Blogtable: Can anything slow the Warriors?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

BLOGTABLE: Slowing the Warriors? | On Budenholzer’s fine … | What you’re thankful for this season

VIDEOInside the NBA’s experts weigh in on Golden State’s 16-0 start

> With their historic 16-0 start, the Warriors’ have captivated the basketball world and have become one of the best early season storylines in memory. Guys, can anything slow this team down? And is there a downside to chasing records in November?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comInjuries can slow down any team, so unless we find out the Golden State trainer’s room actually is a cyborg workshop full of Silicon Valley elves, the Warriors are only one (you know who) or two injuries away from the same foibles and vulnerabilities as the other 29 teams. I also think we’re going to see frustrated opponents start to play them with unprecedented physical force as a way of knocking the league’s reigning darlings for a loop, if not off their game entirely. Downside to never taking nights off? I actually hope there isn’t one. The “rest” pendulum was swinging too far already, in my opinion, at the very real risk of making regular-season ticket buyers feel like chumps. I like seeing the champs put it out there every night, regardless of foe or city.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comI think we can safely rule out complacency or the absence of the coach as potential pitfalls. The Warriors are not chasing records, just playing the game with talent, joy and crunch time ferocity that nobody else can match. The only thing that can slow the Warriors down before the playoffs is the big word nobody wants to mention — injury.

Scott Howard-Cooper, There is no downside to chasing records as long as a team does not over-extend itself to get there. And the Warriors are not. They need to dial down the minutes for Stephen Curry, but not by a lot. They’re not going crazy to win the championship of November. Can anyone slow this team down? Of course. There’s still forever to go before the playoffs, the only time that matters for teams at their level, and West challengers will be waiting. Golden State is the favorite of the moment and may have the same role in mid-April, but it’s impossible to imagine an easy road through the postseason.

Shaun Powell, The Warriors are the only contender that hasn’t played against the most formidable force in the NBA: injuries. Every time you mention how they’ve been blessed with great health, the Warriors recoil and take it as a slap to their ego, but it’s true. A significant injury, at this point, is the only thing that can trip them. As for chasing records early, it doesn’t matter, as long as it doesn’t interfere with getting their rest in springtime, should they clinch best-record.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comThey’re the best team in the league by a pretty wide margin and they will win at least 65 games. But there will be nights when they don’t have the energy and/or the focus. Heck, they should have lost to Brooklyn last week, but the Nets made a couple of late mental errors and missed a bunny at the buzzer in regulation. There’s no real downside to pushing for a record this early in the season. Most injuries that occur at this point can be recovered from in time for the playoffs, there are 66 more games to be used for rest days, and the champs have already built a three-game cushion in the loss column for home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.

Sekou Smith, They will lose a game … at some point. But as far slowing them down, I don’t know who or what could other than the dreaded injury bug, which always serves as the great equalizer (just check with our friends in Oklahoma City). This is a team on a historic pace and I have no problem with them pushing it to the limit right now. I know there will be people lined up to pick them apart if they don’t finish this season in championship fashion, if they burn out in pursuit of 73 wins or whatever other lofty goals they pursue. But eternal greatness requires a bit of tunnel vision and relentless drive that doesn’t come along often. And to come from where the Warriors were as recently as four years ago is an astonishing rise. Don’t interrupt their groove. Not now!

Ian Thomsen, I’m probably not alone in guessing that the length of the regular season and the threat of injury will be their biggest obstacle. Can they maintain their focus and still peak at the right time months from now? Health will have everything to do with that answer. In the meantime, as they chase the record of the Bulls, ask whether the NBA was less competitive in the 1990s. In those terms I think Curry may have a tougher assignment than was faced by Michael Jordan.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blogTo me, the only thing that can slow down the Warriors is — and I really, really hate to say this out loud — is an injury to one of their key components. Right now they understand their system, the parts that they have, how it all fits together, and they know that if they stick to the system, they can beat anyone. They unlocked the blueprint that works uniquely with this roster, and there’s no downside, no problem, no issues. They are absolutely rolling right now. And it sure is fun to watch.

Blogtable: What are you thankful for at this point in 2015-16?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

BLOGTABLE: Slowing the Warriors? | On Budenholzer’s fine … | What you’re thankful for this season

VIDEORookie Kristaps Porzingis has given Knicks fans something to be thankful for

> One month into the season, what are you seeing in the NBA that you’re most thankful for?

Steve Aschburner, I’m thankful that Charles Barkley still laughs loudest and longest at his own expense when his studio mates (and the rest of us) poke fun at him. I’m thankful that – in a league that can admirably come together for the likes of Lamar Odom and Flip Saunders – there still are guys like Draymond Green, Matt Barnes and Jimmy Butler who bring the “we don’t like them, they don’t like us” attitude that keeps game night from becoming one big ice-cream social. Mostly I’m thankful for current labor peace and the possibility that NBA commish Adam Silver and union chief Michele Roberts might nail down the next CBA in 2017 without games-lost rancor. Nothing would look sillier than two sides, used to divvying up a Large pizza, sharing an XXL and still fighting over the last piece.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comDo you mean beside the Blogmaster? It’s easy to say I’m thankful for any night that I can turn on my TV and see the beauty, joy and sheer fun of the Warriors. On an individual basis, I’m thankful that we’re getting a chance to see Paul George pick up his career right where he left off prior to breaking his leg. He might be having the best season of his NBA career and that possibility had some serious doubt when crumbled to the floor in Las Vegas.

Scott Howard-Cooper, For long memories, so we can remember the previous Kobe Bryant, the old 76ers and the one and only Flip Saunders, the best memory of all. For the memories the established Warriors and the mostly un-established Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis are creating. For Gregg Popovich’s long-term commitment to stick around the Spurs and USA Basketball. For still having Lamar Odom.

Shaun Powell, Personally? That LeBron James keeps avoiding injury, that Kevin Durant is back on the floor after a brief brush with the trainer’s table and Steph Curry’s ankle issues are far behind him. The game is only as healthy as its stars, and one month into the season, these three are upright. Also, the next generation is off to a decent start with Karl-Anthony Towns, Jahlil Okafor, Kristaps Porzingis, et al.

John Schuhmann, Paul George playing the best basketball of his life. Given what he’s been through, it doesn’t get any better than that. And holy cow, is he killing it.

Sekou Smith, Obviously, the Warriors make tuning into their games a Christmas present every night. But I’m most thankful for the bountiful rookie class. From the big cats, Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor, to the surprising Kristaps Porzingis, Justise Winslow and Stanley Johnson and, really, all over the place, these youngsters have impressed. That’s always a good sign, when the rookie crop comes in and has multiple players making an immediate impact wherever they are. It strengthens the overall talent base of the league and provides some fresh faces and storylines for us to focus on.

Ian Thomsen, For the competition and its ongoing unpredictability. Every season the NBA race becomes more wide open. The Warriors, as good as they are, will be facing many obstacles and threats over the next seven months.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blogI live in New York City, and for the last 15 years I’ve had to watch as the Knicks continually attempted to rebuild on the fly, constantly sacrificing their future to get incrementally better in the moment. Which didn’t work, and it didn’t feel like the turn around really started until Phil Jackson stripped the thing down to its bones and hung onto a lottery pick and drafted young Kristaps Porzingis. Now the “Porzilla” has stormed Gotham, and Knicks fans finally have what looks like a young superstar who can be a long-term pillar of the franchise. For once, it’s sorta nice not to have a turkey on Thanksgiving.

Hornets, Clifford agree on extension

VIDEO: Kemba Walker leads the Hornets to an overtime victory on Monday

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — Don’t look now, but the Charlotte Hornets have some stability on the bench.

Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer reports that the Hornets are giving coach Steve Clifford a contract extension. The Hornets confirmed the news later this morning.

The Charlotte Hornets and coach Steve Clifford have come to an agreement on a multi-year extension, the Observer has learned.

The deal includes a three-year guarantee that would keep Clifford in his current role through the 2018-19 season.

The first coach that Michael Jordan hired after buying into the (then) Bobcats was Sam Vincent, who lasted one season in Charlotte. Larry Brown was next, but was gone before his third season was up. Paul Silas took over for Brown, but was gone after his first full season.

Remember Mike Dunlap? One season.

But Clifford, along with Jordan’s belief in him, has brought an end to all that instability. Hired in 2013, Clifford took the Bobcats from 30th (where they ranked each of the previous two seasons) to sixth in defensive efficiency. The Hornets were still a top-10 defensive team last season, even though the Lance Stephenson addition was a disaster.

And this season, Clifford has transformed the Hornets’ offense, taking them from 28th in offensive efficiency to fourth, through Tuesday. Charlotte’s increase in points scored per 100 possessions is more than twice that of any other team.


If you can build a top-10 defense around Al Jefferson in the middle, you’re a pretty good coach. And if you can build a top-10 offense around Kemba Walker at the point, you’re a pretty good coach too.

Clifford, a long-time assistant before he was hired be Jordan, has earned a few more years in Charlotte.

Morning shootaround — Nov. 25

VIDEO: Highlights from games played Nov. 24


Warriors soak up 16-0 start | Butler wants Plumlee to pay his fine | LeBron: Don’t compare greats

No. 1: Warriors bask in NBA’s first 16-0 start — What was pondered a day ago has become fact today — the Golden State Warriors are the sole owners of the best start in NBA history. Last night’s romp against the Los Angeles Lakers moves the Warriors to 16-0 and, perhaps, increases talk that they could challenge the 1996 Chicago Bulls’ 72-win mark come season’s end. At any rate, the team is soaking in this moment — as much as they’ll allow themselves — writes Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle:

No matter what happens the rest of the season, the 2015-16 Warriors will be remembered for what they accomplished Tuesday night at Oracle Arena.

The Warriors dominated the Lakers 111-77 for their 16th consecutive victory to open the season — something no other team in the history of the league has achieved and something that seemed unfathomable three weeks ago.

The Warriors have been so forceful during their record-breaking run that imaginations are running wild with fantasies about winning 34 in a row, finishing with 73 victories and building the foundation of a dynasty.

“Eventually, we will lose,” said Warriors interim head coach Luke Walton, who watched his players’ subdued celebration on the postgame court and then matched their tone in the locker room.

Walton congratulated each player for entering his name into the NBA record books, and then he reminded the entire team that it’s November. There are still 66 regular-season games to play over the next 4½ months.

Beating opponents by an average of 15.6 points per game, the Warriors are drawing comparisons to the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls. The Michael Jordan-led team won 72 of 82 regular-season games, and the Stephen Curry-led Warriors appear capable of making a run at the feat.

Curry had 24 points and nine assists without stepping onto the floor during the fourth quarter, other than to celebrate the highlights of the reserve players and to toss candy into a sellout crowd of close to 20,000.

Draymond Green, who started the night by taking a microphone to midcourt and saying, “Let’s make history,” added 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists. The Warriors also got 13 points from Leandro Barbosa, 11 from Klay Thompson, nine from Festus Ezeli and eight apiece from Andrew Bogut and Harrison Barnes.

But their defense was even more impressive than their No. 1-ranked offense. As if things weren’t bad enough already for the Lakers (2-12), they were limited to 37.8 percent shooting and had nearly as many turnovers (15) as assists (16).

Kobe Bryant had four points on 1-of-14 shooting, perfectly illustrating the shift of power in the NBA’s Pacific Division. The Oakland arena, which used to be split close to 50-50 when the Lakers were in town, included only a handful of purple and gold jerseys and got playoff loud every time Bryant missed.

“The challenge for (the Warriors) is going to be conflict,” Bryant said. “You’ve got to have some kind of internal conflict thing. It keeps the team on edge. If not, it becomes so easy that you just kind of coast. You kind of fall into a malaise.”

VIDEO: recaps Golden State’s historic win


Celtics stick to their own formula for turnaround

VIDEO: Isaiah Thomas has been critical to the Celtics’ turnaround

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The playoff berth, the turnaround, the return to relevance, if you will, sans a superstar after the end of the Big 3 era.

It wasn’t supposed to happen overnight for the Boston Celtics.

Danny Ainge‘s current rebuilding project is the model for doing it without the saving grace of a marquee superstar. And that’s fine by Brad Stevens, the coach Ainge plucked from the college ranks to guide these surprising Celtics through this process.

Ainge sold Stevens on a long-term vision, signing him to a six-year deal in 2013 that made him the youngest coach (36) in the NBA at the time, that included a transformation of the culture for the winningest franchise in league history. The days of leaning on future Hall of Famers like Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen to lead the way was over.

And in the early stages of the third year of this new era, the Celtics appear ready for prime time. They face off against the Atlanta Hawks tonight (8 ET, TNT), the first of seven national TV games they’ll play this season after just one last year.

Their 20-9 finish last season led to that playoff berth, where they went after LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in a first-round sweep and served notice that planning for the future didn’t necessarily mean drowning in the misery of the typical rebuilding plan.

Winners of six of their last nine games, the Celtics have shaken off a 1-3 start and gotten back to the ways that led them to the playoffs last season.

Built on a bedrock of defense, depth, player development and shared sacrifice, the Celtics are on to something. With a starting lineup that includes three second-round picks and roster dotted with as many journeymen as high draft picks, Stevens has molded this group into one of the scrappiest crews in the league. And to a man, they point to their young coach and his measured ways as the key to their success.

“His approach is everything, he’s always prepared no matter what the situation, be it in games or practice and that says a lot about a coach in this league” said Isaiah Thomas, the veteran guard who leads the Celtics in scoring (21.6) and assists (6.5). “You never know if he’s happy or mad because he’s so even-keeled. He won’t show it. And that’s how this team is. He’s always talking about looking to the next play. He’s instilled that in us and it’s really defined us as a group. We’re a next play team, no matter what the situation.”

In an environment where basically half of the league is rebuilding perpetually, Stevens has made sure to avoid discussing anything of the sort with his team. Why bother with the obvious, when just talking about it won’t speed up the process?

“We’ve never once talked about it as rebuilding,” Stevens said. “We’ve talked about it as building, growing and improving. We’ve got a lot of young guys. We’re still super young. And we have to take every opportunity as a learning experience. We have to say, there aren’t any excuses in being young and not having that extra experience. That means we have to watch more film, we’ve got to put more time in the gym, we’ve got to shoot more on our own and we’ve to be better to catch up.”

David Lee, 32, is the only player on the roster over the age of 28. He’s also the only former All-Star and he arrived via trade after winning a title with the Golden State Warriors last season. But he doesn’t hold a position above or beyond any of his teammates based on that body of work.

That’s not the way this group works.

“Young and hungry, that’s us,” said fourth-year center Jared Sullinger, the Celtics’ leading rebounder (8.8). “We’ve got a lot of guys who are still trying to establish themselves throughout the league. And we play as a team. On any given night it could be someone’s time to shine and we’re so unselfish. We feed off of that.”

Buying into the system was easy, Sullinger said, because of the collective understanding that none of this would be possible without the entire group diving in. Roles change on the fly, a starter one week could be a key reserve the next. Stevens has fostered an ego-free environment and instead mandated that guys serve the greater good and emphasize the team over all else.

It’s the backbone of any successful team, but particularly in today’s NBA, where the universal embrace of the pace-and-space style has changed the landscape. Stevens pointed to the Hawks and the way they busted out last season, winning a franchise-record 60 wins and earning a trip to the Eastern Conference finals, as the prime example of a team whose success shined a light on what the Celtics are trying to create.

“Offensively, they are who they are. They are outstanding moving the ball,” Stevens said of the Hawks. “They are very intelligent. Their team savvy is off the charts. They are just really organized but still play with a lot of freedom. And they are just fun to watch … I thought it was just awesome last year they got four All-Stars because it talked about what was most important, and that’s the team winning, and all of those guys were playing great off of each other.”

The Celtics might not have four All-Star ready talents just now, but the players are convinced that the foundation and the culture for that kind of success in the future is in the works.

“I always say guys don’t play with each other, they play for each other,” Thomas said. “And on this team, it feels like a college team, for the most part. Guys aren’t running around with big egos, everybody just wants to see each other succeed. And that’s hard to find in the NBA. I think we’ve got a great group of guys and it starts with our coaching staff. Everybody has an equal opportunity to be themselves. And that’s what works for us.”

Morning shootaround — Nov. 24

VIDEO: Highlights from games played Nov. 23


LeBron: Warriors are ‘most healthy’ NBA team he’s ever seen | Ainge pleased with Celtics’ direction | Spurs keep chugging along

No. 1: LeBron: Warriors are ‘most healthy’ NBA team he’s ever seen — The topic of good fortune often comes up when discussing the defending-champion Golden State Warriors, a point some use to illustrate the squad was lucky to win the title for a variety of reasons. Wherever you stand on that point, one thing that is true in terms of Golden State’s good fortune is the team’s health during its championship era. Few player games have been lost due to injury and really, only coach Steve Kerr (back) has been out for a prolonged time. Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James, who was defeated by the Warriors in the 2015 Finals, knows all too well how the Warriors’ health has helped them.’s Dave McMenamin has more:

LeBron James says there is a not-so-secret ingredient — beyond a talented roster that features reigning MVP Stephen Curry — to the Golden State Warriors’ success: avoiding injuries.

“I think it comes with a lot of health,” James said when asked about the Warriors tying the all-time mark for best start to a season at 15-0. “They’ve been healthy. They’ve been the most healthy team I’ve ever seen in NBA history, and they have great talent. Those guys all play for one common goal and that’s to win, and that’s all that matters.”

James said that continuity in the lineup has led to consistency in their play.

“They’ve just been consistent,” James said. “I think the most impressive thing is the way they just they’ve been playing at a high level, man, for so long.”

The Cleveland Cavaliers, meanwhile, are down four of their top eight rotation players at the moment with Kyrie Irving (left knee), Iman Shumpert (right wrist), Timofey Mozgov (right shoulder) and Mo Williams (right ankle) all sidelined.

“I’d much rather be on the other side and having guys in the lineup, having guys healthy,” James said. “I’ve always heard that saying of, ‘Is it a blessing that guys are out and guys can step in?’ I think it’s good for some of the guys that don’t get to play as much — they get an opportunity. But at the same time, I’d much rather be full and know what we’re going to have and play at a high level for most of the year so we know what we can fall back on at the end of the season.

“But that’s one thing you can’t control. You can’t control injuries. The one thing you can control is what you’re doing out on the floor, how well you’re playing, how hard you’re playing and how much you’re sacrificing and giving to your teammates.”

VIDEO: LeBron James talks about how health has aided the Warriors’ success


Kevin Durant to return tonight for Oklahoma City Thunder

VIDEO: Kevin Durant grabs his left hamstring vs. the Wizards two weeks ago

HANG TIME BIG CITY — After missing the last six games while recuperating from a hamstring injury, Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant is set to return tonight against the Utah Jazz (9 ET, League Pass), according to reports…

The Thunder were 6-3 when Durant strained his left hamstring in a game against his hometown Washington Wizards. Without Durant, the Thunder posted a 3-3 record, as Russell Westbrook averaged 32.7 points, 9.3 assists and 7.7 rebounds per game over that stretch.

Durant was averaging 28.1 points and 7.3 rebounds per game when the injury occurred. The added offense will surely be helpful tonight against a stingy Jazz defense, which is ranked second in the NBA in points allowed per game, at 92.4 points per game.

Morning shootaround — Nov. 23

VIDEO: Highlights from games played Nov. 22

Kobe, Lakers stand in way of Warriors and history | Clippers in disarray after third straight loss | Forget Bradley comparison, Porzingis more like Pau and could be better | Warriors more than just 15-0, better than ever

No. 1: Kobe, Lakers stand in way of Warriors and history — The only thing standing in the way of the Golden State Warriors and a history-making triumph is Kobe Bryant and his Los Angeles Lakers. The Warriors are hunting a 16-0 start, which would rank as the best season-opening sprint in NBA history, and need to whip the Lakers Tuesday at Oracle Arena to accomplish that feat. The Lakers’ dreadful 2-11 start would suggest that they are probably not the team capable of slowing down Stephen Curry and the machine that is the Warriors, but don’t tell Kobe, who suggested otherwise to Baxter Holmes of

“I’ve seen stranger things happen,” Bryant said Sunday after his team’s 107-93 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center here. “We’ve been playing like s—. We might go up there and we might play like gangbusters up there. You never know. ”

Lakers coach Byron Scott was asked for his thought on the matchup. He laughed.

“That’s my thought right now,” Scott said. “They’re the best team I’ve seen in the league and it’s not close … . They’re the best team I’ve seen in a while.”

With the Warriors chasing history, Scott said he expects the Warriors to be ready.

“They haven’t had a whole lot of lulls in any of the games that they’ve played,” Scott added. “When they do [have a lull], they’ve got so much confidence in the way they play and how they play that they don’t panic.

“You can be up by 23 [against the Warriors] and it doesn’t matter, especially if they’ve got two quarters left. It’s a difference if you’re up 23 with five or six minutes left; then you’ve probably got a great chance of winning that game. But if you give them 24 minutes left in the game, there’s not a whole lot of leads that are too big for them [to overcome].”

Scott admires the way the Warriors play, but he isn’t exactly looking forward to facing them.

“Basically I look at them as a fan, when I watch them play,” Scott said. “Unfortunately I don’t have that luxury Tuesday. I love watching them play because they do all the things we talk about. They share the ball. They play for one another. They play as a team.”


No. 2: Clippers in disarray after third straight loss — Losers of three games in a row and seven of their last nine, it’s easy to see why the Los Angeles Clippers are reeling right now. But things bottomed out after Sunday’s loss to Toronto at Staples Center, a game that saw the Clippers trail by as season-high 29 points and commit season-highs in turnovers (20) and personal fouls (30). And all of this came before Josh Smith‘s locker room meltdown and shouting match with an unspecified Clippers assistant coach. Simply put, the Clippers are in disarray right now and as Kevin Baxter of The Los Angeles Times points out, there no easy solutions in sight:

Just who yelled at whom and about what, no one would say.

“That’s for us in our locker room,” point guard Chris Paul said.

What’s obvious, though, is that when the shouting finished, the Clippers were right back where they had been when it started: in a deep funk for which they can’t find a solution.

“If we had pinpointed it, then it would be resolved,” said forward Blake Griffin, whose nine points were the fewest he has scored in a full game since 2013. “So I think we need to find that. Whether it’s playing harder, whether it’s having a sense of urgency, whatever the case may be, we need to find it.”

It wasn’t hard to identify the Clippers’ problem Sunday: It was a first half in which they fell behind by 29 points, their biggest deficit of the season. Griffin, the team’s leading scorer, had more fouls and turnovers (three of each) than he did points (zero) in the opening 24 minutes before the Clippers, who looked disorganized and bewildered, left the floor to a chorus of boos trailing, 63-34.

It was the team’s lowest-scoring half of the season, something for which Paul and Rivers shared blame.

“It starts with me,” said Paul, who saw his team outscored by 21 points during his 18 minutes on the court.

“This is on me,” countered Rivers. “Players, we have to put them in a better spot to perform better. And that’s my job.”


No. 3:Forget Bradley comparison; Porzingis more like Pau and could be better — The Kristaps Porzingis show takes its talents to South Beach tonight to face the Miami Heat (7:30 ET, NBA TV) and the New York Knicks’ prized rookie shows up with momentum on his side. He’s had a stellar start to his season and has quickly changed the narrative surrounding who and what he could become in the future. Knicks boss Phil Jackson uttered the name Shawn Bradley in comparison to Porzingis over the summer, a name that “KP” balked at immediately. After seeing the big fella in action this season, the chatter has shifted to a different international big man, Pau Gasol, who thrived in the triangle offense. Frank Isola of The New York Daily News explains:

Long before Phil Jackson compared Kristaps Porzingis to Shawn Bradley — which in retrospect may have been Phil playing one of his notorious mind games — the Knicks president admitted that Porzingis reminded him of Pau Gasol.

Of course, by the time Gasol helped the Lakers and Jackson win their last two NBA championships, the Spanish forward had already established himself as one of the league’s top players. Jackson coached a finished product. Jose Calderon, however, remembers Gasol as a skinny teenager when they first played together with Spain’s national team. Calderon also sees similarities but admits that right now, “Kristaps is better.”

“If I’m not mistaken it took Pau a little bit longer to get those big numbers,” Calderon added. “But also remember, Pau was the Rookie of the Year. Let’s see where we are at the end of the year. But this is a good start.”

Porzingis has been nothing short of a revelation. And it didn’t take long for him to produce one of the best all-around games for any rookie. In fact, it happened in Game 14 as the 7-foot-3 forward scored 24 points with 14 rebounds and seven blocked shots in Saturday’s win over the Houston Rockets. The last 20-year-old to put up comparable numbers was Shaquille O’Neal during the 1992-93 season.

Gasol was 21 when he broke into the NBA with the Memphis Grizzlies during the 2001-02 season. By the fourth game of Gasol’s career, he scored 27 points against Phoenix and in his next game he scored 24 against the Clippers. Memphis, though, started that season by losing its first eight games. In his first 20 games, Gasol recorded four double-doubles.

Porzingis has six double-doubles through 14 games, including Tuesday’s 29-point, 11-rebound performance against Charlotte. Moreover, the Knicks have already won eight games.

“The surprise is he’s doing it right away,” Calderon said of Porzingis. “He’s been pretty consistent. That’s what surprises me the most; he’s putting up big numbers now. Nobody expected that.”


No. 4:Warriors more than just 15-0, better than ever — Chasing history is one thing. But doing so the way the Golden State Warriors are doing it, well it’s something more, much more. And their critics called their championship run last season “lucky.” It seems foolish to suggest anything of the sort given the way the Warriors are waxing the competition so far this season. The Warriors handled their business in Denver Sunday, showing off perhaps the greatest trait any defending champion can display in pursuit of an encore: they’ve simply forgotten how to lose. Marcus Thompson II of the Bay Area News Group makes the case for a Warriors team that is better than ever:

The Warriors are too good — even better than last season.

Sounds crazy, huh? The champs taking a step forward. But it’s only a shocker to those who believe last season was some kind of miracle.

It wasn’t luck, but a prelude. The Warriors didn’t max out, they took the next step in a steady progression.

Why are the Warriors’ better? Because Stephen Curry is better, because Draymond Green is better, because Festus Ezeli is better, because the team’s chemistry and execution are better.

The reigning MVP doesn’t usually improve his game. But with Curry, it makes perfect sense.

He has made a habit of turning his game up a notch after the all-star break. The next step was to turn it up from the start of the season. And that’s what he’s done.

Curry averaged 23.8 points per game last season. This season, he’s up to 32.7 points per game — and that’s despite defenses focusing on him more than ever.

He has sculpted his body, honed his skills and developed his strengths. But there’s a cerebral part of the game Curry has been developing. His enhanced understanding of the game has him playing more to his unique strength: long-range shooting. Curry is taking 11.3 shots per game from behind the arc, up from 8.1 last season. Oh, and he’s making more of them: 4.9 per game, up from 3.6. Overall, his shooting has improved to 51.5 percent — absurd for someone who doesn’t stand under the basket.

And here’s a scary thought: “I can still get better,” Curry said last week.

Draymond Green is better. Getting a fat contract — $82 million for five years — didn’t make him fat. Not that anybody thought it would. Like Curry, Green has a work ethic that is off the charts.

Last year was Green’s first as a full-time starter. This year, he’s clearly more comfortable in his role and better at using his skill set, a benefit of experience.

Green improved his 3-point shooting. He’s making 43.9 percent from deep, making opponents really pay for double-teaming Curry. Green’s ball-handling is much improved, too. He pushes the tempo and regularly leads the fast break. He also leads the team in assists at 6.7 per game.

And he’s the key to one of the Warriors’ lesser-known lethal weapons: the small lineup. With the 6-foot-7 Green at center, and four perimeter players around him, the Warriors have five players on the court who can score and still defend.

The Warriors play together better.


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Philadelphia 76ers are chasing a little history of their own, but not the good kind … Why in the world did LeBron James remove the Cleveland Cavaliers from participating in the pregame introductions? … Avery Bradley is coming off of the bench for the Boston Celtics and thriving in that rolePatrick Beverley is on the way back to the lineup for the Houston Rockets, who need all hands on deck if they want to turn things around under J.B. Bickerstaff … It hasn’t been easy, of course, but Alvin Gentry is trying to make the best of a great opportunity in New Orleans

Clippers’ frustration boils over

VIDEO: Danny Granger, Rick Fox and Brent Barry discuss the Clippers’ locker-room issues.

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — Midway through the second quarter on Thursday, the Los Angeles Clippers had a 23-point lead on the 12-0 Golden State Warriors. Chris Paul hadn’t missed a shot and the champs were on the ropes.

A lot has changed since then. The Clips were outscored 92-62 over the final 30 minutes on Thursday, 25-8 when the Warriors went to their devastating small-ball lineup in the final six minutes. They went to Portland on Friday and got outscored 16-6 in the final 3:30 of what was a one-point game. And then they came back home and got thumped by the Toronto Raptors, trailing by 29 points at halftime.

As you might expect, that sequence of events has led to some frustration in Clipperland. As Dan Woike of the Orange County Register reports, there were some raised voices in the Staples Center locker room in the moments after Sunday’s embarrassing loss

Josh Smith and an unspecified Clipper coach were involved in a frustration-fueled argument following the Clippers’ 91-80 loss to Toronto Sunday.

Profanities and yelling made their way through the cement walls separating the Clipper locker room from an adjacent room where the media was waiting to speak to head coach Doc Rivers.

Rivers and Clipper players didn’t offer details on the incident.

“It’s (like any) locker room after you lose and play like that. Guys are upset,” Rivers said. “That’s about it.”

The Clippers are supposed to be contending for a championship again this year. But they’re 6-7, having lost seven of their last nine games, with issues on both ends of the floor. Summer additions Paul Pierce, Josh Smith and Lance Stephenson have all shot less than 40 percent, the Clips rank near the bottom of the league in 3-point percentage, and they’ve been the league’s worst defensive team over the last 2 1/2 weeks.

It’s still early in the season, but Thursday’s collapse seems to have been a powerful blow to the Clippers’ psyche.

Morning shootaround — Nov. 22

VIDEO: The Fast Break — Nov. 21

Cuban lets loose | Deron Williams rebounds | Fast-improving Favors is officially a Utah favorite | Warriors not stressing over record

No. 1: Cuban lets loose — The most sought-after interview in the NBA never changes. It’s significant time with Mark Cuban, the Mavericks owner and the maverick owner who always speaks his mind, which he can literally afford to do. Cuban is always entertaining and forthright and pretty much on-point with his thoughts on basketball or really anything you ask of him. Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe managed to get some time with Cuban and we’re all better off for it:

He remains the most entertaining owner in the NBA, and he’ll offer an opinion on anything he is asked, making him one of the most transparent figures in sports.

Cuban was asked about the firing of Kevin McHale by his rivals, the Houston Rockets. Cuban has had very public feuds with Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, especially when the Mavericks nabbed swingman Chandler Parsons from the Rockets with a mega-deal in July 2014.

“I like Kevin, I feel bad for him personally, but the rest of it? Whatever,” Cuban said. “I mean, we’ve been in a high-expectation position before. We go to the Finals, we started 0-4 [in 2006-07], and it’s ‘what’s wrong?’ and we came back to win 67 games and lose in the first round.

“So I’ve said it before, the hardest thing for an NBA owner to do is hire a coach. The easiest thing to do is fire a coach. The reason it’s hard to hire a coach, coaches are great at date-face, they know exactly what your weaknesses are and they know exactly how to sell to those weaknesses, so it’s really difficult to pick it right and it’s 90 percent luck.”

Cuban recently signed his coach, Rick Carlisle, to a five-year extension.

“If the hardest thing to find is a good coach, you marry him, you put a ring on it,” Cuban said.

Asked about the escalating salary cap that will kick in next season with the new television contract, Cuban said, “It’s going to change a lot. More from a strategy perspective, it makes the value of draft choices go through the roof because they’re pegged at a certain price. Minimum contracts will go through the roof. Anybody that signs for the mid-level, the value goes through the roof.

“It’s going to be a lot of tough decisions. And in reality, if everything sticks to the projections that we come up with, the cap will go down after that. So that changes what you do as well.

“It will be really interesting. There will be some guys that will get way paid. When guys are making $30 million-plus, it’s going to be tough to have more than one of them.”

Cuban said he has no issues paying players such exorbitant salaries because that is the price of a championship.

“What’s a championship worth?” he said. “I always look at it as a team. The biggest mistake people make in this business is they say this player is worth ‘X.’ That’s never the case. When you insert that player as one of 15, if he can increase the value of [the team], he’s cheap.

“I remember back when we [acquired] Erick Dampier [in the middle of a $49 million contract] and everybody said we were idiots. Without that big body, we don’t go to The Finals, and we still should have won that Finals if it weren’t for three blind mice [i.e. the officials].”


No. 2: Deron Williams rebounds — OK, there’s no sense in proclaiming him the leader for comeback story of the year, since Paul George is way ahead and probably won’t look back. But Deron Williams is experiencing somewhat of a rejuvenation in Dallas after being dumped by the Nets and declared finished as a productive player. He’s hardly in All-Star form, yet the Mavericks are surprisingly flourishing right now and Williams is one of the reasons. Last season in Brooklyn, he was on the bench in tight games in favor of Jarrett Jack. But now, the ball’s in his hands and the Mavericks have confidence in him. More importantly, Williams has confidence in himself. Here’s Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News with the details:

He was a crunch-time beast Friday as the Mavericks weathered a hard push from Utah, steadied themselves behind their point guard and whipped the Jazz 102-93 at American Airlines Center for their sixth consecutive victory, matching their longest streak of last season.

At 9-4, the Mavericks hit the road for a three-game trip starting Sunday at Oklahoma City.

Williams finished with 23 points, eight assists, six rebounds and three steals. His 3-pointer after a nice feed from Raymond Felton with two minutes to play put the Mavericks up 95-87. He added to that cushion with a pair of free throws — running his streak to 35 without a miss this season — as the Mavericks finished off the Jazz, who fell behind by 20 but got as close as five down the stretch.

Williams missed almost all of training camp with nagging injuries and had a knee problem early in the regular season. He has rounded into form nicely of late. He took over the Boston game on Wednesday with 11 fourth-quarter points and was every bit as dominant against the Jazz.

Williams isn’t quite ready to pronounce himself as the Mavericks’ closer, but he’s certainly sent a message that he’s capable of doing so.

“Everything’s coming together,” he said. “It’s still early. I don’t want to get ahead of myself. But I definitely feel more comfortable out there. I’m getting opportunities in the fourth. I’ve had a chance to have the ball in my hands at the ends of games, and I can make plays not only for myself and others.”

It’s a nice feeling, one that Williams hasn’t enjoyed often enough in recent seasons. He got overlooked or overshadowed too many times in Brooklyn.

“There were times when I did a lot of standing, a lot of watching,” he said. “And that takes away your aggressiveness. That’s not what I’m good at.”


No. 3:Fast improving Favors is a Utah favorite — Interesting thing about Deron Williams: He cost the Nets a lot, and not just $100 million. Remember, the Nets surrendered a promising teenage power forward named Derrick Favors to get Williams, and years later, it’s clear that Utah came out ahead. Favors’ game is maturing and he’s becoming a double-double guy, following previous Jazz low-post beats who collected doubles, Karl Malone and Al Jefferson. The sixth-year forward spent time with Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune, who offers this:

“I think last year was my first time having fun again, playing basketball,” Favors said. “I got comfortable with talking to the coaches. I felt more responsible and got more comfortable as a team leader. I have more responsibility offensively and defensively. I feel better in my role, and I think that’s made me open up a lot more.”

As the Jazz prepare to face the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday, Favors is shining in his role as a difference-making power forward.

Favors, in his sixth season out of Georgia Tech, is averaging 16 points and nine rebounds per game, to go with 1.5 blocks. He’s been a hub offensively in the post and on the perimeter when he drifts to 15-18 feet from the basket. Defensively, he’s been almost spectacular, not just blocking shots, but in pick-and-roll coverages and defending the perimeter against stretch power forwards and smaller guards.

Beyond the numbers, Favors is playing with an edge previously unseen. For the first time in his career, he’s showing emotion on the floor, scowling after snatching rebounds, celebrating after baskets. People are noticing. Whispers around the league suggest Favors could have a shot at the All-Star Game, if he continues to play well and if the Jazz find consistency in the win column.

Yet, he remains unfazed.

“I think I’ve played well, but I feel like can play a lot better,” Favors said. “As far as offensively, I feel like I can play better, like there’s more stuff I can do. As far as being an All-Star, you never know. You never know how stuff works out, as far as how political the process is.”

So, how has Favors been able to explode? He said the maturation has been six years in the making. He came into the NBA a raw specimen, a 6-foot-10 athletic man-child with few refined skills.

As the No. 3 pick of his draft, Favors was supposed to dominate from the jump. He didn’t, and needed time to adjust, something the then-New Jersey Nets decided they didn’t have enough of. So Favors was brought to Utah in the Deron Williams trade.

Favors was stung by that trade, and to this day plays with a chip because of it. He felt discarded, unwanted at a young age, and was stung by the criticism of him needing development.

The result today is a Favors with an offensive game that’s becoming more well-rounded by the year. He has a consistent jumper. He’s effective with his back to the basket. He’s always been great rebounding the ball for points and he’s becoming a better passer.


No. 4:Warriors not stressing over record — How did we make it this far in the Morning Shootaround without the obligatory Warriors mention? OK, here it goes. The Warriors can tie the NBA record for fastest start tonight against the Nuggets and maybe you’ve heard about that. Well, if you believe the Warriors, they’re taking this historic start in stride, which is in their best interest. Nothing makes these guys sweat, which is easy to avoid when you have Steph Curry on the squad, hitting jumpers, and others filling in. Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle is with the gang and filed this observation:

The Warriors go for 15 wins in a row Sunday night, and they’ll have to descend about 2 miles in order to reach Pepsi Center’s mile-high altitude. This is a team that is locked in and loosey-goosey, a dangerous combo.

Luke Walton, the interim head coach, was talking Friday night about the Warriors’ team vibe. Apparently, behind closed locker-room doors, these fellows laugh a lot. Walton recalled a pregame moment from last season’s NBA Finals. The Warriors were coming off a loss, they were in trouble, looking beatable in Cleveland.

Steve Kerr and his assistants were huddled in their own locker room minutes before show time, mapping last-minute strategy. They were also wondering about the emotional state of their players.

From next door in the Warriors’ locker room, peals of raucous laughter rang out.

Kerr said to his staff, “I guess they’re going to be all right.”

They were. They are.

In this expert’s opinion, the Warriors will not go 82-0 in this regular season. But whatever losses they suffer won’t be due to the pressure finally getting to them.

One of the key elements Kerr brought to the Warriors — and it remains solidly with them even during his absence from bench — is that, dammit, you’d better have fun.

That’s why the Warriors end many practices with a wild free-for-all shooting contest, as mature as a food fight.
Kerr’s philosophy is that this is dead-serious business, but it’s basketball, played best with a soaring spirit and childlike exuberance.

“Fun, that’s the No. 1 priority,” Draymond Green said Friday night. “That’s what coach Kerr has preached from Day 1: Have fun. Got the best job in the world, we come to play basketball for a living, with guys that we like.”

So the streak is not weighing on you?

“Absolutely not. Not at all.”

Of course, it’s easier (I’m guessing) to have fun when you never lose. There will be sterner tests ahead of the Warriors’ joviality. Right now, they’ve got the top down and they’re enjoying the ride.

But enjoying it too much? If Kerr were speaking publicly these days (no timetable on his return, by the way, but indications are that his recovery is progressing) he would likely express some concern about his team getting a little too loose.

Kerr wants the Warriors to be lightning-fast and creative, but not sloppy and careless. He convinced his team last season that it’s possible to be fast and smart.

The last three games, team leader and floor general Stephen Curry has crossed over into Kerr’s concern area, to the point where Kerr kidded Curry about how much money he’s losing to his mom in their ongoing turnovers bet.

Curry averaged 3.9 turnovers last year as the league MVP. He said before the season that, because of the team’s maturing and his own off-season training, he expected turnovers to go down. Sure enough, through the first 11 games, Curry averaged 3.1 turnovers.

But the last three games Curry turned the ball over seven, seven and six times. Too many.

Walton said Curry’s recent turnover flurry was partly due to opponents’ scouting and scheming for Curry’s tendencies, and the Warriors’ coaches and Steph would need to counter.

But some of it is just Curry’s attack/create mentality. He’s not looking to make crazy passes just to show off, but he is constantly seeking a higher level of basketball, which steepens the risk-reward curve.


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Gregg Popovich is amazed that folks in San Antonio want to name schools after him. … Dwyane Wade is getting older and he’s getting smarter. … Lance Stephenson was supposed to help the Clippers, remember? What happened? … Toronto must find a way to minimize the absence of Jonas Valanciunas, out with a broken bone in his non-shooting hand, and good luck with that. … Meanwhile, Brandon Jennings is getting close to making his return.