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Kerr brings perspective to Warriors

The Sports Xchange

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OAKLAND, Calif. — It did not take Steve Kerr long to stare up at the championship-level height at which the Golden State Warriors have set their team’s standard and immediately ask that the bar be lowered.

He is only 6 feet 3, after all.

It might not have been what Warriors management expected to hear at Kerr’s introductory press conference on Tuesday as the new Golden State coach. But general manager Bob Myers did cite being “genuine” as one of the new guy’s most admirable traits.

“It is not my goal to win 52 games,” Kerr insisted, not coincidentaly picking a number one higher than the Warriors achieved under recently fired Mark Jackson this past season. “We all know how the NBA works. You can get a couple of breaks and make a nice run. Or you can have a couple of injuries … My goal is to continue the upward trend that the team is on.”

That did not get Jackson a fourth season at the Golden State helm. The team improved from 47 wins in 2012-13 to 51 this past season but made no progress in the standings (landing the sixth seed in the Western Conference playoffs for a second consecutive year) and actually took a step backward (a first-round playoff elimination) in the postseason.

Myers made it clear that expectations are extremely high in 2014-15 even though it will be Kerr’s first as an NBA head coach.

“When you strip it all away, what matters is winning,” he said. “We try to draft players from winning organizations. Steve Kerr can look at a player and show five championship rings. That resonates.

“We want to have winning people in our organization. By winning, we mean winning the last game. Only one team does that. That’s what everybody wants — winning the championship. He (Kerr) is the only guy in our organization that’s done that.”

In fact, the 48-year-old Kerr was a five-time champion in the NBA as a teammate of Michael Jordan on the Chicago Bulls. He also participated in the Final Four at the University of Arizona.

He has never played for a San Francisco Bay Area team, but already is quite aware of the dreams of the organization and its fans.

“This is a very good team,” he said. “A lot of people have said: Do you really want to go to a team with such high expectations? My thought is: It’s better than the opposite. I would much rather have talent end expectations than to be on a losing team and have a lot of rebuilding to do.

“When I talked to (San Antonio Spurs coach) Gregg Popovich, who I consulted during this process, he said throw out the seeds. Doesn’t matter. The Spurs have been the top seed and gotten swept out (of the playoffs). Be consistent. Having a swing at the plate year in and year out — that’s what we want.”

The Warriors took seven swings at the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the playoffs this season. They struck out on the seventh pitch.

The second round of the postseason had barely tipped off before Jackson was fired.

“I don’t think they failed. They had a good season,” the TNT analyst said in the presence of Warriors owner Joe Lacob, who made the ultimate call on the coaching change. “They took the Clippers to seven games. If they win the last two minutes (of Game 7), then the season is considered a success. Sometimes your season comes down to one minute or one shot.

“If some people want to look at the season as a failure, I don’t look at it that way. I look at it as a success.”

Coincidentally, Kerr pointed to Clippers coach Doc Rivers as someone who helped develop a map for what might make the Warriors a better team next season.

“That’s what the best teams in the league do — they balance offense and defense,” Kerr said. “Doc Rivers did a real good job with the Clippers. He got his team to run more and at the same time defend the 3-point line better. That’s the balance we want to achieve.”

Kerr, whose 26 years in and around the NBA include eight as a broadcaster, believes his work behind the mike will help him succeed as a head coach. That said, he plans to hire an assistant with head-coaching experience.

Interestingly, with the Warriors recently linked possibly to having an interest in trading for Minnesota Timberwolves standout Kevin Love, Kerr admitted the only personnel suggestion he has made to Golden State management is to pursue a “stretch 4” (perimeter-shooting power forward).

“That’s not my job,” he said when asked if he were involved in any internal talks regarding Love. “I have enough to do.”

And do it with the weight of a 39-year championship drought squarely on his shoulders. It is easy to see why Kerr would think that bar looks awfully high.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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Rockets spoil Griffin’s return in testy affair

The Sports Xchange

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If James Harden needed any extra motivation against the Los Angeles Clippers, he found it in the first half.

Harden scored 34 points, and the Rockets held on for a 100-98 victory over the Clippers in a sometimes testy affair on Sunday at Staples Center.

Point guard Chris Paul, who finished with 23 points, missed a contested shot at the buzzer that would have forced overtime.

“It was very important for us just to go out there and play well,” said Harden, who hit seven of 16 shots from the floor, three of five from 3-point range and 17 of 18 free throws. “The last two games we kind of struggled a little bit, but we got our pop back a little bit today, and it was a good win for us.”

Harden provided much of that pop, particularly in the second quarter after Clippers forward Matt Barnes was whistled for a flagrant-1 foul after pushing Harden to the court at 6:02. Harden scored 15 of his 18 points in the period after that, leading the Rockets to a 58-50 halftime lead.

Did the flagrant foul add more fuel for the Rockets’ All-Star guard and MVP candidate?

“Yeah. Things like that are fun,” said Harden, who had 24 points in the first half. “We have fun, we got boosted off of that.”

The win ended a two-game skid for the Rockets (44-22). Houston forward Trevor Ariza scored 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds, while forward Terrence Jones added 16 points and 12 boards.

“This was a win that we needed, especially on the road,” Ariza said. “Going into the home stretch, these are the types of games we have to win.”

Los Angeles forward Blake Griffin returned after missing 15 games due to surgery on his right elbow. Griffin had 11 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, but committed five turnovers in 41 minutes.

“I didn’t think I played well,” said Griffin, who managed 4-of-10 shooting. “I was out of rhythm. Way too many turnovers, obviously.”

Barnes scored 19 points and guard J.J. Redick had 15 for the Clippers (42-24), who fell into a tie for the No. 5 spot in the Western Conference standings with the Dallas Mavericks.

Paul lamented a host of turnovers in the defeat, including a critical one involving center DeAndre Jordan.

“I had some bad turnovers,” said Paul, who committed three of the Clippers’ 20 miscues compared to 13 for the Rockets. “On one, I drove it off DeAndre’s foot, the other one I lost towards the end of the half. We have to take better care of the ball. We still had an opportunity to win, but we just didn’t do it.”

The Clippers came back from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit. Paul scored seven straight points, capping it with a 3-point basket to tie the score at 96 with 3:05 left in the game. Houston got a 3-pointer by Jones, but Barnes countered with a basket to keep Los Angeles within 99-98 with 1:35 left. Los Angeles, though, never scored again.

Griffin got a steal as Ariza attempted a pass to Harden, but Ariza drew a charging foul as Griffin bolted to the bucket with 12 seconds remaining. Griffin remained unhappy about the call after the game.

“If I speak on that, I’ll get fined,” Griffin said.

Harden hit one of two foul shots with 8.9 seconds left, capping the scoring before Paul failed to connect on a jumper in the lane with Ariza defending.

The Rockets outscored Los Angeles 36-20 in the second quarter despite making just 38.5 percent of their shots compared to 44.4 percent for the Clippers. Overall, the Clippers hit 43.9 percent to 37.2 percent for the Rockets. They also held an edge in 3-point shooting, converting 12 of 26 attempts to seven of 30 for Houston. The Rockets, though were 29 of 36 from the foul line to 14 of 24 for Los Angeles.

Jordan finished with 20 rebounds and four blocks.

NOTES: F Blake Griffin’s return benefits PG Chris Paul as much as any Clipper. “Teams have been able to trap (Paul) far more than they can when Blake is on the floor because of (Griffin’s) ability to pass,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “I’m sure CP is the happiest of all to have him back.” … Rivers isn’t sure if injured G Jamal Crawford would return before the playoffs. Crawford has missed six games with a right calf contusion. … Rockets C Dwight Howard sat out his 18th game with a right knee edema. “He’s doing everything he can, he’s trying to get better, but until you’re on the floor, it’s impossible to say,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said regarding Howard’s return. … Both clubs resume play Tuesday. Houston hosts the Orlando Magic, while Los Angeles plays the Charlotte Hornets at Staples Center.

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Spurs’ Ginobili sprains ankle

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SAN ANTONIO — Guard Manu Ginobili was helped off the floor late in the third quarter of the San Antonio Spurs’ game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday due to a sprained right ankle.

Ginobili went down with 43 seconds left in the quarter and with the Spurs leading the Timberwolves by 30 points. He was immediately was led to the locker room, and he did not put any weight on his right leg as he was carried off the court. He did not return to the game.

In 19 minutes during the Spurs’ 123-97 win over the Timberwolves, Ginobili scored 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting. He battled a stomach illness last week, forcing him to miss a game against the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday and leading him to play limited minutes against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday.

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NBA notebook: Clippers’ Griffin cleared to return

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Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin, out the last 15 games with an elbow injury, was cleared to return Sunday against the Houston Rockets.

Griffin had surgery five weeks ago to remove a staph infection in his right elbow.

“He said, ‘I’m ready,'” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said before Sunday’s game. “Yesterday the trainers called me and said, ‘If he can go, he can go. He’s been cleared.'”

Rivers said timing likely will be an adjustment for Griffin.

“Timing is timing,” Rivers said. “You lose it when you don’t play in an NBA game. Sometimes you come back and you play great the first game and then you lose your timing. Sometimes it doesn’t. As far as the way we play, it won’t be hard for him at all.”

In 51 games this season, Griffin is averaging 22.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.1 assists.

–Spurs guard Manu Ginobili had to be helped off the floor late in the third quarter against Minnesota on Sunday. Ginobili went down with 43 seconds left in the quarter and with the Spurs leading the Timberwolves by 30 points.

He was helped off the floor and immediately was led to the locker room. He did not put any weight on his right leg as he was carried off the court.

Up to that point, Ginobili had scored 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting in 19 minutes. He battled a stomach illness last week, forcing him to miss a game against Toronto and play limited minutes against Cleveland on March 12.

–Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr sent emails to three fans who were disappointed that he rested several prominent players, including All-Star guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, in Friday’s loss to the Nuggets in Denver.

“There’s two really good sides to the story,” Kerr said, according to the Associated Press report. “Nobody’s wrong here. … I can’t argue with them.”

Kerr received an email from a family that drove from South Dakota to Denver to see Curry, Thompson and the entertaining Warriors play. But Curry, Thompson, center Andrew Bogut and reserve guard Andre Iguodala did not play so they could be rested, and the Warriors lost 114-103.

“I heard from some fans. I received a few emails, stories about driving in from a long distance off and spending a lot of money on tickets,” Kerr said. “I have great sympathy for those people. I really do. It’s a tricky one. It’s something that I think Adam Silver is trying to address through the scheduling shuffling that he’s talking about.

–The Dallas Mavericks recalled center/forward Dwight Powell from the Texas Legends of the NBA Development League on Sunday.

The 6-foot-11, 240-pound Powell played in one game during his most recent assignment to the D-League and finished with 28 points, five rebounds and two assists to lead the Legends in a 115-89 win over the Austin Spurs on Saturday night.

Powell has appeared in 19 games for the Mavericks this season, averaging 3.5 points and 2.2 rebounds in 10.0 minutes per game.

–The Atlanta Hawks signed forward Austin Daye to a 10-day contract Sunday.

Daye appeared in 26 games (four starts) earlier this season with the San Antonio Spurs, averaging 4.0 points and 2.3 rebounds in 10.3 minutes.

In 10 games this season with the Erie BayHawks of the NBA Development League, Daye has averaged 16.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.1 blocks in 28.5 minutes.

–The Miami Heat recalled guard Zoran Dragic from the Sioux Falls Skyforce of the NBA Development League on Sunday.

Zoran appeared in four games (one start) and averaged 16.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.50 steals, helping the Skyforce to a 3-1 record over that span.

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