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Warriors’ Festus Ezeli planning to play in Olympic Games for Nigeria

Golden State Warriors center Festus Ezeli participates in the Bound for Better: Business & Basketball clinic for local high school students from College Track at Jamtown in Oakland, Calif., on Tuesday, June 23, 2015. Ezeli, a native of Nigeria, discussed his journey to the NBA and the Warriors championship. The program, presented by Stanford Health Care and College Track,  exposes students to potential medical careers as they relate to sports. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)

Golden State Warriors center Festus Ezeli participates in the Bound for Better: Business & Basketball clinic for local high school students from College Track at Jamtown in Oakland, Calif., on Tuesday, June 23, 2015. Ezeli, a native of Nigeria, discussed his journey to the NBA and the Warriors championship. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)

Warriors center Festus Ezeli said he Thursday planned to play for Nigeria in the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in August.

The 6-foot-11 Ezeli was included earlier this week on a 27-player list of invitees to the Nigerian national team’s training camp.

Ezeli, who was born in Benin City and came to the United States as a teenager, will become a restricted free agent in July after declining an offer from the Warriors last fall. He is expected to land a lucrative multi-year contract despite having undergone surgeries on his left and right knee that have limited him over the past three seasons.

Ezeli, 26, averaged 7 points and 5.6 rebounds in 46 regular season games, missing nearly eight weeks while recovering from surgery to clean out debris from his left knee in February.

He said Tuesday after coming off the bench to spark the Warriors to a win in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Portland Trail Blazers that he didn’t think what the performance could do for his next contract.

“So all that other stuff, the individual selfish stuff, there is really no room for that on this team,” Ezeli said.

Should Ezeli remain on the Olympic team, Ezeli and the Nigerian team would play in an exhibition game against Team USA in Houston on Aug. 1.

Nigeria has open Olympic play in the group phase with a game against Argentina on Aug. 7.

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VIDEO: Golden State Warriors dismantle Trail Blazers in fourth quarter comeback

Without Stephen Curry, the Warriors pulled off one of the most epic fourth quarter comeback wins of the 2015-16 season. In the playoffs, no less.

Bay Area News Group’s Courtney Cronin and Marcus Thompson break down what went wrong for the Warriors in three quarters of Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals and how Klay Thompson, Festus Ezeli and Draymond Green were able to pick up the Warriors in the fourth quarter and lead GSW to a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference Semifinals.

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Warriors general manager Bob Myers wonders how valuable center Festus Ezeli fell for release prank

Golden State Warriors center Festus Ezeli participates in the Bound for Better: Business & Basketball clinic for local high school students from College Track at Jamtown in Oakland, Calif., on Tuesday, June 23, 2015. Ezeli, a native of Nigeria, discussed his journey to the NBA and the Warriors championship. The program, presented by Stanford Health Care and College Track, exposes students to potential medical careers as they relate to sports. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)

Golden State Warriors center Festus Ezeli participates in the Bound for Better: Business & Basketball clinic for local high school students from College Track at Jamtown in Oakland, Calif., on Tuesday, June 23, 2015. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)

OAKLAND — The video-recorded April Fools’ prank Warriors center Festus Ezeli fell for in which the Warriors were purportedly going to release him led to conversation with general manager Bob Myers.

“Bob was like, ‘Yo, why would you even believe some stupid prank like that?'” Ezeli said Friday, laughing. “But I think it was because more my teammates were texting me, so I thought it had to have been real. These guys are evil, man.”

Andre Iguodala led the plot where during a Lyft ride, radio broadcasters in a fake report cited sources that said Ezeli would be released and teammates and staff members would begin texting message of support to the 6-foot-11 player.

But of course, Ezeli’s return from injury is something the Warriors look forward to before the playoffs. A shot blocker who continues to grow as an offensive player, Ezeli will become a restricted free agent in the offseason declining the Warriors’ contract offer in the preseason.

Ezeli has missed more than seven weeks recovering from knee surgery, and he believes he is “very, very close” to returning to action.

In the meantime, he did get a measure of revenge on Iguodala by hitting him in the face with a cake before shootaround.

“It kind of a hit home a little bit,” Ezeli said of the video. “My life flashed in front of my eyes in that moment.

“It was a good joke. Everybody loved it.”

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5 things we learned from Warriors’ 103-85 win against the Utah Jazz

Utah Jazz's Derrick Favors (15), left, gets the ball taken away by Golden State Warriors' Festus Ezeli (31) in the second period of their basketball game at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., on Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group)

Utah Jazz’s Derrick Favors (15), left, gets the ball taken away by Golden State Warriors’ Festus Ezeli (31) in the second period of their basketball game at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., on Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group)

Five things we learned from the Warriors’ 103-85 win against the Utah Jazz:

1. The Warriors weren’t exactly looking to say much about their upcoming showdown against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Stephen Curry rarely does not address the media after games and did not do so tonight. Draymond Green, rarely hesitant to speak his mind, said the Cavaliers game was “another game,” musing that it meant the Warriors would either finish Christmas 28-1 or 27-2. Only Andrew Bogut would concede that playing the Cavaliers for the first time since the NBA Finals would be a big game.

2. The Warriors respond to the coaching staff well. When challenged on their defensive performances earlier in the week and sat down for a long film session on the topic, the Warriors responded. Bogut and Green played like All-Defense honorees. Gordon Hayward didn’t have a good game on offense with Green and Klay Thompson guarding him. Quin Snyder was left praising the defense that he saw, noting that people can forget about it since the Warriors are so good on offense. But defense is the Warriors’ backbone, and the coaches made sure to get in the reminder.

3. The Warriors are able to take things one game at a time. In their case, the cliche rings true. They could have come out sluggish after four days without a game. Yes, there was some rust in what wasn’t their best offensive game. But they won by 18 one game before the most anticipated game of the year for many followers of the NBA. “Our players are great about staying present and staying in the moment,” interim head coach Luke Walton said.

4. Festus Ezeli is a force to be reckoned with. He had four blocks off the bench, swatting some of the Jazz’s shots as if he were spiking volleyballs. The Warriors are thrilled with his development, and for all the talk of small ball that came out of the their championship run, Ezeli is allowing them to stay big. His strong play has also meant changes in the rotation, as Marreese Speights once again did not play. Neither did new acquisition Jason Thompson.

5. Quietly, Brandon Rush has been solid filling in as a starter in place of Harrison Barnes, who appears unlikely to return in time for the Cavaliers game. Rush hit another 3-pointer against the Jazz, making him 24 for 48 from long distance this season. This is an important development, as the Warriors have long been looking for a knockdown shooter off the bench. Rush had that ability before he tore his ACL, and now that he’s discovered his stroke again, the Warriors have that much more depth.

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Warriors center Festus Ezeli suspended for one game

TORONTO — Warriors center Festus Ezeli was suspended for one game without pay by the NBA and will miss the Boston game after the league ruled he had initiated an altercation with Tyler Hansbrough by grabbing the Raptors player’s throat.

The incident with four tenths of a second remaining in the third quarter as the Warriors led by 41 points resulted in both players being ejected, but Hansbrough was not disciplined for racing up to shove Ezeli in response.

The two players battled for position under the basket before frustrations resulted in the altercation. Officials and players from both teams rushed to separate Ezeli and Hansbrough.

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Warriors C Festus Ezeli remains on pace for 2014 return

Warriors second-year center Festus Ezeli gradually made his way from stop to stop at the Golden State’s annual Media Day on Friday. Known for his athleticism and strength, he was reduced to a ginger pace.

“This is my first time walking without my brace,” Ezeli said.

Ezeli had right knee surgery in June. Per the team, doctors went in to “reinforce both the medial collateral ligament and posterior cruciate ligament…” He was initially expected to be out six to nine months and Ezeli said he is still on that track.

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