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David Lee Assumes Star’s Role in Warriors Win at Cleveland

CLEVELAND — He scored a game-high 29 points. He put up 13 points in the fourth quarter, including a shot clock-beating, nail-in-the-coffin 18-footer with 44.8 seconds left.

But the scoring star of the Warriors’ 105-95 victory here Tuesday night wasn’t who you might expect.

“It wasn’t my night,” guard Monta Ellis said. “It was David Lee’s.”

Ellis had one of his worst offensive performances of the season. He made just 2 of 12 from the field and finished with 10 points.

He left the game with 35.2 seconds left after taking an elbow to the nose from Cavaliers big man Anderson Varejao. With the game was already decided, Ellis didn’t return. X-rays were negative as he suffered just a cut.

With Ellis having an off night, and point guard Stephen Curry (sprained right ankle) in street clothes for the seventh consecutive game, the Warriors (5-8) still managed enough offense to outscore the Cavaliers.

You can thank Lee, who also had nine rebounds as Golden State won back-to-back games road games for the first time since November 2010.

Tuesday night continued a torrid stretch for Lee. Over his last five games, Lee is averaging 24.6 points on 64.3 percent shooting. He’s also averaging 11.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists.

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That Was a Really Good Win for the Warriors

Gotta tip the cap to Monta Ellis. He went from awful to great faster than he can get down court. I don’t know what happened to turn it around for him, but suddenly he was unstoppable.

To post 12 points and 6 assists in the fourth quarter is special alone. To do it after struggling so mightily the first three quarters (4-for-17 shooting, two assists) showed some mental fortitude.

JACKSON: “I thought he really showed his toughness, his will and what a great player he is. Great players respond in the face of adversity. He puts us on his back and brought us home. People don?t want to talk about it, but he?s going through a lot. Losing a loved one is tough, but he?s been there for his team and still been as strong vocally. He hung in there and carried us to a victory.”

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What to Watch For – Game #2

Sunday’s season-opening loss to the Clippers left lots of questions heading into Game 2 tonight.

Needless to say, this one is vital. Golden State needs to take advantage of having a four-game home stand to start the season. Going 1-3, or even 2-2, heading into a three-game road trip (Suns, Spurs, Lakers) would be really bad.

Here are a few things to look out for tonight.
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Game #39 (12-27): Warriors 114, Bulls 97

How about this for a change of pace: the Warriors didn’t fall apart in the third quarter and pulled away in the fourth.

Warriors won the third quarter and outscored Chicago 60-44 in the second half, a detour from the trend of hot starts and third quarter meltdowns. And they did it all with virtually six players: Ellis, Maggette, Curry, Biedrins and D-Leaguers Cartier Martin and Anthony Tollilver (Devean George started and played 5:39, and Chris Hunter played 8:51 off the bench). Ellis/Maggette/Curry combined for 94 points on 34-for-71 shooting.

NELLIE: “So here we are, limited. Just about 7 and a half players, but we found a way. That’s good. As you guys know, we’ve actually been playing decently. Usually have had pretty good first halves and then the third quarter has been a problem for us. But tonight we won the third quarter and we had a big fourth quarter. So a very good game for us.”

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Notes from shootaround

Some tidbits from the Warriors’ shootaround this morning at Oracle.

It looks like the team will once again dress less than 10 players. Corey Maggette (head contusion) was not at shootaround as he was being checked out by a physician Monday morning. He will be a game-time decision. Andris Biedrins (left ankle) said he would like to play again this season, but it looks like he’ll be out for at least one more week. According to Biedrins, Don Nelson has told him that there’s no reason to rush back if there’s a chance he could make the injury worse.

Same goes for Brandan Wright (left shoulder), who went to see a doctor after shootaround. Hopefully, we’ll have an update on him just before tonight’s game. Marco Belinelli (right ankle) also saw his doctor Monday afternoon.  

Monta Ellis had cold-like symptoms earlier today and was not at the shootaround, but he is expected to play tonight.

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And then there were eight…

Hey everyone. Just filling in for Marcus while he begins his five-day “vacation.” Of course, he went ahead and broke all kinds of rules with a blog post this morning. Just shows his level of dedication. 

Many of you probably saw this Stephen Jackson video yesterday on hoopshype.com, where he basically said that it’s time to ”shut it down and get (his toe fracture) fixed” and begin the process of getting ready for next season. According to a Warriors’ spokesperson, Jackson is seeing a specialist today. An update on how that appointment went may be forthcoming later on.

Corey Maggette (head contusion) has returned to the Bay Area, joining Andris Biedrins and Marco Belinelli. Brandan Wright (left shoulder pain) will not play against the Nuggets on Saturday. The team also reported Friday morning that Jermareo Davidson had successful surgery to repair the stress fracture in his left foot. He’ll be immobilized for the next month.

In case you’re counting, that leaves eight players available for Saturday’s game (Azubuike, Crawford, Ellis, Kurz, Morrow, Randolph, Turiaf, Watson). Should be a great time.

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Whew! Now Let’s Play Catch-Up

OK, a lot has happened super fast. There was quite a bit of info, thoughts I didn’t get into my story for tomorrow’s paper. Here are some of the major points of the article, some of my thoughts, and some answers to your questions. Ready? Breathe. Read.

* I was told consistently by a source that Maggette got five years, $50 million. At the last-minute, I heard it was five years, $40 million. But my source reiterated that it was $50 million. That $10 million is a huge difference. That deal looks a whole lot better if it is for $40 million.

* Heard late in the evening that the Warriors made an offer to Ronny Turiaf! Don’t know all the details yet, but I was told it averaged about $4M a year. Ronny is restricted, so if the Warriors sign him to an offer sheet, the Lakers can match. I’m not sure if I like this or not yet. Turiaf is one of those dudes who impresses you in spots, but when you step back and look at what he brings overall, he’s not to impressive. He does some things well, not so much others. Is he worth $4M? Over three years, sure, why not. The Warriors need a hustler, a body not afraid to bang.

* I was shunned by Baron’s people. He nor his agent responded to the one question I had: With Brand going to Philly, is there ANY chance AT ALL that Baron goes back to the negotiating table with the Warriors? I got no love. A contact did tell me that the Clippers spent Tuesday evening talking to Baron, convincing him to stay, even working out the details of the contract (as well as preparing a fat offer sheet for Atlanta’s Josh Smith). They were pretty sure he was staying, but he was rumored to be livid over Brand’s Boozer impersonation.

* Pietrus got love from Orlando because Otis Smith, the Magic’s GM, likes Pietrus. They had some kind of bond when Smith was with the Warriors and Pietrus was a youngster. That helped MP2 get what he got. Orlando needed a replacement for Maurice Evans, who is now a free agent. There is even talk that Pietrus could start.

* Didn’t I say top-tier ballers don’t want to play for the Warriors? Brand turned down some $10 million more from the Warriors to go to … Philly! Dang. That was a straight slap in the face to the Warriors. Did the Warriors really think they were going to get a player better than Baron?

* Speaking of Brand, he just went from one of the league’s character examples to supplanting Carlos Boozer as the face of reneging. Check this out – Brand, according to insider scuttle, turned down virtually the same amount from the Clippers. Los Angeles got up to $80 million and was willing to renounce more players if necessary to give Brand more. Still, he chose Philly.

* So the salary cap is $58.7 million. The luxury tax will be $71.1 million. Based on my estimation, and figuring this out cost me hours of my life I’ll never get back, the Warriors are at about $50 million including the cap holds. Here is the breakdown:
2008-09
Al Harrington – $9.23
Corey Maggette – $8.50
Stephen Jax – $7.14
Andris Biedrins – $7.90 (cap hold)
Adonal Foyle – $6.50 (buyout price)
Brandan Wright – $2.50
Kosta Perovic – $1.70
Ant Randolph – $1.70 (rookie scale max)
Monta Ellis – $1.54 (cap hold)
Marco Belinelli – $1.45 (rookie scale max)
Kelenna Azubuike-$0.89 (cap hold)
Richard Hendrix – $0.44 (league minimum)
C.J. Watson – $0.71 (minimum salary, non-guaranteed)
Total – $50.20

That leaves the Warriors with some $8 million to spend before hitting the cap. If Andris signs a deal starting at a salary equal to his cap hold, the the Warriors can sign a free agent or two before signing Ellis and Andris. They’ll have close to $10 million if they wait to sign Randolph until they hit the cap, which they can do under CBA rules. They would also have more if they traded Harrington and got less money back.

*Here’s a concern I have: what happens when Monta and Andris want more than Maggette? Monta certainly has a claim. Say the Warriors start Monta at $9 a year (which would be $67.5M contract over six years). And say they start Biedrins at $8. That would make Stephen Jackson the fifth-highest paid player on the team.
Now, he’s up for an extension. I seriously doubt if he gets one. How is he going to react to being so far down on the salary pole but being a leader on this team while getting no extension love? Remember, Jackson has watched Richardson get shipped out unexpectedly as if he wasn’t the heart and soul of the team. He watched Pietrus and his boy Barnes get hardballed into a one-year deal. He watched his “brother” Baron Davis get his extension requests rejected in consecutive offseasons and then “lowballed” (in his eyes). He’s watching his other close friend, Al Harrington, once highly coveted by the Warriors, become a role player.
You have to wonder if Jackson is going to take one for the team or try to get his paper.

* With the way restricted free agents are about to get squeezed (only the clippers have money left), don’t be surprised if several of them ask for a sign-and-trade or choose to play for the one-year qualifying offer (and become restricted free agents next season). Including Andris. The free agent market is kind of skimpy this offseason – thanks to all the money going to the few big names out there. Some of the second-tier stars will shine a lot brighter in 2009.

* I still say go after Rasheed Wallace or Shawn Marion or Lamar Odom. Use Harrington, future draft picks, etc. – maybe even Stephen Jackson – to get a proven All-Star. They all are one-and-done, which could give the Warriors cap space next year if they don’t work out.