Entries in Mark Jackson (11)


Firing of Warrior coach disappoints A’s Bob Melvin

By Art Spander

OAKLAND — Bob Melvin has been there. Has heard the phone ring the way Mark Jackson did. Heard the order to come to the office the way Mark Jackson did. Heard the words he was fired the way Mark Jackson did.

Melvin is a baseball man, who played for the Giants and others, and has been the Athletics' manager a month short of three years.

Melvin, who grew up in the Bay Area, also is a basketball fan, a Warrior fan “all my life,” as he phrases it. 

So we talk to the guy nicknamed BoMel, grab him outside the dugout at O.Co Coliseum Tuesday before the A’s were beaten by Seattle, 8-3.

Because of the nature of the Coliseum complex — Oracle Arena attached to the big stadium — the Warriors, A’s and Raiders are in a way connected symbolically.

Maybe 100 yards over Melvin’s shoulder is the court where Thursday Mark Jackson coached his final home game for the Warriors, offering cryptic words before tip-off that nothing after this season would be the same.

Now he’s gone. Now Oracle is empty. Now Bob Melvin, A’s manager and Warriors fan, is disappointed. He is not alone.

Melvin, fired as manager of the Mariners after the 2004 season, fired as manager of the Diamondbacks after 2009, might have offered a different viewpoint, been more noncommittal or simply mused, “That’s the business.” He did not.

“I know Mark Jackson,” said Melvin. “Consider him a friend. I’m surprised, a little disappointed as a Warrior fan. But I’m certainly not an expert, and I don’t know what went on inside.”

We’re told that inside, Jackson was not trusted by the front office. Told that Jackson argued with the son of Warriors owner Joe Lacob. We know Jackson dispatched two of his assistant coaches. There was conflict. There was inevitability.

Not for Melvin, who graduated from Menlo-Atherton High down the Peninsula and then played baseball at Cal. He didn’t want Jackson ousted. On the contrary.

Melvin remembers the Warriors' years in the wilderness, the stretch of 17 seasons when they made the playoffs only once. This year under Jackson, last year under Jackson, the Warriors were a delight, a link back some 40 years when in 1974-75 they won the NBA title.

“I would like to thank (Jackson) for his unbelievable contributions in getting the organization to this point and the success that they had,” said Melvin. “And I believe he’s going to have a lot of choices afterwards.”

Jackson never had been a head coach at any level, much less the NBA, the top of the heap, when chosen out of the ABC-ESPN broadcast booth in June 2011. Now he’s experienced. Yet that doesn’t mean there will be an opening.

Or that a team that needs a coach will accept Jackson, a pastor in southern California, who may have been a bit too religious for those who controlled his destiny.

Melvin’s rookie managerial season was 2003 with the Seattle Mariners. He made it only through 2004.

“I expected to be fired,” he said. “I was with a team that was on its last legs. We won 93 games my first year. We lost 99 the second year. They needed to start fresh. I understood.”

He took over the Diamondbacks almost immediately, managing Arizona from 2005 through 2008 and winning the National League West in 2007. But when the D-Backs started 2009 a disappointing 12-17, Melvin was dumped.

“I didn’t understand that one as much, because of some of the success we had,” said Melvin. “It’s never been an ego thing. I’m not an ego guy. It’s all about the players anyway. But there’s disappointment because you feel you’re working hard and doing a job, and at least in the Arizona situation I felt we made some big strides to get where we were.”

Mark Jackson’s strides with the Warriors were plenty large, but that sign of progress became irrelevant to those in command.

“The old adage, that you’re hired to be fired, I don’t necessarily agree with that,” Melvin insisted. “The intent is to stay there for a long period of time. So I kind of take exception when people say you’re going to get fired anyway.

“That’s kind of a of a defeatist attitude.”

It’s also reality. As Bob Melvin and now Mark Jackson realize.


Warriors on outside looking at Clipper win

By Art Spander

OAKLAND — The game is won inside. That’s the NBA playoff mantra. The Warriors are an outside team, a team that beats you with threes by Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

Or as Thursday night at the Oracle, when the three-pointers didn’t fall, beats itself.

You’ve heard the phrase, the cliché: Dance with what brung ya. You don’t chase your style or philosophy in the playoffs. And without Andrew Bogut, the W’s didn’t have much chance inside anyway.

The Los Angeles Clippers had too much for the Warriors. Too much offense from Blake Griffin, who was banking them off the glass or ramming them through the rim, who scored 32 points and played like a man who was the first overall pick in the draft, as he was five years ago.

The Clips had too much defense. The Warriors, greatest outside shooters in the league or so we’re told, went 6 for 31 on three-pointers, and at one juncture were 2 for 24.

A hot Griffin, a cold Stephen Curry, and the Clips win it, 98-96.

Yes, the W’s had the ball in the final few minutes. Yes, it was in Curry’s hands. Yes, the sellout crowd of 19,596, all in the gold-colored T-shirts with the slogan “Loud. Proud. Warriors” was shrieking hysterically, the W’s having cut an 18-point deficit to two.

But in this game, the better team won and deserved to win. And the Clips now lead the best-of-seven first-round series two to one, with Game 4 on Sunday at the same place and perhaps headed for the same result.

“We earned the game,” said Doc Rivers, the Clippers' coach, “because we played better.”

If not all the time, especially in a fourth quarter that could be considered a quasi-embarrassment to the sport. And more of the time than the frustrated Warriors.

“There’s going to be a game soon where both teams play great,” said Rivers. With a maximum of four games remaining, it better come soon.

“In this one, we survived,” said Rivers, as forthright as he is wise — the man having led the Boston Celtics to the championship not that long ago.

The Clippers had the third-best regular season record in the Western Conference, behind San Antonio and Oklahoma City. The Warriors were sixth. That Golden State stole Game One of the series may have given some the erroneous idea the W’s are better than the Clips.

They are not, although they could beat them in seven games. Except not playing as they did Thursday night.

Not shooting 41.6 percent. Not making 17 turnovers. Not letting Griffin make 15 of 25 from the floor.

“He’s just been great,” Rivers said of Griffin. “He’s making jump shots. The bank shot that he’s added to his game, facing the basket, has taken him to a different level, because he’s very difficult to guard now. If you get up on him, he goes around you, and if you back up on him, he uses the glass.”

The Warriors simply use their long-range shooting, and when it isn’t working — Klay Thompson, the exception, was 10 of 22 for 26 points — they’re where they were in the second half on Thursday, far behind.

“If anyone breaks the mold,” said Rivers, disputing the thought that an outside shooting team can’t win in the postseason, “it is (the Warriors). They’re great at it. We’re great at posting. We have to do what we do.”

Meaning get the ball to Griffin.

“He’s having an outstanding series,” said Mark Jackson, the Warriors' coach, “topping off an outstanding season. He’s playing at a high level.”

Curry had done the same until the last couple of games. But the Clippers won’t let him loose, double-teaming, chasing him around the court. At halftime, Curry had taken only three shots and made just one. He did finish with 16 points in 43 minutes, but that was on 5 for 12 from the floor.

“We were not playing well,” said Jackson, refusing to name any single player. “I thought we tried to do too much. We were just on the edge a little bit. Then we settled down.”

Now, however, the Clippers have settled on top of the Warriors. A win by 30 points in Game 2. A win by 2 in Game 4.

“I feel we’re in character,” said Jackson. “When we defend at a high level and execute and take the basketball it shows that we’re tough to beat, and that’s been consistent in this series, also.

“Where we’ve had problems is when we’ve turned the basketball over, we’ve taken bad shots. We’ve allowed them to get it going. We’ve gone away from the game plan discipline. We’re not good enough to do that and win.”

As they showed Thursday night.


Warriors understand what is necessary

By Art Spander

OAKLAND — Not good enough to relax. The head coach said that about the Warriors. Said it Tuesday night when the Warriors proved they are very good, indeed.

Maybe as good as they’ve been in the last 20 years, tough, confident and, as Mark Jackson told us, refusing to relax, even when in another time they very well might have relaxed.

The mark of a great team is that it understands what is necessary to win. Understands there are going to be starters out of the lineup. Understands there are going to be opponents with awful records, and the record of the Orlando Magic is nothing but awful.

Understands to ignore everything but the task at hand.  

There was usual obligatory sellout at Oracle Arena, 19,596, the Warriors’ 71st straight at home, and in that crowd surely there were more than a few people who remember when in another era — maybe not too distant — Golden State would have lost.

Not this team, which after losing here Friday night to Cleveland went up to Portland, fell behind by 18 points and won. That single game showed us that this group has the mental toughness to go along with the physical skill.

Tuesday night was a reiteration.

Andre Iguodala couldn’t play because of tendinitis in his knee. Andrew Bogut couldn’t play because of an inflamed left ankle. Two down out of five. And the Magic, on a five-game losing streak, and 19-48 overall, ready to spring a trap.

Except Mark Jackson teams do not get trapped. Or beaten by 19-48 teams. On the contrary. They score 18 consecutive points early in the third quarter. They get 23 points from Stephen Curry and 20 points each from Klay Thompson and David Lee. They get the usual boost off the bench, this time from Marreese Speights (13 points, 8 rebounds). They blow out the Magic, 103-89.

“It was a quality win for us,” said Jackson. “I’m really pleased the way we got after it. We handled our business and competed.”

An excellent way to describe it. The Warriors are relatively young, other than David Lee and Iguodala, and young teams, young players, sometimes lose their focus.

So many games over so many weeks and so many flights to so many cities combine to take a toll. Suddenly, everything can go the wrong way. For the Warriors, everything is going the proper way, the way they’ve been instructed, the way that champions perform.

“I thought we were very unselfish and did a great job of sharing the basketball,” said Jackson. When he played, he was a point guard, in charge of sharing the basketball. Now he is delighted to share the accolades.

“We got some good play from our bench also,” he added. “We continue to chalk up wins, and we are closing it out right.”

Closing it out by rallying against the Trail Blazers on the road. Closing it out by overwhelming the Magic at home. Playing effective defense — Orlando scored 19 points in the third quarter, 20 in the second quarter.

Closing it out by shooting 45.1 percent — which, strangely, is a bit under what Orlando shot (45.5) but the W’s got more shots and thus made more.

“I think our guys know we’re not good enough to relax,” said Jackson. What he knows is the sport of basketball. There was some question as to how he would do, how he would relate, when after several years in the broadcast booth Jackson was the surprise choice to be the Warriors’ coach. But in retrospect, it was a brilliant move by owner Joe Lacob and whoever gave him advice, from consultant Jerry West to GM Bob Myers.

Jackson’s years as an analyst for ESPN and ABC gave him a different look at the modern game that he now gets from the bench — or because he’s often standing, from the sideline. He can be critical with his players. He can be instructive. He never is destructive.

“All teams at this stage of the season are dangerous,” said Jackson. “People are playing for contracts, for jobs. Everybody’s out to prove something, even the teams far back.”

What the Warriors are proving is that they have the right stuff. We already knew they had the right people. Again without hesitation, Jackson called Curry and Thompson the best pair of shooting guards in history, and it doesn’t matter if specifically they are or are not. They’re fantastic, and that’s enough.

“It starts with Curry and Thompson,” said Jacque Vaughn, the Magic’s head coach. “It makes it tough to defend their (big men). They do a good job of playing with each other, passing the basketball.”

And, certainly, shooting it.

“You’ve got to win games at home down the stretch,” said Curry. “This is one of those situations obviously, so it's a big win for us to try to regain some momentum after two tough losses (at Oracle) and keep it moving. We got stops, and we were able to push in transition and keep that ball moving.”


Warriors-Clippers rough stuff perfect end for the NBA

By Art Spander

OAKLAND, Calif. — That’s exactly what the NBA needed at the end of a very long day, in a game out here in the wild west that presumably, despite Steph Curry and Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, nobody east of Tonopah, Nev., would stay up past midnight to watch.

Except for the possibility of a brawl.

A few shoves, a couple of elbows and some ejections would keep the weary basketball mavens in New York and Boston tuned in while the Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers held up their end of what the teams’ coaches contend isn’t a rivalry.

And who are we to disagree with such knowledgeable sorts as Mark Jackson and Doc Rivers?

“I still believe it’s not a rivalry,” Jackson said for about the 15th time Christmas night after his W’s edged Rivers’ Clippers, 105-103, before the usual sellout of 19,596 at the Oracle Arena.

Maybe not, but it is a confrontation, which is good enough when you’re the end of a TV quintuple-header that has become as much a part of the holiday as eggnog and mistletoe.

The day after Christmas in Britain and Canada is called Boxing Day, because bosses give employees presents in boxes. What the W’s and Clips tried to give each other on Boxing Night was a lesson in intimidation, not that either team would ever admit to being intimidated.

Griffin was bounced from the game on a second technical with 10:43 remaining after a — does the word “scuffle” fit the situation? — with the Warriors’ 7-footer, Andrew “Sugar Ray” Bogut.

Not long before, the W’s Draymond Green was ejected for a flagrant 2 foul, something that sounds like a NASA code term but means that Green was very intent on clubbing Griffin.

“The Warriors tried to get Griffin ejected,” said Rivers, “and it worked.”

What Griffin, who had 20 points and 14 rebounds before taking his leave, said was, “I didn’t do anything, and I got thrown out of the game. It all boils down to (the officials) fell for it. To me it’s cowardly basketball. I don’t know their intentions, but it worked.”

The teams had met the second day of the season, Oct. 31, in LA, and that’s where the dislike began, the Clips winning that one, 126-115.

“We play four times a year,” said Steph Curry. “It’s going to be competitive. We were up for the challenge.”

Curry wasn’t up for hitting his shot — he missed his first six attempts and finished 5 of 17 — but he had 11 assists, as did Paul, who led the Clips with 26 points.

The Warriors, as now is standard, fell behind early and then with Klay Thompson scoring — and also playing great defense on Paul in the closing seconds — came back in the second half. The margin was on two free throws by Harrison Barnes with 1:09 remaining. After that came a lot of almosts, including two missed foul shots by Andre Iguodala with 9.3 seconds to play.

As the Warriors’ David Lee explained correctly, the Warriors, who shot a sad 42 percent, won the game on the boards, out-rebounding the Clippers 49-38, and on defense.

“Keeping them from their transition game,” said Lee, who had 23 points and 13 rebounds.

That translates as not allowing all those fastbreak dunks for which Griffin gets considerable airtime, along with his numerous commercials. Hey, he’s a star in a city of stars, on a team desperate to fill the void being left by the Lakers.

The Warriors, however, decline to be deferential.

“They’re a physical team in the middle,” said Bogut, whose best move was hoisting up Griffin — and as Griffin reminded, without getting caught.

“Neither of us backed down,” said Bogut, who had 14 rebounds and 10 points. “That’s the way it should be.”

Rivers, who coached the Celtics to championships, was understanding, if a bit frustrated.

“The basketball part was OK,” he said. “We were showing pretty well. The other stuff worked in their favor.”

The other stuff had the crowd in frenzy and the game, because of the ejections and delays, dragging on for 2 hours and 44 minutes.

“It’s not a rivalry,” reiterated Jackson, “because neither team has done anything.” He means in the postseason. They’ve done plenty against each other.

“Just physical basketball,” he said, maybe anticipating the next meeting on Jan. 30 in Oakland.

When someone asked Jackson why the Warriors and Clippers don’t like each other, the coach, an ordained reverend answered, “We like them. Merry Christmas.”


Warriors live up to their name

By Art Spander

OAKLAND — Such a perfect name. Warriors. Because they were. Warriors. Fighters, Battlers. Their coach called them “an inspiration.” The other coach called them really competitive. High praise, and that counts, if not as much as the final score in what for the Golden State Warriors the season of 2012-13 would be the final game.
It is done now, finished. Or has it just begun? The future looks wonderful for the Warriors. Yet that doesn’t ease the pain. It is the here and now that was important for the W’s, the game Thursday night at Oracle in front of fans so enthusiastic and loud it seemed they could will Golden State to a victory. They couldn’t.
The San Antonio Spurs, the old guys, the four-time champions, were too much for the Warriors, resilient as champions always are, and holding on to a 94-82 victory.
So the Spurs win the NBA Western Conference semifinal, four games to two. They go on to play the Memphis Grizzlies in the next round. The Warriors needed this one to keep the season alive. They didn’t get it. There will be no seventh game.
There will be only thoughts of what could have been. Those and the chants of the passionate 19,956 at Oracle.
Disappointment, certainly, for Mark Jackson, the coach; for the players; maybe most of all for the fans, clad in their yellow T-shirts and limitless hopes. They wouldn’t leave, serenading the players and no less themselves with the rolling, repetitive word, “Warr-iors . . . Warr-iors.”
A salute to the season, maybe to reason. The Spurs figured out this series quickly. If they were going to win, they had to stop Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. And after Game 2, mostly they did.
They jammed the middle and fought through the picks. They shoved and clawed. And, as in Thursday night’s game, even when their own offense was ineffective — Tony Parker, the San Antonio guard, was 3 for 16, while teammate Manu Ginobili was 1 for 6 — the Spurs stayed in and on top. Only briefly in the first quarter, and only by two points, did the Warriors ever lead.
“Defense,” said Gregg Popovich, the Spurs coach. “Yeah, if we can hold them in the 80s, we should have a decent chance at the end of the game . . . Down the stretch, we made a couple of shots and they didn’t.”
Down the stretch is where 90 percent of all NBA games are won. Down the stretch, the Warriors closed from seven points to four to two. Yes, two, 77-75, with 4:52 left, and regaining the ball and Oracle going mad, a cauldron of sound. But then Curry missed a 3-pointer and Parker made one. Then Kawhi Leonard made a 2-pointer.
Reality. The Spurs would win. The deed was done. Except for the fans.
“As an announcer,” said Jackson, the Warriors coach who did NBA games for ESPN, “I can recall calling the (Oklahoma City) Thunder game in the playoffs. They got knocked out. We’re sitting there closing on the air, and the fans are chanting, acknowledging the great season. I’m sitting there as an announcer thinking, ‘This is cool.’
“We’ve got the best fans in the business. It was an incredible moment for them to acknowledge what took place this year and also for my guys to acknowledge that we don’t take these fans for granted. It’s been a great ride.”
If Thursday night a wobbly one. Center Andrew Bogut’s bad ankle, surgically repaired more than a year ago when he still was with Milwaukee, was sore even before the game, and he played only some six minutes in the second half.
Forward Harrison Barnes, just named to the all-rookie team, caught an elbow above an eye near the end of the first half, went down for the longest while, had to helped to the locker room and was given six stitches. He returned after intermission but was unable to stay in the game.
David Lee, of course, had torn a hip flexor in the first game of the Denver series and was declared out until next season. His courageous comeback was part of the story, but he was limited.
Curry’s right ankle, a chronic problem, was tweaked in Game 3, and he wasn’t completely right in the last three games. Even then, he ended up with 22 Thursday night, the best of either team.
So when Jackson insisted, “My guys gave me everything they had,” it wasn’t fiction.
“It was incredible. I can go out and win championships, and I will not be any prouder of any group that I ever coached than this group. At the end of the day, our tank will be empty and the light will be beaming bright.”
The light has been dimmed. The season has been concluded. But it was a joy. “Warr-iors, Warr-iors.”