2011-2012 Warriors season preview -- playoffs on horizon?

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2011-2012 Warriors season preview -- playoffs on horizon?

It will be very simple to evaluate the coaching job that Mark Jackson does with the Warriors this season.Very simple, indeed.Jackson has virtually the same group of core players that coach Keith Smart had a year ago when the Warriors went 36-46. That was a 10-game improvement over the previous season 2009-10 -- which wasnt a bad little bounce.Still, owner Joe Lacob thought the Warriors needed to get better in the coaching department and so he hired Jackson, a man with no experience, but plenty of confidence.Jackson promised the playoffs on the day he was hired, backing up a guarantee Lacob already had made to Warriors season-ticket holders. That will be quite a challenge considering Jackson will trot out the same starting five on opening night assuming Stephen Curry is ready to go -- that Smart had the previous season.So, can Jackson get more out of Curry, Monta Ellis, Dorell Wright, David Lee and Andris Biedrins than Smart? Well, thats the big question.Jackson may have a slightly better bench than Smart had last season, but thats also open to interpretation. This season, the Warriors will rely heavily on rookie Klay Thompson, veteran center Kwame Brown and second-year power forward Ekpe Udoh.Last season Smart rode with Reggie Williams, Vladimir Radmanovic, Acie Law and Lou Amundson for stretches.None of that matters to Jackson, who doubled down on his prediction earlier this week.Im not changing, Jackson said. We will be a playoff team. Thats not going to change.For that to happen, the Warriors, who finished 12th in the Western Conference a year ago, will need to leapfrog four teams and make sure that no team that finished behind them a year ago jumps over them such as the greatly improved L.A. Clippers.The only way that happens is if Jackson can somehow turn a team very similar to the one Smart coached into a solid defensive team. Jackson has been matter-of-fact about that happening, but its only fair to be skeptical.One man who is not skeptical is Lacob, who said he believes in Jackson and his staff on a recent Chronicle Live show.Said Lacob: We have a better coaching staff, top to bottom (than last year)." In truth, that remains to be seen. But well sure know if its true by the end of the season.
ROSTER BREAKDOWN- Andris Biedrins, C, 7-0, 240: Full rebound from Biedrins unlikely but he should bounce back some- Kwame Brown, C, 6-11, 270: He will help, no doubt, but hell be frustrating at times, too- Stephen Curry, PG, 6-3, 186: Its difficult not to be concerned with Currys ankle issues- Monta Ellis, SG, 6-3, 185: Ellis task in 2011-12: Become a more well-rounded player- Charles Jenkins, PG, 6-3, 220: Hes had a solid training camp, but can Jenkins keep it up when regular season begins?- David Lee, PF, 6-9, 240: Like Ellis, Lee must sacrifice some for the good of the team- Dominic McGuire, SF, 6-9, 236: Tough wing defender who can play some power forward if Warriors go small- Brandon Rush, SG, 6-6, 225: The more Rush plays the more likely it is that rookie Klay Thompson is struggling- Ish Smith, PG, 6-0, 175: You could make a case Smith is the only true point guard on the roster- Klay Thompson, SG, 6-7, 205: Outside of not shooting well, Thompson showing ability to do other things- Jeremy Tyler, PF, 6-10, 260: May be more beneficial for Tyler to play for Dakota Wizards, where he can get playing time- Ekpe Udoh, PF, 6-10, 245: He seems like the Warrior most poised to take game to next level- Chris Wright, PF, 6-8, 226: Warriors like his work ethic and athleticism, but hell likely play mostly in D-League- Dorell Wright, SF, 6-9, 205: Hes had a quiet preseason but is important piece if Warriors are to be successful

NBA Gameday: Warriors welcome Cavaliers with vengeance in mind

NBA Gameday: Warriors welcome Cavaliers with vengeance in mind

OAKLAND -- With the Christmas Day Collapse lingering about the back of their minds, the Warriors are out for vengeance against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

When the teams meet Monday for a late-afternoon Matinee on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Warriors will be trying to end a four-game losing streak to the Cavs, who came from behind for a 109-108 win on Christmas Day in Cleveland.

The Warriors (34-6) hope to benefit from the sellout crowd at Oracle Arena, where they have been nearly invincible over the past two-plus seasons. They are 95-7 at home since coach Steve Kerr arrived before 2014-15 season.

The Cavaliers (29-10) are making the final stop of a six-game road trip that spanned 12 days in three different time zones.

BETTING LINE

Warriors by 7.5

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

Stephen Curry vs. Kyrie Irving: Though they don’t always defend each other, each point guard is his team’s catalyst. Irving has been winning this battle of late, and the result is success for Cleveland. Curry is playing well of late, better than Irving. If that trend continues Monday, the Warriors will take their chances.

Kevin Durant and LeBron James: Durant was superb on Christmas Day, clearly outplaying James until the final quarter, when he melted down with his teammates, missing seven of his last nine shots. James seized the moment, leading his team to victory. Nothing would please the Warriors more than KD getting the best of James.

INJURY REPORT

Warriors: No injuries listed.

Cavaliers: G J.R. Smith (R thumb fracture) and F/C Chris Andersen (R ACL surgery) are listed as out.

LAST 10

Warriors: 8-2. Cavaliers: 6-4.

SERIES HISTORY

The Warriors lost the previous meeting this season and, including the last three games of the 2016 NBA Finals, have lost four straight. They are 10-8 (including postseason) against Cleveland since James returned before the 2014-15 season.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

THE START: In winning their last three games, all against sub-.500 teams, the Warriors cruised through the first half and didn’t get serious until the third quarter. That formula would be particularly dangerous against a defending champion. A faster start is called for, and the Warriors know it.

THE GLASS: What killed the Warriors in the Christmas Day Collapse, perhaps as much as turnovers, was Cleveland’s relentless work on the offensive glass. The Cavs piled up 18 offensive rebounds, leading to 17 additional shot attempts. If the Warriors can’t do a better job, it could be disastrous.

THE 3-BALL WAR: The Warriors rank fourth in 3-point shooting percentage; the Cavs are third. The Warriors rank fifth in attempts from beyond the arc; the Cavs are third. Cleveland put up more triples, with more accuracy, on Christmas Day. But . . . the Warriors are No. 1 in defense against triples, while the Cavs are 14th.

NBA-best Warriors still searching for right balance between risk and reward

NBA-best Warriors still searching for right balance between risk and reward

OAKLAND -- Warriors coach Steve Kerr and his assistants consistently preach one particular message to the entire roster, and the players have heard it so often they preach it to each other.

And yet there are times when they’re unable to practice what is preached.

It’s uncommon for the Warriors to fall apart, but when they do it’s usually by their own hand. It’s death by turnovers -- the very topic of the sermon.

“Our biggest issue is taking care of the ball,” veteran big man David West tells CSNBayArea.com. “We’ve got to be able to take care of the basketball for long periods of time.”

Among the NBA’s 30 teams, the Warriors rank 24th in turnovers. That’s better than the Hawks and the Nuggets. It’s worse than the Timberwolves or Pelicans or Lakers.

Practicing ball care, thereby limiting turnovers, can be challenging with such a skilled roster and players who really enjoy opportunities to shine. From Stephen Curry to Draymond Green, from Kevin Durant to Klay Thompson, from Zaza Pachulia to JaVale McGee, the Warriors like to entertain while winning.

To do that Monday afternoon against Cavaliers is to tempt fate. The Warriors learned that much on Christmas Day, when six turnovers in the fourth quarter, leading to 10 Cleveland points, fostered a startling Cavs rally that overcame a 14-point Warriors lead.

“When we look at that game -- and we’ve talked about it -- it just comes down to ball care and decision-making,” West says. “If we do that, we’ll be in good shape. If we don’t, then we give up a fourth-quarter lead against one the best teams in the NBA.”

It’s a hard pattern to break. The Warriors will go two or three or four games with a low turnover total, and then cough it up 16 or 18 or 20 times. It’s as if they’re on a constant search to strike the right balance between playing textbook basketball and relying on their plentiful gifts to riff for the audience.

“There’s a lot of trust and accountability that comes with that,” Curry says, “because we have a lot of talent and a lot of playmakers and guys that have a creative kind of style and approach to the game.

“But we have to have a certain IQ and just knowing if you can make the simple play, make the simple play. Understand the time and score, the flow of the game, how to manage that.”

Sounds relatively simple. It’s not. The Warriors are like a band composed of incredible musicians, most of whom can drop jaws with a solo performance. Great musicians are at their best when there is time and space. The Warriors often are at the best when improvising.

Without that element, this band of Warriors may as well play straight from sheet music. Artists take chances. Sometimes the result is a spectacular play that fans remember for years. Other times, it’s it ruins the set.

Kerr doesn’t want to kill the element of improvisation. He wants use it more judiciously, saving it for special moments. He believes this band is good enough to play it straight and still provide plenty of entertainment.

“The simple leads to the spectacular,” Kerr says. “That’s one of my pet sayings. But it’s always a balance with this team the last couple years. We are a little loose; it’s part of who we are and I accept that and I embrace it.

“But know when to draw the line, and understand that part of what’s going to make a special play is four or five simple actions to start the play itself. When we keep it simple, it’s amazing how many fun, exciting plays come out of that. It sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s the truth, especially with our guys because they have a lot of skill.”

The Warriors, to a man, say they are enjoying this season. They’re pleased with the NBA-best 34-6 record. They’re tops in the league in most pertinent team statistics.

But they continue to search for symmetry between risk and reward. How to make the right play without sacrificing the thrill of adventure? What, exactly, is the balance between playing with the appropriate amount of joy and seeking that breathtaking video that goes viral?

“If we make six easy passes, simple passes, in a possession, usually somebody gets open and there’s a back cut and there’s a layup or a lob or a 3-pointer and the crowd goes nuts,” Kerr says. “People love it.

“When they try to force the action on that stuff, it’s usually a turnover. And there’s not much joy in a turnover.”

The Warriors are unanimous in that sentiment. Yet the sermons continue because there are so many nights when it seems not everyone is listening.