NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Warriors’ Thompson not sweating starting gig: The top debate among Warriors faithful might be over who to start this season: second-year forward Harrison Barnes or third-year guard Klay Thompson? The addition of swingman Andre Iguodala in the offseason supplanted Thompson from his starting role of a season ago and in the preseason, the Warriors have used Thompson as a sixth man while Barnes has started both preseason games. Thompson tells Marcus Thompson II of The Oakland Tribune he’s not worrying about starting or coming off the bench, despite the stats seeming to say the Warriors are better with him on the floor more:
After posting a team-high 26 points against the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday, Thompson was arguably Golden State’s best player Monday in what was a relatively ugly showing by the home team at Oracle Arena. Thompson twice led the Warriors on deficit-erasing runs in a 94-81 victory. He finished with 17 points on 8-for-17 shooting.
Thompson was so effective that coach Mark Jackson had him back in the starting lineup to open the second half. Thompson’s activity and energy on offense is so evident that his teammates are looking for him consistently. He had a team-high 14 shots through the first 30 minutes Monday, including a left-handed scoop layup for a three-point play followed by a breakaway dunk that put Golden State up 55-52 with just over six minutes left in the third.
“Klay is going to always do what he does best,” Andre Iguodala said. “And that’s shoot the ball pretty well. … I told Klay that when he’s in the game with me, he’s going to get a lot of looks so he’s gotta be ready to shoot the ball. And he is.”
…Through two exhibition games, Barnes has totaled just over 34 minutes. During that span, he was 3 of 18 from the field with five turnovers. He did total eight rebounds and three steals in the same span, but he’s hardly looking like the burgeoning star everyone expects.
Certainly, an ailing foot would slow him, but his early offensive struggles might raise a legitimate question: Can Barnes be effective as the fifth option?
Inconsistency was probably Barnes’ biggest problem last season. He would be great one game and average the next two. Even Barnes acknowledged that he struggled to find his way in the offense as the fourth option.
No. 2: Felton ready to step into leadership role: In a great feature story by the New York Post‘s Marc Berman, Knicks point guard Raymond Felton talks about his struggles in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, his desire to prove that he play well in a traditional backcourt and that he’s ready to assume a captaincy role with New York as well. Felton is expected to be the full-time starter at the point this season, a role he didn’t always have in 2012-13 as coach Mike Woodson often used Felton and another of New York’s point guards — Jason Kidd or Pablo Prigioni — in tandem with Felton:
But as Felton and the Knicks disintegrated in the second round last May, with the Knicks starting point guard failing to a hit a field goal in the nightmare Game 6 in Indiana, Felton said a new chip has grown.
“The chip is still there,’’ said Felton, who got outplayed by Indiana’s George Hill. “It’s a bitter taste in my mouth the way the season ended last year. The chip is still there. If anything, it’s another chip. It’s now on the other shoulder. I’m still coming out with the same attitude, still with a lot to prove.’’
…Felton admits he puts his off-court leadership on the back burner last season in respect to Kidd. Felton told The Post before camp he hoped a captaincy was in the cards.
“That’s my job this year — I have to step up in that leadership role,’’ Felton said. “I took a step back last year out of respect for my team. Guys hadn’t played with me before. I’ll try to step back in that role of being vocal.
“He’s got to be more of a leader,.’’ Woodson said. “Point guards catch a lot of crap on everybody’s team because we expect so much from them. Ray performed great for us last season. He’s got to be more vocal and show more of a leadership role more than ever with Kidd gone now.’’
No. 3: Paxson refutes talk of Thibodeau-Forman feud: Shortly after Derrick Rose made his preseason debut against the Pacers on Saturday night, Yahoo!Sports.com’s Adrian Wojnarowski had a story that essentially said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau and GM Gar Forman are in the midst of some franchise-altering dysfunction. Since then, Bulls vice president John Paxson has chimed in on the alleged discord between the two men and tells the Chicago Sun-Times’ Joe Cowley nothing could be further from the truth:
Forman and Thibodeau haven’t always seen eye-to-eye on personnel moves, which has been well documented, but Paxson takes exception to the idea that it’s a feud heading toward a boiling point.
‘‘We’re so far past that,’’ he said. ‘‘To continue to try and keep it going, I don’t know what the agenda is. That’s one thing that we all talked about, really from the beginning of this year: No one has any agenda here.
‘‘If you’re really going to say something like that, then go on the record, be a man, put your name out there. Don’t hide behind that stuff. But from our perspective, from our seat, we’re doing great. The relationship is healthy. We all want the same thing, and that’s to be as good as we possibly can out there on the floor.’’
Chicago saw what a truly unhealthy relationship between a GM and coach/manager looks like when the White Sox’ Ken Williams and Ozzie Guillen captured headlines a few years ago.
Paxson snickered at the idea of the Bulls being anywhere near that.
‘‘I don’t think there’s any doubt that it’s been blown way out of proportion,’’ he said. ‘‘I think someone other than anyone in our organization has an agenda that really doesn’t suit what we’re all about. No matter what you do in this business, when you’re making decisions, whether it’s based on personnel or anything like that, you’re going to have ideas, different opinions, and that’s what we do. We sit in a room and talk these things through. The thing is, right now we’re all on the same page, and there are no hidden agendas from Gar, myself and Tom.’’
No. 4: Pistons narrow shooting guard options: The No. 9 overall pick in the 2013 Draft, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, is making quite and impression in Detroit and may have a solid shot at taking the starting shooting guard job for opening night. According to David Mayo of MLive.com, Pope and veteran Rodney Stuckey have made the race for the starting job a two-man one and the pair is having fun competing against each other for the bid:
“He’s not showing one bit of nervousness when he’s out there playing,” point guard Brandon Jennings said. “It’s like he’s been here before. Guys want spots. Guys want playing time. This right here is how you earn it.”
Head coach Maurice Cheeks said Caldwell-Pope, “has a poise about him that, when he plays, he doesn’t get stressed out, he doesn’t get nervous.”
Cheeks, one day after saying he would use multiple starters at shooting guard during preseason, said the ultimate decision probably comes down to Caldwell-Pope or seventh-year veteran Rodney Stuckey.
Caldwell-Pope and Stuckey have gone hard at each other in early scrimmages and have had friendly discussions about the competition, the Georgia rookie said.
“It’s fun. We laugh about it, we joke about it,” Caldwell-Pope said. “At the same time, we’re also serious about it, because we are playing for the same position. It’s great to compete against someone who’s been here, who’s older than me. It’s a great challenge.”
Caldwell-Pope’s disadvantages in youth and experience against Stuckey could be alleviated by his advantage in perimeter shooting touch. Both are solid defenders but Caldwell-Pope also brings a shot-blocking element.
ICYMI of the night: While the Warriors continue to weigh whether to start Thompson or Barnes this season, sit back and enjoy what we’re sure to see more of this season — alley-oops to Iguodala …