The Warriors’ annual open practice on Saturday at Oracle Arena featured typical fun-loving spirit. The players were all too happy to entertain the guesstimated 5,000 fans in attendance while getting in a little exercise. Many fans even got to participate. And of course, to cap it off, was the tradition of Rookies at the Apollo.
But hidden in all the fanfare and crowd pleasing was some signs that Jeremy Tyler has stepped his game up. He hasn’t played much in the preseason. But his limited stints, and some of the moves he showed Saturday, suggest a player who is growing into his potential.
Is it enough to keep him out of Santa Cruz? Probably not. But the talented second-year forward may be doing enough to buy even more patience from the Warriors.
“He is developing,” Jackson said of Tyler. “He’s a much better basketball player now than when we first got him. I think this summer has been big for him as far as working with our young guys, being in the summer league. Battling against Festus Ezeli every day, it makes you better. He’s got a more professional attitude and he’s improving. He’s stronger and he has a better understanding of the game.”
Here are some notes from the highlights of the open practice.
** The 20 players were divide into two teams. Andrew Bogut, Andris Biedrins and Draymond Green were held out of action because of injuries.
Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, David Lee, Andrew Bogut, Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli, Charles Jenkins, Draymond Green, Kent Bazemore, Carlon Brown
Jarrett Jack, Brandon Rush, Richard Jefferson, Carl Landry, Jeremy Tyler, Andris Biedrins, Tarence Kinsey, Lance Goulbourne, Stefhon Hannah, Rich Jackson
Things began with some warm-ups and Mark Jackson, who was mic’d up, introducing everyone. Ever the orator, Jackson jazzed it up by ragging on Festus Ezeli’s haircut and joking with Draymond Green for claiming his knee hurts to get out of practice. Here are some highlights from the day:
**Running a drill focused on transition defense, Festus Ezeli drew some cheers from the crowd when he blocked Brandon Rush’s shot. But Mark Jackson was clearly not happy.
“That’s bad defense,” Jackson said. “That’s bad defense because David Lee allowed his man dribble penetration in the middle.”
** Running a half court set, the play started at the high post with David Lee. It ended up on the opposite side of the lane. But Ezeli, posting up Jeremy Tyler, airballed a turn-around 10-footer.
“I’m not ok with him taking that shot,” Jackson said afterwards. “He just bailed out the defense. That’s a shot you take when you’ve got it going.”
**Early in the scrimmage, Lee and Curry hooked up for a sweet give-and-go, revealing Lee’s passing skills. Lee got the ball at the elbow and Curry cut off him. Lee then led Curry with the perfect pass, who tear-dropped in a layup.
** Ezeli hits a wide-open 18-foot jumper from the left wing, putting Blue ahead 11-8 inside of 3 minutes in the first. Yes, that’s right. Ezeli hit an 18-footer. White team coach Pete Myers, who minutes earlier had just called a timeout in disgust, just waved his hand in frustration.
** Jackson, playing the role of ringmaster, ease-dropped on Mike Malone’s huddle. Whispering into the mic, he revealed a secret to the crowd. “Sometimes Klay Thompson leaves the huddle and doesn’t know what we’re running.”
** Jeremy Tyler pulls off a four-prong move and nails a fade-away jumper over Festus, closing Blue’s lead to 20-14. He caught the ball, dribbled to the middle, spun back to his left, threw Ezeli a pump-fake and drilled it. Tyler looked lively, athletic and skilled.
**White team led 30-29 at the half.
** Curry pushing it full court, used a head-nod fake to blow past Richard Jefferson for a layup. He showed that deceptive speed Mark Jackson talks about, how he lulls you to sleep and then bursts suddenly. This time, he was going right, so it wasn’t technically a sign of his right ankle’s security.
** Jackson called off the fourth quarter and turned it into a shooting contest. First team to 15 from 5 spots. In the first spot, Curry snitched on Richard Jefferson, who was cheating. The rule was each player had to get his own rebound. But Jefferson just stood under the basket rebounding for everyone. Curry saw it and immediately called him on it. Blue team won from the corner 15-14.
** Mark Jackson, who had fans from the crowd participate in the shooting drills, asked for a female to come get in the action. A young lady named Janae Miller from Oakland came from the top of section 105 — “This is like The Price is Right” Jackson said — to participate. She went 3-for-3 on her shots, all rainbows that touched nothing but net. One of them from 3-point range, though her foot was on the line.
“Heck yeah I was nervous,” said Miller, who played at the University of Rhode Island from 2008-10. “I was just trying to get some buckets.”
** After the hoop came the annual rookie hazing. Each rookie had to sing a solo. Here was the breakdown. Some were quite surprising:
Draymond Green – “Lean On Me”
(Comment: Draymond had it rocking. He was kinda serious, which made for a good karaoke moment)
Lance Goulbourne – “ABC’s” (Yes, the nursery rhyme)
(Comment: Goulbourne’s teammates were disappointed in his lame song selection. However, my 5-year-old daughter loved it. And Goulbourne’s proved to be better than Stephan Hannah’s. More on that later)
Kent Bazemore – “ABC” (The Jackson 5 version)
(Comment: Bazemore sang the song as if he knew it pretty well. However, before he launched into the vocals he prepped the crowd by saying he was going back to the 80s. Um, Mr. Bazemore, “ABC” was a single from 1970.)
Carlon Brown – “Juicy” (Notorious B.I.G.)
(Comment: Awkward. Like 6 people in the crowd new the lyrics. But it was a respectable rendition. But somebody should have reminded Carlon he was in Oakland. You do a 2Pac song in Oracle, not Biggie!)
Harrison Barnes – “Public Service Announcement” (an interlude on Jay-Z’s The Black Album)
(Comment: Jarrett Jack burst into laughter when Barnes started. “He think he’s hip,” Jack shouted. Something about the way Barnes performed made you think, for a moment, he really thought he was Jay-Z)
Festus Ezeli – “I Want it that Way” (Backstreet Boys)
(Comment: This was a shocker. Steph Curry could only muster a “What?!?” and Jack looked at the crowd and asked “Why does he know this?” … Mark Jackson thought his Nigerian-born center had a chance to steal the show. “He had the crowd but he let them off the hook (by cutting the song short),” Jackson said, “so that’s disappointing.”)
Rick Jackson – “I Believe I Can Fly” (R. Kelly)
(Comment: You could tell the rookie out of Syracuse wasn’t feeling it. Bogut had to get on the mic and pull rank because Jackson was saying he didn’t know the words to any song. But he blurted out half the hook to the classic inspirational jam, then said “I tried”)
Stefhon Hannah – “Nice & Slow” (Usher)
(Comment: So inappropriate, he had to shut him down. He was waaaay to into it when he sang the line, “I’m going to put my hand in places I’ve never seen …” Jack and Curry rushed to him and took the mic. “It’s a family show,” Jack said. Thank you, sir.)