Posts Tagged ‘David Lee’

O’Neal, Warriors Need Each Other

Six-time All-Star Jermaine O'Neal is looking to cap off his stellar career with a ring.

Six-time All-Star Jermaine O’Neal is looking to cap off his stellar career with a ring in Oakland.

DALLAS – Jermaine O’Neal has in motion multiple business ventures ranging from technology to restaurants to real estate. A “retirement house” — his words — under construction in an upscale suburb northwest of Dallas is less than a month away from completion. His wife, 7-year-old son and a 14-year-old, nationally ranked volleyball-playing daughter are already settled in their strategically chosen retirement city.

O’Neal, 35, has spent the past six years meticulously planning each detail of his family’s approaching future together beyond basketball.

“Sometimes as a black athlete we get judged by what we can do with our feet and our hands and not enough of what we can do with our minds,” O’Neal said. “I want to show people just how successful I can be away from basketball.”

Still, one nagging detail hovers over an NBA career that started in 1996. O’Neal sought out the team for what is likely his final season as thoughtfully as he went about setting up the next chapter for his life. The Golden State Warriors, a young team bursting with talent and expectation, seemed the logical landing spot for a wise, grizzled veteran to share battle stories and hunt down team glory one last time.

In this respect, O’Neal needs the Warriors right now as much as they just might need him.

“He’s a guy we went and got for that reason,” Warriors coach Mark Jackson said.

“I don’t have very many regrets because the NBA has been a life tool for me in many different ways, but one thing I do regret, and I tell these guys a lot, is not respecting the moment,” O’Neal told last week during the stop in Dallas. “The moment is when you get an opportunity to be a great team, have a chance at doing something that’s extremely special, that’s very difficult to do. Not capturing that moment and doing what’s necessary to seize that ability, that championship smell and everything, thinking that you’re going to have next year and the year after and the year after; that next year may never come.

“Here I am in my 18th season still looking for that moment.”

VIDEO: Jermaine O’Neal scores on a driving layup vs. the Pelicans

O’Neal, averaging 6.5 ppg and 4.6 rpg in 18.8 mpg backing up starting center Andrew Bogut, reflects on the nonsensical twist his greatest shot at a title with the the Indiana Pacers took as if it were yesterday.

“We were young and we were built to be good for a very long time. You couldn’t have told me at any point that we weren’t going to be able to compete, and then the brawl happened (at Detroit in 2004), I got hurt and then it was all downhill after that,” O’Neal said. “As a player you respect every player that wins a championship, but you envy it sometimes because you know the time you put in, you know the heartache, the blood, sweat and tears you put in over many, many years and you haven’t got the opportunity to taste that champagne, feel the emotions of winning it, having the tears of joy.

“That’s one thing that I’ve always wanted to do.”

Warriors second-year forward Draymond Green figures he was six or seven years old when he first remembered watching a young O’Neal play for the Portland Trail Blazers. Growing up in Michigan, Green watched O’Neal dominate in the Eastern Conference with the Pacers. From 2001-07, the 6-foot-11, six-time All-Star recorded six consecutive seasons of 19-plus points, eight-plus rebounds and at least two blocks. In the first three he averaged a double-double.

O’Neal is one of five first-round picks from the ’96 Draft still going: Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Ray Allen and Derek Fisher. Warriors forward David Lee laughed as he suggested that George Mikan was also in that class. And before Green could answer the question about the first time he recalled seeing O’Neal play, Lee butted in: “I was in my crib” — no slang intended.

That’s OK because O’Neal not only accepts the role of wise, old veteran, he relishes it. He’s been exceptionally vocal in the locker room recently as an already wounded team lost defensive ace Andre Iguodala to a hamstring injury.  Adversity has come early in a season that, at 10-8, hasn’t followed a championship script.

“I keep telling the guys these are the things that build the character of a team,” O’Neal said. “You go through the trials and tribulations to start the season and you learn how to depend on your team rather than depend on just two or three guys. We don’t have any conference finals, NBA Finals experience outside of me, so it’s my job to give these guys the stories and sometimes the hard love of what it takes to get to that level because it’s a very difficult thing. And they listen. This is a situation where everybody really likes each other. I was kind of blown away when I got here just how good these young guys were and what the limits were for our team, and the sky’s the limit for our team.”

Following last Friday’s loss at Dallas, O’Neal sat at his locker with ice bags wrapped around both knees and his right thigh. He flexed a sore wrist. All-in-all though, the oft-injured center who recently missed five games with a knee bruise and a groin strain, said he’s feeling pretty good.

He nearly retired two seasons ago. His knees ached so badly he played in just 49 games in two seasons for the Celtics. With two surgeries already on his left knee, O’Neal said he was on the verge of retirement. That’s when Kobe raved to him about the treatments he’s received in Germany, and urged him to try the Regenokine therapy that has yet to be approved by the FDA. O’Neal has gone to Germany the last two summers and swears by the treatment, resuming workouts he said he abandoned many years ago.

Still, this is it O’Neal truly believes. His business ventures are in place. The house is almost finished. His family is entrenched in the Southlake, Texas community, and is ready for him to become a permanent fixture in their lives.

“I tell these guys all the time that I’m one of the rare players that sat on probably every aspect of professional basketball, all the good, all the bad,” O’Neal said. “You look at one point we were rolling — shoe deals, commercials, max deals, whatever it was — to being broken down physically and mentally with injuries; to being rolling with a team, being one of the best teams in the league to basically being devastated by the brawl.”

So now here he sits, knowing this is very likely one-and-done, knocking on wood, telling his stories and hoping for the best.

“If I can get an opportunity to play for that championship,” O’Neal said, “it would almost be storybook-like.”

VIDEO: Jermaine O’Neal explains why he signed with the Warriors

Spurs’ Bench Propelling Hot Start

VIDEO: Spurs bench players Marco Belinelli and Matt Bonner connect for a nice play

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The Spurs’ starting lineup was a big part of their defensive improvement last season. It was the best defensive lineup in the league and outscored its opponents by 18.1 points per 100 possessions in its 364 minutes.

This season, that same starting lineup hasn’t been too good It’s been pretty bad offensively (with Tim Duncan shooting less than 40 percent) and has actually been outscored by four points in 99 minutes. Yet the Spurs are 13-1 and rank in the top six in both offensive and defensive efficiency, because they have the best bench in the league right now.

While the Spurs’ starters have basically broke even, all other San Antonio lineups have outscored their opponents by 16.1 points per 100 possessions, playing great on both ends of the floor.

Spurs efficiency

Lineup GP MIN Pace OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
Starters 10 99 95.8 93.5 92.7 +0.8 -4
Other lineups 14 572 97.2 108.3 92.2 +16.1 +173
Total 14 671 97.0 106.1 92.3 +13.9 +169

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions

There are two aspects to having a great bench, and neither have to do with how many points the players off the bench score. You just have to go back to the 2010-11 and 2011-12 Chicago Bulls for an example of a great bench that didn’t score a lot of points. That group built on leads because they were great defensively.

Building on leads (or decreasing deficits) is obviously the most important trait of a good bench. But keeping your starters fresh is also critical (and obviously related to how well you build leads). Through Tuesday, every player on the Spurs is averaging less than 30 minutes a game and the five starters have played just 52 percent of the teams total minutes. You couldn’t ask for a better start to the season from a roster.

No other contender in the Western Conference has had the bench success that the Spurs’ “Foreign Legion” crew has had, but some have done well with their reserve minutes.

Note: Before the season started, six West teams would have been considered as “contenders.” Portland has been added to this group, because they’re off to such a hot start and also because their bench was their primary issue last season.

Efficiency from lineups other than starters

Team GP MIN Pace OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
Golden State 15 532 98.3 97.8 97.2 +0.6 -1
Houston 15 665 100.4 106.4 101.5 +4.9 +36
L.A. Clippers 15 448 100.4 107.1 105.9 +1.2 +10
Memphis 14 513 91.8 99.4 104.0 -4.6 -47
Oklahoma City 12 483 99.6 106.0 96.1 +9.9 +81
Portland 15 442 97.1 106.9 101.6 +5.2 +64

Note: This includes lineups with 1-4 starters on the floor. It also includes lineups that started games when regular starters weren’t healthy or before a coach (Kevin McHale) made a lineup change.

Each team is its own case. Some have had their starters healthy for every game, some have not, and one – Houston – has already made a major change to its starting lineup.

Golden State

The Warriors’ starting lineup – Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, David Lee and Andrew Bogut – has been ridiculously good offensively, scoring 118.8 points per 100 possessions in 192 minutes together. Combine that with solid defensive numbers and they’ve been the league’s best lineup (minimum 75 minutes) thus far.

Bench units (which include lineups that have started games that Curry and Iguodala have missed) have been strong defensively, but weak offensively. When Curry has been off the floor, the Dubs have scored an ugly 87.5 points per 100 possessions.

Breaking even will do when your starting lineup is so good, and the Warriors are in good shape if they’re healthy. But it’s clear that Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry will be missed if injuries keep popping up.


The Rockets moved Terrence Jones into the starting lineup just seven games ago and have been without James Harden in three games since then, so their optimal starting lineup has played just 69 minutes together and their numbers above include lineups that have started 11 of their 15 games. That set includes lineups with both Dwight Howard and Omer Asik that we know were bad offensively.

So it’s difficult to gather much from these numbers. We do know that the new starting group, with Patrick Beverley and Harden in the backcourt, has been terrific so far. And we do know that the Rockets have been strong defensively – allowing just 95.7 points per 100 possessions – with Asik on the floor without Howard. So that’s a good sign for their bench … at least until Asik gets traded.

L.A. Clippers

As we all expected, the Clippers’ starting lineup has been great, especially offensively. It currently ranks as the fifth best lineup in the league. But the five starters have played over 68 percent of the team’s minutes, the second highest mark among the seven teams we’re looking at here.

Last season, when the Clippers had a great defensive second unit, that number was 51 percent. This season, they’re suffering on both ends of the floor when they go to their bench and though their starters have been solid on defense, they currently rank as a bottom 10 defensive team.

A healthy Matt Barnes will help, but a defensive big off the bench is needed. Lamar Odom was exactly that for them last season and you can understand why the Clips are monitoring his progress as he works his way back into shape.


The Grizzlies’ starters weren’t what they were last season, when they outscored their opponents by 13.1 points per 100 possessions after the Rudy Gay trade. This season, they were just a plus-0.8 in 169 minutes together. But losing Marc Gasol (out indefinitely with a sprained MCL) is obviously a huge blow.

The new starting group (with Kosta Koufos in Gasol’s place) was an encouraging plus-12 in 33 minutes against the Spurs and Rockets. But the impact of Gasol’s injury might be felt most in the bench units, which have been poor already. Jerryd Bayless and Quincy Pondexter, two guys who are supposed to bring offense off the bench, have shot a combined 32 percent.

Oklahoma City

We thought that, in the wake of Kevin Martin‘s departure, bench production was going to be a problem for the Thunder. But OKC’s bench units have been terrific, ranking second to only the Spurs in terms of NetRtg. The Thunder have outscored their opponents by an amazing 17.7 points per 100 possessions with Reggie Jackson on the floor.

The issue with the Thunder is the starting lineup, which has been outscored by 12.4 points per 100 possessions in its 97 minutes. Of the 27 lineups that have played at least 75 minutes together this season, that ranks 25th, ahead only the original starting lineups of the Kings and Jazz. In those situations, both coaches have already made changes.

Scott Brooks will surely have more patience with his group, which was excellent (plus-12.3 points per 100 possessions) last season. The starting group has basically been bad in three games (minus-31 against the Pistons, Wizards and Nuggets) and OK in three games (plus-7 against the Suns, Mavs and Clippers). And the success of the bench units has far outweighed the starters’ struggles. Still, it’s something to keep an eye on going forward.


Last season, the Blazers’ “other lineups” got outscored by 5.2 points per 100 possessions. No team suffered more offensively when a particular player stepped off the floor than Portland did when Damian Lillard sat down. So the bench, along with better defense from their center position, was the focus of their summer moves.

So far, so good, as the Blazers’ bench units have basically turned that number around, outscoring their opponents by that same 5.2 points per 100 possessions. They’ve scored a solid 103.5 points per 100 possessions when Lillard has sat, and he doesn’t have to lead the league in minutes this year.

The issue is that those bench units still include a lot of minutes from the starters. Lillard, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge and Robin Lopez account for more than 72 percent of the team’s total minutes. It’s obviously a younger group, but compare that with the 52 percent the Spurs’ starters account for.

Preseason China Trip Could Impact All-Star Vote For Warriors

VIDEO: Warriors visit the Great Wall of China

HANG TIME WEST – The other part of their China trip began Friday, with the start of voting for the 2014 All-Star game and the possibility that the Warriors playing in Beijing and Shanghai in October could help them with New Orleans in February.

It is one of the ancillary benefits of the preseason trip for two games against the Lakers, and it is far down the line even among those trickle-down factors, but it cannot be completely overlooked: Golden State has one returning All-Star (David Lee), another very strong candidate (Stephen Curry) and other possibilities (Andrew Bogut, if his minutes increase, and maybe Andre Iguodala), and now they have a new connection with the most populous nation in the world as balloting opens via several electronic platforms.

“That’s an interesting point,” Lee said. “With the sheer numbers, it can, I guess, make a difference.”

The problem for the Warriors is that it would have to make a huge difference in the fan balloting that determines the starting lineup for the midseason showcase, before coaches choose the reserves in their respective conference. A season ago, after all, Curry finished eighth among guards while Lee was 10th in frontcourt voting. They need a massive jump just to get in contention, and while playing catchup in popularity with Kobe Bryant, Jeremy Lin, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, Ricky Rubio, Steve Nash and Chris Paul in the top 10 of jersey sales in China in 2012-13 among West players alone.

But Curry in particular is better known everywhere after his star turn in the playoffs and subsequent major marketing deal with Under Armour that has included overseas personal appearances. The higher profile plus the good start to 2013-14 for a team that should challenge for the top half of the West playoff bracket, plus the new China connection, should generate a spike at the ballot box. The uncertainty is whether it will be enough of a bump, even with injuries to Bryant and Nash, for Curry to make up close to the 1.42 million votes he finished behind Bryant and the 760,000 votes he finished behind Paul, and that’s just to get into the conversation for starter.

“I haven’t thought about the voting,” Curry said. “It’s not motivation to do it. But I know if you come over to China and the hopefully the plans we have with the shoe company (Under Armour) and all that other extra stuff, it’s all part of a plan. All-Star voting is kind of secondary to all that.”

Lee similarly finished far behind the starters in the frontcourt, Durant (1.39 million more votes), Dwight Howard (756,000 more) and Griffin (698,000). He has the same benefit as Curry of the Warriors being more visible than a year ago at this time, but unlike his teammate did not seem to reach new individual levels of prominence since finishing 10th in fan balloting for the 2013 game before coaches sent him to Houston as a reserve.

As Lee noted, though: the sheer numbers. Even a small fraction of new support from China, a country with about four times the population of the United States and Canada combined, can impact.

“I hadn’t really thought about it, but it’s a good point,” he said during the October trip to China. “One of the really cool things about being over here is interacting with a whole new fan base that we would have had no other way of interacting with unless we were over here. I hadn’t thought about it that way (with regards to All-Star voting). But with their huge population over here, I’m sure it’s going to make a lot more Lakers and Warriors fans after this week.”

The Lakers didn’t need the additional global presence. But the Warriors may soon find out if the visits to Beijing and Shanghai paid off with unexpected benefits.

New And Improved Warriors Are More Than Just An Offensive Machine

VIDEO: Check out the Warriors’ rout of the Sixers via Phantom Cam

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The Golden State Warriors’ offensive prowess sells tickets in Oakland and beyond. Their ability to score points in bunches is what makes them one of the NBA’s most entertaining teams.

But it’s their defensive work that will set them apart this season. It’s what will make them the contender they appear to be (the contender some of us went out on a limb and predicted them to be this season) through the early stages of this season.

Their underrated defensive work was on display in Monday night’s rout of the surprising Philadelphia 76ers team, a crew that had already scored big wins over the reigning champion Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls in the first week of the season.

The Warriors weren’t having it. They made sure their offensive aggressiveness worked double-time for them. They attacked Sixers rookie Michael Carter-Williams, taking him out of the comfort zone he’d been in with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson attacking him non-stop, and unleashed Andre Iguodala on his former teammates in a way that put both teams in a different light after the Warriors were finished.

Mark Jackson‘s team is not the one-trick outfit you assume them to be, as Marcus Thompson II of The Oakland Tribune pointed out in the aftermath in Philly:

Curry attacked him relentlessly on offense, either losing him off the dribble or running him off screens. He set the tone for Golden State’s vibrant ball movement, which had the offense clicking from the outset. Through three quarters, the Warriors had 98 points on 49.3 percent shooting with 25 assists on 37 made baskets.

On the other end, the Warriors dispatched Thompson to use his size and length to keep Carter-Williams out of the paint. Carter-Williams finished with 18 points on 4-of-17 shooting with four assists, six rebounds and six turnovers.

With the head of the snake in check, the 76ers managed just 35.2 percent shooting with a season-high 24 turnovers and a season-low 19 assists.

“I give them credit,” Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said. “They’re a very underrated defensive team. … They’re noted for their offense, and they’re noted for their barrage of 3-point threats and scorers, but they actually are an excellent defensive team with all the pieces.”

Brown’s perspective should be duly noted by other coaches who will face these Warriors this season. They are a deeper and more experienced team than they were last season.

They’ll also be more formidable on the defensive side of the floor with the addition of Iguodala, not to mention healthy bigs Andrew Bogut and David Lee.

But the real beauty of what Jackson has working with the Warriors this season will be his unleashing of Curry and Thompson as whirlwind offensive forces that put so much pressure on opposing backcourts to either keep pace with them that they force said opposition into uncomfortable positions all over the floor.

The ability to deploy Curry and Thompson in that way is what will elevate the Warriors this season and allow them to become much more than just an offensive machine.

Five Fearless Predictions For 2013-14

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We can talk all we want about what we saw in the preseason, but it doesn’t mean a thing come Tuesday night. The real NBA season starts then, opening night of the 2013-14 campaign, flush with three matchups that we’ve all been waiting to see for months.

We get to see contenders in all three instances. The Pacers host the Magic in their opener at 7 p.m. ET (League Pass) as an appetizer for the Heat hosting the Bulls on banner night at 8 p.m. ET (TNT) and we finish things off with the Clippers and Lakers squaring off at Staples Center at 10:30 p.m. ET (TNT), capping a fine opening night with the LA upstarts trying once again to upset the establishment.

We don’t have to wait until opening night to unveil our five fearless predictions for the 2013-14 season. We can do that right now with all the certainty in the world that our crystal basketball will serve as our guiding force throughout this season.

Call me crazy (and believe me, you will after this) … but this is what these eyes see on the horizon:

1) The Heat’s Three-Peat Dream Will Not Be Realized
No one will dispute the fact that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the Miami Heat have been stellar champions in each of the past two seasons. What they’ve done, what they have overcome to hoist the last two Larry O’Brien trophies has been nothing short of remarkable, given that they’ve played with a giant bulls eye on their chests in each of the past three seasons. But fatigue and the competition catches up to the champs this season. They have worthy adversaries within the conference (Pacers, Bulls, Knicks, Nets) and a stacked crew from the Western Conference (Spurs, Clippers, Thunder, Warriors, Rockets and others) ready to tear each other apart to get a shot at the Heat. The Heat make it back to The Finals for a fourth straight time this season but are bruised and battered from a brutal Eastern Conference playoff road when they get there. Another seven-game conference final, this time against the Bulls, pushes them to the limit. They fail to seal the deal in The Finals, falling to an inspired Golden State Warriors team that shot the Houston Rockets out of the Western Conference finals in six games.

2) The Return Of Rose Is Real 
Derrick Rose was right and you were wrong. He did not need to rush back last season from ACL surgery and the Bulls will be better this season because of that decision. That also means Rose reclaims his spot among the top five players in the league and as the top (ahem, sorry Chris Paul) point guard in the game with his triumphant return. Go ahead and wipe your eyes and look at it again. The preseason show Rose put on in limited minutes (24 points, six assists, three rebounds plus 50 percent shooting from the floor and 42 percent from deep) will continue as the regular season goes on. The Bulls showed us last season that they were still be a problem in the East without Rose. Now that he’s back and they are healthy, with the ranks reinforced, Tom Thibodeau‘s team will resume its quest to knock off the Heat and earn a long-awaited trip back to The Finals. That’s a year off, but the conference finals is a stage Rose gets his chance to shine on this year. While Kobe BryantRajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook and others ponder their returns from significant injury, they’d be wise to pay attention to the way Rose handled his (his critics owe him the kind courtesy of admitting they were wrong) and adjust accordingly.

3) Say Hello To Your New MVP … Kevin Durant
One unintended side effect of Russell Westbrook’s lingering injury issue will be the appreciation gained by voters in the MVP race for just how unbelievably spectacular Kevin Durant has and continues to play during his climb to the top of the superstar food chain. Durant’s two-way game has improved with time and the 2013-14 season will offer him a chance to showcase those skills while Westbrook eases his way back into position as his partner in crime. Durant has sharpened his skills after each season in the league and with every postseason teaching point (you always learn more about yourself when you fail) he has rebounded with yet another quality piece to his growing arsenal of skills. He’ll be a better and more aggressive playmaker and rebounder with Westbrook on the mend. And the three-time scoring champ will continue to be the most dangerous scoring machine in the league with Kobe Bryant finding his way back into the mix in Los Angeles and Carmelo Anthony still the doing his thing in New York. Durant’s much improved all-around game and the load he’ll have to tote for the Thunder this season, however, is what earns him his first MVP trophy.

4) Dwight Howard Is The Best Big Man In Basketball … Again!
We’ve had our fun at his expense the past two seasons, and rightfully so. When you exit the premises in Orlando and Los Angeles, respectively, the way Dwight Howard did, you deserve whatever vitriol fans in those cities and elsewhere dish out. Lost in the madness, though, is the fact that Howard has maintained a reasonably high standard for a player dealing with all of that extracurricular drama, not to mention the back surgery and recovery he endured during the 2012-13 season he spent with the Lakers. With big man tutors in both Rockets great Hakeem Olajuwon and Celtics great and Rockets head coach Kevin McHale, Howard can’t help but improve his skill-set and take back the seat Marc Gasol kept warm for him last season. What sets Howard apart, and always has, is the fact that there is not another traditional big man in the league with his combination of size, athleticism and natural gifts from the basketball Gods. Howard swears Houston is the ideal situation for him to finally put it all together. He needed a fresh start, somewhere he could reintroduce himself to the basketball world without any of the excess baggage he’s accrued over the years following him. The Rockets and their championship-starved fan base offer just that and more.

5) Yes, The Warriors Shock The World And Win It All!
You thought I forgot about that Warriors prediction from No. 1? Sure, it’s a reach for a team whose fortunes depend on the continued good health of several key players (Steph Curry, David Lee, Andrew Bogut, etc.). But an injury to the wrong man can rearrange the short-term and long-term plans of any franchise, just ask the folks in Oklahoma City, Chicago and Los Angeles (Lakers) how that works. What I love about what Mark Jackson and the Warriors have going on right now is their absolute fearlessness in challenging the Western Conference establishment. They don’t care that the Spurs, Clippers, Thunder and Rockets all have what appears to be better chances of surviving a cutthroat playoff chase. They have the pieces in place, Andre Iguodala being the most noticeable new face, to challenge conventional wisdom this season. They also play a style that, if sustained, no other team in the West or the league will be able to match in the postseason. Of course, Bogut and Lee have to stay out of the training room as much as possible and Curry has to avoid the recurrence of the foot and ankle injuries that seem to plague him every season. But if ever there was a time to crash the Western Conference party and spice up the championship picture and shock the basketball world, that time is now for the upstart Warriors.

One Team, One Stat: Warriors Go From Worst To First On The Glass

From Media Day until opening night,’s John Schuhmann will provide a key stat for each team in the league and show you, with film and analysis, why it matters. Up next are the Golden State Warriors, who are looking to build on just their second trip to the playoffs in the last 19 years.

The basics
GSW Rank
W-L 47-35 10
Pace 96.8 4
OffRtg 104.2 10
DefRtg 102.6 13
NetRtg +1.7 11

The stat

75.5 percent - The Warriors’ defensive rebounding percentage last season, a mark that led the league.

The context

One of the most amazing stats of last season was that the Warriors led the league in defensive rebounding percentage after five straight seasons of ranking dead last. They didn’t just go from worst to first, they went from worst to worst to worst to worst to worst to first.

In fact, before last season, Golden State ranked in the bottom 10 in defensive rebounding percentage in 12 of the prior 13 seasons, under nine different coaches. Just that part is amazing itself.

Somehow, they managed to turn it completely around last season, when the rebounding improvement helped the Warriors improve from 27th in defensive efficiency in 2011-12 to 13th. Better 3-point defense also played a part…

Warriors defense, last two seasons

Season Opp2PT% Rank Opp3PT% Rank DREB% Rank OppTOV% Rank OppFTA/FGA Rank
2011-12 48.0% 17 36.5% 28 69.1% 30 15.5% 14 .318 27
2012-13 47.3% 11 34.7% 7 75.5% 1 13.8% 28 .282 22

DREB% = Percentage of available defensive rebounds obtained
OppTOV% = Opponent turnovers per 100 possessions

One thing that was different was the way the Warriors defended pick-and-rolls. In Mark Jackson‘s first season, the big man defending the screener came out pretty high to stop the ball-handler. It wasn’t a hard hedge like the Heat or the Pelicans employ, but it took the bigs far away from the basket…


Last season, the Warrior bigs sagged into the paint more on pick-and-rolls…


That kept them closer to the basket and helped David Lee increase his defensive rebounding percentage from 20.0 percent to 24.5 percent. Also, ’12-13 Festus Ezeli (16.6 percent) had a better defensive rebounding percentage than ’11-12 Ekpe Udoh (11.9 percent) and ’12-13 Andrew Bogut (23.5 percent) was better than ’11-12 Andris Biedrins (20.0 percent). So was ’12-13 Andris Biedrins (24.6 percent).

Another result of the change in pick-and-roll coverage was that Warriors opponents took 28.0 percent of their shots from mid-range, up from 26.5 percent in ’11-12. Those are the shots you want to force.

The Warriors also got better rebounding numbers from their guards and wings. And one thing you’ll notice from these clips from an April 9 game against the Wolves is how the Golden State guards crash the glass to often put five guys in the paint when the ball is coming off the rim…

The Wolves, who were an above-average offensive rebounding team, missed 57 shots in that game and grabbed just six offensive boards.

We learned from the Spurs last season that contesting shots is much more important than rebounding, but the Warriors had to get better on the glass. When your opponent gets an offensive rebound, it’s more likely to score than it was on the initial possession.

You would think that sending five guys to the glass would hurt the Warriors’ transition offense. But they ranked ninth with 14.7 fast break points per game (up from 13.0 in ’11-12) and fifth with 2.13 fast break points per steal (up from 1.63). Stephen Curry ranked fourth in individual fast break points, while Klay Thompson ranked 19th, with both guys doing a lot of their damage from the perimeter. Curry had almost 100 more fast break points from outside the paint than any other player in the league…

Most fast break points from outside the paint

Player FBPs Outside paint
Stephen Curry 364 222
Kyle Korver 142 125
Russell Westbrook 463 120
Klay Thompson 260 119
O.J. Mayo 324 111

A healthy Bogut and the addition of Andre Iguodala should improve the Golden State defense even more. In particular, Iguodala will help force more turnovers and, as one of the best finishers in the league, will also make the running game more potent.

If the Warriors can match a Top 10 offense with a Top 10 defense, they can count themselves as serious contender in the Western Conference this season.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

New Bonds Begin To Take Root In China

SHANGHAI, China – The plan was to play the Lakers on Friday night, leave Mercedes-Benz Arena, bus to the airport, take off 1 a.m. Saturday, stop in Anchorage, Alaska, to refuel and land in Oakland at 1 a.m. Saturday. Depart from one continent and arrive in another at the same hour.

The Warriors are into pulling off some tricks lately, ending their two-game series with the Lakers in China (a 115-89 Golden State victory Friday morning before 17,482 here) while trying to replicate the chemistry of last season with a new-look roster.

The most important personalities from last season’s promising finish are back. Stephen Curry and David Lee, emerging as leaders, and Andrew Bogut leading with a chip on his shoulder to offset the team’s nice-guy image, are all here. Coach Mark Jackson, a commanding presence in that room, returns to force feed so much positive reinforcement that players have no choice but to believe.

But two of the key veteran presences, Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry, left as free agents. Although one of the newcomers, Andre Iguodala, is expected to fit in without difficulty, his arrival will likely trigger a lineup shuffle that will send either Harrison Barnes or Klay Thompson, both starters a year ago, to the bench, which could disrupt things.

“That was, I would say, the biggest factor in what happened last year with us and how we got the most out of our talent,” said Lee, the All-Star power forward. “Everybody was on the same page. We never had any issues within the team. This year, it usually takes until a little way through the regular season for that to come together. It’s not something that can be rushed. It’s just kind of something that happens. I think we’ve done a very good job of integrating everybody and getting everybody on the same page on the court and off the court.”

It’s all worked out, so far. The trip to China played a big part in it.

The Warriors were forced into close quarters with a schedule of appearances in Beijing and Shanghai. Significant others were on the trip, from the plane ride that left Oakland last Friday to some activities to the team hotels to the same long ride back. Teams often overstate the bonding effect of long trips, but there may have been real value for a team that relied so heavily on camaraderie last year.

“Probably the thing that you forget is that it forces you to spend time together and, moreso, with your significant other. There’s guys that brought girlfriends or wives, and we’re around them. They get to see me or their teammates as people,” Jackson said. “Valuable time. Not, ‘That’s the shooting guard’ or ‘That’s the center’ or ‘That’s the coach.’

“I’m not going to minimize the impact that those guys last year [who have left the team] had in the locker room, on the plane, on the bus, on the court. I don’t take it for granted. I have total appreciation for them and what they did. I’m confident that this group will develop chemistry. Jarrett Jack had a voice. Carl Landry had a voice. Those guys had a voice. They played a role. It takes time to develop that, but I’m very confident that these guys will be tied together and we’ll move forward.”

The Warriors are down to two exhibition games, a back-to-back in Sacramento and at-home against the Trail Blazers, before opening the regular season Oct. 30. Then, they’ll face the expectation, not the hope, of playing into May.

The quicker they can prove that this group can mesh as well as the last — and it may not happen for a while —  the quicker they will take their next step forward. They’re already on their way.

Five Who Could Crash Scoring Race Party


HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – First-time scoring champ Carmelo Anthony lit up April, averaging 36.9 ppg to deny Kevin Durant a fourth consecutive scoring title.

It won’t be terribly surprising if Melo collects a second trophy this season. Prior to Durant’s three-peat, Kobe Bryant (2005, ’06), Tracy McGrady (’03, ’04) and Allen Iverson (’01, ’02) all repeated, so that’s a pretty decent track record for staking back-to-back scoring titles.

Starting with last season’s top five scorers — Anthony (28.7 ppg), Durant (28.1), Bryant (27.3), LeBron James (26.8) and James Harden (25.9) — plus a strong candidate pool coming, the scoring race should be a fun one, and the top five scorers in the league come April 2014 might look different than it did in 2013.

Of course, for a player to move into the top five, one most fall out.

So which player or players are vulnerable to vacating the top five? Start with the three players I think are as close to top-five locks as possible: Melo (he’s still just 29 and by far the Knicks’ No. 1 option); Durant (he has so many ways to score that he can drop 30 hopping on one leg); and James (he can score whenever and however he wants, and he’s finished in the top four in scoring in nine consecutive seasons).

That leaves two that could slip and open a spot: Harden (the addition of Dwight Howard will alter Houston’s offense and spread the scoring wealth); and Kobe (it’s dangerous to doubt him considering he’s finished in the top five since finishing sixth in 2001-02, but, at 35 years old and coming off Achilles surgery, there has to be some dropoff, right?).

Which players will make a run at cracking the top five? Here’s my top five:

1. Derrick Rose, Bulls: The offense-starved Bulls will welcome their point guard back after he missed all of last season recovering from ACL surgery. He’s had plenty of time to hone his game and Rose will return with a vengeance, perhaps reaching his 2010-11 level when he averaged 25.0 ppg and won the league MVP. That season put him on the cusp of the top five, just 0.3 ppg behind Bryant and Amare Stoudemire.

2. Kevin Love, Timberwolves: Another injury returnee, Love played just 18 games last season due to a right hand he broke twice. He’s got Ricky Rubio to set him up, an offensively gifted center in Nikola Pekovic to draw attention down low and shooters around him such as Kevin Martin and Chase Budinger. Love is set up to return to the 26.0 ppg he averaged  in 2011-12 when he shot 37.2 percent from beyond the arc and finished fourth in the scoring race.

3. Russell Westbrook, Thunder: Yeah, yeah, maybe he shoots too much considering he plays alongside that Durant guy. But Westbrook’s a stone-cold scorer and Thunder coach Scott Brooks knows it. After his knee injury in the first round, Westbrook (he finished sixth in scoring last season at 23.2 ppg) declared that he will return a smarter player. Maybe it means he’ll take fewer bad shots, but don’t expect him to necessarily take fewer shots since the Thunder lost 3-point ace Martin to the Wolves in free agency.

4. Blake Griffin, Clippers: This guy takes a lot of flak for a perceived lack of development in his low-post and mid-range game, and I have said that he must find less violent ways to score to truly become great. I think the powerful Griffin delivers this season on a team loaded with options and one that will be smartly coached by Doc Rivers. Despite a lack of finesse, Griffin still managed to average 22.5 ppg in 2010-11 and is a career 52.9 percent shooter. Only 24, Griffin’s career is just getting started, and he’s got Chris Paul to make his ascension all the easier.

5.  Stephen Curry, Warriors: The best pure shooter in the game today averaged a career-best 22.9 ppg last season and then increased it to 23.4 ppg with an electric postseason. His scoring potential is off the charts. But he’s also got a team to run and that includes some pretty nice targets in Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, David Lee, Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut. Still, like Westbrook, this kid is a born scorer and as long as his ankles hold up, Curry is going to put up some huge games for a team attempting to move up into the Western Conference elite.

David Lee Encouraged By Recovery


HANG TIME WEST – The injury that quickly swung from season-ending to day-to-day in the playoffs has now gone from a one-time distressing finding to now a very encouraging outcome.

The torn hip muscle suffered in the playoff opener at Denver was worse than anyone thought, David Lee reported Wednesday. And, the recovery is going so well that he feels better than a year ago at this time, Lee also revealed.

So goes the roller-coaster return from the injured right hip flexor and the subsequent surgery, with implications for the Warriors and the entire Western Conference if Golden State turns potential into reality and pushes into the top tier of playoff teams.

From being declared done for the season when he went down in the first-round opener at Denver to playing in the clinching Game 6 and then again four more times in the West semifinals against the Spurs.

He didn’t play much — one post-injury minute versus the Nuggets and then three, eight, 12 and 12 minutes against San Antonio, respectively — but even the limited action came with Lee acknowledging at the time that he could do more damage to the hip by playing with the torn muscle. When the All-Star power forward had surgery in May, he said, doctors found the injury to be worse than originally thought.

In the Wednesday update for a group of reporters, though, Lee said he is fully recovered, in the best shape of his career and that the core of his body is strong as ever.

“I feel no ill effects whatsoever,” Lee said, as reported by Marcus Thompson II of the Bay Area News Group. “I actually feel a lot better moving around than I did even last year at this time.”

Lee’s health would have been an important early-season storyline for the Warriors no matter what, but is particularly relevant amid the new uncertainty surrounding the frontline. His 2012-13 backup, Carl Landry, left as a free agent; starting center Andrew Bogut is trying to prove he can get to 100 percent after a series of ankle problems; and No. 2 center Festus Ezeli is expected to be out until midseason with a knee injury. Marreese Speights was signed to be the third big man, and Jermaine O’Neal came in via free agency as well. Coach Mark Jackson will have options to play small.

“We still have a long way to go,” Lee said. “But, if you looked at where we came from three years ago, some of the questions were, ‘Why would you come here? They’ve had one playoff team in the last 150 years.’ Looking where we are now and having these conversations, it’s very exciting.”

West Guards Set Up For All-Star Snub

It could be harder for Steph Curry (left) or Ricky Rubio to get their a taste of the bright lights of All-Star selection.

It could be harder for Steph Curry (left) or Ricky Rubio to get a taste of the bright lights of All-Star selection.

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Remember when Steph Curry got the All-Star snub? Charles Barkley was darn well hacked off: “For them to leave Steph Curry off that team, it’s a joke; it’s a flat-out joke.”

Curry’s coach Mark Jackson also wasn’t amused by “them,” his Western Conference peers who pick the reserves, even with Golden State Warriors forward David Lee getting the nod:

“We know who the jurors are,” Jackson told the San Francisco Chronicle. “I think you have to question the process. I’m not going to go all Dr. King on us, but you’ve got to stand for what’s right, man. These guys have changed this whole organization. They have led. They have sacrificed. They have defended. They have competed.”

West coaches really might need to take cover this year. Barring injuries or unforeseen awful seasons, those 15 coaches will be locked in a no-win pickle to select the backup “backcourt” players.

Maybe this year Lee gets the snub, or some other “frontcourt” player like Zach Randolph or Tim Duncan (everyone thought he was done after his 2012 omission anyway, right?) to make room for an extra guard or two because there is going to be an absolutely outrageously long list of sure-fire or close-to-it All-Star guards.

The 2013 All-Star team featured five guards on the 12-man roster: Chris Paul and Kobe Bryant as the fan-voted starters, with Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook and first-timer James Harden as the coach-selected reserves.

Which one of those guys slides and doesn’t make the 2014 team? Kobe’s coming off Achilles surgery and his return date remains uncertain. Still, he’s expected back well before the All-Star Game and no matter how he fares it’s far-fetched to think fans won’t vote him in for a 16th consecutive start. Just go ahead and pencil in the L.A. boys as starters again.

Will Westbrook falter coming off his knee surgery? Doubtful. Could Parker, a five-time All-Star who has played his best ball over the last two seasons, slip? Possible, I suppose, if Spurs coach Gregg Popovich rests him from Christmas Day to MLK Day.

Here’s the thing: Even if one of those guys slide, the list of replacements is excessive, starting with the Warriors’ Curry, whose trajectory is just now starting to mirror that of the space shuttle upon liftoff. Seven of the West’s eight playoff teams from last season boast an All-Star-caliber point guard or shooting guard. Memphis point Mike Conley is gaining steam and it’s possible his 2012-13 numbers, a career-best of 14.6 pgg (and 2.2 spg, third overall) and 6.1 apg, could rise in a faster-paced offense under first-year coach Dave Joerger. Denver’s speed merchant Ty Lawson was a bubble guy in ’12, but he might be in for quite the transition with blow-it-out George Karl‘s departure probably ushering in more traditional sets under rookie coach Brian Shaw.

Still, the list rolls on…

Three West lottery teams offer undeniable candidates: Minnesota’s Ricky Rubio, who is poised for a breakout after last season’s tough return from ACL surgery; Portland’s Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard, who has reinforcements this year that should help him get even better; and West newcomer and Pelicans point guard Jrue Holiday, who, oh yeah, was a first-time All-Star last season in that other conference with the 76ers.

Want more? Eric Bledsoe, stashed behind CP3 these last two seasons in Clipperland, is primed to bust out in the Valley of the Suns; Andre Iguodala, a 2012 All-Star, can’t be counted out with the Warriors, unless sharpshooter Klay Thompson beats him out; and Monta Ellis, an All-Star in his own mind even if he’s yet to wear the uniform, could be in for a big year in Dallas feeding off 11-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki (who just might want his “frontcourt” spot back).

Oh wait, did I mention that eight-time All-Star Steve Nash, who turns 40 a week before the All-Star Game, made the team in 2008, ’10 and ’12?

Obviously he’s due in ’14. Right?

Best of luck, coaches. And be prepared to duck.