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The Beat: Diamond Leung On The Warriors


Diamond Leung

Nobody knows NBA teams better than beat writers, save for those who draw paychecks with an NBA owner’s signature on them. The reporters who are with the teams they cover every day gain an intimate knowledge of the players, coaches and executives they write about and develop sources who help them break news and stay on top of rumors.

We at Hoops Rumors will be chatting with beat writers from around the league and sharing their responses to give you a better perspective on how and why teams make some of their most significant moves. Last time, we spoke with Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe about the Celtics. Click here to see all of the previous editions of this series.

Today, we gain insight on the Warriors from Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group. You can follow Diamond on Twitter at @Diamond83, and click here to check out his stories.

Hoops Rumors: It all came together so well for the Warriors this past season. It would be tough to duplicate 67 wins and a title. Do the Warriors feel like this level of performance is sustainable?
Diamond Leung: I think the 67-win total won’t be easily duplicated given how the Warriors stayed pretty healthy last season, but they can certainly win the title again. They entered last season having to adjust to a new coaching staff that implemented a new offense. Steve Kerr made that transition go well, but I think the team expects to improve and build on last season now that the roster has remained relatively intact. The Warriors have the reigning MVP and players in their prime. Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli still have room to grow. If Andrew Bogut and Andre Iguodala don’t show much sign of aging, this team should be able to sustain success.
Hoops Rumors: The Warriors have a history of tying up key players on extensions rather than letting them hit free agency. Do you get the sense that they’ll be able to sign Harrison Barnes to an extension this fall, or will the lure of next summer’s free agency, when the cap is set to spike and teams will have so much money to spend, be too strong for Barnes to resist?
Diamond Leung: Barnes has expressed a strong interest in re-signing, and we’ll have to see what his change in representation means. The Warriors, of course, understand that negotiations for a potential extension will be different than the ones they’ve had that led to previous contracts they’ve been able to get done. With the salary cap rising dramatically the following summer, how much more might the Warriors give to Barnes in acknowledgment of that? How much are the Warriors willing to risk losing Barnes as a restricted free agent to a number of teams that will have money to throw around? What the Warriors do know is that they love Barnes’ work ethic and the role he played in a playoff run as a 23-year-old. The Warriors also prefer continuity and achieved their stated goal of keeping last season’s roster intact this offseason.
Hoops Rumors: It seems surprising that the Warriors have expressed a willingness to do an extension with Festus Ezeli, too, since he’s played so little over his three-year career. How far do you sense that the Warriors are willing to go to reach an extension with him?
Diamond Leung: General manager Bob Myers has expressed that he wants Ezeli to be with the Warriors for a long time and understands how much potential he has. The Warriors know the value of big men. They made a controversial trade for Bogut to get an impact big man, and it helped turn around the team’s fortunes. Bogut has dealt with his share of injuries and could even consider retirement when his current contract expires, so Ezeli then becomes an important piece of the puzzle. He’s a muscular big man who plays good defense and is developing offensively after starting to play basketball later than others. It’s difficult to know what the ceiling is, but the Warriors should know what they have.
Hoops Rumors: Do the Warriors have plans to incorporate Jason Thompson into the rotation, or do you think that they’d rather flip him and further reduce their tax bill as they did with Gerald Wallace?
Diamond Leung: The Warriors are planning to incorporate Thompson into their rotation. He’s a veteran that they see as someone who can fit onto a championship roster given that they noticed he played hard for losing teams. He can play center and power forward on a team that values versatility.
Hoops Rumors: The Warriors are reportedly close to hiring Steve Nash as a player development consultant. In what regard do you think Nash would be of most help to the team?
Diamond Leung: Nash would certainly bring another respected voice to the organization. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are All-Stars in their prime, yet continue to look for ways to improve. Nash would seem to be a fit there as someone with a keen eye for pushing the boundaries for what is possible.
Hoops Rumors: Hypotheticals like this are challenging, but do you think the Warriors would have won the title last season if they’d have stuck with Mark Jackson as coach?
Diamond Leung: It would be unlikely and would have to depend on the situation Jackson was coaching. If he would have returned for the final season of his contract without an extension, there would have been even more distractions than the previous season. Then there would be the question of who would have replaced the two assistant coaches he lost in what ended up being the final season. The biggest question marks on the roster would have been if Barnes could bounce back from a difficult season while playing from off the bench again and if Bogut would have felt alienated after missing the playoffs the previous season. The Warriors ended up winning the title under Kerr based upon a “Strength in Numbers” mentality.

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