Warriors won't retain Smart as coach

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Warriors won't retain Smart as coach

April 27, 2011WARRIORS PAGE WARRIORS VIDEOMatt Steinmetz
CSNBayArea.com

Keith Smart will not be back as Warriors coach.

The Warriors will not pick up their team option on his contract for the 2011-12 season, Comcast SportsNet Bay Area has learned from sources.

Smart led the Warriors to a 36-46 record in his first season as head coach, replacing Don Nelson in late September -- less than a week before training camp started. Smart had been an assistant under Nelson for four previous seasons.

In all, Smart, 46, spent eight years with the Warriors, serving first as an assistant under Eric Musselman and then Mike Montgomery.

The Warriors released a statement at 10:30 Wednesday thanking Smart for his service:

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"Its never easy to make difficult decisions, especially when it involves someone that we have a great deal of respect for like Keith Smart," said Warriors owner Joe Lacob in a press release. "After meeting extensively with Larry Riley and Bob Myers, we came to the conclusion that a change was necessary at this particular time. I think Keith did an admirable job this season and he should be commended for many of the positive things that transpired both on and off the floor. The team showed improvement and their effort was never in question. However, weve elected to pursue a new path and we wish Keith the very best. Hes a quality person and we thank him for the time he invested with our organization."

It was never certain that Smart would be back, in some part because he was never considered owner Joe Lacob's first choice. For one, Lacob wasn't officially installed as owner when Smart replaced Nelson, and two, Smart's contract for next season was only partially guaranteed.

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The Warriors won 10 more games under Smart than they did during the previous season under Nelson. At the same time, there really shouldn't be a comparison between the teams. The Warriors' team from 2009-10 was decimated by injury and it relied significantly on D-League talent.

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Last offseason the Warriors acquired forward David Lee and signed Dorell Wright as a free agent, both of whom figured to improve the team. One thing the Warriors did do all season was play hard -- something Smart deserves credit for.

Yet there always seemed to be some sentiment that Lacob, whose ownership began in November, wanted to perhaps find his own guy to coach the Warriors. Lacob consistently praised Smart during the course of the season, but always left open the possibility of change.

"I obviously have a great deal of admiration for Keith as both a professional and a friend," general manager Larry Riley said in a statement. "He's dedicated a lot of time, hard work and commitment to this job, not only over the course of the last year as the head coach, but the previous seven years with our organization.

"We're grateful for his contributions and have the utmost respect for him. From our standpoint, however, we feel it is in our best interest as we move forward as an organization and begin to focus and prepare for the future. At this time, we do not have a timetable for hiring a successor. We'll conduct our due diligence and make a good, sound decision when we've identified that individual."

Despite the improvement in victories under Smart, the Warriors made little progress up the Western Conference standings. Last season they were the 13th-best team in a 15-team conference, and this year the Warriors' were 12th best.

They finished with 10 wins fewer than the Memphis Grizzlies, the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.

Smart largely did what many expected him to do -- win 35 or so games. Most everyone expected improvement over the 26-win debacle of 2009-10, but few believed the Warriors were a playoff team.

Smart said toward the end of the season that he had thought he'd done well enough to keep his job.

Prediction: Boredom only thing that will stop Warriors from sweeping Jazz

Prediction: Boredom only thing that will stop Warriors from sweeping Jazz

OAKLAND -- Though the Warriors marched through the first round of the playoffs, winning by an average of 18 points while sweeping Portland, the second round shapes up to be considerably more difficult.

The Utah Jazz are much deeper, play some of the best defense in the NBA and play their home games at altitude, which partially explains why only five teams posted better records at home.

That the Warriors won two of the three regular-season meetings is somewhat inconsequential. In two of those games, Utah was without All-Star forward Gordon Hayward and starting point guard George Hill. Power forward Derrick Favors missed all three games.

Regardless of the results of this series, there definitely will be a different look.

Here is our preview of the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinals series (first-round statistics in parenthesis):

MATCHUPS

POINT GUARD: Stephen Curry (29.8 points per game, 6.5 assists, 5.3 rebounds) vs. George Hill (16.9 ppg, 3.7 apg, 4.1 rpg): Hill’s availability was been crucial to the regular-season success of the Jazz; he missed 33 games. Utah was 15-1, however, when he scored at least 20 points. Curry may be the most dangerous scorer among all point guards, and he’ll be a load for Hill. EDGE: Curry.

SHOOTING GUARD: Klay Thompson (18.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg) vs. Joe Ingles (6.6 ppg, 4.0 apg, 3.9 rpg): Aside from a couple brief hot streaks, Thompson struggled with his shot in the first round. He’ll fix that, and he’ll torch Ingles (or Rodney Hood). Ingles is crafty inside but of most concern when he’s beyond the arc. He has little chance of producing offense with Thompson as the primary defender. EDGE: Thompson.

SMALL FORWARD: Kevin Durant (21.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 2.0 apg) vs. Gordon Hayward (23.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 2.9 apg): Two All-Stars, only one of which is headed for the Hall of Fame. The Jazz, quite simply, have no answer for Durant’s offensive arsenal. Their best hope is that he is assigned to Hayward and has to expend energy on defense. EDGE: Durant.

POWER FORWARD: Draymond Green (13.8 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 7.5 apg, 4.3 blocks per game) vs. Boris Diaw (6.0 ppg, 2.6 apg, 1.7 rpg): Oddly enough, Diaw, because of his bulk and passing ability, is one of the few players who can give Green fits. Diaw won’t score much, but Utah could play through him at times. Green will try to run the big man off the floor. EDGE: Green.

CENTER: Zaza Pachulia (6.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg) vs. Rudy Gobert (8.4 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 1.2 bpg): Pachulia will need plenty of help from his bench, and he’ll get it. His role will be to free up scorers for shots coming off picks. Opportunities will be there, because Gobert tends to hunker down in the paint. He’s a terrific shot-blocker, but don’t be surprised if the Warriors test him inside. EDGE: Gobert.

SIXTH MAN: Andre Iguodala (7.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg), 4.5 apg) vs. Joe Johnson (15.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 3.0 apg): This is a fun matchup of wily veterans who rely on profoundly different styles. While Iguodala plays fast and is disruptive on defense, Johnson is deliberate and offensive-minded and is playing very well. Johnson also is among the game’s best clutch shooters. Iguodala finds more subtle ways to make an impact. EDGE: Even.

BENCHES: The Warriors are about as healthy as they have been at any time over the past two months, which means they are deep with players capable of producing. Matt Barnes is ready and Shaun Livingston is set to return no later than Game 2. The Warriors have considerable size, and they’ll need it. JaVale McGee and David West will come in handy against the likes of Favors, Diaw and Gobert. Both benches were effective in the first round. EDGE: Warriors, but it’s slight.

COACHING: With Steve Kerr out indefinitely, Mike Brown remains as acting head coach. He has plenty of postseason experience, as does veteran assistant Ron Adams. Jazz coach Quin Snyder did a tremendous job in the regular season when a slew of injuries could have knocked the team off course. He also is coming off his first playoff series victory as a head coach. EDGE: Warriors, due to experience.

ORACLE VS. VIVINT: Oracle Arena was massive for the Warriors in their first round, at times waking thunderous echoes of the “We Believe” experience in 2007. Vivint Smart Home Arena has a well-earned reputation for hurling loud insults at visiting players. The Utah crowd had better be careful, though, because the Warriors tend to thrive off crowd abuse. EDGE: Oracle.

PREDICTION: Warriors in four, five if they get bored.

 

Warriors to face Utah after Jazz rout Clippers in Game 7

Warriors to face Utah after Jazz rout Clippers in Game 7

OAKLAND -- Six days after sweeping Portland to advance to the second round of the playoffs, the Warriors now know their opponent.

The Utah Jazz put together a sterling performance Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles to vanquish the Clippers and earn the right to meet the defending Western Conference champion Warriors.

Game 1 is Tuesday night at Oracle Arena, with Game 2 scheduled for Thursday night. Tipoff for both games is 7:30.

The Warriors faced the Jazz three times in the regular season, winning twice. They won in their only trip to Salt Lake City, 106-99 on Dec. 8. Twelve days later, at Oracle Arena, the Warriors romped to a 104-74 win.

The Jazz posted their lone victory on April 10, a 105-99 win at Oracle Arena.

Those numbers are, for all intents and purposes, ancient history. The Warriors never faced a fully healthy Jazz team, not that it matters much to Draymond Green and his teammates -- particularly if the Warriors carry over the intensity shown in closing out Portland last Monday night.

“Whoever it is in front of you, if you’re locked in like that, if we’re locked in like that, I think we can beat anyone,” Green said after practice Sunday. “And I don’t care who it is. When we have that type of focus level, I think, no matter who you put in front of us it’s over.”

***

Below is the schedule for the Western Conference Semifinals series between the Golden State Warriors and Utah Jazz:

GAME          DAY, DATE                 TIME (PDT)       LOCATION     

GAME 1      Tuesday, May 2          7:30 p.m.             Oracle Arena                            

GAME 2      Thursday, May 4        7:30 p.m.             Oracle Arena                             

GAME 3       Saturday, May 6          5:30 p.m.              Vivint Smart Home Arena         

GAME 4       Monday, May 8           6:00 p.m.              Vivint Smart Home Arena         

GAME 5*    Wednesday, May 10  TBD                      Oracle Arena                             

GAME 6*     Friday, May 12            TBD                      Vivint Smart Home Arena        

GAME 7*    Sunday, May 14          TBD                      Oracle Arena