May 22, 2018, 12:32 pm
Andre Iguodala went scoreless in the second half of Game 3, and played eight fewer minutes than his fellow members of the famed Hamptons Five. After the Golden State Warriors regained control of the Western Conference Finals with a 41-point thrashing of the Houston Rockets, though, Steve Kerr couldn’t help but pay his thirtysomething glue guy the ultimate compliment.
“When we’re right, when we’re playing how we’re supposed to play,” he explained, “Andre’s right in the middle of it.”
Kerr saved even greater praise for Draymond Green, who played a team-high 37 minutes on Sunday night despite failing to outscore Iguodala.
“Oh, my gosh, Draymond, there is nobody else like him, honestly…I thought his performance tonight was unreal.”
Five weeks ago, before the Warriors’ real season finally tipped off, concern regarding the defending champions’ hopes of repeating sprouted from the possibility that Iguodala and Green weren’t the players they used to be. Golden State, with Kevin Durant in the fold, could get by with Steph Curry at something less than his peak, slowed by the inevitable foibles of being sidelined for two months with a knee injury. But if they couldn’t fall back on the baseline of all-encompassing genius that Iguodala and Green once provided with such relentless vigor, perhaps the Warriors really would be as vulnerable in the playoffs as their 7-10 finish to the regular season suggested.
With June fast approaching, that hasn’t quite come to pass. Golden State boasts a +10.5 net rating in the postseason, its second-highest mark of the Kerr era, and has generally been at its best when Iguodala and Green are on the floor. Their +17.4 net rating ranks third among all Warriors tandems in the playoffs, per NBA.com/stats, behind duos including one or the other. Lineups featuring Iguodala and Green assist on 70 percent of their baskets while yielding a 48.3 effective field goal percentage, and have managed to keep their collective head well above water without Durant or Curry in tow.
Iguodala and Green were both +26 in Game 3. The former had three rebounds, three assists and three steals to go along with his 10 points, and the latter grabbed 17 rebounds, doled out six assists and swiped two steals. As always, their impact extended far beyond the box score. There’s no stat for Green intuitively screening his own man to create a driving lane for Curry, nor an asterisk next to the assist Iguodala got for first making himself available, then keeping the defense occupied with a ball fake as Curry re-located behind the arc, caught and splashed.
Iguodala helped get Curry going in his perfect, game-breaking third quarter by stealing James Harden‘s lazy bounce pass and streaking the other way, missing a layup that his teammate cleaned up. Two possessions later, P.J. Tucker bullied his way inside Klay Thompson for an offensive rebound, but Green got his hands in the cookie jar to keep the ball alive; he wasn’t credited with a steal, and obviously not the assist that led to a wide open corner triple from Durant in transition, pushing Golden State’s lead to 64-43 and prompting a Rockets timeout – less than two minutes into the second half.
In the clip below, Iguodala and Green execute textbook help defense in the modern NBA. After Green traps the box to stymie Harden’s drive past Curry, Iguodala first splits the difference between the corner and wing as Thompson gets into Capela’s legs, then closes out hard to the corner once Curry is back in the play. Chris Paul attacks his high foot, getting middle, only to be met by Thompson, who left Capela at the rim knowing that Iguodala and Green, master communicators, Had the wherewithal to sort through the remaining flotsam on the fly.
Not every Harden blow-by has to end in an open shot. Incredibly nuanced help defense like this, with multiple switches on and off the ball, is a difficult dance to pull off. But with Iguodala and Harden roaming the floor, the Warriors routinely make it look easy.
The all-switch nature of this series, of course, really has made defense especially easy for Golden State. Houston, remember, was built to beat this team, the one that first made weaponizing like-sized defenders en vogue. Three years later, despite the ongoing presence of Iguodala and Green, that’s a concrete reality of the game more than a passing trend, and the Warriors suddenly find themselves in a numbers bind that makes them struggle to address it.
Among Golden State’s five centers, Kevon Looney has been the only fixture up front against the Rockets. David West was a DNP-CD in Game 3 after being exploited during his brief stints at Toyota Center; Jordan Bell seems to have taken that increasingly limited place in the rotation, and rightfully so. He’s been abused by Harden, both more recently and back on opening night, but is still a viable switch option, and elsewhere promotes the pace, energy and activity that defines the Warriors at their best. If West doesn’t have the juice to keep up with the Rockets, how could Zaza Pachulia or JaVale McGee?
With Iguodala and Green playing like they always do this time of year, the Warriors, despite the absence of Pat McCaw, have just enough playable wings for their surplus of centers not to be a debilitating roster weakness – when healthy, that is. They probably won’t be for Game 4, after Iguodala’s bruised left knee swelled up in the aftermath of Sunday’s win.
Luckily for Kerr, he still has three top-tier defensive options to try and stick with Harden. Durant got the lion’s share of work in Houston before it was re-assigned to Iguodala, and Green and Thompson have each fared admirably, at worst, in that regard over the years. Thank god for Kerr’s stubborn, confounding confidence in Looney during the last two regular seasons, too. He’s held the Rockets to a jarringly-low 15 points on 18 possessions as Paul’s primary defender, per NBA.com/stats, and has most often made Harden work for his points, which is all anyone could ask of perhaps the game’s best one-on-one defenders, let alone a seven-footer whose fourth-year option was declined last fall.
Looney has a wild 88.4 defensive rating in the Conference Finals, by far the lowest of any Golden State regular. He hasn’t been that good on switches; 52 minutes over three games is some fine small sample-size theater. But in addition to his stellar performance guarding Houston’s superstars, Looney has also been stellar as an off-ball defender – and, crucially against Houston, not just in the paint.
Iguodala shouldn’t play in Game 4 if he’s hobbled, and the Warriors will be fine regardless. They certainly have enough talent to beat the Rockets short-handed, especially at Oracle, and Looney’s play is a swing factor that’s clearly tilting their direction. A lineup constructed of he and Golden State’s four All-Stars has outscored Houston 48-35 in 21 minutes, according to NBA.com/stats. Shaun Livingston has also come alive of late.
All that said, Golden State will definitely be missing something without Iguodala, and the most basic statistics might not show it. The film surely will, though, and the final result could, too. Why? When Iguodala and Green don’t play like they did in Game 3, a championship level they’ve consistently reached over the past two months, is the only time the Warriors might be beatable.
June 2, 2020, 10:02 pmCorey BrewerSF, Sacramento Kings
Corey Brewer, a veteran of eight different NBA teams, is still hoping to sign another contract before he calls it a career.
Brewer, 34, seems to think he has enough in the tank for one final stint in the NBA. “We had some talks with a few teams, but nothing really happened. My agent is still working on it, so we’ll see,” Brewer said. “I feel like I can still help a team and I feel like I have a few good years left. But you never know, man." Brewer has not suited up for an NBA team this season and, with a waning jump shot and increased age, his chances of securing another pact in the NBA are pretty unlikely.
June 2, 2020, 9:47 pmDeMarcus CousinsC, Los Angeles Lakers
Kings broadcaster Grant Napear stepped down from his position with the Kings on Tuesday after he said 'All Lives Matter..Every Single One!' when asked about his thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement during a Twitter interaction with former Kings center DeMarcus Cousins.
This is the first domino to fall in American professional sports in relation to the Black Lives Matter movement, even if it's a relatively insignificant one. Napear said of himself and the interaction, "I’m not as educated on BLM as I thought I was. I had no idea that when I said 'All Lives Matter' that it was counter to what BLM was trying to get across," he said. "I’m in pain. I’m 60 years old and I still have a lot to learn." The Kings will evidently have to find a new play-by-play man for their radio broadcasts to accompany Doug Christie when games resume.
June 2, 2020, 8:45 pmJohn WallPG, Washington Wizards
John Wall, who has long been rumored to have absolutely zero chance of returning to the court even if the current season is resumed, said in a conference call last week that he feels "110 percent."
Wall and the Wizards both maintain that he will not return to action this season, regardless of the outcome of the vote on Thursday by the NBA Board of Governors. This is good news, obviously, for the team as they set their sights on next season. As of late, trade rumors have been swirling around the franchise's two top assets: Wall and All Star guard Bradley Beal. Moving forward, there is a high possibility that the Wizards will decide between the two, as Beal's contract will expire after next season. Which player will the Wizards keep? Who will they trade, or will they trade them both? They are hoping to have some time to evaluate how the pair plays in tandem early next season, as Wall has missed significant time with a torn left Achilles he suffered during the 2018-19 season. But it may be too late to negotiate an extension with Beal at that point, so they will have to play their cards with extreme care.
Source: The Athletic
June 2, 2020, 8:27 pmBradley BealSG, Washington Wizards
Wes Unseld, a Hall of Famer and Washington Bullets legend, passed away on Tuesday due to complications with pneumonia and other illnesses. He was 74 years old.
An outstanding rebounder, Unseld is also one of only two players to ever be awarded Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player in the same season in 1968-69. He guided the Bullets to the NBA Finals four times, winning once in 1978, a series where Unseld took home MVP honors. Hornets' GM and former teammate Mitch Kupchak said of Unseld, “As a teammate, he was tough, dependable and competitive to no end.” Unseld was a fearless competitor and highly respected across the league during his 13 seasons with the Bullets franchise. Former Knicks center and fellow Hall of Famer Willis Reed recently recalled their battles against one another, "He was most consciously a rebounder — he could shoot, but he didn’t emphasize that part of his game — and felt that if he did his job right, by getting the defensive rebound and making the quick outlet pass, they would score quickly.” Unseld was undoubtedly a pioneer for the game of basketball and means a great deal to the city of Washington D.C.
Source: Rick Bonnell on Twitter
June 2, 2020, 7:58 pmLeBron JamesSF, Los Angeles Lakers
ESPN's Adrian Wojanrowski is reporting that Adam Silver and the NBA Board of Governors, who are planning to vote Thursday on how to continue the season, would like the NBA Finals to conclude no later than October 12.
With July 31 being the widely-reported restart date and the league tentatively planning to start 𝘯𝘦𝘹𝘵 season by Christmas Day of this year, it would make sense to crown a league champion as early as possible. The meeting with the NBA Board of Governors on Thursday will (finally) bring some clarity to the rest of the NBA season, as they will hold a vote to decide how to proceed. NBA fans have been waiting since the middle of March for some resolutions. This week will provide them.
Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter
June 2, 2020, 12:28 pmStephen CurryPG, Golden State Warriors
The Warriors opened their practice facility on Monday, per Anthony Slater of The Athletic.
Slater adds that five players showed up for voluntary workouts. It's the first time that Golden State's gym has been open in over two months, and there are only three teams who have yet to get players back into team facilities. While it must be nice for the players to get back to some kind of business, the Warriors are not expected to be playing any more games this season given their league-worst record and the likelihood that the NBA trims the fat rather than ask every team to play out the season.
Source: Anthony Slater on Twitter
May 31, 2020, 8:10 pmKz OkpalaF, Miami Heat
Kz Okpala's offensive game has come a long way since January according to Heat Vice President and Assistant GM, Adam Simon.
Okpala is already viewed as an NBA-ready defender, and once his offensive game is up to speed the Heat will have a hard time not getting him into the rotation. He spent 20 games in the G League and five with the Heat before the suspension slowed down his progression in 2020. Okpala got off to a slow start due to injuries, and a trade on draft day took away his chance to play in summer league. While this season is unlikely to amount to anything, Okpala is someone to watch in deeper leagues next year.
Source: Miami Herald
May 31, 2020, 8:03 pmGabe VincentPG, Miami Heat
Heat Vice President and Assistant GM, Adam Simon, stated that Gabe Vincent's knee is "good to go".
It sounds like Vincent would have no problem being NBA ready if the Heat decided to call up the two-way guard when play hopefully resumes July 31. Vincent is a strong 3-point shooter with the ability to attack a closeout, but it is still unlikely the Heat will need to put him on the floor for the remainder of the 2019-20 season.
Source: Miami Herald
May 31, 2020, 7:51 pmShake MiltonSG, Philadelphia Sixers
According to projections by Mike O'Connor and Derek Bodner of The Athletic, Shake Milton will be a starter for the Sixers whenever play relaunches.
Milton was thriving for the Sixers when the season was suspended due to COVID-19, and some risk remains that Ben Simmons will bump him from the rotation when the stoppage in play is lifted. In 16 starts with the Sixers, Milton averaged 14.1 points, 2.2 3-pointers, 3.6 assists, 3 rebounds and 1.1 steals. As a 3-pointer specialist along, Milton has earned a slot in 12-team formats, but things are going to be more difficult when he is forced to play off-ball in a fully healthy lineup in Philadelphia
Source: The Athletic
May 31, 2020, 7:42 pmKevin DurantSF, Brooklyn Nets
On a recent ESPN podcast featuring Adrian Wojnarowski and his colleague Zach Lowe, Wojnarowski stated that Kevin Durant (torn Achilles) would not play for the Nets this year.
Wojnarowski went onto say that he had no source that had relayed that information to him. The Nets have largely been deferring to Durant and the medical staff when it comes to his prospects for playing this year. While the organization may get hopeful that KD will lace it up for a playoff run, all signs are still pointing to him waiting until 2020-21.
Source: Anthony Puccio on Twitter