Stephen Curry

And-Ones: Super Teams, LeBron, Draft Sleepers, Foster

The super-team model for winning an NBA championship is becoming less effective, writes Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. The Nets and Sixers are two of the latest examples to fail with that strategy, both by acquiring James Harden. The Big Three in Brooklyn captured just one playoff series before Harden was shipped to Philadelphia, where his pairing with Joel Embiid resulted in a second-round exit.

In the Western Conference, injuries have prevented Kawhi Leonard and Paul George from reaching their full potential with the Clippers, Bondy notes, and the Lakers’ decision to team Russell Westbrook with LeBron James and Anthony Davis was a complete disaster. Bondy adds that the teams remaining in the playoffs were all built mainly through the draft, with later additions focusing mainly on defense.

Here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • James tops the list of the world’s 100 highest-paid male athletes released this week by Sportico. James made $36.9MM in salary over the past year and $90MM in endorsements, putting him $4.6MM ahead of soccer star Lionel Messi. Three other NBA players finished in the top 10: Stephen Curry at No. 6 with total earnings of $86.2MM, Kevin Durant at No. 7 with $85.9MM and Harden at No. 9 with $76MM. It’s the most James has ever earned over a 12-month stretch, according to Kurt Badenhausen of Sportico.
  • Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated lists five unheralded players to keep an eye on in this year’s draft. On his list are North Carolina State freshman guard Terquavion Smith, Alabama senior guard Keon Ellis, Connecticut senior forward Tyrese Martin, Loyola Chicago senior guard Lucas Williamson and Texas Tech senior forward Bryson Williams. Woo doesn’t expect them all to be drafted, but he does believe they’ll exceed expectations and carve out a spot in the NBA.
  • Marcus Foster, who played for the Rockets’ G League affiliate in Rio Grande Valley this season, has signed with Promitheas Patras for the Greek League playoffs, according to Sportando. The 26-year-old guard, who was in Houston’s training camp prior to the start of the season, has an option to sign with an NBA or EuroLeague team this summer.

Nikola Jokic Repeats As Most Valuable Player

Nuggets center Nikola Jokic has won his second straight Most Valuable Player Award, topping the SixersJoel Embiid and the BucksGiannis Antetokounmpo by a comfortable margin, the NBA announced in a press release.

Jokic received 65 first-place votes and 875 total points, putting him well ahead of Embiid, who finished second with 26 first-place votes and 706 points. Antetokounmpo came in third with nine first-place votes and 595 points.

Nobody else received a first-place vote, but Suns guard Devin Booker was fourth with 216 points and Mavericks guard Luka Doncic was fifth at 146 points. With 100 total voters, the balloting system awarded 10 points for a first-place vote, seven points for second, five points for third, three points for fourth and one point for fifth.

Other players receiving votes were the Celtics‘ Jayson Tatum (43 points), the GrizzliesJa Morant (10), the Warriors‘ Stephen Curry (4), the SunsChris Paul (2), the BullsDeMar DeRozan (1), the LakersLeBron James (1) and the NetsKevin Durant (1).

Jokic is the 13th player to win MVP honors in back-to-back seasons. He averaged 27.1 points, 13.8 rebounds and 7.9 assists in 74 games and helped the Nuggets earn the sixth seed in the West despite the absence of Jamal Murray and  Michael Porter Jr. Jokic was named Western Conference Player of the Month twice this season and reached the All-Star Game for the fourth straight year.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski first reported on Monday that Jokic would win the award.

Pacific Notes: Curry, Kuminga, Powell, Sabonis

Stephen Curry will return to the starting lineup tonight as the Warriors will open Game 5 with the small-ball unit that has caused match-up problems for the Nuggets throughout their series, tweets Kendra Andrews of ESPN. Kevon Looney will come off the bench as Draymond Green takes over at center.

It will mark Curry’s first start since suffering a sprained left foot and bone bruise in mid-March that forced him to miss the rest of the regular season. He has remained a dangerous weapon as a reserve, averaging 27.5 points per game and shooting 38.9% from three-point range in the first four games of the series.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Jonathan Kuminga might see his role expanded now that Andre Iguodala is out for the rest of the series with a neck injury, writes Dalton Johnson of NBC Sports Bay Area. Kuminga played 11 minutes in Game 4, all in the second quarter, producing nine points and making an impact on defense. Iguodala has been struggling on offense, but has contributed in other ways, including logging a few minutes at center last game. “The neck is bothering him again,” coach Steve Kerr told reporters after today’s shootaround. “He’s disappointed, he can’t play.” 
  • An injury disrupted Norman Powell‘s time with the Clippers shortly after he was acquired at the trade deadline, but he believes he’ll benefit from a fresh start with the team next season, per Law Murray of The Athletic. Powell wants to reach the level of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard to give the team a third All-Star. “I think I’m ready for that, being that role as a primary guy,” he said. “That’s what I go out there and try to prove every single night that I can hold my own against the best in the world, but also, it’s about winning for me. Not only achieving those individual goals but achieving them as a team is what’s most important.”
  • Kings big man Domantas Sabonis is also looking forward to his first full season with his new team, according to Alex Kramers of Sabonis had to adjust quickly to his new surroundings after leaving the Pacers in a deadline deal, and he’s hoping to build chemistry with his teammates this offseason. “We didn’t have much time to practice and get together and know all the sets, defensive schemes and everything,” Sabonis said. “That’s why I’m excited for the summer. We’re going to get together as a group and try to build on things early before training camp even starts.”

Western Notes: G. Taylor, Curry, Mavs, Kings

A group of animal welfare activists – members of the organization Direct Action Everywhere who have conducted a series of protests at Timberwolves games in recent weeks – want Glen Taylor to step down from his role as the Wolves’ team owner, writes Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.

As Arnovitz details, Taylor is the owner of Rembrandt Farms, a large-scale factory farm that recently killed more than five million birds using a method known as “ventilation shutdown plus” that activists view as inhumane. That method was employed in an effort to combat an outbreak of bird influenza.

Taylor has agreed to eventually hand over the reins of the Timberwolves to incoming owners Alex Rodriguez and Marc Lore. However, Arnovitz says the activists want to expedite the succession process, which currently doesn’t call for Rodriguez and Lore to assume full control until at least a year from now.

According to Arnovitz, Direction Action Everywhere is also demanding that Taylor contribute $11.3MM to public health and animal welfare organizations. That amount is equivalent to the $11.3MM that Rembrandt Farms received in federal funds in 2015 to combat another influenza outbreak, per ESPN.

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • Warriors star Stephen Curry will no longer face a minutes restriction in Game 5 vs. Denver on Wednesday, head coach Steve Kerr said today (Twitter link via Kendra Andrews of ESPN). There has been speculation that Curry will reenter the starting lineup on Thursday, but Kerr didn’t confirm or deny that.
  • On the verge of winning a playoff series for the first time in his career, Mavericks guard Luka Doncic praised his teammates, including Dorian Finney-Smith and Reggie Bullock, who rushed to confront Jazz center Hassan Whiteside following a hard foul on Doncic on Monday. “They had my back,” Doncic said, per Tim MacMahon of ESPN. “Both of them, anybody, we had each other’s back. That’s what great teams do. I would go with these guys to war. This is a special team.”
  • In his offseason preview for the Kings, ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link) explores the resources Sacramento has available to upgrade its roster, concluding that the draft and trade market are the team’s best bets. In Harrison Barnes, Justin Holiday, Maurice Harkless, and Alex Len, the Kings have about $35MM in expiring contracts, Marks observes.

Warriors Notes: Starting Lineup, Kuminga, Poole, Payton II

The Warriors have found a devastating lineup to close out games, and Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic believes it’s just a matter of time until that group becomes the starters as well. Stephen Curry has been coming off the bench since returning from injury, and Thompson notes it would be easy to transfer his minutes back into a starter’s role. Thompson cites a “high likelihood” that the change will take place when Golden State begins its second-round series, if not sooner.

No matter what coach Steve Kerr decides to do with his rotation, Jordan Poole‘s role shouldn’t be changed, Thompson adds. Thompson states that Poole has been one of the Warriors’ best players for about two months, and the team has a 48-19 record with him as a starter.

The closing lineup, which also includes Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins, has overcome concerns about its lack of size with aggressive defense and rebounding in the first-round series against Denver. Looking ahead to the next round, the author believes the smaller lineup provides favorable matchups against either the Grizzlies or Timberwolves.

There’s more on the Warriors:

  • Rookie forward Jonathan Kuminga was a regular during the season, but he has only seen eight combined minutes in three games against the Nuggets. Team officials expect him to have a role later in the playoffs, Thompson adds in the same piece, so his playing time might increase in Game 4. “I keep reminding all the guys every day that, (in) the playoffs, things change at the drop of a hat,” Kerr said. “You’ve got to be prepared for everything. And have a lot of proof of that over the years. We’ve had a lot of players who have had to fill in and step up and play big roles in big series. … A big part of the playoffs is everybody staying ready.”
  • Poole’s improved play will set up a tricky extension decision for the Warriors this summer, writes Keith Smith of Spotrac. Poole is eligible for an extension that could be worth up to a projected $185MM+ over five years, but even if he agrees to take less, it will present an extra salary burden for a team that’s already paying nearly $350MM in combined salaries and luxury tax. Smith suggests something in the range of $100MM over four years might be a reasonable compromise, adding that the Warriors value Poole too much to let him get away.
  • Gary Payton II was considering applying for a job in the Warriors’ video department if he hadn’t made the team in training camp, per Kendra Andrews of ESPN“He’s been released so many times,” Kerr said. “It’s just him preparing for whatever is next. But he played so well for us, that was never going to be a possibility.”

Warriors Notes: Poole, Curry, Starting Five

Warriors forward Draymond Green and head coach Steve Kerr both expressed surprise this week when Jordan Poole wasn’t included among the three finalists for the Most Improved Player award.

As Dalton Johnson of NBC Sports Bay Area writes, Kerr called Poole’s omission “shocking,” though he acknowledged that All-Star guards Ja Morant, Darius Garland, and Dejounte Murray are all “worthy candidates.” Green conveyed his disagreement in stronger terms, per Angelina Martin of NBC Sports Bay Area.

“If Jordan Poole isn’t the Most Improved Player, then the NBA really needs to relook at their process. Because you cannot find a guy on that list that has made a bigger improvement,” Green said. “I don’t care. If he’s not the Most Improved Player, then let’s rename the award to … who we like the most, who we see as more electrifying, to who we see may have a bigger impact on our team.

“That’s not the name of the award, that’s actually the Most Valuable Player, and so if we’re talking about the Most Improved Player, and if the award was voted on based upon its name, then it’s a no-brainer who’s the Most Improved Player.”

Here’s more on the Warriors:

  • Once Stephen Curry‘s protégé, Poole is turning into a legitimate co-star for the two-time MVP, writes Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic. “He’s been watching Steph a lot,” Green said, “and he’s doing his best impression. And it is incredible.” President of basketball operations Bob Myers agreed with Green’s assessment: “Realistically, the engine is Curry. And now you’re seeing maybe twin engines. Which is fun.” Poole, who will be extension-eligible this offseason, has averaged 29.5 PPG on 65.5% shooting in the first two playoff games of his career.
  • Given how well Poole has played, the Warriors will have a tough lineup decision to make once Curry is ready to return to the starting five, writes Josh Schrock of NBC Sports Bay Area. If they want to start both Curry and Poole alongside Green and Klay Thompson, it would mean bringing either Andrew Wiggins or Kevon Looney off the bench.
  • Curry admitted after Game 2 on Monday that he’s still feeling some discomfort in his injured left foot, but said it “doesn’t matter,” adding that he’s committed to managing that discomfort through the playoffs (Twitter link via Kendra Andrews of ESPN).
  • In case you missed it, Warriors owner Joe Lacob discussed Poole’s emergence, Golden State’s championship hopes, and balancing the team’s veteran core with its young core, among other topics. Here are some of the highlights.

Warriors Notes: Curry, Green, Poole, Death Lineup

Stephen Curry made the decision to come off the bench in the Warriors‘ playoff opener Saturday night, according to Kendra Andrews of ESPN. Returning from a left foot sprain and bone bruise that had sidelined him since March 16, Curry scored 16 points in 22 minutes as Golden State posted a convincing win over Denver.

Curry patterned his return on what the team did with Klay Thompson when he came back in January as he got 45 minutes of real-time rest in each game. No decision has been made on whether Curry will continue in a reserve role moving forward, but Thompson knows that his presence can make a huge difference in the series.

“I thought he looked great,” Thompson said. “His shot was short in the first half, but that’s to be expected when you come off a long layoff. But he’s still Steph Curry. … Just his gravity and the threat of him being out there is the best. It makes us a championship team.”

There’s more on the Warriors:

  • The Nuggets went 3-1 against Golden State during the regular season, but Draymond Green didn’t play in any of those games, Andrews adds. He logged 29 minutes Saturday with 12 points, six rebounds and nine assists and helped to control Nikola Jokic on defense. “You need tough and smart, and that’s Draymond,” coach Steve Kerr said.
  • Starting in Curry’s place, Jordan Poole surpassed Wilt Chamberlain to become the youngest Warriors player to reach 30 points in his playoff debut, writes Madeline Kenney of The San Jose Mercury News. Poole, who made five of his first seven three-point attempts, was part of a new “death lineup” that broke the game open late in the first half. “Jordan Poole, wow, what a playoff debut,” Thompson said. “All his hard work is paying off. If he doesn’t get Most Improved this year, it just doesn’t make sense.”
  • Outside of Poole, the Warriors’ young players didn’t get a lot of minutes Saturday, but the team has confidence in them in case they’re needed, per Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic. Golden State has been developing them all year long in hopes of getting them ready for the postseason. “They gotta feel it,” Andre Iguodala said. “It’s really hard to explain to them how the intensity kind of turns up in the playoffs.”

Injury Notes: Mavericks, Murray, Curry, Adebayo, More

Mavericks star Luka Doncic, who will reportedly miss Game 1 of the team’s playoff series against Utah on Saturday, has officially been listed as doubtful on the team’s injury report (Twitter link). Tim Hardaway Jr. (recovering from left foot surgery) and Frank Ntilikina (recovering from an illness) will also miss the contest.

Hardaway is considered unlikely to return this season, though he hasn’t given up hope of a comeback if Dallas makes a deep playoff run. The Mavs later announced (via Twitter) that Ntilikina underwent a tonsillectomy, which is why he’s sidelined. The 23-year-old is back with the team and gradually returning to on-court activities.

Here are some more injury and COVID-related updates from around the NBA:

  • Nuggets guard Jamal Murray has been ruled out for Game 1 against Golden State on Saturday, tweets Anthony Slater of The Athletic. The news isn’t surprising, as Murray has missed the entire season while recovering from a torn ACL suffered last April.
  • Slater also notes that Stephen Curry has been listed as probable for the Warriors. He’s on track to play his first game since suffering a left foot sprain and bone bruise on March 16.
  • Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said the team is hopeful that Bam Adebayo will clear the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols in time to play in Game 1 against Cleveland or Atlanta on Sunday, per Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald (Twitter link). Adebayo entered the protocols on April 10 and players must stay isolated for at least five days unless they return two straight negative tests at least 24 hours apart, so he should be cleared soon.
  • Suns guard Landry Shamet was unable to practice on Friday due to a left foot injury, according to a report from The Associated Press. “Injuries are a part of it,” coach Monty Williams said. “We’re not sure the severity of it. He just didn’t practice today and that’s all we have to report. But we’re built for situations like this. … We just have to deal with stuff as it pops up.”
  • Luke Kennard will miss Friday’s win-or-go-home game for the Clippers, as Mirjam Swanson of the Southern California News Group relays (via Twitter). Kennard is dealing with a right hamstring injury and his absence will be a key one for Los Angeles, who faces New Orleans to determine the No. 8 seed in the West.

Postseason Injury Updates: Curry, Kennard, Doncic, Saric, Williams

Earlier on Thursday, reports surfaced that Warriors star guard Stephen Curry was on track to return from his foot injury for Game 1 against Denver on Saturday. That didn’t change after the team’s scrimmage today.

Afterward, coach Steve Kerr said that Curry is “optimistic he’ll play Saturday,” Anthony Slater of The Athletic tweets. Curry wouldn’t say it’s a given he’ll play, but that’s his expectation, Kendra Andrews of ESPN writes.

“Everything has been positive in terms of getting back out there and understanding I’ll be ready to play whenever that time is. I’m hoping it’s Saturday,” he said. “I’ll try to be the best version I can be having missing a little bit of time … I have high confidence I can go out there and help our team win.”

Curry will be on an unspecified minutes restriction, Andrews adds.

We have more postseason-related injury news:

  • The Clippers are listing swingman Luke Kennard as questionable for Friday’s do-or-die play-in game against New Orleans, Scott Kushner of tweets. Kennard tweaked his right hamstring during the regular-season finale on Sunday.
  • While Luka Doncic reportedly will miss Game 1 of the Mavericks’ playoff series against Utah, the team has yet to officially rule him out, Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News reports. Coach Jason Kidd said Doncic is “progressing” from the calf strain he suffered in the regular-season finale. “He’s doing good,” Kidd said. “Didn’t practice, but is in good spirits, and had a good day.”
  • It’s very unlikely Dario Saric will suit up for the Suns during the playoffs. However, he left the door open a crack, telling the media he could return in an emergency situation where multiple Suns big men get hurt and he’s feeling healthy enough to play, according to Kellan Olson of Saric tore the ACL in his right knee last July during Game 1 of the Finals.
  • Celtics center Robert Williams continue to “ramp up” his left knee rehab, according to coach Ime Udoka, though he’s still not cleared for contact, Jared Weiss tweets“He’s getting on court basketball drills, mixing in pretty much everything,” Udoka said. “Not contact, but any basketball drill. Getting a lot of shots up, weight-bearing, strength, agility. It’s low level, but he’s ramping up day by day and feeling good about it.”

Stephen Curry On Track To Return For Game 1 Vs. Denver

As long as he doesn’t suffer any setbacks in Thursday’s scrimmage, Stephen Curry is on track to return for Game 1 of the Warriors‘ playoff series against Denver on Saturday, sources tell Shams Charania and Anthony Slater of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Curry was able to practice on Wednesday for the first time since suffering a left foot sprain and bone bruise on March 16 vs. Boston. Golden State was just 8-10 in games Curry missed this season, but finished out the season strong by winning its last five games to secure the No. 3 seed in the West.

The two-time former MVP had a down season by his spectacular standards, but still had a tremendous impact on both ends of the court. In 64 games this season (34.5 minutes per night), he averaged 25.5 points, 5.2 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 1.3 steals on .437/.380/.923 shooting.

Curry’s potential return and health will be key factors in Golden State’s chances for a deep playoff run. If the Warriors can defeat the Nuggets in the first-round, they’d face the winner of the Memphis/Minnesota series in the semi-final.

The Warriors returned to the playoffs in 2021/22 after a two-year absence, finishing with a 53-29 record. The team famously went to the Finals in five straight seasons from 2015-2019, winning three Championships in the process.