Last season, rookie head coach Mark Jackson introduced himself to the Bay Area media with a bold prediction that his Warriors would make the playoffs for the first time since the We Believe team shocked the NBA world in 2007.This year, Jackson has avoided any guarantees. But Stephen Curry thinks that his coach is just as confident as he was a year ago.Ask his wife or his family, they probably heard him saying we're going to the playoffs this year, Curry said Monday at Warriors media day. He'd probably say it to us, you know we're going to get there, so that will never change and that's why we do what we do.Even though Jacksons preseason statement last year put pressure on his players, Curry appreciates the confidence his coach exudes.He made us believe that we were going to make the playoffs last year when we heard him say that, Curry said. You want your coach to have confidence in you, especially a first-time coach who knows what this roster is. So to have that much faith in us, that does go a long way in the locker room.Curry, as one of the teams captains along with Andrew Bogut and David Lee, is ready for a bigger leadership role in Jacksons locker room. He even said hes ready to scream at teammates if necessary.They know that we're going to have an atmosphere in our locker room that guys can take criticism, take encouragement and make each other better, Curry said. So we're not going to be a sensitive team or when one guy yells and somebody holds grudges. Everybody is sick of losing so something has got to change and we've got to figure out how to make each other better throughout the process of the season.Veteran Richard Jefferson thinks that the maturation of the Warriors young core is crucial if the team wants to end its lengthy playoff drought. So whose job is it to help the players focus on the task at hand?It's Coach Jackson's job, it's my job, it's mainly their job, Jefferson said. How seriously are they going to take this after losses, after wins? Are you letting it shrug off your shoulders because you only won X amount of games over the last couple of years. No, it's how serious you take this, how much of a profession you make this. Are you in every single day taking shots whether you went 10-for-10 or 0-for-10? That's what it means to go to the next level.Does Jefferson see that level of commitment from his teammates?Yes, but only time will tell, Jefferson said. Everyone right now is undefeated and for the most part everyone is healthy. Everyone is in the playoffs. So right now it's very optimistic and rainbows and butterflies and unicorns. Where we are at the All-Star break and where we are with 25 games to go, where we are at the end of the season, that will kind of let us know what we've learned.Other than maturity, Jefferson believes that the health of the Warriors new-look roster will go a long way in determining their fate this season.I think it's an improved team, but you have to stay healthy, Jefferson said. You never know what can happen. I played with Andrew Bogut one year in Milwaukee, Michael Redd tears his ACL, and this was a guy that didn't miss many games in his career. Bogut obviously had his back injury. So we had a really good team on paper, but then some key injuries happened and we weren't able to accomplish our goals. So staying healthy is half the battle.Bogut and Curry are the big question marks health-wise heading into the season, but both expect to play in the Warriors first game on Oct. 31 in Phoenix.Right now it's about being healthy, Curry said. I have no concern about plays as long as I'm out there on the floor. Just being present; can't help the team from the bench. But team-wise, we're not guaranteeing anything. We're not going to say we're better than we are. Our goal is to make the playoffs; that should be every team's goal. You build on that, winning championships and all that. So we're just trying to make the playoffs and take it from there.
OAKLAND -- Now that the Warriors have gone through a full-squad scrimmage for the first time in three weeks, there is only one issue to be resolved before they get back to the business of the playoffs.
Whom to play? And when?
As of Friday afternoon, the Warriors had no idea of either.
They will face the winner of the Clippers-Jazz first-round series, in which Utah took a 3-2 lead into Game 6 Friday night in Salt Lake City.
“Why are we talking about Utah like the Clippers are done?” Draymond Green wondered after fielding several Jazz-related questions after scrimmaging.
Well, because the Jazz won Games 4 and 5 and is favored to win Game 6 at home. If they win, they’ll come into Oracle Arena Sunday afternoon to meet the Warriors in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals.
If the Clippers win Game 6 to even the series, those teams will meet for Game 7 Sunday in Los Angeles, with the winner advancing to face the Warriors in Game 1 of the conference semifinals next Tuesday night in Oakland.
In any case, the Warriors appear about as healthy has they have been at any time since February.
Veteran guard Shaun Livingston, out with a finger/hand injury since Game 1 (April 16) of the first-round series against Portland, participated in the scrimmage, as did veteran forward Matt Barnes, who last played on April 8, when he sustained a bone bruise atop his right foot.
“They practiced today and they even went through the scrimmage,” acting head coach Mike Brown said. “But we’ll wait for our training staff to clear them, after they see how they feel today and (Saturday).”
In short, if swelling is minimal, both will be available for Game 1, regardless of when.
So, too, will Kevin Durant. After a strained left calf kept him out of Games 2 and 3 against the Trail Blazers, he started and played 20 minutes in decisive Game 4 without any ill effects.
Nothing changed during the scrimmage Friday.
“It felt great out there,” he said. “Nothing bothered me. It was definitely good. I’m just trying to hopefully put that injury stuff behind.”
Durant conceded that he continues to receive treatment and ice, but mostly to minimize potential swelling.
OAKLAND -- Kevin Durant wishes more NBA officials had a better grasp of the language of the game.
They don’t seem to understand that “trash talk” almost always is little more than an act in which healthy emotions are released. It’s as much of the game on the court as pointing out a bad haircut or a fashion error in the locker room.
“I was raised that if you weren’t talking on the court, then something (bad) is going on,” Durant said after Warriors practice on Friday.
Durant caught a glimpse of the chatter earlier this week between former Oklahoma City teammate Russell Westbrook and Houston guard Patrick Beverley in decisive Game 5 of the Thunder-Rockets series and was disappointed when the officials slapped each with a technical foul.
“I was like, ‘Man, just play on. It’s a part of the game,’” Durant said.
Though Durant himself is not a premier trash-talker, he plays alongside one in fellow forward Draymond Green.
“That’s why we started playing, to talk a little s--- here and there,” said Durant, who grew up in the Washington D.C. area. “Draymond is really good at it. There are a lot of guys in the league that are good. More guys are quiet now than before.
“But s--- talking is a part of the game. I love it. It’s fun when you’re on the same team as a guy that does it. And then, when you’re playing against it, it’s even better because it brings the best out of you.”
For Durant, there always will be a place for trash talk on the court. Not only did he experience it while growing up but he also was indoctrinated in the practice from the moment he arrived in the NBA in 2007.
He recalls, with fondness, being targeted as a rookie by Kevin Garnett and a few other Celtics.
“When I came into the league, that’s when the Celtics had just got together,” Durant said. “Paul Pierce and KG and those guys talked bad to me as a rookie. I was 19. And they talked so bad to me. And I was talking right back. It was just a fun exchange. That’s what basketball is about.”
Now if only he could get officials to realize this.