Morning Shootaround

Shootaround (Oct. 26) -- Warriors shocked by season-opening performance

Durant, Warriors stunned in opener | Embiid ready for his debut | Lakers have simple goals for 2016-17 | Rose trying to find place in triangle offense

No. 1: Durant calls season-opening loss ‘a slap in the face’ — Across all forms of media, much has been said and written about the Golden State Warriors and how their offseason addition of Kevin Durant will spur them on to greatness in 2016-17. Then, of course, there’s that whole issue of playing games and earning those accolades, which the Warriors hoped to begin last night in their season opener against the San Antonio Spurs. After taking a 29-point loss at home, though, Durant and the Warriors are reeling a little, writes Connor Letourneau of San Francisco Chronicle:

With his Warriors team down 23 points to the Spurs, head coach Steve Kerr subbed in JaVale McGee for seven-time NBA All-Star Kevin Durant during a timeout. Golden State’s reserves completed the season-opening 129-100 loss in front of mostly vacant seats at Oracle Arena.

A year after a league-record 24-0 start, the Warriors took the pressure off early with a dud of a performance. They lost the offensive-rebounding numbers, 21-8, and attempted 13 fewer shots than San Antonio. A team that relies on ball movement and made jumpers, Golden State piled up 16 giveaways and missed 26 of its 33 three-point attempts. It allowed the Spurs to shoot 48 percent from the field (50 percent from beyond the arc).

“I thought our guys were embarrassed,” Kerr said. “I know I was.”

Outside of Durant (27 points), Stephen Curry (26 points) and Draymond Green (18 points), Golden State totaled 29 points on 13-for-35 shooting. It didn’t seriously challenge after giving up a big run to close the first half, and most of Oracle Arena had emptied by midway through the fourth quarter.

“It’s a slap in the face,” Durant said. “It woke us up a bit, and we look forward to getting better.”

It had started as an environment befitting opening night of perhaps the most anticipated season in franchise history. When Durant was introduced with the starters, a capacity crowd of 19,596 roared. Jay-Z and Beyonce sat courtside. The catering staff, trying to accommodate an overflow of media, ran out of food before tip-off.

But the dominant Warriors team many had expected didn’t materialize. Golden State players missed two early layups, passed into traffic, and nobody outside of Durant and Curry could find an offensive rhythm in the first half.

In a season with such hype, each Warriors loss will be nitpicked and analyzed on sports talk radio shows throughout the country. It will be easy for pundits to apply doomsday scenarios to one setback.

After an exhibition slate marked by so much promise gave way to a clunker of a regular-season debut, Golden State is glad it has at least 81 more opportunities to exorcise the memory.

“We can’t panic, but we can’t let this turn into two or three more games,” Durant said. “We have to correct it.”


No. 2: Embiid ready for his long-awaited NBA debut — Since June 26, 2014, Philadelphia 76ers fans more or less been waiting to see what Joel Embiid can do in an NBA game. After a couple of tastes of his play in the preseason, the No. 3 pick of the 2014 Draft will finally suit up for a regular-season game tonight as the Sixers host the Oklahoma City Thunder (8 ET, ESPN). Like Sixers fans themselves, Embiid is pumped up for his first, real NBA game and the season to come writes Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer:

No more exhibition games. Things are about to count for Joel Embiid. And if Wednesday night is anything like his seven preseason games, it could be an exciting time in the Wells Fargo Center regardless of the outcome.

With Ben Simmons down and the 76ers expected to remain among the NBA’s worst teams, much of the hype surrounding the team centers on Embiid. Some might argue that as long as he plays well – and remains healthy – the sting that comes with mounting losses will be nothing more than a “Trust the Process” moment.

There’s no doubting the fact that because the opener against the Thunder is at home it will be an extra-special night for the self-proclaimed “Trust the Process” kid himself.

“Yeah, it’s special,” said the third overall draft pick in 2014, who missed his first two seasons after surgeries on his right foot. “I have been waiting for a long time and I haven’t played in two years, and I was a high pick and [Sixers fans] have been waiting for a long time. So it’s going to be special for the city, for myself, for the coaches, my teammates, and my family.”

But he’s going to do his best to make this a regular day.

The 7-foot-2, 276-pound center plans to eat breakfast, then drive to the Camden waterfront to put up some shots at the team’s practice facility. Afterward, he’ll go to the shootaround before partaking in his normal pregame routine at the Wells Fargo Center.

He averaged 11.4 points and six rebounds in 14.7 minutes in the seven exhibition games. Embiid, whose playing time has been restricted, is scheduled to play 20 minutes against the Thunder. They will come in five four-minute segments.

So far, he has scored in a variety of ways – three-pointers, layups, putback dunks, alley-oops, mid-range jumpers, and fadeaways. Embiid has even dribbled the ball up the court on occasion.

“He has everything,” Sixers reserve center Jahlil Okafor said. “I talk about Joe a lot. He has everything. There’s not one thing I can pinpoint from his characteristics on the floor, off the floor, how hard he works, how competitive he is. Then you add in his skill set and his size, it’s unbelievable.”

As jovial as he is off the court, he’s just as hardworking on it.

Embiid is often one of the last Sixers to leave the court after practice and shootarounds. And his competitiveness is arguably his best trait.

“He is so competitive,” coach Brett Brown said. “He is just fiercely competitive. If you made me give somebody one quality, that’s the quality that I choose for any one of my players. He is maniacal in his competitiveness.”

But there was a time when it appeared that Embiid would never get an opportunity to display his competitiveness.

He missed last season after having bone-graft surgery in August 2015 to repair the navicular bone in his right foot. Embiid already had missed what would have been his rookie season after undergoing surgery in June 2014 to repair a stress fracture in the same bone. A setback in his recovery led to the second operation.

“It’s a new experience,” Embiid said. “I don’t know the last time we had an ESPN game. So it’s going to be good, and the fans are going to show up. We are going to have a lot of fun.”


No. 3: Lakers keep simple goals in mind for 2016-17 — To many Los Angeles Lakers fans, the 2015-16 season will be remembered as the Kobe Bryant farewell tour. To others, it will be remembered for a more dubious reason — the third straight season in which the Lakers lost 55 or more games. As a new season begins tonight against the Houston Rockets (10:30 ET, ESPN), the Lakers turn the keys to the team over to youngsters Julius Randle, D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Brandon Ingram and new coach Luke Walton. Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times has more on what the Lakers want to do going forward:

This season isn’t about monitoring the standings or aiming for a playoff run. The 2016-17 Lakers will focus on teaching and improving. For this team, the start of the regular season will be a continuation of their past month of work in some ways. The Lakers’ rebuilding process is still in its earliest stages.

“The message we’re sending our guys is that no matter what is said, even though this is one of the greatest sports organizations in the history of all sports, at this moment in time the only thing that matters is our guys that we have in there, how they play,” Walton said. “Everything that we’re doing is for them. So don’t worry about the rest of it.”

It’s a contrast, at least publicly, to the Lakers’ thinking last season entering Kobe Bryant’s 20th and final year with the organization. Despite going 21-61 the prior season with what was then the worst record in franchise history, the Lakers returned for the 2015-16 season defiantly insistent they could contend for the playoffs. Instead they won only 17 games.

Then Bryant retired and the Lakers couldn’t land any of the league’s top free agents, again. Walton became head coach. He was tasked with improving the organization’s young core, and attacking the task independent of any future aspirations of high-profile additions.

The Lakers made sure the veterans they signed in free agency – Luol Deng, Timofey Mozgov and Jose Calderon – were all known for their professionalism. They kept Metta World Peace on the opening day roster in part because of the positive impact the veteran would have on the young Lakers.

“I really believe that these guys want to win,” said Deng, who is entering his 13th NBA season this year. “They’ve been working really, really hard. The best thing about it is it’s really a great group to be around. When you’re around a bunch of kids that are in the gym every day and want to get better, I think there’s no reason that it’s not gonna happen. It’s just, when will it happen.”

“With a young group like we have, the amount of stuff we still need to get in, I don’t know when that’s officially going to happen,” Walton said. “We’ll probably continue to push it at a good pace at least for a while into the regular season.”

He has no timetable, and sets no deadlines for their growth, he just wants to see it. His players have bought into that idea.

“Patience, faith and trust yourself, trust your grind, trust the hard work,” small forward Nick Young said. “Trust the teammates you have out there.”

Said Clarkson: “This is where it begins.”


No. 4: Rose trying to get used to triangle offense — Ever since it was popularized by the Chicago Bulls of the 1990s, many a team has tried to emulate the triangle offense with varied results. The New York Knicks are running versions of that offense and point guard Derrick Rose, in his first game of his first season in the strategy, is hardly comfortable. He said as much and more after the Knicks’ season-opening loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers last night, writes Ian Begley of

Rose noted after the game that he’s still getting acclimated to the Knicks’ offense. In particular, he’s still getting used to the portions of the offense that employ the triangle, Phil Jackson’s signature approach.

“Towards the end, when you saw us running it, it was just us trying to get used to it so it’s not that foreign,” Rose said. “We got a lot of room to make up on that side of the ball too.”

Rose, who missed two weeks of the preseason while attending a civil trial in Los Angeles, is optimistic that he’ll ultimately be productive in the offense.

“I got to find a way, and I’m going to find a way,” Rose said. “That’s what being great is all about.”

It’s worth noting, though, that Rose said he would prefer running pick-and-rolls throughout the course of a game. The pick-and-roll isn’t run as often in the triangle as it is in most current NBA offenses. That might be one of the biggest adjustments for Rose in New York.

“I got to find a way. There’s no way around it,” Rose said of succeeding in the triangle.

Carmelo Anthony was asked if he felt the Knicks needed to allow Rose to run more pick-and-roll early in the season, as he gets acclimated to what the Knicks are running.

“We want guys to feel comfortable with kind of who they are,” Anthony said. “We don’t want to try to change anybody’s game. If Derrick feels comfortable being up there in high pick-and-roll, that’s his game. You can’t take him away from that.

“You want to utilize guys’ strengths. That’s who he is, that’s who he’s always been. We want to rely on that. We don’t want to take that away from him.

Despite Tuesday’s struggles, Rose is optimistic that the Knicks will be able to figure things out. Tuesday was the first game in which the Knicks’ starting five (Anthony, Rose, Joakim Noah, Courtney Lee, Kristaps Porzingis) shared the floor.

“It takes us coming together and learning from our mistakes,” Rose said. “We got so much room to improve. We have so much that we have to figure out, and we just can’t do it after one game. It’s a progression.”.


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Chicago Bulls point guard Rajon Rondo admits there were distractions in Sacramento last season, but denies there being any ‘drama’ … Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder doesn’t sound like he has any idea when Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward will return to the lineup … The Cavs talk about just what it means to win that first championship for the franchise … Speaking of which, here’s the full ring ceremony from last night in Cleveland … Meet the mental skills coach who is helping a handful of NBA stars … A record 113 international players are on NBA rosters to start 2016-17 … The NBA Development League is trying out three new rules this season … Speaking of the D-League, here are 15 alums to watch in the NBA this season …