The Warriors roster sits at 13 players, if youre includingrestricted free agent forward Brandon Rush. There may be a tweak or two in the next couple of months, but the Warriors are pretty much set heading into the 2012-13 season.They will likely sign a backup power forward and perhaps a multi-position player type, but it's tough to see a significant move happening between now and the start of training camp in early October. Heres a look at the Warriorsroster:Harrison Barnes, 6-foot-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.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 may very well be in the market for a backuppower forward, but until they sign one, Green is in the mix for minutes behindDavid Lee. The Warriors have talked glowingly of Greens basketball IQ andall-around game. But Green didnt shoot well in Vegas and fouled at an alarmingrate. He did rebound there and he can pass, though, which gives him achance.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 defensiveupgrade over 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.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 rebounds 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:The Warriors have made it clear theyre likely to match anyoffer sheet Rush might sign. That is no doubt inhibiting other teams frommaking offers to Rush. Assuming the Warriors bring back Rush, and theres noreason to believe they wont, hell likely be the first swingman off thebench.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.
Steve Kerr and the Warriors will be chasing milestones Tuesday night in Houston.
A victory over the Rockets would make Kerr the fastest coach to reach 200 wins -- he enters the game at Toyota Center with a record of 199-38 -- and also would make the Warriors the sixth NBA team to post three consecutive seasons with at least 60 wins.
The Warriors (59-14) will be underdogs despite winning seven in a row in the quest to maintain their grip on the No. 1 overall seed for the postseason.
The Rockets (51-22), who have won their last four games, averaging 122 points, are practically locked into the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference.
Rockets by 1
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Klay Thompson vs. James Harden: Harden is, by most projections, the leading candidate for MVP. He’s scoring (29.4 points per game), playmaking (11.3 assists), rebounding (8.0) and even occasionally playing defense. He’s also shooting higher than 50 percent over his past 12 games. He’s incredibly difficult to contain, but Thompson has accepted the challenge since the two were prep competitors in Southern California. The good news for the Warriors is that Harden will take plays off on defense. Though Thompson is capable of cooking anyone the Rockets throw at him, the Warriors are in trouble if Harden dictates the action.
Warriors: F Kevin Durant (L knee sprain, bone bruise) is listed as out. C Damian Jones is on assignment with Santa Cruz of the NBA Development League.
Rockets: F Ryan Anderson (R ankle sprain) is listed as out.
Warriors: 7-3. Rockets: 7-3.
Though the teams split two meetings earlier this season, the Warriors have won nine of the last 10 overall, dating back to 2013. The teams have met in each of the past two postseasons, with the Warriors taking a first-round series in five games in 2016 and winning the Western Conference Finals in five in 2015.
THREE THINGS TO WATCH
SCOREBOARD ON FIRE: The Warriors (115.9 points per game) and Rockets (115.8) rank 1-2 in scoring. Houston launches a league-high 40.3 3-pointers per game, while the Warriors are fifth, at 31.1 per game. The Warriors (56.2) and Rockets (55.0) also are 1-2 in adjusted field-goal percentage. It must be noted, though, that the Warriors are the superior defensive team.
STEPH AND THE PEST: Patrick Beverley fancies himself a great defender, delights in harassing opponents and takes particular glee in irritating Curry. The two have long been familiar with each other; both were members of the 2009 draft. Curry relishes every opportunity to torch Beverley, so there may be early fireworks.
THE BENCHES: Even with rotation changes necessitated by the injury to Anderson, Houston has one of the league’s deadliest benches, averaging 39.3 points per game (fifth in the NBA). The Warriors also have made adjustments in the wake of losing Durant. They average 31.7 points (23rd). The Warriors must find a way to neutralize Rockets Sixth Man Lou Williams.
Programming note: Warriors-Rockets coverage starts today at 4pm with Warriors Pregame Live on CSN Bay Area, and streaming live right here.
The Warriors left town Monday atop the Western Conference, on the wings of a seven-game win streak and staring into the most consequential 30 hours of the season.
They’re at Houston on Tuesday night, and the explosive Rockets, third in the Western Conference, have emerged as a legitimate threat to reach the NBA Finals.
Immediately after that game, the Warriors make the roughly 200-mile trip to San Antonio for a Wednesday night battle with the Spurs, the most consistent contender of this generation -- and the team whose footsteps are cluttering the ears of the Warriors.
Winning both games is conceivable only if they reach the level of lights-out defense that has been essential to their recovery in the wake of losing Kevin Durant. A sweep also stretches the boundaries of probability.
A split would be acceptable, under the circumstances, particularly if the victory is over the Spurs.
Losing both games would slice into the Warriors’ hopes of maintaining the No. 1 overall seed for the playoffs.
The Warriors say they are ready. And coach Steve Kerr insists they are rested.
“We should have our guard up and we should be ready to roll,” Kerr says. “We are playing well. We’ve got to keep it going.”
The Warriors (59-14) own the best record in the NBA and have a two-game lead over the Spurs (57-16). A win over the Rockets (51-22) would guarantee the Warriors would finish ahead of Houston.
Here’s the rub: The Warriors are 0-2 against the Spurs and 1-1 against the Rockets.
“We know it’s a tough trip,” Draymond Green says. “The Rockets are playing well and, also, San Antonio is playing well.
“But you know, we’re going there and play a hard game, which we’ve done a good job of as of late. We’re going there with a defensive mindset and everything else will fall into place, and we’ll be just fine.”
Defense has been the hallmark of the Warriors for much of this season, and certainly over the past seven games, during which they have led the league in defensive rating. The lockdowns generally start with Green, but the efforts of his teammates, particularly Andre Iguodala, also have allowed the Warriors to play some of their most efficient offense of the season.
They’ve managed to post an NBA-best 99.0 defensive rating this month despite the absence of Durant, who had been stellar on defense and, overall, the team’s best player.
No opponent in the NBA tests defenses to the degree the Rockets do. With MVP candidate James Harden orchestrating things, they’re second in scoring (115.8 points per game), just behind the Warriors (115.9), and their 25.4 assists per game is No. 2, behind the Warriors’ 30.4. Moreover, Houston is No. 1 in 3-point makes and attempts. They average 14.7 threes per game; the Warriors are fourth at 12.0.
“You’ve got to be really disciplined against these guys,” Kerr says. “That means sticking to your principles but not getting frustrated when they do make shots. They make tough shots. But as long as they’re tough ones, and not easy ones, and you stay with it, you can get through it.
"We played a really disciplined game here last time and won in this building. That’s what it takes. We’ll see if we can do it again.”
Doing so won’t make the next night, San Antonio, any easier. It will be different, given the Spurs’ shooting accuracy and offensive proficiency, but no less challenging.