Warriors focus: Kent Bazemore

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Warriors focus: Kent Bazemore

Editor's note: This is the second of seven individual player analysis, focusing on new Warriors' faces.

The Warriors have made plenty of changes since the end ofthe 2011-12 season. They will likely have four first-year players on their rostercome the start of the season, and they also acquired veterans Jarrett Jack andCarl Landry.Center Andrew Bogut came to the Warriors in March, but hesa newcomer, too, if you factor in that he still hasnt played a game for theteam yet. With training camp set to begin in early October, lets begin ourplayer-by-player analysis of the Warriors new players.Kent Bazemore, 6-foot-5, 195 pounds, shootingguard.Whats most important to know about Bazemore -- at thispoint, anyway -- is that hes currently occupying the 15th roster spot, which isthe maximum number allowed in the NBA.Whats also very pertinent is that his contract isntguaranteed. That means that while the Warriors like Bazemore, there are noassurances hell be around for the whole season.Yes, theres a scenario in which Bazemore could spend theentire 2012-13 with the Warriors or their D-League affiliate, which is prettymuch what Chris Wright did last season.But Bazemore is also a candidate to be waived at any time --which is the nature of a non-guarantee.What Bazemore has going for him is that he has the potentialto be the teams best defender on point guards and shooting guards. That alonecould make him worth keeping around.Its not a secret that Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, theWarriors projected starting backcourt, do not excel at the defensive end.Jack will help on thatend of the floor, but its not like hes a defensive stopper.Charles Jenkins is certainly improving defensively, butwere still talking about a stocky, 6-foot-3-ish sized player who isntoff-the-charts athletically.Bazemore, a left-hander, is a long 6-foot-5, and hesathletic. On top of that, hes got a defensive foundation, he has goodinstincts and he anticipates well. Bazemore comes into the league afterwinning back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year awards in the ColonialAthletic Association his junior and senior seasons.Bazemore defended well for the Warriors in the Las VegasSummer League. He also averaged 1.8 blocks per game, including one game inwhich he had seven. Bazemores length sometimes gives smaller playersdifficulty, and in Vegas, he showed an ability to block shots from behind intransition.There were times this summer when Bazemore and Jenkinsplayed together -- with Bazemore defending the point guard and Jenkins theshooting guard.When you look at the Warriors roster -- top to bottom -- youcould see how a player such as Bazemore could stick around. After all, he hasthe ability to do something very important -- defending guards -- better thananyone else on the roster.You can see why the Warriors like that and like Bazemore,too. Then again, the Warriors liked Wright and Jeremy Lin and even DominicMcGuire -- and none of those players are still with the team.Still, Bazemore has a shot with the Warriors. Lets see whathappens.

Don't tell David West Cavs-Warriors means nothing: 'We need to win this'

Don't tell David West Cavs-Warriors means nothing: 'We need to win this'

OAKLAND -- Don’t tell David West that the game between the Cavaliers and Warriors on Monday is without significant consequence. He has played too long, seen too much. He knows better.

“This is a very important game for us,” West said Sunday, “because this is the last time we’re going to be able to measure ourselves against these guys.

“The only other time we’d get to face them would be in The Finals.”

Reaching The Finals was in the back of his mind when West signed with the Warriors last July. After scanning his options and doing his research -- including conversations involving Andre Iguodala, Draymond Green, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and coach Steve Kerr -- he chose to come to the Bay Area to continue his quest to reach the NBA’s ultimate series.

At age 36, West has gone 933 games, and another 83 counting the playoffs, and gotten no closer to The Finals than back-to-back dismissals in the Eastern Conference Finals. West in both instances was a member of the Indiana Pacers, and the team that stood in the way both times was the Miami Heat.

That would be the Heat featuring LeBron James, who has since returned to Cleveland.

So, yes, Warriors-Cavs is is a big deal to West. It’s why he’s here.

“Obviously, it’s a regular-season game,” he said. “But for us, every game means something. That’s probably another driving force of why I wanted to be a part of this team. And why I chose San Antonio last year. When you’re playing with a group of this caliber, with these types of expectations, every game, every night, means something. There’s no dropoff or letdown and no room to let up. That’s a vital part of being in the NBA.

“But right now in the NBA, there are distinct levels of basketball. And I just wanted to be a part of the highest level.”

It gets no higher than the Warriors and Cavs. They’ve met in The Finals in each of the past two seasons, with each team winning one, and most conceivably will meet again in June.

Meanwhile, the sights and sounds on the road to the playoff is unlike that which he experienced with the former New Orleans Hornets or the Pacers or the Spurs. Those were good teams. The Warriors, coming of an NBA-record 73-win season, not only are favorites to win it all but perceived as the league’s super team.

It’s as if the Warriors have a bounty on their heads every time they take the court.

“When we play against younger teams, or teams with guys that don’t have a lot of experience, the point guard wants to prove he can stay on the floor against Steph,” West said. “Small forwards want to prove they can hang with KD. Same thing guys coming after Draymond; he’s a target. Then you have a bunch of Klay (Thompson) clones out there. You can see the guys that are modeling themselves after Klay. So when they play against him, they measure themselves against him.

“We all feel that. When you’re a part of this kind of group, that’s what makes the challenge so much fun.”

With Warriors-Cavs, the fun is in knowing that you’re facing the best, the reigning champs from Cleveland, who dethroned the Warriors. And on Monday, the Warriors will be trying to defend their turf.

“We need to win this; we need to win them all,” West said. “We know it's a high-intensity, emotional game. There will be a lot of people watching and a lot of energy in the building. We will have to control our energy and be the more fundamentally sound team.

“We have to be the team that hits more singles and doubles than they do. We don’t need home runs.”

Prepping for Cavs, Curry returns to roots on and off the floor

Prepping for Cavs, Curry returns to roots on and off the floor

OAKLAND -- Stephen Curry turned back the clock a few days ago, returning to Davidson College.

Not in person but in spirit.

His latest haircut is, Curry says, the shortest he has allowed in at least a couple years and reminiscent of the close-cropped look he sported at Davidson. What’s different now is the beard. Invisible until a few years ago, it’s longer and fuller than desire and genetics had previously allowed.

“Proud of this beard,” Curry said Sunday, 50 minutes after the Warriors concluded practice. “Very proud.”

In the days running up to Warriors-Cavaliers II on Monday at Oracle Arena, Curry has transformed his dome. He is, once again the baby-faced assassin, only this time the look is accompanied by grown-man facial hair.

Curry’s new look comes on the heels of making alterations to his game. He’s playing with more force, being more assertive with the ball and taking a few more shots. His aggression has shifted into a higher gear.

“Lately, he’s been getting the rock and being aggressive and playing his game,” teammate Kevin Durant said of Curry. “Since that Cleveland game, he’s been playing on another level.”

Since that Cleveland game. That’s what it comes back to for the Warriors and for Curry. That Cleveland game, played on Christmas Day, is three weeks behind them yet the single-most eye-opening experience of the season. The Warriors led by 14 with 9:35 left and by 13 with 8:17 remaining and by 3 with 1:14 to play.

And lost, again, as in Game 7 of The Finals, on a late shot by Cavs guard Kyrie Irving.

“That was definitely a moment,” Curry said. “The Memphis game (Curry scoring 40 points but the Warriors blew a 24-point lead in a 128-119 loss on Jan. 6) was a moment. The Lakers game earlier in the year (a 117-97 loss on Nov. 4) was a moment. You’ve got to understand what went wrong in those kinds of games and figure it out as you go through, knowing you’re going to have some more slipups.”

Curry since the Christmas Day loss has advocated for more pick-and-roll action and gotten it, most notably with Durant as his partner. Curry wanted more time at point guard, and he's gotten it. His numbers have improved, and his overall effect has been more noticeable.

In eight games since Christmas Day, Curry has averaged 20 shots and 27.1 points per game. In the eight games up to and including the loss at Cleveland, he averaged 15.6 shots and 19.9 points.

Yet the real test comes when Curry sees the Cavaliers, against whom recent games have not been pretty. His last four games against Cleveland -- Games 5-7 of the NBA Finals and Christmas Day -- have produced 21.7 points on 36.6-percent shooting, 2.5 assists and 3.7 turnovers.

There’s another reason Curry wants to kill his Cavs demons, which began forming as the Warriors became the first team in league history to go up 3-1 in the NBA Finals and lose the series. That was mere months after Curry mentioned that the visiting locker room at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland still smelled of the champagne with which Warriors celebrated after winning The Finals in 2015.

Curry is tired of hearing about, well, his Cavs demons, whether the noise is coming from fans or players or folks he barely knows.

Playing golf in the Safeway Open pro-am at Silverado in October, Curry got an earful from playing partner Harold Varner III, who happens to be an Ohio native and, of course, a Cavs fan.

“He waited until the ninth hole because he was a little unsure about how I’d take it, how much of a good sport I would be,” Curry recalled. “And then, once he tested the waters, he didn’t hold back the rest of the round. But it was all in good fun.”

This is not the kind of “good fun” Curry cares to hear any more. As the Cavs come to town, he’s back in a familiar place, with folks doubting him, wondering if he has what it takes.

And he’s playing as if he has something to prove, just as he did at Davidson.