Warriors focus: Festus Ezeli


Warriors focus: Festus Ezeli

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the fourth installment in a seven-part series that spotlights the seven new Warriors.
Part 1: Harrison BarnesPart 2: Kent Bazemore
Part 3: Andrew Bogut

The Warriors have made plenty of changes since the end of the 2011-12 season. They will likely have four first-year players on their roster come the start of the season, and they also acquired veterans Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry.Center Andrew Bogut came to the Warriors in March, but hes a newcomer, too, if you factor in that he still hasnt played a game for the team yet. With training camp set to begin in early October, lets begin our player-by-player analysis of the Warriors new players.Festus Ezeli, 7-feet, 265 pounds, centerThe Warriors selected Festus Ezeli with the No. 30 pick in the June draft, and the goal for his rookie season seems simple enough: Try to take as many minutes as he can from Andris Biedrins at the backup center spot.As maligned as Biedrins has been the past few years -- and it has been both a lot and well-deserved -- he still can do at least two things that are helpful to a team: rebound and protect the basket.Biedrins isnt your typical lane-clogging big man who will take a hard foul at the rim, but hes been around the league long enough to not allow the opposition easy buckets.So Ezeli is going to have to show that he can bring at least something or two to the table game in and game out if hes going to get consistent -- if not limited -- minutes at backup five.Well see if he can do that.One trait Ezeli showed at the Vegas summer league was the ability to play with consistent energy. He takes pride in his defense, and he is always looking to help out teammates who have been beaten on the drive.Hes physical and aggressive, and hes not afraid to mix it up underneath. For his size, hes not a big-time rebounder, but his supporters will tell you its because first and foremost hes focused on protecting the rim. Ezeli tries to make things happen defensively, whether by stepping into passing lanes or going for blocks, and what that means is hes often not in rebounding position.Ezelis energy and enthusiasm and aggressiveness are likely going to get him into quite a bit of foul trouble his rookie season, if not early in his career. There are going to be some nights when he comes off the bench and gets a couple of fouls in a hurry.RELATED: Warriors' toughness issue
But for a while, the Warriors will be OK with that. They just need him to be able to contribute 10 or 15 minutes a night -- and thats only assuming Biedrins is AWOL again.At this point, Ezeli doesnt have much of an offensive game to speak of. Hes not unathletic, but hes also not what you would call an elite interior big man. Hes raw offensively, and he figures to get most of his buckets off putbacks and cheapies around the rim.But dont look for Ezeli to ever be much of a scorer; plain and simple, he doesnt have great hands and that will always limit him there.Still, theres a lot to like about Ezeli and most of that is because of what he does at the defensive end of the floor. Ezeli is unfinished and has plenty of room for growth. But if he can provide some basic defensive necessities for the Warrirors you might see him getting limited but consistent minutes sooner rather than later.

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr out indefinitely with chronic pain

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr out indefinitely with chronic pain

PORTLAND -- Still suffering with chronic pain after multiple back surgeries nearly two years ago, Warriors coach Steve Kerr will step away from his duties for an indefinite period.

Kerr made the announcement Sunday afternoon, one day after he was unable to attend Game 3 of the first-round playoff series against the Trail Blazers at Moda Center. He conceded the possibility he could miss the rest of the postseason.

“This past week for whatever reason, things got worse,” Kerr said from the team hotel. “My symptoms got worse. And I was not able to coach. The last few days have been difficult.

“With things getting worse, I just made the decision I couldn’t coach. As of now, I’m consulting with my doctors. I’m hoping for some improvement. If I can get some improvement, I’ll get back on the sidelines. But I’m not going to do that unless I know I can help the team.”

Assistant coach Mike Brown, a three-time NBA head coach who guided the Warriors to a 119-113 comeback win in Game 3, will serve as acting head coach during Kerr’s absence and will be on the sideline for Game 4 Monday night.

No matter what happens, Kerr said, he plans to assist in game preparation and remain involved with players and staff for the duration of the postseason.

“At this point in the season, we all have a feel for our team,” Kerr said. “Early in the season, it probably wouldn’t have been that way. It’s great that we’ve had the year together. It’s great that Mike has coached in this league 10 years and has coached in The Finals. He knows what he’s doing. The team is in great hands regardless.”

While spending Game 3 at the team hotel Saturday watching the game with his son, Nick, Kerr pointed out that some of the substitutions he thought should be made were, in fact, made seconds after crossing his mind.

Kerr said he did feel somewhat better Sunday than he did on Friday and Saturday.

Kerr has been coping with severe side effects since the summer of 2015. Though he has said his back was improved by the surgeries, a spinal leak has resulted in frequent headaches and neck pain.

Two days into training camp in September, barely a month after his second surgery in seven weeks, he took an indefinite leave of absence, returning Jan. 22, 2016 and coaching the final 39 regular-season games as well as the postseason.

But after laboring through 2016 training camp and the regular season -- often wearing a pain patch on the back of his neck -- the chronic anguish never went away, being by turns uncomfortable and excruciating. Kerr made it through only the first two games of the postseason.

He clearly was in discomfort during Game 2 Wednesday night at Oracle Arena and felt no better after an off-day Thursday. During his post-practice news conference Friday, before the team flight from Oakland to Portland, Kerr constantly shifted his body and grabbed his head.

Kerr was unable join the team for shootaround Saturday morning, and four hours later the Warriors announced Kerr would not attend Game 3.

“This is not going to be a case where I’m coaching one night and not coaching the next,” Kerr said. “I’m not going to do that to our team, to our staff.

“We’re hoping that over the next week or two, whatever it is, I can sort of make a definitive realization or deduction, or just feel it, that I’m going to do this or not.”

Kerr has tried various pain-killing drugs, as well as medicinal marijuana, in hopes of alleviating his chronic pain. Nothing so far has provided consistent relief, and some medications that have helped were offset by nausea and other side effects.

Kerr is in the third year of a five-year contract signed in May 2014. His 207-39 regular-season record is the best in NBA history by any coach over a three-year span.

Blazers big man Nurkic ruled out for Game 4 vs Warriors

Blazers big man Nurkic ruled out for Game 4 vs Warriors

Programming note: Warriors-Blazers Game 4 coverage starts Monday night at 6:30pm with Warriors Pregame Live on NBC Sports Bay Area, and streaming live right here.

The Warriors hold a 3-0 lead in their first-round playoff series with the Blazers after Saturday's 119-113 win. 

For the first time this series, the Warriors went up against Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic, who returned from a leg fracture. Nurkic started and played a total of 16:40 in Game 3. 

In his return, the "Bosnian Beast" was a non-factor on offense. He only scored two points, but did grab 11 rebounds. And his return was even shorter than expected. 

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts ruled Nurkic out for Game 4. 

Nurkic averaged 15.2 points and 10.4 rebounds per game in 20 games for the Blazers after Portland acquired him in a trade with the Nuggets.