Kerr will set pace for Warriors this season | Report: League and union to meet this week about CBA | Aaron Gordon embracing new role in Orlando | No sign of wavering confidence for Lakers rookie Ingram
No. 1:Kerr will set pace for Warriors this season -- The Golden State Warriors won't need a players-only meeting to decide how to attack this season and their quest for a third straight trip to The Finals. Warriors coach Steve Kerr will take care f that business well ahead of time. So forget that 74-win pace or any other frivolous regular season chase out there. Kerr is making sure that won't be a part of his team's season now, as Anthony Slater of The Mercury News explains:
Plenty of storylines surround the Warriors this season. Included: How often will Kerr rest his main guys? There’s no way to forecast when and who. But it seems clear it’ll be more common than last year. During the preseason, he’s talked about being able to find the younger guys more minutes because the veterans will get selective breathers.
That was tougher last year. The chase for 73 wins consumed the players. With 20 games to go, Kerr made a pact with them.
“If anyone was banged up, they had to tell me,” Kerr said. “If not, I was going to let them play.”
March and April provide the most valuable rest time for the league’s stars. Batteries are recharged before the postseason. Instead, right through the 82nd game, the Warriors were fighting for wins in emotionally charged atmospheres.
Playoff injuries piled up. The Warriors struggled in both the conference and NBA Finals. Many believed the grind had taken a physical toll. Kerr felt it was more mental.
“We didn’t roll our guys out there for 40 minutes,” he said. “You look at the minutes per game — our top guys were down there at 34, 33. So minutes were fine, very similar to the year before. But it was a different sort of emotional feeling. I don’t think we’ll have that this year. We’ve kind of been through that. We’d rather win a championship than set a record.”
But even without chasing a wins record, the Warriors aren’t exactly playing away from the spotlight this season. Opponents will still get up for them. Road crowds will still froth at their arrival. Everything they do will remain under the microscope. Almost anything Kevin Durant says or does right now makes national news.
“Over time, that stuff adds up,” Kerr said. “That’s why LeBron (James) going to The Finals six straight years is, to me, one of the great accomplishments of all-time. Like, how many guys have done that? Maybe Bill Russell was the last guy. I know Michael didn’t do it because he took a couple years off. Larry Bird, Magic never did it. Not six. Six is incredible.”
In a much deeper conference, the Warriors are trying to claw back to the Finals for a third straight season. Kerr was part of the late 1990s Bulls three-peat.
“The third year was the toughest,” Kerr said. “The famous shot that Michael (Jordan) hit over Byron Russell in Utah, people remember that shot. But you look back at that game, Scottie (Pippen) had a back injury, missed 10 minutes in the first half. We were down 15, didn’t have home court. We were up 3-1, lost at home to go back to Salt Lake. We were running on fumes.”
But new arrivals, Kerr says, have charged up the atmosphere around the Warriors. There’s more energy, less staleness.
“It doesn’t guarantee that were going to be better, but it changes the dynamics a little bit,” he said. “I think it’ll make things a little fresher and make it maybe a little easier for us to get through the regular season and get through the grind.”
No. 2:Report: League, union to meet this week about CBA -- The NBA and the NBPA are set to meet the week in an effort to continue negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement, according to a report from ESPN's Ian Begley and Dave McMenamin. The Wednesday meeting, a day ahead of the league's annual board of governors gathering, signals the rising optimism that a new deal will be made and a work stoppage avoided:
The current collective bargaining agreement between the NBA and the NBAPA runs through June 2021, with both sides holding the right until Dec. 15 to express an intent to opt out in 2017.
But NBA commissioner Adam Silver said last week that he expects the parties to come to terms on a new CBA before the opt-out deadline.
"Both sides have been very engaged and eager to get a deal done," Silver said.
Speaking in China last week ahead of the 10th annual Global Games, Silver revealed that he spoke to Roberts during a recent league visit to Spain and said he would continue to pursue a fast resolution with the Players Association that avoids a lockout or any loss of games.
Negotiations on the last CBA led to a five-month work stoppage that lasted until December 2011 and shortened the 2011-12 season by 16 games, marking only the second time in league history that a labor impasse led to a reduced schedule.
With the league in a healthy state and money flowing into the game at unprecedented levels, there is strong motivation on all sides to avoid a work stoppage this time around.
"We don't want to strike and they don't want to strike," New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony, who is on the union's executive committee, said earlier this week. "So the best thing to do is really figure it out sooner rather than later.
"We want to try to get something done. I think the NBA and the owners are very receptive to that, and we are, too. I think [in the 2011 negotiation] we were so far away from each other. You can feel the difference, you can see the difference, you can see the reaction, you can see the contact we're having, the information that's being sent on both sides. I think we're closer to getting something done. Hopefully it'll get done soon."
No. 3: Gordon embracing new role in Orlando -- A surplus of bodies at one position in Orlando will be alleviated this season by the move of Aaron Gordon to small forward, a role the young jumping jack is embracing. Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel has more on Gordon's potentially career-altering shift:
Aaron Gordon dislikes comparisons to other basketball players.
But even he felt encouraged when he learned Frank Vogel will position him at small forward and use him the same way Vogel used perennial All-Star Paul George with the Indiana Pacers. Vogel wants to put the ball in Gordon's hands.
"It's definitely a compliment," Gordon said.
"I'm going to be myself and I'm going to play my game, and that's ultimately going to be the most beneficial for us if I play how I play, not try and play like anybody else. I love the idea of being more of a playmaker and taking on a bigger scoring role. That's something that I'm going to have to do for us to be successful and I'm ready for that."
How well Gordon will handle his new, more demanding role is one of the most intriguing questions the Orlando Magic face. As one of the NBA's most athletic players, he shouldn't have many problems chasing opposing wings all over the court.
Whether he can produce offensively is up for debate, however. Skeptics cite the subpar outside shooting numbers of his first two seasons. He made only 27.1 percent of his 3-pointers as a rookie and just 29.6 percent of his 3s last season.
If the Magic had only one or two quality big men instead of Serge Ibaka and Nikola Vucevic and Bismack Biyombo, then Gordon probably would be playing a lot of power forward.
But with Ibaka and Biyombo joining Vucevic at the big-man spots, the best way to put Gordon on the floor is to play him at small forward. Vogel loves the frontcourt's size with Gordon at the three.
"We're going to ask him to do it all," Vogel said. "We're going to give him a lot of responsibility."
"It's going to be a process with him. He's not used to playing the three, but that's going to come. He's got the skills and the ability to do it, or I wouldn't be putting him in that spot. It's going to be ugly at times. But, hopefully, more times than not it's going to be pretty impressive. And I'm excited about that."
No. 4:No sign of wavering confidence for Lakers rookie Ingram -- Brandon Ingram is sure to his experience his fair share of "welcome to the NBA" moments during his rookie season. Wavering confidence, though, should not be a problem for the level-headed Los Angeles Lakers' rookie. Ingram understands exactly what he's dealing with and will stick to what he knows as he prepares for the rigors of his first NBA season, as Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times explains:
The matchups won’t get much tougher for Brandon Ingram than one he faced Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Kevin Durant, another former second-overall pick, a seven-time all-star, the 2014 league MVP and new Golden State Warrior, metaphorically towered over Ingram during the Lakers’ 112-107 loss.
Durant finished with 17 points in 22 minutes, some of that against Ingram. He shot 63.6%, collected five defensive rebounds and blocked two shots — one of them Ingram’s. Ingram finished with 12 points in 25 minutes, shooting 50%, which marked one of his better shooting nights of the preseason. He had three assists and made both of his three-point attempts.
It was another learning experience for the 19-year-old rookie in a preseason full of them.
“He’s gonna figure out his spots as it goes on,” said Lakers small forward Luol Deng, whom Ingram backs up for now. “He’s so talented that the game comes easy to him. It’s preseason, so he’s just going through the change of size, speed and everything. …
“He’s always willing to listen and learn. I’ve been in the league a long time. I’ve seen guys that didn’t listen, and it didn’t work out for them.”
Offensively, Ingram is still working through early kinks. He is making 32.4% of his shots, the fifth-lowest among first-round picks this preseason. He went 0-for-5 in the Lakers’ exhibition opener against the Sacramento Kings, but has improved in the last week.
Ingram is quiet, so Lakers Coach Luke Walton often has to ask to check in on his confidence. Ingram always tells Walton he’s fine, and that his aggressiveness on offense hasn’t waned supports that answer.
“You have to do what got you here,” Ingram said. “Keep battling, keep being aggressive, keep knocking your shots down that you know you’re going to make and keep going.”
Defensively, the Lakers are working to have Ingram learn how to better use his length. Walton has used film of Warriors forward Andre Iguodala for instructive purposes. Not to compare the two players, but to show Ingram an example of how length can work.
Practice is often better than games for Ingram.
“He looks way more comfortable in practice,” Walton said. “He’s in there all the time. He gets more opportunities as far as playmaking. We put him in at the point the last four, five minutes [on Saturday night]. He’s the type of player that just goes off the feel and the flow of the game a lot. … From time to time it seems like he kind of just floats around out there and doesn’t get a ton of touches or shots.”
Closing that gap will help Ingram take the next step in his development.
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Rookie heads are spinning in Charlotte this preseason ... Ty Lawson's issues are continuing in Sacramento ... Emmanuel Mudiay's ankle injury is a "minor" setback for the young point guard... The Houston Rockets are trying to figure out how best to use Nene? ... If the preseason is any indication, the Miami Heat could be a team that embraces the 3-point shot much more this season than they did last season ... The Chicago Bulls are betting on a resurgent Michael Carter-Williams to bolster their backcourt rotation ... The Russell Westbrook-Steven Adams connection is something the Oklahoma City Thunder plan to utilize early and often this season ...