Starting Udoh likely to weaken Warriors' bench


Starting Udoh likely to weaken Warriors' bench

Warriors coach Mark Jackson has been steadfast in the pastfew weeks about whether he was considering starting Ekpe Udoh over AndrisBiedrins at center.The answer was no, and he wasnt thinking about it,either.But that was before Udoh was forced into the starting lineupon Monday night against the L.A. Clippers when Biedrins was out with flu-likesymptoms and had a career-high 19 points and eight rebounds in 38minutes.
What a difference a game makes. Just like that, Jacksonacknowledged after the game that Udoh very much could be in the starting lineupwhen the Warriors play at Phoenix on Wednesday.The way he played (Monday), he gives us something totallydifferent, Jackson said I will take my time and assess our basketball teamand well move forward.RELATED: Ekpe Udoh game logs
The move to take Biedrins out of the starting lineup seemslike a no-brainer. Biedrins has been mostly ineffectual this season, defendingand rebounding on occasion but seldom scoring.But its not only about taking Biedrins out of the startinglineup; its about Udoh not being part of the second unit coming off the bench.And thats the one thing thats been pretty consistent this season for theWarriors their substitutes.Udoh has shown himself to be an anchor defensively, eventhough hes playing mostly out of position at center. He is a big part of thedefensive identity of the second unit, covering consistently for mistakes madeon the perimeter.Who knows how Biedrins will jell with the subs and whetherhes capable of bringing to thatgroup what Udoh previously did. The bottom line is that the Warriors havegotten precious little out of Biedrins as a starter, and so do they riskgetting nothing out of him at all off the bench?There is little doubt that Udoh deserves to start,regardless of how long it took Jackson to realize it. But at the same time,starting Udoh may very well make the bench less effective.And if the bench is less effective, will the Warriors be asgood? No doubt it, starting Udoh seems like the right thing to do. But thereare no guarantees the Warriors as a whole will be better for it.

As balance of power shifts slightly in East, should Warriors be worried?

As balance of power shifts slightly in East, should Warriors be worried?

The pursuit of the Warriors got considerably noisier Tuesday, when the Cleveland Cavaliers granted Kyrie Irving’s wish to be traded by sending the All-Star point guard to the Boston Celtics.

Boston is slightly improved, Cleveland is roughly the same and the two teams are set to meet in the juiciest Eastern Conference Finals since James left Miami three summers ago.

As for the Warriors, they’re still holding the Larry O’Brien trophy and smoking fine cigars and waiting for rings to be presented in two months.

While not exactly yawning, they’re not sweating any more than they did last week or last month. The Warriors have good reason to remain confident in their status as the most dangerous team in the NBA.

Granted, only one team had the assets and established contender status to acquire Irving and immediately get within seeing distance of the Warriors. That team is the Celtics, who suddenly are built to challenge the champs in ways the Cavaliers no longer could.

Even with their loss to Cleveland in the 2016 Finals, the Warriors over the past three seasons fairly owned the Cavs, going 4-2 in the regular season and posting an 11-7 record against them over the past three Finals. The Warriors dominated the 2017 Finals, winning in five games.

Furthermore, the Warriors over the last six regular-season meetings have outscored Cleveland by an average of 13.5 points. Though the average margin shrinks to about 7 over 18 games in The Finals, it’s still relatively decisive.

Despite the magnified glorification of the Warriors-Cavs trilogy, the Warriors generally were superior.

Cleveland will be a factor in the East, if only because LeBron James will ensure it and Isaiah Thomas -- acquired in the Irving deal -- will provide capable assistance. But the blockbuster deal sending Irving to Boston blows a massive hole through what was left of the three-year-old rivalry between the Warriors and Cavs.

In its place are intriguing matchups between the Warriors and the Celtics, who over the past three years have played the Warriors tougher than any other team. Though the Warriors also are 4-2 against Boston over the last three regular seasons, the overall scoring difference is only 2.2 points in favor of the Warriors. Each team has a double-digit win, with the other four games decided by five or fewer points.

And that was before All-Star forward Gordon Hayward signed with the Celtics last month, before forward Marcus Morris was acquired and before Irving was brought into the parquet posse.

Hayward at small forward is a huge offensive upgrade over Crowder, who will take his solid defensive game to Cleveland. While the Warriors could sag off Crowder, Hayward will have to be guarded. Gone are the days of Boston’s offense occasionally lapsing into Thomas and four guys in spectator mode.

Irving is a better offensive player that Thomas only in that he is six inches taller. Both are among the top five players capable of breaking down defenses. Both have tremendous shooting range, though Irving is slightly more accurate. Both are 90-percent free throw shooters. Irving has a modestly better assist-to-turnover ratio. Both thrive in the clutch.

So why is Boston better with Irving than with Thomas? Defense. Irving’s poor defense is an upgrade over Thomas’ atrocious defense.

Why aren’t the Warriors more worried about a Boston team that has found ways to exploit them? It’s because the loss of Avery Bradley, a truly great backcourt defender, is going to sting the Celtics. Any defense devised by coach Brad Stevens is going to be compromised if Hayward and Irving are on the floor. That’s where Crowder and Bradley will be missed.

And that’s where the Warriors will go to eat.

This trade signals that the Celtics are serious about chasing Eastern Conference superiority and the Cavs officially are operating on a one-year plan.

The balance of power in the East shifts ever so slightly. About as slightly as the balance of power in the West when the Thunder acquired Paul George.

The Warriors, however, remain well in front of the pack. Yes, there are more and more footsteps behind them, but all of them are in the distance.

Blockbuster official: Cavs trade Kyrie Irving to Celtics for Isaiah Thomas, more

Blockbuster official: Cavs trade Kyrie Irving to Celtics for Isaiah Thomas, more

CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Cavaliers granted Kyrie Irving's request and traded the All-Star guard to the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night for star guard Isaiah Thomas, forward Jae Crowder, center Ante Zizic and a 2018 first-round draft pick.

Irving, whose late 3-pointer helped Cleveland win the 2016 NBA championship, is on his way to Boston, where he'll try to help the Celtics unseat the Cavs. The teams met in last year's Eastern Conference finals and will meet each other again in the season opener on Oct. 17.

Irving had asked Cavs owner Dan Gilbert to trade him so he could get out from LeBron James' shadow and Cleveland waited until it had a suitable package.

Thomas gives them another proven playmaker, Crowder is a solid defender and the draft pick will help them reload if James leaves as a free agent next summer.