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5 things we learned from Warriors’ 114-110 win against the Houston Rockets

Here are five things we learned from the Warriors’ 114-110 win against the Houston Rockets:

1. The Warriors closed out the 2015 calendar year with the second-best record of all-time behind — guess who — the 1996 Chicago Bulls. The Warriors went 72-12, won a championship and went on an unprecedented season-opening winning streak. Will 2016 offer even more?

2. The idea that Klay Thompson can’t carry a team, that he can’t do it without Stephen Curry took a loss at Houston. In his duel with shooting guard frenemy James Harden, Thompson came out on top and scored 38 points less than 24 hours after struggling against the Dallas Mavericks’ Wesley Matthews. Thompson was in fine form on the court and then afterward downplayed how much he cared about his belief he’s the best shooting guard.

3. Curry is coming back soon. He was in good spirits while sitting out the game and felt good enough with his left leg to shoot around before the game. That’s good news for the Warriors, who are without Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli and Leandro Barbosa.

4. The impending return of Steve Kerr is a highly anticipated event. “When he does come back, whenever that is, I hope he gets a huge ovation,” Thompson said. Draymond Green smiled and said it’ll be a good homecoming. Kerr could be back as soon as Saturday’s game at Oracle Arena. First, he has to make sure he comes off the road trip refreshed and is feeling up to it.

5. Green, who always had the Tragic Johnson tag on him at Michigan State, was magical with his passing against the Rockets. Sixteen assists for the forward was a career high, and Green stepped forward when Shaun Livingston told him before the game that the offense would run through him and Andrew Bogut. With the Warriors running and cutting and getting easy baskets due to Green spreading it around, they looked like their normal selves even while short-handed.

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Warriors’ Marreese Speights having ‘worst…most frustrating’ year minutes-wise, but he’s willing to sacrifice

AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

DALLAS – Warriors big man Marreese Speights is on pace for the worst season of his career in terms of minutes, scoring and shooting percentage.

Still, on Wednesday before he could get more of an opportunity to play with Festus Ezeli out of action, Speights maintained that he was willing to sacrifice in order to be a part of a championship team.

“This year has probably been the worst,” Speights said of the having his minutes fluctuate. “This year has probably been the most frustrating. But at the end of the day, I understand that if you’re winning, that goal at the year is one of the great feelings ever in the world.

“Every guy wants to play, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to sacrifice if you’re on a great team. I could go leave here and go play on a bad team and play a lot of minutes and get stats, but what is that really proving, you know what I’m talking about?”

Speights did not play in two of the Warriors’ three previous games and is averaging 4.8 points in 9.6 minutes per game. He said he still felt comfortable given that he had been practicing “really well.” He said that while it appears he hasn’t adjusted well to play more power forward, he has only played limited minutes at a time there.

“I learned from leaving Memphis to go to Cleveland that you’ve just got to be patient, man,” Speights said. “You never know what could happen. It’s a long season. Things turn around quick, and the opportunity will come back.

“I’m going to keep working, and I’m going to get my opportunity again.”

Speights saw Andre Iguodala and David Lee accept bench roles on last season’s championship team, but says he bought in from the start.

“I know we’ve got a lot of people on this team who could play,” Speights said. “I make sure I support everything that happens. I can’t really be a circus player because being a good team – a championship team – you can’t be selfish. You’ve got to sacrifice.

“I’m just trying to get on the floor any way possible and see the ball go in and help my team win, but at the end of the day, we’ve been winning. It’s not really about me. I can’t really be down on myself because we’ve lost one game the whole year, so that’d be selfish of me to just worry about me, but I’m not like that. I’ll sacrifice doing on this team whatever role and whatever it is because I know I’m a solid role player, and I’ve been my whole life.”

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James Harden on Warriors’ Klay Thompson naming himself top shooting guard: ‘We really know what’s going on’

The Golden State Warriors' Klay Thompson (11) reacts to hitting a 3-point shot against the Houston Rockets in the second quarter of Game 5 of the NBA Western Conference finals at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., on Wednesday, May 27, 2015. (Dan Honda/Bay Area News Group)

The Golden State Warriors’ Klay Thompson (11) reacts to hitting a 3-point shot against the Houston Rockets in the second quarter of Game 5 of the NBA Western Conference finals at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., on Wednesday, May 27, 2015. (Dan Honda/Bay Area News Group)

The Warriors’ Klay Thompson chose himself over Houston’s James Harden and Chicago’s Jimmy Butler two weeks ago when considering who the best shooting guard was in the NBA.

Harden, whose team hosts the Warriors on Thursday, slightly shook his head and offered his own opinions on the matter.

“People are going to talk,” Harden told reporters Wednesday. “Just let them talk and do what they’re going to do. Whatever gets them excited, whatever gives them that confidence to want to talk, go ahead and do it. But we really know what’s going on.”

Asked about Harden in wake of Thompson’s pick, Rockets interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff told reporters, “I think James is pretty good.”

When Mychal Thompson, Klay’s father, was asked on SiriusXM last week to put on his analyst’s hat and evaluate the case for Klay, he mentioned Harden as well.

“He definitely makes the case,” Mychal said of Klay. “So does Harden, so does Jimmy Butler, Bradley Beal every now and then shows up to be the best from week to week. So it all depends on who’s having the best week. But Klay is definitely in the conversation.”

Harden, of course, did some talking of his won in the preseason to NBA.com when reiterating that he still felt he deserved to win the MVP award over Stephen Curry.

“I am the best player in the league. I believe that,” he said. “I thought I was last year, too.”

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5 things we learned from Warriors’ 122-103 win against the Sacramento Kings

Golden State Warriors' Draymond Green (23) and Stephen Curry (30) enjoy the view from the bench along with coach Bruce Faiser as their team plays the Sacramento Kings late in the fourth quarter at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., on Monday, Dec. 28, 2015. The Warriors beat the Kings 122-103. (Susan Tripp Pollard/Bay Area News Group)

Golden State Warriors’ Draymond Green (23) and Stephen Curry (30) enjoy the view from the bench along with coach Bruce Faiser as their team plays the Sacramento Kings late in the fourth quarter at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., on Monday, Dec. 28, 2015. The Warriors beat the Kings 122-103. (Susan Tripp Pollard/Bay Area News Group)

Five things we learned from the Warriors’ 122-103 win against the Sacramento Kings:

1. Stephen Curry is banged up. He received treatment after the game and was walking around gingerly. He said it wasn’t his previously strained calf that was bothering him and told interim coach Luke Walton the same thing. Walton referred to the ailment as an “injury.” Curry was more vague. “The regular-season grind is upon me right now,” Curry said. “I’m just working through it.”

2. Steve Kerr wasn’t happy with the first half. Walton said that Kerr normally stays in the coach’s room during games and this case was compelled to speak with the team in the locker room about playing more like themselves rather than falling into the Kings’ trap. Kerr has been more active and is expected to join the team on its upcoming trip to Dallas and Houston.

3. The Warriors needed to close out on Omri Casspi. He was 13 for 18 from the field, hitting nine 3-pointers. It’s not often someone comes into Oracle Arena and out-shoots Curry, who did get the last laugh. Brandon Rush struggled and fouled out while drawing the assignment.

4. Steph vs. Seth was a fun match-up. The sight of his younger brother on the court brought out a moment where Stephen launched a deep 3-pointer and was visibly frustrated by the miss. “He let me know about it,” Stephen said of Seth. Playing against each other for the first time was a moment the family members in town for the holidays could enjoy.

5. Curry can heat up at any time. He went from scoreless to 17 points in a hurry in the final 3:16 of the first half. The heat check shots he took kept going in. The fans were thrilled to witness it. In an otherwise sloppy outing early on for the Warriors, there was Curry prettying it up. “It doesn’t surprise me,” Andrew Bogut said of the outburst. And to think for a while there, Curry was seen as slumping.

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Ex-assistant coach Lindsey Hunter: Warriors ‘would have won anyway’ had Mark Jackson coached current team

MarkJackson

Mark Jackson became a topic of conversation after his comments about Stephen Curry on Christmas Day, and he isn’t the only member of the previous coaching staff who recently had strong opinions watching his old team.

Former Warriors assistant coach Lindsey Hunter recently stated his belief that Jackson’s staff would have had success as well had it been retained to coach the current team.

“Do I think the team would have won anyway? Yes,” Hunter told Detroit Sports 1051 earlier this month. “If we had those same pieces, of course we would probably be sitting there at whatever.

“The team is so set, and after winning a championship…it’s a lot of autopilot. And not trying to take away from what Luke (Walton) is doing, but if somebody else was coaching that team, I wouldn’t doubt if they would be in the same position that they are in now.

At the time of Hunter’s comments, the Warriors were off to a 23-0 start with Walton as the interim head coach after winning the NBA championship with Steve Kerr as a rookie coach.

Hunter was not retained when the Warriors fired Jackson following the 2013-14 season and a first-round playoff exit.

“It’s just like a marriage,” Hunter said. “You know, some marriages work, and some don’t. And depending on how willing the two ends are to get together and make it work…and sometimes ownership just wants a different thing. And you’re the owner, so you can do what you really, really want. Sometimes, it’s just not justified. It’s just, ‘OK, we want to go in another direction,’ and you’ve just got to suck it up and go ahead. Coach Jackson was great. I mean, he was great for me and my coaching career. He let me work, and he let us grow as a group, and he really…had a great ability to get guys to play hard, and you respected that. And he treated guys like men, and it was a very family atmosphere. You just loved it. It’s just unfortunately, they saw things differently, and you can’t knock ‘em for it.”

The most recent comment from Warriors ownership on Jackson came from co-owner Peter Guber, who told The Beast 980 in May, “We had to make a change that we felt would bring the organization a type of discipline and resources and resourcefulness that it needed on the basketball front.”

Hunter praised his former players Curry and Draymond Green for transcending the game with their play with the current Warriors team.

“It is must-see TV,” Hunter said. “Me and my guys text constantly about what’s going on. Is Golden State on? We’re texting each other. Is the game on television? We’re all trying to watch because it’s must-see TV. You just want to see what Steph is going to do. You want to see what Klay (Thompson) is going to do, Draymond.”

Hunter said he was now visiting with college coaches and doing developmental work with high school players in Southfield, Mich.

“If I were to take an NBA job, it would have to be with the right cast,” he said. “I’d have to have the right guys supporting me. I couldn’t do it on an iffy situation.

“It just depends on who was managing it.”

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Stephen Curry wishes Mark Jackson would’ve worded it differently, but knows ‘there was a compliment in there’

Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry (30) pauses during his shooting practice prior the NBA game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)

Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry (30) pauses during his shooting practice prior the NBA game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)

Warriors guard Stephen Curry said he understood what former coach Mark Jackson meant when he said on the Christmas Day broadcast of the game against the Cleveland Cavaliers that the reigning MVP has to a degree “hurt the game” in the way youth players are inspired to shoot from long distances.

“After I heard all of what he was talking about, I understand where he’s coming from – that being for the youth of today and how they watch us play or watch me in particular, and they want to go out and try to do the same thing,” Curry said Saturday. “It’s all about practice and routine and repetition that can help you get to that point, so you can’t skip that part of the process.

“I wish he would have phrased it just a little bit differently. I think I’m trying to inspire people to see the game differently in a positive way…I get what he was saying. There was a compliment in there. Knowing him personally, I think that’s what he meant.”

Jackson, who coached Curry and the Warriors until his firing following the 2013-14 season, is an ESPN broadcaster who made his point after it was noted Curry can hit 30-foot shots.

“Steph Curry’s great,” Jackson said. “Steph Curry’s the MVP. He’s a champion. Understand what I’m saying when I say this. To a degree, he’s hurt the game. And what I mean by that is I go into these high school gyms, I watch these kids, and the first thing they do is run to the 3-point line. You are not Steph Curry. Work on the other aspects of your game. People think that he’s just a knock-down shooter. That’s not why he’s the MVP. He’s a complete basketball player.”

“People are not looking at that. That didn’t filter down when we had Michael Jordan. It didn’t filter down when you saw Kobe Bryant’s incredible all-time great footwork. We don’t fall in love with the things that make ‘em great. We fall in the love with things that they do great.”

Jackson later responded to the ensuing criticism of his comments, tweeting, “Read the Quote!!! Stop Searching!!”

ESPN director of communications Ben Cafardo also tweeted, “Context. It’s important.”

Jackson’s comments did cause some criticism from Warriors center Andrew Bogut, who declined to address them but added, “Anything he says, you can take with a grain of salt, and you can quote me on that.”

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Warriors’ Stephen Curry expects to play against Sacramento Kings after suffering calf strain

Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry (30) celebrates a 3-point basket against the Phoenix Suns in the first half of a NBA game at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)

Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry (30) celebrates a 3-point basket against the Phoenix Suns in the first half of a NBA game at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)

OAKLAND – Warriors guard Stephen Curry expects to be able to play Monday against the Sacramento Kings after suffering a right calf strain earlier this week.

He walked without a limp on an off day Saturday while distributing boxes of food and basic essentials to families at Beebe Memorial Cathedral and repeatedly.

Curry briefly left the court in the second quarter of the Warriors’ win against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Christmas Day to get re-taped. He had suffered the injury two days earlier when the Utah Jazz’s Rodney Hood kneed him in the calf.

“Throughout the season, there’s going to be bumps and bruises you’ve got to deal with,” Curry said. “It sucks to have to leave the court during the game, coming back and that kind of stuff, but I had to get myself taken care of. I’ll be fine come Monday. I should be good.”

Warriors interim head coach Luke Walton said after the win against the Cavaliers that Curry was schedule to receive treatment and that he would have not a problem resting the reigning MVP if more time was needed for the calf to heal.