Kevin Durant has admitted his heated exchange with Draymond Green last season was part of the reason he left the Golden State Warriors in free agency.

A verbal altercation broke out between the pair during a game last November when Green grabbed a rebound against the Los Angeles Clippers and did not pass to Durant, who was open.

The incident carried over into the locker room, with Green subsequently suspended by the Warriors for one game without pay for conduct "detrimental to the team".

After losing the NBA Finals to the Toronto Raptors, Durant left at the end of his contract and signed for the Brooklyn Nets, although he is expected to miss the entire 2019-20 season through injury.

Pressed on the exchange with Green and whether it played into his thinking when deciding his future, Durant told ESPN: "A little bit. Yeah, for sure.

"I mean, if your team-mate talks to you that way, you think about it a bit. We talked about it, but definitely. For sure. I'm not going to lie about it.

"I just felt like I needed a switch. I felt like a lot of stuff in Golden State had reared its head and I felt like it was going to be the end, no matter what - especially for that group.

"Shaun Livingston was retiring, Andre Iguodalo was getting older, our contracts were going to stifle the team and put us in a hole to get other players. It was time for all of us to separate."

Green took blame for the incident last week, acknowledging he was "wrong" and revealing he had to work to rebuild Durant's trust.

"Once I was able to get over my stubbornness and accept the fact that I was wrong, I was able to move on," Green told ESPN. "I lost [Durant's] trust. How do I get that back?

"[It was] not so we can win a championship or we can win some games but [because] I actually loved this guy - like that's really my brother. And so not knowing what's next in our relationship bothered me more."

Steve Kerr admitted the Golden State Warriors are in a "tough spot" after star Stephen Curry broke his hand in the defeat to the Phoenix Suns.

Golden State's NBA season went from bad to worse following confirmation Curry suffered a broken left hand in Wednesday's 121-110 loss against the Suns in San Francisco.

Two-time MVP Curry – who had nine points, six assists and five rebounds – was forced to leave the court after falling on his wrist in the third quarter.

Warriors general manager Bob Myers told ESPN that Curry will have an MRI and CT scan to determine if he requires surgery and discover a recovery timetable.

Head coach Kerr addressed the injury post-game, telling reporters: "Obviously it's been a tough start on many levels.

"Just trying to find out footing and obviously this puts us in a tough spot. So, we will assess it and go from there."

Curry had his wrist caught up under Suns big man Aron Baynes after a bad fall attempting a layup midweek.

"Baynes came up after the game and just wanted to know how Steph was doing," Kerr added. "You could tell he felt really bad. It's just a random basketball play, so stuff happens."

It is a huge blow for the Warriors, who crashed to their third defeat in four games to start the season.

The Warriors are already without All-Star Klay Thompson as he recovers from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, while Kevin Durant departed for the Brooklyn Nets.

"It's a great opportunity for these young guys to play," Kerr said when asked about the added responsibility on the team's young players. "It's also a little bit too much.

"You want to bring along rookies the best you can. We have no choice with all the injuries. Where we are, we might as well throw them into the frying pan."

James Harden almost scored 60 points as the Houston Rockets won a high-scoring thriller against the Washington Wizards, while the Golden State Warriors' season went from bad to worse after Stephen Curry broke his hand.

Harden posted 59 points to lead the Rockets to a stunning 159-158 victory over the Wizards in NBA action on Wednesday.

MVP in 2017-18, Harden was 18-of-32 shooting while going 17 of 18 from the free-throw line as the Rockets registered a franchise-record score.

Rockets team-mate Russell Westbrook had another triple-double, scoring 17 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds.

Wizards star Bradley Beal had 46 points of his own on 14-of-20 shooting, including seven of 12 from beyond the three-point line.

Curry, meanwhile, suffered a broken left hand in Golden State's 121-110 loss to the Phoenix Suns midweek.

The Warriors star landed heavily on his wrist in the third quarter and did not return as Golden State lost for the first time in four games.

It is another huge blow for the Warriors, who are already without injured All-Star Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant – who left for the Brooklyn Nets.

As for the Los Angeles Clippers, they lost 110-96 to the Utah Jazz after resting superstar Kawhi Leonard.

 

Siakam soars as Raptors roar

Pascal Siakam recorded 30 points for defending champions the Toronto Raptors, who topped the Detroit Pistons 125-113. Andre Drummond had 21 points and 22 rebounds in a losing effort.

Tristan Thompson posted 23 points and 10 rebounds in the Cleveland Cavaliers' 117-111 win over the Chicago Bulls.

Nikola Vucevic had 21 points and 13 rebounds as the Orlando Magic were 95-83 winners against the New York Knicks.

Kemba Walker put up 32 points, six rebounds and six assists as the Boston Celtics overcame a 19-point deficit to beat the Milwaukee Bucks 116-105.

 

Wiggins highlights Timberwolves' woes

Andrew Wiggins had decent offensive numbers with 19 points, but the Minnesota Timberwolves were minus-27 with him on the floor in a 117-95 loss to the unbeaten Philadelphia 76ers.

 

Sabonis sizzles

Domantas Sabonis had 29 points and a nifty move to the basket in the Indiana Pacers' 118-108 win over the Nets.

 

Wednesday's results

Philadelphia 76ers 117-95 Minnesota Timberwolves
Cleveland Cavaliers 117-111 Chicago Bulls
Orlando Magic 95-83 New York Knicks
Toronto Raptors 125-113 Detroit Pistons
Boston Celtics 116-105 Milwaukee Bucks
Indiana Pacers 118-108 Brooklyn Nets
Portland Trail Blazers 102-99 Oklahoma City Thunder
Houston Rockets 159-158 Washington Wizards
Utah Jazz 110-96 Los Angeles Clippers
Charlotte Hornets 118-111 Sacramento Kings
Phoenix Suns 121-110 Golden State Warriors

 

Nuggets at Pelicans

The New Orleans Pelicans are still trying to get their first win of the season and they welcome a talented and deep Denver Nuggets team for the late game on Thursday.

Stephen Curry has suffered a broken left hand in a huge blow for the Golden State Warriors.

Curry was forced to leave the Warriors' NBA clash with the Phoenix Suns after falling on his wrist on Wednesday.

Warriors star and two-time MVP Curry had his wrist caught up under Suns big man Aron Baynes after a bad fall attempting a layup in the third quarter midweek.

Curry – who had nine points, six assists and five rebounds when he left the game – went straight to the locker room with a dejected look on his face, with the Warriors later confirming the broken hand.

It is another huge blow for Steve Kerr's Warriors, who are without injured All-Star Klay Thompson following Kevin Durant's move to the Brooklyn Nets.

Trae Young recently told a reporter the Atlanta Hawks will surprise everybody this season.

That's big talk for a player on a team that won only 29 games last season but the Hawks have backed it up so far. They were 2-0 entering Monday's home matchup with the favoured 76ers and they pushed the Eastern Conference title contenders to the buzzer before falling 105-103.

Joel Embiid hit a pair of free throws with just over five seconds remaining to seal the win as the 76ers rallied from eight points down in the final five minutes. Embiid led the way for Philadelphia with 36 points and 13 rebounds as the 76ers (3-0) remain the last unbeaten team in the eastern conference.

But the Hawks once again showed they are much improved from last year. Young had 25 points and nine assists, while John Collins (16 points, eight rebounds) and De’Andre Hunter (14 points, nine rebounds) played well.

De’Andre Hunter nailed a clutch three-point shot off the assist from Vince Carter tonight to finish with 14 points, nine rebounds and the team’s best +/- at +10.

The Hawks eventually lost 105-103, but Young's Hawks continue to be one of the surprises of the early season.

Russ and James lead the way in win over their former side

James Harden scored 40 points and Russell Westbrook scored 21 points, adding 12 rebounds and nine assists to key a 116-112 win over his old team, the Thunder.

Knicks forward Bobby Portis collected 28 points and 11 rebounds with a plus-31 rating in a 105-98 win over the Bulls.

Pistons forward Christian Wood had 19 points and 12 boards in 21 minutes off the bench in a 96-94 win over the Pacers.

JJ has unusually bad night from three-point land

JJ Redick hit only one of his 10 shots as the Pelicans fell to the Warriors.

Ingram gets high and jams

Brandon Ingram drives and extends for a big Pelicans slam.

Kawhi Leonard shows some nice touch around the basket here.

Monday's results

Indiana Pacers 94-96 Detroit Pistons
Chicago Bulls 98-105 New York Knicks
Philadelphia 76ers 105-103 Atlanta Hawks
Orlando Magic 95-104 Toronto Raptors
Oklahoma City Thunder 112-116 Houston Rockets
Cleveland Cavaliers 112-129 Milwaukee Bucks
Golden State Warriors 134-123 New Orleans Pelicans
Portland Trail Blazers 110-113 San Antonio Spurs
Utah Jazz 96-95 Phoenix Suns
Denver Nuggets 101-94 Sacramento Kings
Charlotte Hornets 96-111 Los Angeles Clippers

Mavericks at Nuggets

Young stars Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis are off to hot starts for the Mavericks with averages of more than 26 points per game, while the Nuggets have six players in double figures, led by Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray.

LeBron James and Anthony Davis starred as the Los Angeles Lakers secured back-to-back NBA wins by topping the Charlotte Hornets 120-101.

James and Davis each posted double-doubles to inspire the Lakers against the Hornets in Los Angeles on Sunday.

Lakers superstar James finished with 20 points and 12 assists, while team-mate Davis had a game-high 29 points and 14 rebounds for the Lakers (2-1).

The Hornets (1-2) were led by Miles Bridges and his 23 points on the road.

Meanwhile, the Golden State Warriors suffered a crushing 120-92 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The departure of Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson's injury have weakened the Warriors significantly as they look to re-assert themselves as title contenders following last season's run to the NBA Finals.

Stephen Curry had 23 points but the Warriors (0-2) still lost to continue their winless start to the season.

 

Irving stars in Nets loss

Kyrie Irving tallied 37 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists as the Brooklyn Nets fell to the Memphis Grizzlies 134-133 after overtime.

CJ McCollum scored 36 points to lift the Portland Trail Blazers past the Dallas Mavericks 121-119.

 

Herro struggles

Tyler Herro made one of his six shots and totalled eight points in the Miami Heats' 116-109 defeat to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

 

Crowder with the buzzer-beating three!

Jae Crowder's overtime game-winner made the FedExForum erupt.

 

Sunday's results

Oklahoma City Thunder 120-92 Golden State Warriors
Memphis Grizzlies 134-133 Brooklyn Nets (OT)
Minnesota Timberwolves 116-109 Miami Heat
Portland Trail Blazers 121-119 Dallas Mavericks
Los Angeles Lakers 120-101 Charlotte Hornets

 

Nuggets at Kings

The Denver Nuggets have had early success, while the Sacramento Kings are trying to find their footing, but both teams are chock full of young talent. There will be exciting matchups to key in on across the board during the game.

Draymond Green did not hold back after the Golden State Warriors suffered another blowout loss to start the NBA season, saying "we f****** suck right now".

The Warriors – who made the NBA Finals for a fifth straight year last season – fell to 0-2 following Sunday's comprehensive 120-92 defeat at the rebuilding Oklahoma City Thunder.

Playing without injured star Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant, who departed for the Brooklyn Nets, Golden State were no match for Oklahoma City as the Thunder (1-2) raced out to a stunning 70-37 half-time lead.

Stephen Curry led the woeful Warriors with 23 points after his team-mates made just 23 of 74 shots, while offseason recruit D'Angelo Russell was ejected in the third quarter for arguing with an official.

All-Star Gren told reporters: "I would like to see us play harder. But the reality is, we f****** suck right now.

"[It] sucks. But I guess just about everybody except Tim Duncan has been through it. But it sucks pretty bad.

"I didn't have this feeling that it would be like this. I kinda figured like, it won't be the same, but I didn't think we'd be getting our a** kicked like this. It's pretty bad."

It has been an embarrassing start to the season for the reigning Western Conference champions after forgettable defeats to the Los Angeles Clippers and Thunder.

However, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr still managed to crack a joke about his team's performance in Oklahoma City.

 "I'm looking forward to the Modelo [beer] that's waiting in my locker," Kerr said.

Draymond Green provided a scathing assessment of the Golden State Warriors' performance in their season-opening defeat to the Los Angeles Clippers, in which he believed they "f****** sucked".

The Warriors first regular-season game at Chase Center ended in a blowout 141-122 loss to the Clippers as they were given an indication of how difficult a 2019-20 season without the departed Kevin Durant and the injured Klay Thompson could be.

Stephen Curry had 23 points for the Warriors but it was a chastening night for Golden State, for whom Green briefly left the game because of a nerve issue in his arm.

Speaking in a post-game media conference, Green said: "I'm not a moral victory kind of guy, I'm not looking for something to build off on. We f****** sucked.

"Our defense was atrocious ... off the ball, on the ball, pick-and-roll, transition defense."

Steve Kerr was also in no mood to sugarcoat things, the head coach fully expecting there to be more games like this for a Warriors team entering a transition after five successive NBA Finals appearances.

"This is not a one off. This is more the reality of the NBA. The last five years, we've been living in a world that's not supposed to exist," said Kerr.

"Nine guys 23 or younger. We're starting over, in many respects.

"There are going to be nights like this this year."

Curry added: "[The] easy answer is it's one of 82 [games]. But there were some glaring things we need to correct to win basketball games."

The Warriors go on the road to face the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday.

The Golden State Warriors' first NBA game at Chase Center ended in defeat as the Kawhi Leonard-led Los Angeles Clippers stayed unbeaten.

After 47 years at Oracle Arena in Oakland, the Warriors relocated to neighbouring San Francisco in the offseason.

But their first competitive game in San Francisco did not go according to plan following Thursday's 141-122 loss to the Clippers.

Even without Paul George, the Clippers looked great on both sides of the court as Leonard, Lou Williams and Patrick Patterson all finished with 20 or more points to preserve Los Angeles' perfect start after two games.

Stephen Curry and D'Angelo Russell were good for the Warriors, but Russell did not do much after scoring the Warriors' first 10 points and Curry struggled shooting the ball throughout the game, going two of 11 from three-point range.

Reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, meanwhile, became the first player in Milwaukee Bucks history to record a triple-double in a season opener.

Antetokounmpo – the first player since Oscar Robertson in 1966 with a 30-point triple-double in a season opener – finished with 30 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists as the Bucks overcame a 16-point half-time deficit to beat the Houston Rockets 117-111.

Every single Milwaukee starter finished in double digits in scoring, while Russell Westbrook led the Rockets with 24 points and 16 rebounds in his Houston debut. 

 

Young stars as Hawks fly high

Trae Young had 38 points, nine assists and seven rebounds in the Atlanta Hawks' 117-100 win over the Detroit Pistons.

 

Reddish and Harden struggle

Cam Reddish's rookie year is off to a tough shooting start. He scored one point on 0-of-six shooting, including 0 of five from three-point range. He did have seven rebounds, though.

James Harden scored 19 points, but the Rockets star went two-of-13 shooting in the loss to the Bucks.

 

Harden and Westbrook reunite

Harden and Westbrook look like they will at least be fun together in Houston.

 

Thursday's results

Atlanta Hawks 117-100 Detroit Pistons
Milwaukee Bucks 117-111 Houston Rockets
Los Angeles Clippers 141-122 Golden State Warriors

 

Jazz at Lakers

Two teams that added big pieces this offseason face off in Los Angeles on Friday. Mike Conley joins Donovan Mitchell in the Utah Jazz's backcourt, while Anthony Davis teams up with LeBron James and the Lakers. And that is not even the half of it as Danny Green, Bojan Bogdanovic (who may be hurt), Quinn Cook and Dwight Howard are all finding their way with new teams. 

When Stephen Curry takes to the Chase Center court on Thursday, he will be all alone.

He'll have team-mates, coaches, a tough opponent in the revamped Los Angeles Clippers, as well as hordes of screaming fans packed into the Golden State Warriors' lavish new arena but, in terms of superstars, he will be the lone representative for a Dubs team in the unfamiliar position of starting a season without the prohibitive favourites tag.

With Kevin Durant gone and Klay Thompson on the sideline, perhaps for the entire season, with a torn ACL, this is unequivocally Curry's team.

Of course, it always was. Durant conceded he never felt like "one of the guys" at Golden State, who already had a tight-knit core led by Curry when the Warriors recruited the 2014 MVP to the Bay Area, and that was likely a huge factor in his decision to join the Brooklyn Nets this offseason.

Though D'Angelo Russell, acquired in the sign-and-trade deal that sent Durant to Brooklyn, will share some of the load, Curry will not have to cede possessions to anybody. The offense, freed of the need to accommodate Durant, will revolve around two-time MVP Curry, who will carry the majority of the burden of leading an undermanned Warriors team to the playoffs. 

Curry will relish the pressure on his shoulders, and he should also see a season in which there is a lot less expected of the Warriors as an outstanding opportunity to claim a third MVP.

With the Warriors roster lacking quality depth, Curry can expect to spend significantly more time on the floor, bolstering hopes of putting up the kind of numbers that will put him firmly in the conversation for the Maurice Podoloff Trophy.

What will he need to do to become only the ninth player to win three MVPs? To answer that question we looked at the Stats Perform data from his previous two award-winning seasons and the competition he will likely face in 2019-20.

 

BACK-TO-BACK MVP YEARS

Curry won back-to-back MVPs in 2014-15 and 2015-16, as he proved instrumental in helping the Warriors claim a first NBA title since 1975, which they then followed up with a record-breaking 73-9 regular season, only to lose to the Cleveland Cavaliers in seven games in the NBA Finals.

The point guard produced incredible statistical seasons to take the most coveted individual prize in the league in successive seasons. In 2014-15, he averaged 34.1 points, 6.1 rebounds and 11.1 assists per 100 possessions while playing 32.7 minutes per game. He also shot 44.3 per cent from three-point range.

In the following campaign, as the Warriors did the unthinkable and surpassed the mark of 72 wins set by the Chicago Bulls in 1995-96, Curry became the first unanimous MVP as he laid waste to defenses across the league. He joined the 50-40-90 club, shooting 50.4 per cent from the field, 45.4 per cent from beyond the arc, and 90.8 per cent from the free-throw line.

Per 100 possessions, Curry averaged 40.8 points, 7.4 rebounds and 9.1 assists while playing 34.2 minutes per game. He will need similar numbers if he is to reclaim the prize.

THE COMPETITION

Since Curry's last MVP, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo have received the honour.

It is Antetokounmpo's win that provides the biggest indication of what Curry will need to do statistically to take it from 'The Greek Freak'.

Last season Harden averaged a whopping 48.2 points, 10 assists and 8.9 rebounds per 100 possessions and still did not repeat as MVP.

Instead Antetokounmpo was rewarded for leading the Milwaukee Bucks to the number one seed in the Eastern Conference. Per 100 possessions, he put up 39.3 points, 8.4 assists and an incredible 17.7 rebounds.

With Westbrook joining up with Harden at the Houston Rockets, LeBron James and Anthony Davis forming a potentially formidable duo for the Los Angeles Lakers, and Paul George teaming up with reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard on the Clippers, Antetokounmpo appears to be Curry's primary competition as the sole superstar on a contending team.

The level to which Antetokounmpo can dominate in every facet of the game means Curry will have to reproduce his 2015-16 brilliance to have a shot of dethroning him, and - as Harden can testify - even then it may not be enough.

However, that Warriors team had the likes of Shaun Livingston, Leandro Barbosa and Andre Iguodala on the bench, with their presence allowing Curry, Thompson and Draymond Green to get plenty of rest.

In 2019 Curry does not have that luxury. He will likely have less rest, but more of a window to put up the Harden-esque numbers needed to challenge Antetokounmpo. If he does so and the Warriors perform better than anticipated, Curry may be delivering another MVP acceptance speech come the end of the campaign.

Michael Jordan does not yet believe Stephen Curry has had the career to be considered a Hall of Fame player.

Several years ago Jordan said he would pick Scottie Pippen, Magic Johnson, Hakeem Olajuwon and James Worthy to play alongside him as an unbeatable team in any pickup game.

He was asked if he would stick with that selection in a wide-ranging interview with Craig Melvin on "Today". Jordan insisted he would not change those picks — not even for Curry.  

"I'm going in the trenches. I played against and with all these guys," Jordan said. "I'm going with who I know. Every single night, their responsibility to go out there and represent greatness, every single night." 

Melvin asked: "So Steph Curry shouldn't be offended when he watches this?"

"I hope not. He's still a great player. Not a Hall of Famer yet, though," Jordan said with a smile. "He's not."

Golden State Warriors superstar Curry, 31, is a two-time MVP and a three-time NBA champion.

He has averaged 23.5 points, 6.6 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game in his 10-year career.

Jordan, now 56, was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009 after he earned six championships, six NBA Finals MVPs and five league MVPs.

He also made 14 All-Star appearances in his 15-year career. The Chicago Bulls took Jordan with the third overall pick in 1984, and he went on to play 13 seasons over two stints before spending two years with the Washington Wizards. 

Steve Kerr is preparing to spend a full season without Klay Thompson after saying it is "unlikely" the shooting guard will be fit enough to play any part.

The Golden State Warriors star tore his ACL during Game 6 of the NBA Finals in June, so it was expected that he would miss a significant amount of time.

Some reports had surfaced suggesting Thompson could be back after the All-Star Break in 2020, but Kerr is taking a more pragmatic approach to his recovery.

"It's unlikely that he's going to play this year, so we have to understand that," the Warriors coach said on NBC Sports Bay Area. 

"You have to look at it realistically. I had an ACL [tear] in college, and I missed a whole season. Generally, an ACL for a basketball player is a full year recovery, and if it's a full year for Klay, that puts him out for the season.

"We've kind of left the door open in case the rehab goes perfectly and the doctors say he can go. But the reality is, on April 1, that's the nine-month mark. April versus nine months post-op for an ACL."

It is rare that a player is able to return in nine months from a torn ACL. Derrick Rose, Jabari Parker and Zach LaVine all missed closer to a year with similar injuries.

Keeping Thompson out for the year likely will be better in the long run, since his possible return at the end of the season would likely see him weaker and rusty due to the recovery process.

The Warriors will open their season on Thursday at home against the Los Angeles Clippers.

For the first time in six seasons, there may be a new winner of the Western Conference.

The Golden State Warriors, winners of the conference in each of the previous five campaigns, have lost Kevin Durant to the Brooklyn Nets and Klay Thompson to injury.

The Los Angeles Lakers added Anthony Davis but didn't improve nearly as much as the Los Angeles Clippers, a team that was better than them last season and have since added Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.

All we can do is guess who will win the conference this season and it could easily be an under-the-radar team like the Utah Jazz, who added Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic.

Here's what we think you can expect this season.

Team on the rise: Dallas Mavericks

Dallas improved a lot last year with Luka Doncic coming into the fold and now they will have a healthy Kristaps Porzingis. We'll have to see how it works in the long run, but this team appears to clearly be trending upward.

Team on the slide: Oklahoma City Thunder

This is obvious. Oklahoma City lost Russell Westbrook and George. A step back is inevitable. But this team has talent with Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Steven Adams, Danilo Gallinari, Dennis Schroder and Hamidou Diallo. We'll see how it works out and if the Thunder trade any of those guys to hasten their rebuild.

MVP: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

No Durant and no Thompson. That means a lot more shots for Stephen Curry. The big question is how he will fit with D'Angelo Russell, who is a lot more ball-dominant than Thompson. But if they can work well together, we could see the two-time MVP-level production from Curry again. 

Rookie of the Year: Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans

An obvious candidate. Williamson has already won the Rookie of the Year Award if he can get through the season healthy - and there are doubts about that given he will miss the start of the season due to knee surgery. Williamson will be on a team without a ton of talent and on highlights every single night. That's a great recipe to win Rookie of the Year.

Stat shot: Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets

Jokic has averaged 18.0 points, 10.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists each of the last two years. Only Westbrook and Oscar Robertson have done that over a three-year span.

The Nuggets might not have added as much as some of the other teams in the West (see the Houston Rockets, Clippers, Lakers), but one more year of development of Jokic and Jamal Murray, plus a healthy Michael Porter Jr, should keep this team in contention for a playoff spot.

Three storylines

1. The Rockets duo: Will Westbrook and James Harden be able to mesh together in an offense? And how will Westbrook's shooting struggles fit with Mike D'Antoni?

2. Clutch performers: Will Davis and LeBron James dominate the league like we think they can or will the duo once again struggle to stay healthy?

3. A pair reigns supreme: Is it Harden and Westbrook? James and Davis? Leonard and George? Donovan Mitchell and Conley? Doncic and Porzingis?

Predicted order of finish

1. Clippers*
2. Lakers
3. Jazz
4. Rockets
5. Nuggets
6. Warriors
7. Trail Blazers
8. Spurs
9. Mavericks
10. Kings
11. Pelicans
12. Timberwolves
13. Thunder
14. Grizzlies
15. Suns

*NBA Finals representative

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said he prefers Adam Silver's leadership to that of United States president Donald Trump.

Popovich was responding to criticism from Trump, who blasted the Spurs coach and Golden State Warriors counterpart Steve Kerr last week for their responses to questions about the NBA-China controversy.

Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey issued an apology for a now-deleted tweet, that read "Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong" amid the ongoing protests in the region.

While Popovich and Kerr unwilling to discuss the matter, NBA president Silver drew praise for his response after saying the league was "apologetic" but added that "we are not apologising for Daryl exercising his freedom of expression".

Popovich – who has been critical of Trump in the past – told reporters prior to the Spurs' 123-114 preseason loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday: "[Silver] stood by our nation and its principles. That's pretty huge in these days.

"Sometimes, it's kind of Orwellian. You think we're living in a place where, 'Is this really happening?' But that comparison was pretty stark when you put our president up against those leaders when he's with them or talking to him and how he reacts compared to the way Adam Silver reacted. I was proud of him. It was great."

Asked about Trump's comments, Popovich added: "All I did was make a comparison between Adam Silver's show of principle and courage in a tough situation, as opposed to how our president reacts when in the company of authoritarian figures, whether it's Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Russia or Turkey, whatever it is.

"It comes off as really feckless, impotent, cowardly by comparison."

Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said superstar Stephen Curry is ready to have a great season in the NBA.

Following the departure of Kevin Durant in free agency and Klay Thompson's knee injury in the NBA Finals in June, all eyes are on Curry for the 2019-20 campaign.

Kerr spoke with media after Golden State's practice on Sunday and was asked if Curry will be tasked to do more this season in the wake of Durant's departure and Thompson's injury.

"Just the usual," Kerr said. "I'm not looking for anything different than what he's done for five years, but what he's done is pretty special: two MVPs and a perennial top-five player."

Kerr went on to say Curry's had an "incredible camp" so far and thinks the two-time MVP is in position for a special season.

"To me, he's at his peak physically, mentally," Kerr said. "He's seen every defense that people have thrown at him now during his career, and he's ready to have a great year.

"He's in his prime age-wise, strength and conditioning-wise and defensively he's seen everything that's come his way... So he's kind of in his sweet spot right now, and he has been the last couple years. And hopefully that continues for the next few years."

While Thompson is not expected to return to the team until at least February or March, Curry will not need to bear too much of a burden as the Warriors signed former Brooklyn Nets guard D'Angelo Russell to a four-year, $117million contract during free agency.

"It's just the natural way of our offense and how we play," Curry said. "I'm going to have the ball in my hands a lot more. Just got to make the right plays, be confident, aggressive, assertive every possession." 

"Steph's smart," Kerr added. "And he realises what we've lost in the last couple of years from a veteran leadership standpoint. So he understands he's got more responsibility in that regard now."

The Warriors visit the Los Angeles Lakers for a preseason matchup on Monday, before Golden State open the regular season against the Los Angeles Clippers on October 24.

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