complete.The Warriors have 15 players under contract, though not allthe contracts are guaranteed. Still, this is what the Warriors roster willlook like heading into training camp which begins in early October.Harrison Barnes, 6-8, 210 pounds,SF:Barnes was OK in summer league. He had his moments butoverall he didnt shoot well and he has work to do on his defense, like mostplayers coming into the league. Barnes doesnt look like an immediate star, buthes not without talent, either.Hes athletic and has good size for his position. It seemslike only a matter of time before hes the teams starting small forward. Andwho knows? It could be from Day 1 of training camp.Kent Bazemore, 6-5, 200 pounds,SF:Bazemores contract is not guaranteed, but that doesnt meanthe Warriors dont like him. They believe hes got a place on this team, if forno other reason than his ability to defend the perimeter. Bazemore played fouryears at Old Dominion and was the CAA defensive player of the year his seniorseason.Andris Biedrins, 7-feet, 240 pounds,C:It doesnt really matter anymore what has happened toBiedrins, only that it has and that hes under contract for two more years.Its pretty safe to say most Warriors fans have given up on Biedrins, andsometimes from afar it looks like Biedrins has given up on Biedrins.If Biedrins can help the Warriors in any way in 2012-13 itwould be considered a bonus. From a practical standpoint, Biedrins will becounted on less with Andrew Bogut on the team.Andrew Bogut, 7-feet, 260 pounds,C:He is the single-most important player on the Warriorsroster when it comes to impacting wins and losses. On offense, he gives theWarriors a versatile player who can set up teammates or score a little bit forhimself. On defense, he occupies space, blocks shots and takescharges.Of course with Bogut, it comes down to whether he can puttogether a whole season without injury. If he gets hurt again, its tough tosee the Warriors having a successful season.Stephen Curry, 6-3, 185 pounds,PG:Most Important player No. 1A for the Warriors is Curry, whois coming off a season of injury. Curry played just 26 games in 2011-12 becauseof right ankle issues, and if he has another season like that, the Warriorswill be in trouble.The Warriors are more equipped to sustain a setback toCurry, however, thanks to the acquisition of Jarrett Jack. Still, if theWarriors want to make noise in 2012-13, Currys going to need to be healthy.Festus Ezeli, 7-foot, 270 pounds,C:Ezeli figures to battle Andris Biedrins for backup minutesat the five, but dont expect too much, too soon. Ezeli is still very rawoffensively, and while he can occupy space with his frame, hes prone tocommitting fouls.Still, everyone agrees hes a quick learner so you wouldthink that in the second half of his first season youd start to see sometangible progress here.Draymond Green, 6-7, 230 pounds,PF:The Warriors came to terms with Green on a three-yearcontract worth 2.6 million, according to a report. That the Warriors locked ina second-round pick at guaranteed money shows one thing: Golden State likesGreen a lot. Well see how much as the season unfolds.Jarrett Jack, 6-3, 195 pounds,PG:Jack was the most significant acquisition of the offseasonfor the Warriors, giving them a versatile third guard to go along with StephenCurry and Klay Thompson. Jack can play either guard position, and hes a defensive upgradeover both Curry and Thompson.Make no mistake, Jack is going to get minutes and hesgoing to get a lot of them.Richard Jefferson, 6-7, 230 pounds,SF:After acquiring Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson in theMonta Ellis trade last March, the Warriors quickly moved Jackson to San Antoniofor Jefferson. The move yielded the No. 30 pick which turned into FestusEzeli but it also left the Warriors with a player a little out of place ontheir roster.Jefferson has two more years remaining on his deal at bigmoney and hes on the downside of his career. Hell be expected to mentorrookie Harrison Barnes, but its easy to see Jefferson wanting more of a rolethan that.Charles Jenkins, 6-3, 220 pounds,PG:At this point, Jenkins appears to be the teams third pointguard, but dont rule out the possibility of him getting minutes. Startingpoint guard Stephen Curry missed most of last season with right ankle issues,and Jarrett Jack, the backup, missed the last 13 games of 2011-12 because of astress fracture in his right foot.Carl Landry, 6-9, 248 pounds,PF:In an ideal world, the Warriors might have preferred a moredefensive-minded power forward to sign. Landry isnt a great post defender andhes just an OK rebounder.Still, he is a legitimate scorer off the bench and he has avariety of ways to score around the basket. The other thing thats intriguingabout Landry is he has an ability to get the foul line and make his free throwswhen he gets there.David Lee, 6-9, 240 pounds, PF:Lee has his detractors, but he will head into the 2012-13season as the Warriors most-known commodity, and that says something. We allknow Lee isnt your prototypical back-to-the-basket, physical power forward,but his numbers are still his numbers and theyre nothing to scoff at.He averaged 20.1 points and 9.6 assists last season for theWarriors. Its possible Lees numbers could take a hit this upcoming season with better players around him but that doesnt necessarily mean Lee canthave a very productive season.Brandon Rush, 6-6, 210 pounds,SF:It seems apparent that the Warriors strategy of tellingeveryone under the sun that they would match an offer sheet for Rush worked.Rush never got an offer sheet from another team, which left him to figuresomething out with the Warriors and Warriors alone.Expect Rush to be the first shooting guard off the bench andfor him to also get minutes at small forward.Rush averaged a career-high 9.8 points per game last seasonand shot 45 percent from beyond the arc. But as good as Rush was last season,the Warriors would like to see him chip in more when it comes to defense andrebounding.Klay Thompson, 6-7, 205 pounds,SF:Thompson had an encouraging second half of last season forthe Warriors, scoring in double figures in 31 of the final 32 games. TheWarriors are hoping Thompson takes the next step in 2012-13, both improving onhis defense and his ability to get to the rim.Thompson had carte blanche offensively in the last six or soweeks of the season for the Warriors. He wont have as much free reign thisyear; but more efficiency will be expected.Jeremy Tyler, 6-10, 260 pounds,PF:While general manager Bob Myers and coach Mark Jacksoncontinue to support Tyler, it seems obvious theyd like to see more out of him.The teams No. 1 area of need right now is backup power forward, and yet Tylerhasnt been mentioned very much as a candidate to assume that role.Tylers contract is guaranteed for the 2012-13 season, butTylers role on the team is not.
INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- There's a four-headed, shot-making, scoreboard-breaking monster out West awaiting LeBron James and the Cavaliers.
The Warriors are stomach-churning scary.
James, though, can't run or hide. With eight NBA Finals appearances under his belt, he is ready to face a team he's called "a beast." After all, he has slayed behemoths before.
Pushing off any talk about the Warriors until after Sunday's practice, James was asked to assess the task at hand: beating Golden State's All-Star-studded lineup of Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.
Is this the biggest challenge of his career?
"It's probably up there," he said. "I mean, it's up there."
And then, almost as if he was trying to remind himself that he's got three championship rings and is frightful in his own right, James recalled other fearsome postseason opponents - San Antonio and Boston.
"I've played against four Hall of Famers as well, too, with Manu (Ginobili), Kawhi (Leonard), Tony (Parker) and Timmy D (Tim Duncan) on the same team," said James, occasionally sniffling as he continues to fight a cold. "And if you add Pop (coach Gregg Popovich) in there, that's five Hall of Famers. So, it's going to be very challenging. Those guys are going to challenge me, they're going to challenge our ballclub.
"This is a high-powered team."
James also took on a Celtics team loaded with big-name talents.
"I've played against Ray (Allen), KG (Kevin Garnett), Paul (Pierce), (Rajon) Rondo and Doc (Rivers). So, it's going to be very challenging not only on me mentally, but on our ballclub and on our franchise."
Cleveland-Golden State 3.0 is the matchup fans worldwide expected and wanted, and James believes they're in for quite a show.
Both the Cavaliers and Warriors have upgraded their rosters from a year ago, when they went seven games in an epic series that spawned the first comeback from a 3-1 deficit in Finals history and resulted in Cleveland winning its first pro sports championship since 1964.
That Warriors team James conquered in 2016 won 73 games during the regular season and was being mentioned as one of the best to ever take the floor.
Hard to believe, but this version - with Durant - might be even better.
Golden State has been putting on a basketball clinic over the past two months, winning 27 of 28 games since March 11 and becoming the first squad to start the postseason 12-0.
Durant, who previously faced James in the 2012 Finals with Golden State, has taken a great team and elevated it to a nearly unstoppable level.
The Warriors are using Durant in every imaginable way on offense, and James isn't surprised to see his good friend and Olympic teammate more mobile than he was with the Thunder.
"You adapt to the culture," he said. "You adapt to the style and that's the same thing that happened to me when I went to Miami. I started to slash more and move more without the ball, shoot more standstill 3s and figure out ways I could be more productive than just having the ball in isolation. So, it's the right thing to do. He's one of the most dangerous guys we have in the world already. So it makes it even more dangerous when you equip that talent, that skill with those guys."
On the brink of becoming the first player since the early 1960s to play in seven straight Finals, James finds himself in a similar - and somewhat surprising - situation.
The Cavaliers are being given little chance to defend their title against the vaunted Warriors, who have been winning by an average of 16.3 points per game in the playoffs.
For the sixth time, James enters the Finals as an underdog, hardly a role he's accustomed to before June. The only time he won a championship as a Finals favorite was with Miami in 2013, when the Heat upended the Spurs for their second straight title.
James isn't worried about point spreads or any odds.
"I only play blackjack in Vegas anyway, so it doesn't matter," he said.
What does matter is that the 32-year-old is having one of his finest postseasons, and the Cavs are gelling the way they did at this time last year.
Maybe James has nothing to fear.
"I feel good about our chances," he said. "Very good."
INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- Vegas is betting against them and the bookies are hardly alone.
Let's be honest, not many are giving the Cleveland Cavaliers much of a chance in the NBA Finals. They may be defending champions and they may have LeBron James, but against Golden State, they are definite underdogs.
Just don't try to tell them that.
"The whole underdog thing is funny to me, because yeah, at the end of the day we are defending our title," Cavs forward Kevin Love said following Saturday's practice. "We're trying to repeat, which is so hard to do. I think we will use it as fuel. We will use it as motivation, but the idea of playing into it? It's tough for me to say that is the case. I don't feel like we're underdogs.
"We match up well with them and I think they'd say the same about us."
Maybe, but as the teams gear up for Thursday night's series opener in Oakland, comments made by Warriors forward Draymond Green in October are reverberating around Cleveland.
Still stinging after the Warriors blew a 3-1 lead in last year's Finals against Cleveland, the vociferous Green, who was suspended from Game 5, said if given the chance again, he plans to "destroy and annihilate" the Cavs.
Love complimented Green's competitiveness and aimed a verbal volley at Northern California.
"He's a guy who said he wanted us," Love said, "and he has us - starting next Thursday."
Act III in this trilogy is overloaded with story lines, with the biggest being whether James and Co. have enough firepower to go toe-to-toe with the Warriors, who added superstar Kevin Durant to a team that won 73 games a year ago before its Finals flameout.
Golden State has glowed in this postseason, becoming the first team to start 12-0 while winning by an average of 16.3 points per game - the highest margin league history. It's no wonder then that the wise guys have installed the Warriors as heavy favorites to beat the Cavs for the second time in three years and wrestle back the Larry O'Brien Trophy that slipped through their hands last June.
James referred to the Warriors as only "that juggernaut" and "a beast" following Thursday's Game 5 in at Boston, a night in which he passed Michael Jordan as the career postseason scoring leader.
James elected not to talk about the Warriors following the game, choosing instead to celebrate a third straight conference title in Cleveland and his seventh consecutive Finals trip. James didn't speak to reporters on Saturday either, leaving Love to serve as the team's unofficial spokesman as the sports world inched closer to a matchup that seemed destined from the moment last season's Finals ended.
Love was asked if the Cavs wanted the Warriors.
"Want the Warriors?" he said. "They've been right at the top, best team in the league for three years straight now. They've been super-impressive. It's kind of in our minds that that's who we were going to see. They played great basketball this year. Obviously adding an MVP to a team that already has a two-time MVP makes them even more impressive. It's tough to say that we didn't expect it; we knew they'd be right there."
After the team returned from Boston in the wee hours Friday morning, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue didn't go to bed and immediately began working on a game plan to stifle Golden State's powerful, multi-faceted offense.
Lue knows the Cavs are facing a difficult task, one made tougher with the addition of the versatile Durant, who can score down low, from the perimeter and free-throw line.
The Warriors are using Durant the way he envisioned, but Lue has noticed changes in the All-Star.
"He's moving around a lot more," he said. "Just watching him move without the basketball, getting easy baskets off of cuts and splits and when he passes the ball he's also relocating now. He's doing a lot more movement, which makes it even tougher to guard after being one of the tougher scorers I've ever seen."
Lue said didn't deliver any inspiring speech to his players before practice.
Words don't mean much now - not his, not Green's - and neither do underdog labels.
"We're not going to use that as motivation," Lue said. "We're in the NBA Finals. That's enough motivation alone. Not worry about what it says in Vegas or what people are saying about underdogs. We're not using that as an excuse. We've got to come out and play. Our goals were set at the beginning of the season, and that's to win a championship. So, that's what we're focused on."
And remember, the Cavs have overcome long odds before.