NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Green on Blazers: ‘Of course I think they’re done’ — Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry not only came back last night, he came back and delivered the greatest overtime scoring performance in NBA lore. His 17 points in the extra session buoyed the Warriors to a 132-125 win over Portland in which Curry finished with 40 points overall. But lost in that epic game was a stellar performance by Draymond Green (21 points, nine rebounds, five assists and four steals) that put the Blazers in a 3-1 series hole. After the win, Green didn’t hold back on thinking this series — and Portland — was done for now, writes Ethan Sherwood Strauss of ESPN.com:
Golden State All-Star forward Draymond Green did not mince words when asked about the Portland Trail Blazers’ chances in the aftermath of their Game 4 loss to the Warriors on Monday night.
After Golden State’s 132-125 overtime win, which gave the Warriors a 3-1 advantage in the Western Conference semifinals, Green was asked whether he thought the Blazers were done.
“Do I think they’re done? Of course I think they’re done,” he said.
“If I don’t think they’re done, I don’t know who else is going to think it,” he continued. “We’re going home with a 3-1 lead. It’s up to us to close it out. And I trust my teammates, I trust our team to come out ready to go and close this series out. Of course I think they’re done. It’s time for us to close the series. We did what we needed to do; we came on the road and got one win. We took care of home court. Now it’s time for us to do it again.”
Blazers star Damian Lillard said before Green’s remarks that they aren’t done fighting.
“We want to go out there and make sure they respect us, make sure they understand it’s not going to be what everybody thinks it’s going to be,” Lillard said. “It’s not going to be no rolling over, it’s not going to be no out here being scared, it’s not going to be any of that.”
Green also was asked about a prediction of victory for Monday night’s game.
“I didn’t predict that. I told you we were going to win,” he said.
He said he wasn’t worried about giving the Blazers extra motivation.
“I wanted to give them bulletin-board material,” he said.
“It wasn’t no disrespect to [the Blazers],” he said. “It was more so at my guys to make our guys respond to what I’m saying.”
No. 2: The story behind Curry’s comeback in Game 4 — If you went to bed early last night, you missed Stephen Curry‘s amazing performance in Game 4 of the Golden State Warriors’ semifinal series. Pretty amazing, right? Even more amazing, though, is that Curry had played in essentially 1 1/2 NBA playoff games before a knee injury kept him out of the lineup for two weeks. Curry returned last night after not having played in an NBA game — let alone a playoff game — and picked up right where he left off. Few words can describe his play, but the story behind his comeback is one you have to read, courtesy of Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical:
The MVP had finished a television interview and started for the exit now,Stephen Curry transforming a rollicking, rolling night in the old Rose Garden into a stunned, surreal tomb. He had all but closed down the Blazers season, turning out the lights with the greatest overtime performance in the NBA’s history.
“Legendary stuff,” Joe Lacob crooned to The Vertical late Monday. The owner of these Golden State Warriors was trailing Curry into the tunnel like a corner man leaving the ring with the heavyweight champ, marveling over the theater of the most spectacular show in sports.
“Unbelievable. I mean, just …” Lacob was shaking his head now, and laughing and repeating the word again.
Draymond Green had been magnificent – 21 points, nine rebounds, seven blocks, five assists and four steals – and only Steph Curry could upstage that kind of brilliance. Only the MVP.
Curry had missed a 3-pointer upon entering the game, and another, and another. He kept shooting those threes and they kept clanking off the rim, or missing everything for an air ball. He missed 10 consecutive 3-pointers – something he’s never done. Everyone expected the lethargy of his game, the loss of timing, the shortness of breath and shots. Yes, Curry is the MVP, but there’s no preparation for the ferocity of playoff basketball, and Curry would need a game – maybe two – to acclimate himself.
Fifteen days ago, Golden State general manager Bob Myers had gone with Curry and his family to the MRI exam on Curry’s right knee. Curry had missed a week with a bad ankle in the opening-round series, played less than a half and hurt the knee. Now, the exam hung over the franchise like an anvil.
“There was drama in the room,” Myers told The Vertical late Monday night. “There was doubt.”
In the end, the diagnosis delivered sheer relief. Two weeks, the doctors told them. Yes, Curry could live with two weeks. These Warriors aren’t championship contenders without him, but they have the talent and toughness to hold onto the season until he can get back again. As Curry worked toward his return in these Western Conference semifinals, he never lost the perspective that waiting one more game – waiting a few more days – would be most prudent.
“His spirits were high, because he knew he dodged a bullet,” Myers told The Vertical.
The shots started to drop, and the poor Blazers were left in the debris. Portland has been a magnificent test for the champs, an improbable upstart with a burgeoning superstar – Damian Lillard– and a superb supporting cast, culture and coach.
“All he needs to see is one of those go in,” Green told The Vertical. “Just one – and then it gets bad for everybody. This guy hasn’t played in two weeks, right? And to come here, and take over the game like that in the fourth quarter, in overtime, that ranks up there with the best that I’ve ever seen.”
When it was over, Curry iced his knee, climbed to his feet in the locker room, and as he started to walk he could feel that knee stiffening on him. “It’s wearing off,” he said with a laugh to one of the Warriors’ PR officials, and soon he kept going down the hallway and out of the old building.
No. 3: Grizz considering reunion with Hollins — To just about any Memphis Grizzlies fan, the team’s greatest moments occurred from 2010-13. In that span there was the time the No. 8-seeded Grizzlies upset the No. 1-seeded San Antonio Spurs, there was an epic first-round series with the rival Los Angeles Clippers and a run to the Western Conference finals in 2013. All those moments took place under the watch of coach Lionel Hollins and while Hollins left the team on less-than-pleasant terms after 2012-13, he could be on his way back to Memphis. Ronald Tillery of the The Commercial-Appeal has more:
Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace and former head coach Lionel Hollins were seen dining Monday night at a local restaurant, leading to speculation that Hollins is a candidate to replace the recently fired Dave Joerger.
Wallace did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.
The irony is that Joerger served as an assistant under Hollins before Joerger took over the Griz bench when Hollins’ contract was not renewed after the 2012-13 season.
Hollins and Wallace worked together for nearly five seasons and would be a popular hire as he has maintained a strong relationship with the core four players (Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol). Hollins also remains the Grizzlies’ all-time winningest coach with a 214-201 regular-season record. He was 18-17 in the postseason, which included a 2013 appearance in the Western Conference finals.
New ownership led by Robert Pera, a California tech billionaire, took over the Grizzlies in November 2012, and Pera put in Jason Levien in charge. Levien, a former player agent, decided not to renew Hollins’ deal in 2013. Hollins took over the Brooklyn Nets before the 2014-15 season. On Jan. 10, 2016, Hollins was relieved of his head coaching duties.
So who will eventually replace Joerger in Memphis?
Joerger is now out after three years at the helm of the Griz, and signed a new deal to lead the Sacramento Kings.
Wallace has said he will cast a wide net, and while Hollins is popular, it is widely believed that former Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel is atop the team’s list. The list of available experienced coaches is long but that doesn’t mean that Wallace will rule out an assistant coach from another team.
No. 4: Sixers’ brass to meet with Saric soon — The Philadelphia 76ers stand to have a significant talent upgrade to their roster next season. They’ll have a lottery pick on the team, they’ll hopefully get the long-awaited rookie season out of Joel Embiid and may add Dario Saric to that mix, too. Saric was taken by the 76ers in the 2014 Draft and has been stashed overseas since, but there’s a good chance he could decide to come to Philly after next week’s planned meeting with 76ers officials Bryan Colangelo and coach Brett Brown, writes Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly.com:
Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo and head coach Brett Brown plan to travel to Istanbul to meet with 2014 first-round pick Dario Saric, his family and agents, regarding his status for the 2016-17 season, Colangelo said Monday morning on TCN’s Breakfast on Broad.
Saric has remained overseas for two seasons since being drafted 12th overall by the Sixers in 2014. He reportedly told teammates he plans to join the Sixers next season.
Should Saric stay in Turkey for another season and wait one more year before joining the Sixers, he would be out of the rookie salary scale and would stand to earn more money. Colangelo believes the shape of the roster, including who the Sixers select in the draft, could have an impact on Saric’s decision.
“We think this is good timing for him,” Colangelo said. “We hope that he does have a desire to be here.”
Brown recently said he communicates with Saric through text using WhatsApp. He previously had intended to visit Saric but was advised against it because of international conditions.
“He’s great,” Brown said of the Saric at the end of the season. “I get a kick out of his English. … He’s a stud though, as far as corresponding.”