* Azubuike is out. Left knee tendinitis. Guess who’s starting in his place? Ronny Turiaf. Nellie reads my blog.
* Tracy McGrady is also out with a sprained left ankle. Ron Artest is starting in his place. So, my guestimation: Ronny is going to guard Yao. Which puts Andris on Scola and Stephen Jackson on Battier. Monta matches up with Rafer Alston and Crawford gets Artest. See any problems for the Warriors defense?
* Nellie expressed some regret for playing Jackson so many minutes. Ellis played 38 minutes, which is a lot considering Nellie said he wasn’t sure if Monta was going to play, and Crawford played 37-plus. I would expect to see more of Watson and Morrow early, especially with no Azubuike. The only question is, can the Warriors stay close enough to rest the key guys early.
* Still no word for Morrow in regards to the 3-point contest at All-Star Weekend. He remains the last home for Warriors representation.
* That was, IMHO, Jackson’s best defensive performance of the year. He was locked in on D for
about as long a stretch as you can expect from a leading scorer. He guarded Chris Paul, Peja Stojakovic and, in the fourth quarter, David West. There was one sequence when West was making his move against Jax and was called for a travel. Jax beat his chest and screamed “I got him!”
If they can get him to play that way every night, they would be much better defensively.
* Monta still doesn’t look like Monta. But Crawford doesn’t look good with Monta either. He hit the big shot at the end, but that saved him from another poor performance. Is it Monta or the knee?
* A funny moment last night. With about 25 seconds left in the half, the ball wound up in Maggette’s hands. His teammates were yelling and gesturing for him to slow it up for one shot. Jackson was screaming like crazy from the defensive end of the court, like Maggette had stolen his wallet. “Heeeeeeeeeeey! Heeeeeeeeey!”
Maggette either didn’t see or hear anybody, or just didn’t care. He went coast to coast, getting a lay-up and a foul with 20 seconds left. With a smirk on his face, Jax rolled his eyes and shook his head. It was hilarious.
* let it be known I still think Ronny should start at the four, especially with Brandan out. What’s the advantage of having Buike play that position?
* Speaking of Buike, anybody notice a rare loss of composure in the first half? About midway through the second quarter, he drove to the basket and endured quote a bit of contact. Not only did he not get the call, he hit the ground hard. Build got up slowly and limped a bit as he jogged up court. Devin Brown was driving to the cup on the other end and Buike – who was 2-for-8 at the point with a few in-and-out shots, and still smarting over the fall — planted a good hard foul on Brown, sending him to the floor.
“He was going to get a layup,” Buike said. “Plus I was late getting back on defense, I had to do something.”
* So, Monta’s name is in the starting lineups. I watched him warm up. He looked fine.
* Nellie did say before the game that Monta will play the shooting guard position for a while, with Crawford playing point. The reason: Crawford “moves the ball more.” Monta will only have to worry about scoring, not about facilitating.
* Nellie said nothing came of his mediation with Mark Cuban on Thursday. He said the courts wanted them to settle. But Nellie wants no part of a settlement. “I won.”
* David West is playing. Morris Peterson is not.
* West and Stojakovic are New Orleans’ starting forwards. Azubuike and Jackson are the Warriors. So who’s guarding who? I can’t imagine Nellie putting Jax, a key scorer, on West. That’s got foul trouble written all over it. That means Buike’s guarding West? That’s got “uh oh” written all over it. (UPDATE: They did start with Buike on West!)
Warriors guard Monta Ellis maintains he’s playing tonight at New Orleans, but his knee is giving him problems. He was held out of the morning shootaround and his status will be a game-time decision, according to a Warriors official.
* Walked into practice at American Airlines Center and Monta was sitting on the side with ice on his left knee. He was practicing early (I peaked in before Jackson stopped practice and put me on blast; practice is closed off to us until the last 15 or 20 minutes). It was the same knee he banged against Jason Kidd last night.
* Warriors coach Don Nelson was not at practice. He was in court. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban appeal hearing was today. During the offseason, a judge ruled in favor of Nellie, who claimed Cuban owed Nelson more than $6 million in deferred money. Cuban’s appeal went through and now the two parties are I’m mediation
* Watson, leading a break, faked a pass to Crawford on the wing, losing Jamareo Davidson. Watson then scooped a high-arching finger roll from about the dotted line. Randolph came from the weakside and tried to swat it into Fort Worth, knocking Watson down hard on the process. Randolph just barely missed it, and the finger roll dropped in all net. The blue team cheered as they rushed to pick up Watson. Randolph was peeved.
* Jackson caught the ball on the left wing during the break. He pulled
up from like 26 feet, and Crawford didn’t bother to close out on him, instead shouted “Hell naw!” Jax drilled it and turned to Crawford and yelled “Oh, you ain’t gone guard me?! You ain’t gone guard me?!”
Jackson wasn’t done. He was talking head to Crawford the whole time. He made a 3 from the top of the key and screamed, “Get a hand up!”
Crawford stated jawing back about he’s racking up assists. He came down court, lost Jax with a crossover and hit Watson, who nailed the 3. Crawford yelled “ASSIST”! Jackson went right back at Crawford on the other end.
Jackson started back Crawford down as Crawford chanted “He ain’t gone pass it. He ain’t gone pass it.” Crawford reached around and poked the ball away. It led to a fast break basket the other way as Crawford shouted “The glove! The glove!”
* Center Andris Biedeins spent a lot of time sitting on the side. After practice, while we interviewed Monta, Biedrins found one of those medic carts, that they use to cart off injured players. He sped off down the hall with PR director Raymond Ridder in the passenger seat.
“He won’t crash,” Ellis said. “He better not crash.”
* Jax was all alone tonight. The Mavericks had a hard time guarding him. He just didn’t have any help. After dropping 14 in the first quarter, he took just three shots in the second. But no one else picked up the slack. Maggette was 3-7, which is not horrible. Ellis was 1-4. No one else scored more than two points.
* The one thing that stood out to me was Jamal Crawford’s play. Who was that? Where was the guy who averaged 28.6 points over eight games?
The problem: he’s too nice.
Crawford was deferring like low-level secretary. I don’t know if it’s because of his knee or because he didn’t want to offend Monta – just like he didn’t want to upset Jackson and Maggette when he first came – but he took six shots in 23 minutes. That’s not good. Only three came in the first half, with the Warriors trailing by 20.
The Warriors’ only hope is to outscore teams. They can’t afford to have two of their key guys off. They can barely afford to have one off. That means they can’t afford Crawford to just not be part of the offense. He needs to force Dallas to guard him, help even. There’s no need when he takes six shots and all of them are jumpers.
Maggette on Crawford: “We really didn’t practice with us, and have an opportunity to play in the starting lineup for the past four or five days. So we need to get used to him coming back and doing what he does.”
* Biedrins was outplayed by Erick Dampier. Straight up. Damp had 10 and 11 with two blocks. Biedrins had 4 and 11 and missed seven of his nine shots.
* Seven picks ahead of Monta Ellis in the 2005 draft was Brandan Bass out of LSU. I think it’s fair to say he joins Monta, Andray Blatche and Ronny Turiaf as the second-round jewels of that draft. Then again, maybe he just owns the Warriors. He had 16 and 11 with three assists and two blocks on Wednesday night.
* Corey has topped 20 in five of his last six games after putting up 21 off the bench. Wednesday’s doesn’t really count, as he had nine in the fourth quarter with the game out of reach. But he’s averaging 21.7 points on 57.4 percent shooting over the last six.
* The defense was atrocious. Terry and Howard found themselves wide open several times. Even Dirk had some uncontested looks. And the help defense was late just about every time.
Jackson: “They got a whole bunch of open looks. We had a lot of defensive errors.”
* This ice storm is ridiculous. It feels like we’re in Kansas or something.
* Jamal Crawford is going to play tonight. He gave the knee a go during pre-game warm-ups and felt good. So, for the first time, we get to see Monta and Crawford side-by-side. Pay attention to who spends the most time at PG. It might give us an inkling of what they plan to do. If Crawford is clearly the PG, that could mean the Warriors have given up on the Monta-at-point stuff. If Monta is at point, that could mean they are still holding out hope that Monta can be the point. If he can play point, then Crawford is expendable.
* Watson a no go for the Rookie Challenge. I agree with Geoff Lepper on this one. Watson deserves a spot. Oh well.
*Fairly uneventful practice today. They pretty much did a walk through, followed by a 3-on-3 among the little-minute guys. That produced a couple of highlights, like Marcus Williams losing Randolph with a sick crossover and finishing with a sweet, hanging reverse; and Randolph screaming as he swats a Morrow lay-up into the stationary bikes off to the side.
* Stephen Jackson and Monta Ellis entertained about 10 junior-high looking girls who were guests at practice. First they signed their t-shirts. Then rebounded while the girls did a shooting drill and a lay-up line. Afterward, Ellis talked to us. Barely.
How do you feel? “Good.”
Any day-after issues? “Nothing.”
At this point, can you play 35 minutes a night? “I can play four days if I have to. It is what it is.”
*Crawford didn’t practice and is day-to-day. He said it was harder to watch LeBron’s game-winner, because he was sitting out, than it was to watch Jeff Green’s.
There is a lot of talk about that final play. A little blame shifting and finger pointing. And, of course, I have it all for you.
Here’s what happened. On the previous inbounds, the Warriors started with Ronny on LeBron and Jackson on the big (I think Ben Wallace) Varajeo. James was going to circle around to come get the ball, and when he did, Jax and Ronny would switch, leaving Jax on LeBron.
Monta broke up the inbounds because he read the route and jumped it.
So the Cavs called a timeout. They changed plans.
So instead of LeBron going the expected route, he went away from the big man and Jax and Ronny weren’t able to switch. So Ronny was left on an island, and LeBron calmly nailed the game-winner.
Nellie said Monta then should have ran at LeBron with the double team, forcing LeBron to give up the ball.
Jax said he told Ronny to switch anyway, run to his man while Jax runs to LeBron. But he said communication wasn’t good.
One player, who didn’t want to be named, said the coaches probably should’ve known the Cavs were going to make an adjustment, so they should have anticipated such.
Most said that it didn’t matter. It was a big shot by a league star. That’s whay players of LeBron’s caliber do.
The Warriors get guard Monta Ellis back tonight. But they will be without guard Jamal Crawford (hamstring) and rookie forward Anthony Randolph (flu).
Crawford said he was injured against Oklahoma City but it didn’t start bothering him until the next morning. He ruled himself out after trying to warm up before tonight’s game.
Randolph has been battling illness for two days, which forced him out of practice on Thursday.
Anthony Morrow will start in place of Crawford, alongside Ellis, and Kelenna Azubuike will start instead of Randolph