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.

Lue defends LeBron after 'weird' Game 3 vs Celtics: 'He's human'

Lue defends LeBron after 'weird' Game 3 vs Celtics: 'He's human'

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- LeBron James was nowhere to be seen, staying behind the scenes, keeping a low profile.

Just as he did in Game 3.

James did not address the media Monday, hours after one of the worst postseason games of his career, an 11-point, six-turnover, head-scratching atrocity in a 111-108 loss to the Boston Celtics that - for the time being - has made the Eastern Conference finals interesting.

As is always the case with Cleveland's superstar, the poor performance prompted the usual speculation and suspicion: Is he hurt? Was he sending a message to his teammates? What in the name of Red Auerbach happened?

"It was a weird game," Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. "A weird-feeling game."

And it was an uncharacteristically passive performance by James, who had scored at least 30 in eight straight playoff games and imposed his will on the overmatched Celtics in the series' first two games.

But James wasn't himself Sunday night, not by a long stretch. He passed up shots and made mental and physical mistakes normally reserved for others.

For a superstar who regularly seizes the biggest moments and makes them his own, it was strange to see James basically look like one of Cleveland's reserves. He took just three shots and didn't attempt a free throw in the fourth quarter.

Incredibly, he went scoreless over the final 16 minutes.

James accepted responsibility afterward, saying simply "I didn't have it" during a postgame news conference that was preceded by a run-in with a heckling fan in the hallway.

If James' play wasn't stunning enough, Cavs forward J.R. Smith said his celebrated teammate lacked confidence.

What's that? A three-time champion, four-time MVP, two-time Olympic gold medalist, global icon, billion-dollar-business-in-sneakers, wasn't confident?

"He's got to be aggressive, get downhill, play like he's been playing, play confident," Smith said. "That's what I always think, when people of his stature or people like him, you've got to play confident the whole night and play aggressive. It's the Eastern Conference finals. It's not enough for him. For what he does, what he brings, it's not enough.

"He knows that. We know that. Just expect him to be better in Game 4."

The series resumes Tuesday night at Quicken Loans Arena before returning to Boston on Thursday for a Game 5 that didn't appear necessary until the Celtics stormed back from 21 down and won when Avery Bradley's 3-pointer danced an Irish jig on the rim before falling with 0.01 seconds left.

It was Boston's first outing since star guard Isaiah Thomas was shut down with a hip injury, and the Celtics showed they're capable counter-punchers.

"You obviously hear people saying that it's all about how you respond, and we don't feel like people believed in us and counted us out," Bradley said. "But that just put another chip on our shoulder, which I think is good. I hope we can continue to play with that chip on our shoulder and come out the same way next game."

Thomas didn't travel with the club to Cleveland, but he was part of the postgame fun.

"We called him on FaceTime, so he got to celebrate with us a little bit," Bradley said. "We wish he was here with us, and we just want him to get better."

Boston's comeback was fueled by Thomas' replacement, Marcus Smart, who made 7 of 10 3-pointers and scored 27 points. The Cavs chose to go under screens, giving Smart room to shoot and he burned them badly.

"Marcus Smart made 15 out of 77 off-the-dribble threes this year," Lue said, defending his defensive plan on Smart. "He made some last night."

As Lue spoke to a large group of reporters and some Cavs players got in extra shots following practice, James was noticeably absent from the floor. Usually, he hangs around to work on his game, but on this day No. 23 wasn't visible.

Lue said James was "in good spirits" and that no one was pinning the loss on him.

"No blame. We're all to blame," Lue said. "We lost; it happens. For a guy who played great for five straight months, he's got to have a bad game sooner or later. He's human. He didn't shoot the ball well. It wasn't his ordinary game. But Kevin (Love) and Kyrie (Irving) had it going early and they played well, so it kind of got him out of rhythm a little bit in that first half.

"That's no excuse. They played well, but we've just got to play better, be more physical."

 

NBA Gameday: Curry aims to pass Kobe, punch Warriors' ticket to Finals

NBA Gameday: Curry aims to pass Kobe, punch Warriors' ticket to Finals

SAN ANTONIO -- When the Warriors take the floor Monday for Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals, they’ll be staring not only into the faces of the San Antonio Spurs but also at the prospect of history.

With a 3-0 series lead, the Warriors will attempt to become the first team in NBA history to begin a postseason with 12 wins in a row and three consecutive four-game sweeps.

A victory also would send the Warriors to the NBA Finals for the third time in as many seasons.

The Spurs, reeling with the loss of All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard, are trying to avoid being swept for the first time since 2010.

BETTING LINE:
Warriors by 11.5

MATCHUP TO WATCH:
JaVale McGee & Co. vs. LaMarcus Aldridge: McGee roasted Aldridge and anyone else the Spurs put in the paint in the first half of Game 3. Aldridge put up little defense and didn’t hurt the Warriors on offense. From McGee to David West to Draymond Green to Kevin Durant, the Warriors never let Aldridge get comfortable on the block. Forcing him to shoot jumpers is the plan, and it has been working. If Aldridge can’t deliver a monster game, the Spurs are done.

INJURY REPORT:
Warriors: F Andre Iguodala (L knee soreness) is listed as probable but expected to play. C Zaza Pachulia (R heel contusion) is listed as questionable but likely will not play. F Kevon Looney (L hip strain) is listed as doubtful.

Spurs: F Kawhi Leonard (L ankle sprain) was listed as doubtful and officially ruled out by Gregg Popovich less than two hours before tip-off. G Tony Parker (L quadriceps tendon rupture) is listed as out.

ROAD TO THE CONFERENCE FINALS:
The Warriors finished the regular season with a 67-15 record to earn the No. 1 overall seed in the postseason. They swept four games from Portland in the first round, and then swept four games from Utah in the conference semifinals.

The Spurs (61-21) earned the No. 2 overall seed. They defeated Memphis in six games in the first round, and then defeated Houston in six games in the conference semifinals.

SERIES HISTORY:
Prior to winning the first three games of the series, the Warriors lost two of three to San Antonio in the regular season. In the three seasons since Steve Kerr took over as coach, the Warriors are 8-5 against the Spurs, postseason included. The teams last met in the playoffs in the 2012-13 conference semifinals, with San Antonio winning in six games.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH:
THE START: In each of the first two Game 4s this postseason, the Warriors have opened up double-digit leads within five minutes and led by no fewer than 22 points after one quarter. The exhibited a merciless closeout mentality. They will try to do the same here. Will the Spurs allow it?

THE GRIME GAME: With each team accusing the other of dirty play, it’ll be interesting to see how players conduct themselves in a potential closeout game. The Spurs want to extend the series in hopes of getting Leonard back. The Warriors want to end it and tend to their various aches and pains. Will the team keep it clean?

STEPH STALKING KOBE: Stephen Curry enters the game with 290 made 3-pointers in playoff games, ranking sixth on the all-time list. He needs three more triples to surpass Lakers legend Kobe Bryant (292) and move into fifth place.