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True or false: The Golden State Warriors look more vulnerable now than they have at any time in the last four seasons.
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David Aldridge: True. The bench is a major question mark at present, with Shawn Livingston not looking/playing like himself, and Andre Iguodala unable to hit the broad side of a barn. Maybe both of them are pacing themselves for the playoffs and it won’t matter in June, but right now, Golden State looks like it will have to ride its starters major minutes — always a gamble — in the postseason. I don’t see a Warriors’ defensive lineup, even one with KD at center, that can dramatically limit Houston’s offense. Now, it’s true Golden State could still outscore Houston; Luc Mbah a Moute and/or P.J. Tucker are going to have to prove they can make shots in the playoffs, though Joe Johnson’s presence will ameliorate that need somewhat. But the Warriors’ margin for error is smaller than it’s ever been since Steve Kerr took the gig.
Steve Aschburner: True. But that’s only relative to how invulnerable they looked from the 2014-15 season till now. Golden State’s run has been remarkable and surely exhausting, both physically and mentally. There’s been slippage in focus and slippage defensively, with what looked for much of the season like an increased edginess. But the Warriors can hit the reset button now and, in my opinion, remain prohibitive favorites to win the NBA championship. Whoever puts them out – from Houston to the eventual East representative – is going to earn it. I still just see green rocks, no Kryptonite in sight.
Tas Melas: False. During the 2015 playoffs, in the Western Conference semifinals, the Memphis Grizzlies lead the Warriors 2-1. I remember TNT’s Ernie Johnson coming over to me and asking: “Who’s winning the title?” At that point, I had no idea if the 67-win Warriors could come back. My answer was, “Whoever wins this series,” but Memphis looked to be in total control before that very important Game 4. Important because Game 4 is where the Warriors found themselves, and at this point, they have not lost what they found. Vulnerable? No. Slightly bored? Yes. (And if I cheated by picking a playoff moment, I cannot help a good name drop.)
Shaun Powell: Actually, the Warriors look more bored than ever in the last four years. I’m not buying the vulnerability stuff. I just think there’s no regular-season urgency with a team that’s still stacked and built to last through June. We can nitpick and say Nick Young has vaporized a bit and say Andre Iguodala is slowly becoming a corpse before our very eyes (although he’s saving himself for The Finals, like every year, where he earns his money). They still have what it takes, by far, to win a title than anyone else. They still have Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and all the rest.
John Schuhmann: False, because they didn’t have Kevin Durant in the first two seasons under Steve Kerr. Their defense has not been up to their standards over the last couple of months, and we’ll soon learn soon enough if they just needed the All-Star break to start defending at an elite level again. The Houston Rockets are better than any team they faced last season, with an offense that’s been nearly as potent as that of the Warriors and a lot of versatility beyond their star guards. But the champs still have the ability to be both the league’s best offensive team and its best defensive team when they’re locked in. They remain a better team than they were without Durant, and we shouldn’t forget how close they were to losing to Durant’s team two years ago. It took an amazing performance from Klay Thompson in Game 6 vs. Oklahoma City in 2016 to save them, and then they couldn’t finish the job in The Finals.
Sekou Smith: False. I remember the looks on their faces when they trailed the Oklahoma City Thunder 3-1 in 2016 and appeared to be on the brink of elimination in the Western Conference finals — before Klay Thompson went nuclear to save them. That’s what vulnerable looks like. What they are right now is a team that simply seems exhausted with the process after trying to grind its way back to The Finals for a fourth straight season. They’re mentally and emotionally exhausted more than anything. The focus required to do what the Warriors have done over the past four seasons is tremendously taxing on the body and the mind, and it’s showing right now in their performance. But they have the rest of this regular season and the playoffs to find whatever spark they need to rejuvenate themselves. And I don’t doubt that they will do exactly that.
Report: Pau Gasol to join Trail Blazers
Free agent center Pau Gasol has agreed to a one-year deal with the Portland Trail Blazers, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Free agent Pau Gasol has agreed to a one-year deal with the Portland Trail Blazers, league source tells ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 24, 2019
Gasol, 39, who was limited to just 30 games last season because of a variety of injuries, has career averages of 17.0 points and 9.2 rebounds over 17 NBA seasons.
Report: Furkan Korkmaz returning to 76ers
Free agent forward Furkan Korkmaz has agreed to a two-year contract to return to the Philadelphia 76ers, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Free agent forward Furkan Korkmaz has agreed to a two-year contract to return to the Philadelphia 76ers, agent Mike Lindeman of Excel Sports tells ESPN.
Korkmaz, 21, brings back a rotational forward with the ability to spread the floor with his shooting. The loss of JJ Redick in free agency – and Kyle Korver’s decision to choose Milwaukee over Philadelphia – brought some increased urgency to keep Korkmaz on the Sixers roster.
The 21-year-old Korkmaz, who was the 26th overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, averaged 5.8 points and 2.2 rebounds in 14.1 minutes last season.
Report: Kevin Love to withdraw from World Cup
Cavaliers forward Kevin Love is the latest player expected to withdraw from Team USA’s training camp for the FIBA World Cup, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania.
Sources: Cleveland Cavaliers star Kevin Love is expected to withdraw from Team USA’s training camp for World Cup. Toronto Raptors All-Star Kyle Lowry remains committed on USA roster and is expected to be recovered from thumb surgery and return midway through camp in L.A.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 24, 2019
This news comes just one day after Damian Lillard reportedly withdrew from the World Cup. Love, who played in just 22 games last season because of a shoulder injury, averaged 17.0 points and 10.9 rebounds in 2018-19.
During the previous two weeks, James Harden, Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon, Zion Williamson and CJ McCollum reportedly decided not to compete in the World Cup this year.
Although the guard ranks will be somewhat depleted of NBA stars, Team USA continues to have a deep pool of players available.
Team USA still has strong blend of youthful players and veterans; this summer’s training camp will provide platform for emerging young players such as Donovan Mitchell, De’Aaron Fox, Jayson Tatum, Kyle Kuzma and Myles Turner, with gritty vets like Lowry, PJ Tucker and Thad Young. https://t.co/b8T16mdn8G
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 24, 2019
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