- Quinn Cook‘s long odyssey from being undrafted in 2015 to rotation player with the Warriors in this year’s playoffs is chronicled by Sports Illustrated’s Jack Fischer. This season alone was a whirlwind, as Fischer explains, with Cook getting waived by the Hawks before training camp, then signing a two-way contract with Golden State. When Stephen Curry was sidelined by a left knee injury, the Warriors signed Cook to a standard contract. He’s averaging 6.8 PPG in 19.8 MPG against the Spurs in the opening round.
- Big man Kevon Looney has emerged as a key player for the Warriors and that won’t change throughout the postseason, according to Dieter Kurtenbach of the San Jose Mercury News. The Warriors’ first-round pick in 2015 has battled injuries during his first two seasons. Now healthy, Looney gives the Warriors another quality defender with length who guard all five positions, Kurtenbach adds. Looney could be plying his trade somewhere else next season, as he’ll be an unrestricted free agent this summer. The Warriors declined their team option on him last October.
Top Spurs assistant Ettore Messina will continue to serve as the club’s interim head coach for Game 5 of its series against the Warriors on Tuesday, the team announced today. It will be Messina’s third game as head coach this series.
Messina is filling in for Gregg Popovich, who is away from the team mourning the death of his wife Erin. The Spurs will give Popovich as much time as needs, so it’s not clear if we’ll see him again on the sidelines this season.
The Spurs currently trail the Warriors 3-1, with Messina having helped lead the team to a victory at home in Game 4. In order to further extend the series, San Antonio will need to pick up a victory in Oakland, which will be no easy task — the Dubs haven’t lost a home playoff game since Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals, having won 11 in a row since then.
Messina is on the Hornets’ list of candidates to interview for the head coaching job in Charlotte. If the Spurs had been swept, Messina likely would’ve met with the Hornets within the next few days, but that interview will remain on hold until San Antonio’s season is over.
- The Warriors welcomed Stephen Curry back to practice today, but have no intention to use him in the series with San Antonio, relays Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area. “He’s coming along well, but don’t expect him to be Willis Reed tomorrow,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. Curry, who has sat out the past four weeks with a sprained MCL in his left knee, completed several non-contact drills today without any setbacks. Doctors will re-evaluate him next weekend in hopes of a second-round return.
2:18pm: The Warriors have issued an update on Curry after today’s evaluation, announcing that he’s making progress and will begin participating in “modified” team practices on Saturday. Curry will be re-evaluated again in one week, according to the team.
8:52am: Stephen Curry, recovering from a knee injury, is still not close to returning to action, multiple sources tell Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic. According to Thompson, Curry will be evaluated again on Friday, but he isn’t believed to be in the final stages of his rehab process.
The Warriors hold a 3-0 lead on the Spurs in their first-round series, so the team isn’t clamoring to get Curry back to face San Antonio. Still, the Dubs would certainly like to have the two-time MVP back to start the second round, and that’s no lock.
As Thompson notes, the Western Conference semifinals could begin as early as April 28 if the Warriors and Pelicans finish off their first-round opponents quickly — both teams are currently up 3-0. Per Thompson, Curry’s MCL injury may need a full six weeks to heal, which would put him on track to return around May 4. Depending on what Golden State’s second-round schedule looks like, that could result in a return for Game 3 of the Western semis.
Meanwhile, a pair of other key Warriors suffered ankle injuries during Thursday’s win in San Antonio, but those injuries – to Kevin Durant and Shaun Livingston – aren’t believed to be serious. Durant told ESPN’s Chris Haynes after Game 3 that his ankle just did a “quick roll” rather than a full turn, and insisted he’s “fine.”
As for Livingston, head coach Steve Kerr acknowledged that injury looks slightly worse than Durant’s, but he didn’t sound overly concerned about the veteran point guard.
“Both sprained ankles,” Kerr said. “But I think they’ll be all right.”
The Spurs have announced that top assistant coach Ettore Messina will coach the club on Thursday night for Game 3 of San Antonio’s first-round series vs. the Warriors, taking Gregg Popovich‘s spot on the bench.
Popovich will be away from the Spurs after his wife Erin passed away on Wednesday. The team will surely give him as much time as he needs to mourn and to be with his family, so it’s not yet clear whether he’ll be back on the sidelines for Game 4 on Sunday.
Messina, long considered a top candidate to become a permanent NBA head coach, has reportedly received interest from the Hornets, who are on the lookout for Steve Clifford‘s replacement. The Spurs granted Charlotte permission to interview Messina, but that meeting figures to take place later, with the veteran Euroleague coach focused on getting San Antonio into the win column against Golden State on Thursday.
Former NBA head coaches have been popular candidates for this spring’s coaching openings around the league, with David Fizdale, Steve Clifford, Frank Vogel, Mark Jackson, David Blatt, and Mike Woodson among the many names said to be under consideration for at least one job. Top Warriors assistant Mike Brown would fit comfortably in that group, but hasn’t yet been identified as a candidate for any head coaching jobs.
The former Cavaliers and Lakers head coach tells Mark Medina of The Bay Area News Group that while he’d have interest in another head coaching opportunity, he’s perfectly happy to see things out with the Warriors as the club looks for its third title in four years.
“I want to be a head coach again. But if I hadn’t experienced that already and if I wasn’t in a situation that I’m already in right now, maybe the itch might be there more,” Brown said. “Maybe I might be focused more on that than the task at hand. But I’m really excited about trying to do what I can and do my part in helping us win again.”
Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:
- The NBA will return to China during the 2018 preseason, with the Sixers and Mavericks set to become the 16th and 17th teams to play in the country since 2004, per a press release. Dallas and Philadelphia will play in Shanghai on October 5 and in Shenzhen on October 8.
- The Grizzlies made a surprising move at February’s trade deadline when they held onto Tyreke Evans rather than dealing him to a contender. The Grizzlies have maintained that they want to re-sign Evans, but they’ll likely face competition for his services. Frank Urbina of HoopsHype speculates that the Trail Blazers, Pacers, and Sixers could be fits for Evans this offseason.
- The BIG3 has officially announced its rosters for the upcoming 2018 season, with captains Kenyon Martin, Rashard Lewis, Corey Maggette, Mike Bibby, Chauncey Billups, DerMarr Johnson, Jermaine O’Neal, and Brian Scalabrine heading the legaue’s eight squads.
Game 1 is in the books for all eight of the NBA’s first-round playoff matchups, and several of those games set up potentially fascinating series. Six of the eight higher seeds held their home-court advantage in the first game, but some of those favorites looked a little shaky in their victories, leading to plenty of speculation about first-round upsets.
We’ll start with the weekend’s biggest upset, which took place in Cleveland, where the Pacers dismantled LeBron James and the Cavaliers in Game 1. It won’t be a surprise if the Cavs eventually pull out this series, but their 98-80 loss on Sunday was something we haven’t seen since James returned to Cleveland in 2014. In their last three first-round series, the Cavs have swept the Celtics, Pistons, and – one year ago – the Pacers.
Of course, these Pacers are a much different team than the squad swept out of the postseason a year ago. Victor Oladipo looked like the best player on the floor on Sunday, and players like Myles Turner, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Lance Stephenson looked great in supporting roles. This Pacers team was overlooked and underappreciated all season, and appear poised to give the Cavs all they can handle in round one.
The other Game 1 upset occurred in Portland, where the Pelicans edged out a two-point win over the Trail Blazers. Anthony Davis (35 points, 14 rebounds) was the best player on the court in that game, but Jrue Holiday‘s impact shouldn’t be understated. Besides posting 21 points and seven assists, Holiday also locked up Damian Lillard on the other end of the court — Lillard made just six of 23 shots.
The Pelicans don’t have a whole lot of standout talent behind Davis and Holiday, but Nikola Mirotic (16 points, 11 rebounds) stepped up as a reliable third option on Saturday. If he – or another Pelican – can continue to support Davis and Holiday throughout the series, New Orleans should have a chance.
Elsewhere, the Raptors, Rockets, and Thunder had to battle to the end to hold off the Wizards, Timberwolves, and Jazz, respectively, but came away with Game 1 victories. The Bucks pushed the Celtics to overtime before losing Eric Bledsoe and Giannis Antetokounmpo to foul problems and ultimately losing the game. None of those four favorites is a mortal lock to advance, though Houston is probably close.
The Warriors and Sixers took care of business with comfortable wins over the Spurs and Heat, respectively.
What do you think? Will we see an upset – or multiple upsets – in the first round of the postseason? Which lower-seeded teams do you think look like the best bets to advance to round two?
Head to the comment section below to share your thoughts!
The Warriors provided a medical update on Curry before today’s playoff opener, including the news that he “will intensify his on-court rehabilitation in the coming days.” The team’s medical staff examined Curry yesterday and plans a re-evaluation in one week. His rehab program will consist of “more running and lateral movement.”
“When he’s ready, he’s ready,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “But he’s making progress, which is a good sign.”
- It’s not unreasonable to say that Draymond Green faces pressure to perform well for the Warriors heading into the 2018 postseason, Anthony Slater of The Athletic writes. A failure to win the Western Conference title could prompt leadership to consider a reshuffle. “I think there’s more unknown anywhere when you don’t win – whether you got the 30th highest payroll in the league or the highest,” Green said. “But I don’t think about that. It’s on them.“
- It’s a “dream come true” to sign a guaranteed deal with the Warriors through the 2018/19 campaign, Quinn Cook tells Mark Medina of The Mercury News. The 25-year-old had previously bounced around the NBA, signing short-term deals with the Cavs, Pelicans, Mavs and Hawks.