Warriors focus: Jarrett Jack

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Warriors focus: Jarrett Jack

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the sixth installment in a seven-part series that spotlights the seven new Warriors.
Part 1: Harrison BarnesPart 2: Kent Bazemore
Part 3: Andrew Bogut
Part 4: Festus Ezeli
Part 5: Draymond Green

Of all the moves the Warriors have made in the past six months, you could argue that trading for Jarrett Jack was the most necessary of them all. With Stephen Curry coming off an injury-plagued 2011-12, it was mandatory that the Warriors go out and get some insurance at that position and thats what they did by acquiring Jack for Dorell Wright this offseason.For a while this summer, it didnt seem like acquiring a point guard was a priority for the Warriors as they appeared to show little interest in free agents such as Andre Miller, Kirk Hinrich and Jason Kidd.But rather than find a point guard in free agency, which most expected, the Warriors moved Wright to Philadelphia and acquired Jack from New Orleans as part of a three-team trade.In addition to upgrading the point guard spot, the move also balanced out the roster some. Small forward, the position Wright plays, isnt exactly an area of need.Jack was brought here to back up Curry, no doubt about it. And who could fault that?Curry played in just 26 games last year because of ankle issues, and if the ankle starts acting up again this season the Warriors will have a competent veteran player behind him.And if Curry does stay healthy, then having Jack gives them a quality backcourt player coming off the bench. Jack is a versatile guard, capable of playing both backcourt positions and he also possesses toughness and veteran know-how. Over the course of his career, Jack has started 249 of 532 games so the assumption is that if Curry gets hurt Jack will step in.Jack is probably more of a combination guard than true point guard, but hes the closest thing to a traditional point guard the Warriors have. Jack played almost exclusively at point guard last season for the Hornets, pairing in the backcourt with former Warrior Marco Belinelli.Jack averaged a career-high 6.3 assists in 2011-12. He also had a couple of big games against Golden State last season, including a triple-double in which he finished with 17 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds and zero turnovers.What makes Jack a good fit for the Warriors is his ability to play both guard spots. That will allow him to play alongside either Curry or Klay Thompson, the Warriors projected starting backcourt.RELATED: Who subs for Klay Thompson?
Having Jack should also allow Curry to play some shooting guard, taking advantage of Currys ability to move without the ball and come off screens.Jack averaged 34 minutes per game last season for the Hornets, but its tough to see him getting that many for the Warriors in 2011-12 not if the team is essentially healthy.Ideally, Jack would play somewhere in the mid-20s minutes-range, but with Jack its not so much how many minutes he plays as when he plays. Its not hard to see him logging his share of crunch-time minutes.Jack is a better defender than either Curry or Thompson, and on top of it, hes often able to defend either backcourt position. Hes a steady presence late in games and a solid decision maker. Like Curry and Thompson, Jack is an excellent free-throw shooter.Hes also just one of six players on the roster with any kind of playoff experience. If theres one thing Jack has proven over the course of his career, its that hell find a way to get playing time. Thats not going to change with the Warriors.

Warriors complete Phase 1 in preparation for trilogy Finals vs Cavs

Warriors complete Phase 1 in preparation for trilogy Finals vs Cavs

OAKLAND -- The Warriors studied video and practiced for nearly two hours Saturday, completing Phase 1 of the plan they’ll take into the NBA Finals.

Everybody on the roster is healthy, including starting center Zaza Pachulia, who missed Games 3 and 4 of the Western Conference Finals with a heel contusion, and seldom-used forward Kevon Looney, out for seven weeks with a hip strain.

“We had a great film session with the team, a great discussion with the team and put our keys up on the board for our guys and went over that stuff with them before practice,” acting head coach Mike Brown said after practice.

Defending Cavaliers star LeBron James surely was among the topics to generate considerable dialogue. It provides some relief that Andre Iguodala says he feels fine after battling knee soreness in the Western Conference Finals.

It was Iguodala, after all, who earned the NBA Finals MVP award after doing such a fine job as a primary defender of James in 2015. It’s an altogether different test now that the Cavs are healthy and have a surplus of shooters surrounding James.

“You still try to watch film, any new sets or anything that they try to implement for their team, because he’s the type of player that is so dynamic he can hurt you in different ways, especially with his passing ability,” Iguodala said.

When facing elite scorers, the Warriors typically vary their defensive looks. In addition to Iguodala, James will see some Kevin Durant, some Draymond Green and probably some Matt Barnes.

Nearly as important as Iguodala’s health is that of Pachulia. Though Cleveland is more willing to go small than in the past, there will be times when a big body, such as Pachulia, will be needed to keep Cavs big man Tristan Thompson off the glass.

Thompson had five of Cleveland’s 18 offensive rebounds last Christmas Day, when the Cavaliers came back for a 109-108 victory over the Warriors in Cleveland. The Warriors lost the rebounding battle by nine (60-51).

When the teams met three weeks later in Oakland, the Warriors pulled off a 126-91 rout largely on the strength of outrebounding Cleveland 58-35. Thompson had two offensive rebounds and five overall, while Pachulia gobbled up 13 rebounds -- 10 on the defensive glass.

The Cavs outscored the Warriors 17-8 in second-chance points in the first game, but the teams tied, 12-12, in that category in the rematch.

“It’s part of their strength,” Pachulia said. “Second-chance points are a killer. It’s something we have to take away. That’s one of the keys for us.”

 

Klay's next assignment: Slow down Kyrie...and he's got a gameplan

Klay's next assignment: Slow down Kyrie...and he's got a gameplan

OAKLAND -- Klay Thompson spent nearly eight minutes Saturday answering a variety of questions, many of which were related to his diminished offense this postseason and his primary defensive assignment in the upcoming NBA Finals.

Mired in a shooting slump, by his standards, the Warriors guard now has to confront the fabulous offensive arsenal of Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving.

As much as Thompson would love to rediscover his shooting touch in Game 1 on Thursday night at Oracle Arena, the Warriors may be more delighted if he can prevent Irving from finding his.

“I take pride in (playing) both sides of the ball, defense as equally as offense,” Thompson said after practice at the team’s downtown facility. “Whether or not my shot falls, I can always control that part of the game.”

The Warriors are undefeated (12-0) this postseason despite Thompson averaging only 14.4 points (compared to 22.3 in the regular season) on 38.3-percent shooting from the field (46.8 in the regular season), 36.4 percent beyond the arc (41.4 in the regular season).

That spotless postseason record is, in part, a reflection of Thompson’s work on defense. In all three rounds, he has guarded the opponent’s most dangerous backcourt player.

“I couldn’t be happier with how he’s helped us win games,” acting head coach Mike Brown said.

Next up for Thompson is Irving, who has hit game-winning shots in each of the last two times Cleveland has beaten the Warriors, a 3-pointer in Game 7 of the 2015 Finals and a midrange fadeaway jumper last Christmas Day at Quicken Loans Arena.

Irving has played well this postseason but lately has lifted his game to another level. In the five-game Eastern Conference Finals against Boston, Irving averaged 25.8 points per game, while shooting 62.2 percent.

He was particularly dazzling as the Cavs finished off the Celtics in Games 4 and 5, averaging 33.0 points on 64.9-percent shooting.

Irving’s recent run prompted Cleveland teammate LeBron James to label him one of the best one-on-one players of all time, a compliment Brown did not argue.

“There are a lot of guys that can shoot the 3, but that’s all they can do,” he said. “There are a lot of guys that can dribble drive and finish at the rim, but that’s all they can do. Here’s a guy that can shoot the 3 off the catch-and-shoot, he could shoot the 3 off the dribble. He has medium-game pull-up. He has medium-game floater. And then he can get to the rim. And when he gets to the rim, he can finish in traffic among 7-footers.

“The way he puts English on the ball, how high he gets it off the glass when he needs to, all those things play into a factor of why he is one of the greatest one-on-one players of all time.”

Thompson said Irving’s offense “easily” belongs in the discussion with the league’s best, a group including the likes of MVP candidates Russell Westbrook and James Harden, as well as Thompson’s teammate, reigning MVP Stephen Curry.

“He’s done it in big moments, so you’ve got to give him credit,” Thompson said of Irving. “Not only have I seen him do it in the pros, but I’ve seen him do it with the USA Team, too. Kyrie’s a very tough guard. We’ve got a game plan for him, and it’ll be fun.”

Thompson said he will try to crowd Irving, contest every shot and not be outhustled. Still, he concedes that may not be enough.

There is, however, one other thing Thompson cited that could impact Irving’s offensive production. Make him work on defense, something both Warriors guards have the ability to do.

For Thompson, that means finding his stroke.

“I’d like to see the ball go in the basket,” he said. “It has, just not as frequently as I want. But that means nothing now. That’s in the past. It wouldn’t have mattered if I shot lights-out if we didn’t finish the job off.

“Now that we’re here, it’s a clean slate. It’s time to go. Can’t be worried about a few bad shooting games or the percentages when you went 12-0. You’ve just got to do what you can and have the intentions to win the game, not to go out there and score a number of points but to just go out there and win the game and make winning plays. That’s what I’m focused on.”