OAKLAND, Calif. – The crowd let go for good, in appreciation and probably in exhausted release, with about 40 seconds remaining. It was after Draymond Green corralled the defensive rebound of Tim Duncan‘s miss and the final Spurs threat had been denied. They cheered loudly through the final possessions as the clock drained to zero and fans inside Roar-acle Arena realized this actually would happen.
The Warriors really would use limping Stephen Curry … and hobbling David Lee … and have starting bigs Andrew Bogut and Carl Landry pick up three fouls in the first quarter … and need a loudspeaker to reach Andris Biedrins at the end of the bench to use him in the second quarter of the biggest game in at least six seasons … and come back to beat the Spurs 97-87 in overtime Sunday. All while shooting 38 percent.
Pick a description that fits.
Unlikely? For sure, but maybe too understated. That makes it seems like the Warriors had to overcome an obstacle. This was the day when everything went wrong — health, fouls, offense — until it went so right and they had a 2-2 tie in the best-of-seven series that shifts to San Antonio on Wednesday.
Improbable? That works. Golden State grinded enough and the Spurs also shot poorly enough, at 35.5 percent, that the Warriors were able to stay close. But to say it was clear they had that passing gear in them, not a chance. And yet, they went eight down with 4:49 remaining in the fourth to overtime to outscoring the Spurs 13-3 in overtime as San Antonio went 1-for-10 from the field.
Impossible? Too strong. Because this has become the season, as evidenced again Sunday, when nothing is impossible for the Warriors.
“I don’t know a good adjective to use,” Lee said after thinking for a moment. “But it’s definitely satisfying. That’s a good way to put it.”
Satisfying at the very least. The Warriors couldn’t hit a shot in the first half and had 37 points at the break, but didn’t give in to frustration. They knew they were playing hard and with a sharp focus, unlike the lacking effort two days earlier in the Game 3 loss, and that it was just a matter of getting the same good looks to fall. Eleven players had already been used in the patch job by coach Mark Jackson, including Biedrins, who delivered a hold-the-fort three minutes at center in his first appearance since April 12.
The end result was much more than a victory, as if that wasn’t enough at a time like this. The Warriors didn’t get swamped under by adversity, so they grew some more late in what had already been a season of maturation. Curry went from game-time decision (because of the sprained left ankle) to generating all of three shots in the first half to finishing with 22 points while making 5-for-10 from behind the arc and 7-for-15 overall. So, he had survived. Jarrett Jack went from taking local heat for his decision making as the backup point guard to contributing 12 points in the fourth quarter and overtime and 24 overall. He had endured, too.
“It’s because of who we are,” Jackson said. “This is what these guys have been. This is how hard they’ve worked. This is how they’re committed. It’s a special season for this basketball team and this group of guys, this entire organization and its fan base. We’ve done things that show us when we do ‘em how good we can be. I’m not surprised by anything. One thing I know, this team will not lay down, this team will not quit. It looked dark. It looked awfully dark. But we found a way to get stops and make plays.
“I’ve been talking about this group all year long. I’m just so glad that a national TV audience had an opportunity to see exactly what’s been taking place in this area. Like I said, this is the greatest group of guys I’ve been around. … I [have] a young basketball team that’s got incredible heart. I’m so, so proud of those guys, from the first guy to the last guy. You look at a guy like Biedrins. Called upon, gave us great minutes. I mean, we got an incredible group. People beat up Jarrett Jack. ‘Why is he pounding the ball? Bench him.’ I’m going to go with this group until I’m not here. This is a great group and I’m committed to them, they’re committed to me. Just a big-time win. This is a heck of a series.”
It still is, at 2-2 rather than 3-1 with the Spurs heading home and the Warriors afraid to wonder what else can go wrong because then they would find out. It is a heck of series because only almost everything went bad for Golden State on Sunday. It is because Game 4 actually did happen.
OAKLAND –The crowd at Roaracle Arena was the best kind of insane, refusing to sit for long stretches throughout much of the building, turning the building into a cauldron that sent people into the night with their ears buzzing, reaching a level of frenzy that reached the days of the 2007 playoffs here with the “We Believe” team.
This was a release. Obviously within the locker room because the Warriors were underdogs as the No. 6 team in the Western Conference that had just advanced at the expense of No. 3 Denver, but almost everyone had arrived in the last few years. Obviously for management and ownership that had taken public abuse for – oh, heavens! – trading Monta Ellis among other decisions that obviously had zero chance of working out, but the bosses were also new. Their bad memories were measured in months.
Thursday night and the 92-88 win over the Nuggets and the 4-2 series victory was about the years. It obviously would have been a special moment under any circumstances, beating a quality opponent and advancing to the semifinals to face the Spurs beginning Monday. But there is an added celebration for those who had truly endured.
“It seems like at least 10,” said reserve center Andris Biedrins, the only remaining Warrior from when it seemed so far-fetched to have confidence in making the playoffs and then advancing that “We Believe” became the popular catchphrase. “I swear. It seems so long ago.”
The ownership change.
The guarantees the Warriors would make the playoffs that turned out to be a bad campaign promise.
The roster changes.
This was just one night, and a reminder of how being Golden State means never being in the clear, the way the Warriors went from being up 18 with 9:11 remaining to needing to desperately hang on while trying to give the game away with 10 fourth-quarter turnovers. Except that it was so much more than just one night.
“It means a lot,” Biedrins said. “The team has come a long way. All the changes. The ownership came. We were on the right track. I think now, finally, we realize that we are finally getting the feedback. Fans deserve it, the organization, the city, the Bay Area — at the end of the day, we finally got there.”
Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.
The one recap to watch: When a player has 90 points over his last two games, it’s a sure bet his game is the must-watch recap of the morning. That being said, what Carmelo Anthony did against the Hawks last night in Atlanta was a thing of beauty (unless, of course, you’re a Hawks fan). ‘Melo systematically picked apart the Hawks’ defense with some nice passes and since Atlanta opted to not double team one of the NBA’s best scorers (and a man on a hot streak of late), he torched them for 40 points for good measure. The Hang Time Podcast crew gets into a good debate/discussion about what all this regular-season scoring means for a player who has yet to have more than one deep playoff run. It’s a worthy discussion to listen to, but if you don’t have time, just watch the Knicks’ No. 1 option go to work on the Hawks.
Report: Williams plans to forsake more cortisone shots — Deron Williams‘ season can basically be broken into two categories: the pre-platelet-rich plasma injections portion and the post-PRP portion. The former occurred up until mid-February, which is when Williams decided to have the PRP treatment done on his bothersome ankles and since then has looked more and more like the All-Star/superstar guard he has been throughout his career. While there was a notion that Williams would need cortisone shots for his ankles just before the playoffs begin, D-Will is scrapping those plans, writes Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:
When the playoffs roll around, Deron Williams says he won’t need the high dosage pain killers that helped salvage his season.
The point guard plans to ride this out cortisone-free.
Having braced himself for continued ankle pain and a fourth round of shots just before the playoffs started, Deron Williams told the Daily News on Wednesday that his treatments in February were so successful that injections aren’t necessary prior to the postseason in late April.
It’s a welcome development for Williams, who is aware of the longterm dangers of injecting too much cortisone – a hormone steroid which, used liberally as an anti-inflammatory, can weaken cartilage in the joints, leaving it susceptible to damage or ruptured tendons.
Doctors typically recommend athletes don’t take more than four injections per year, and Williams is happy he doesn’t have to test the limits with a fourth round.
“That’s a good thing,” said Williams, who indicated in February that he “probably” will receive injections before the playoffs.
Williams originally injured his left ankle during training camp for the Olympics, just after signing a five-year, $98 million contract with the Nets. At some point he injured his other ankle, and underwent his first round of cortisone shots in October.
By the time he received his third round in February, Williams was hobbling around the court and undergoing his worst season as a professional. His last cortisone shots were preceded by PRP injections to both ankles about a week prior.
Not coincidentally, Williams’ season turned around after the All-Star break. He’s also 20 pounds lighter, quicker, averaging more points, more assists, less turnovers and shooting at a better percentage.
Williams has said his latest cortisone injections were “finally in the right spot.”
Clippers’ Hill might retire after season — When the Suns decided to embark on their (somewhat puzzling) rebuilding plan, it meant bringing back Grant Hill for a sixth season in Phoenix was a long-shot-at-best proposition. Hill didn’t sit on the summer’s free-agent market for long once he and Phoenix couldn’t reach a deal, as he signed a two-year deal with the Clippers and looked like a piece that would bolster an up-and-coming squad. However, a bone bruise on his right knee kept Hill off the court until Jan. 12 and, since finally playing, he’s averaging career lows across the board. With the injury problems in mind and given Hill’s age (40), the former Rookie of the Year winner tells Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic he might hang it up after this season:
Hill expected to return to Phoenix for a sixth Suns season when he stayed in the Valley to train last summer. The Suns made a one-year, minimum-salary offer of $1.35 million and the Clippers came with a two-year, $4 million one while Oklahoma City and Chicago also pursued him.
Hill, 40, joined the Clippers, began the season on the inactive list after suffering a bone bruise to his right knee, the one which underwent two arthroscopies since 2011 in Phoenix, and did not play until Jan. 12. Hill likely will not make it to that second contract year and opt to retire this summer.
“Strong chance,” Hill said. “I’m leaning toward it. I want to get to the end of the year and off-season and think about it but I’m pretty confident that’s where my mind is right now. I’ve enjoyed it.”
Except for a brief 2008 experiment under then-Suns coach Terry Porter, Hill always had started in his career until this season, when he often is not in the 10-man rotation.
“That knee injury (bone bruise) set me back a bit in terms of staying healthy and getting in the rotation so that hasn’t been good,” Hill said. “But I wouldn’t change it one bit other than to be hurt early in the year. I like the situation. I like my teammates. We’ve had an up-and-down season. We’ve experienced every emotion you can. We’re still battling for that third spot. We haven’t played well of late but we still have a chance to correct it. We have the ability and the talent to beat anybody. I have no regrets. It’s been a great experience.”
Much like with friend Steve Nash’s summer departure from Phoenix to Los Angeles, Hill did not receive the interest he expected or wanted from Phoenix and chose Los Angeles to stay competitive and close to his kids in the Valley. Hill takes trips home on off-days and will return to the Valley when the season is over.
There have long been hopes by many in the Suns organization that Hill would return in a front-office role when he retires.
“I’ve really just focused on enjoying the last year, if this is the last year, and not focusing on the future,” Hill said. “We’ll get to the end and once the end’s over, I’ll start worrying about what I’m going to do from there.”
Warriors make their own beard pact — In case you’ve been living on another planet for a few months, you might have been oblivious to the much-reported fact the Dallas Mavericks started growing beards as a show of unity that they pledged to keep until they reached .500. The Warriors, who are well above .500 and headed for their first playoff berth since 2007, are also growing beards themselves — even if everyone isn’t on board with the plan. Marcus Thompson IIof The Oakland Tribune has the details:
The Warriors have made a pact that everyone will grow beards until they clinch a playoff spot. No shaving. No trimming.
“The worse it looks, the better it is for the team,” David Lee said.
From the looks of it, though, Andris Biedrins isn’t on board. He looked cleanly shaven Wednesday. And the patch on rookie Harrison Barnes‘ chin looked well groomed.
Coach Mark Jackson is even in on it. His shadow was turning into some rough real estate at practice, highlighted by some gray strands. But he had his facial mane neatened.
There was talk about extended the beard pact through the playoffs. But Stephen Curry wasn’t a fan of that idea.
“This thing,” he said at Wednesday’s shootaround, scratching his grizzled neck. “I’ve already got lint all in it.”
Garcia has empathy for Kings’ supporters — Rockets swingman Francisco Garcia has played 473 games over eight seasons in the NBA, with 462 of those games played coming as a member of the Sacramento Kings. As a rookie, he was a member of the last Sacramento squad to make the postseason and spent the bulk of his younger years in the NBA in California’s capital city as the Kings trudged through losing season after losing season. He also hasn’t been oblivious to the potential sale of the Kings to a Chris Hansen and a Seattle-based group that wants to buy the team and rebrand them as the Seattle SuperSonics. Yesterday, groups from both Sacramento and Seattle presented their proposed bids to Commissioner David Stern and other league officials and although no decision on the Kings’ future is expected for a while (our own David Aldridgehas the full details), Garcia is watching and feels for Kings fans, writes Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:
He could have anticipated he would return to Sacramento for the first time with another team. He never could have imagined the possibility it could be his last time as well.
“My first years were great,” Garcia said. “There was a sellout every game. There’s not a lot of cities that were like we were when I first got there.”
While Garcia and the Rockets prepared to go against the Kings on Wednesday night, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson was in New York to present the offer of a local group to purchase the Kings from the Maloof family and prevent the sale to a group that would move the team to Seattle.
After spending most of the last two seasons in the heart of the battle, from the near move to Anaheim through the handshake deal to remain in Sacramento and finally the Seattle-Sacramento tug of war to be decided by the Board of Governors meeting April 18 and 19, Garcia can’t begin to handicap how the competition will end.
On Wednesday, the groups vying for the Kings — Steve Ballmer and Chris Hansen are seeking to buy them and move them to Seattle; Ron Burkle, Mark Mastrov and Vivek Ranadive are bidding to buy them and keep them in Sacramento — made the presentation to a Board of Governors sub-committee, which later will make its recommendation.
Garcia could not help but feel empathy for the fans who supported the Kings so faithfully through much of his career.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said. “One guy is saying this; another guy is saying that. I don’t know. I’d be sad (if the Kings leave Sacramento). It’s such a great city. They’re great fans. They’ve been supporting the team for a long time.
“It’s great. It’s a great city. I have nothing but good things to say about Sacramento. I had a great eight years there.”
ICYMI of the night: Trevor Ariza shows the kids at home why the pivot foot is important … and that having a little luck is important, too… :
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Faith and passion are things Golden State Warriors fans have always possessed in surplus. And they’ll be tested in both categories this season as they hold their collective breath when training camp begins and they finally see exactly what their team will look like in the flesh.
There is so much to like on paper, with offensive firepower in nearly every direction.
Steph Curry is reportedly healthy and healed, ready to get back on the court and resume his rise. Youngsters like Klay Thompson and rookie Harrison Barnes have extremely high ceilings. David Lee and his non-stop motor is always ready to go. And veteran role players like Jarrett Jack, Richard Jefferson, Carl Landry, Andris Biedrins and Brandon Rush will provide the quality depth coach Mark Jackson needs to deliver on the promise for the future the franchise is selling.
That leaves one glaring question mark for the Warriors, one that only Andrew Bogut‘s body can answer.
If he’s ready this season, whenever he returns to action from the ankle injury that has sidelined him for the past eight months, the Warriors could be ready to take the next step. If not, well … Warriors fans know the refrain better than most.
Bogut knows that this is a pivotal year in his career, too. A fresh start after an up and down seven-season stretch in Milwaukee. When healthy, he was among the best big men in the league and a true defensive anchor for a playoff-caliber team. But Bogut has played in all 82 games just once in his career, way back in his rookie season.
Q: Do you have a sense about how this team is going to play?
-BOGUT: It’s hard right now. But obviously we’re going to be a scoring team. We have some flat-out scorers on our team–Steph and Klay and Harrison Barnes is a scorer, too. He can be very aggressive. David Lee and myself. The list goes on. Richard Jefferson as well.
I think our focus isn’t going to be offense so much in training camp. That’s what we’re focused on in these drills we’re doing in the preseason, there’s a lot of defensive focus.
That’s been a weakness here not just last season but for a number of years–the defense wasn’t a priority. So we’re trying to change that.
We know you’re not going to win many games and even if you do, you’re not going to win many playoff series scoring 110 points a game. That’s just not going to happen.
The math and the numbers and the stats say if you can grind down teams, keep them under 100, generally you’ve got a good chance to win.
-Q: How much of that is on you?
-BOGUT: A lot of it, yeah. Definitely a lot of it. I can be the vocal point in the paint, can see the whole floor and talk and communicate, block shots, take charges.
But the other thing we struggled with last year, when we did get stops, we didn’t get the rebound. I think we were the second-worst defensive rebounding team in the league. So it doesn’t make sense to work hard, get the stop and then Dwight Howard gets a tip-in. It kind of demoralizes the whole feel.
So that’s on me and David Lee to make sure we get those defensive rebounds.
-Q: You bring up Howard. What’d you think when Dwight and [Steve] Nash end up in LA?
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS –Tyson Chandler has been in high demand before.
It’s been a while, probably all the way back to when he was a high school star, that he’s experienced at its current levels. But he’s familiar with the recruiting game. And in a free agent season where the true, franchise-changing players are rare, Chandler stands out.
That’s probably why you’ve seen his name associated with so many different teams as Friday, the first day players can sign contracts and offer sheets with teams, approaches.
New Warriors coach Mark Jackson had a front row seat for the defensive showcase Chandler put on during The Finals and knows what a difference a defensive stalwart can make for an offensive-minded bunch set on transforming itself into a playoff outfit. There’s also the matter of having an elder statesmen, of sorts, to help guide his young crew.
It would take some major roster finagling, but the Warriors’ front office is aggressively studying all of the requisite moves to make the signing a possibility. Also, the team’s best players seem to be in support of the bold changes that could open salary space for Chandler.
“It’d be huge,” said point guard Stephen Curry, who spent six weeks with Chandler on the USA Basketball team last summer. “He’s a game-changer down low. That’s a coveted role that a lot of teams want to add to their roster.
“If he’s a guy who puts a Warriors’ jersey on, it’d be a huge addition.” …
The bidding among a weak free-agent class is going to be especially high for Chandler, who is widely credited with changing the defensive culture of the Dallas Mavericks, helping to turn them into NBA champions last season. Chandler is expected to get $12 million to $15 million a season over a four-year deal.
That in itself would be way outside the Warriors’ price range, but general manager Larry Riley said there are ways to free up that much cap space. After they sign their three rookies (Klay Thompson, Jeremy Tyler and Charles Jenkins), the Warriors will have about $6 million in cap space. They then would have to use the amnesty clause on Charlie Bell, paying the waived guard $4 million but not counting his salary against the cap, and trade center Andris Biedrins‘ three-year, $27 million contract without taking much salary in return.
It’ll take some salary-cap creativity and some serious behind-the-scenes work to get it done, obviously. But the Warriors, with their new front office structure and the addition of Jerry West, should have all the tools needed to make something happen.
If Chandler and Paul both find their way to Oakland, the best fans in the league will once again have (the makings of) a team worthy of their devotion.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – As if things weren’t interesting enough for the Golden State Warriors this season, former Warriors coach Don Nelson is weighing in now.
And if there is any validity to what he has to say, more on that in a second, then the new ownership situation for the Warriors couldn’t have come at a better time.
In a Monday night interview on “Chronicle Live” on CSN Bay Area, Nelson aired some of his own dirty laundry and that of many others. You have to read some of it to believe it, courtesy of Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle:
In his most provocative comment, Nelson seemed to say he was fired primarily for asking center Andris Biedrins to shoot his free throws underhanded. Biedrins shot an NBA-worst 16 percent in 2009-10, Nelson’s final season.
“I got fired when I asked him to (shoot underhanded),” Nelson said, and there was no follow-up question. Nelson maintained that he had Rick Barry lined up to instruct Biedrins.
The Warriors beefed up their frontcourt by coming to terms with free agent Louis Amundson, his agent told NBA.com on Monday. Amundson, 27, was one of the last quality big men on the market. He joins Golden State to provide depth behind David Lee and Andris Biedrins.
The deal is for two years at slightly less than $5 million. The second year is a player option.
“It was obviously a long process and he had a number of teams pursuing him,” agent Mark Bartelstein said. “We ultimately felt this was a huge decision in his career. He’s made great strides the last few years and to get to where he wants to go, and he needed to pick the right place. Golden State was that place.”
Amundson spent the last two seasons with Phoenix, becoming a valuable cog on one of the deepest benches around. He averaged career highs in points (4.7) points, rebounds (4.4) and minutes (14.8), while shooting 55.1 percent from the floor.
Amundson was also known for his dogged defense and hustle, becoming a favorite with fans and inside the Suns locker room. The undrafted four-year veteran out of UNLV spent the first two years of his career with Utah and Philadelphia.
Warriors general manager Larry Riley targeted signing Amundson as a top priority to round out the team’s frontcourt. New Orleans, Indiana, Toronto and Charlotte also reportedly had interest in Amundson.
“He brings energy and a physical presence that we needed, plus he is an experienced player who has played in a system similar to the Warriors,” Riley said. “He is a tireless worker on both ends of the floor.”