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8:23AM

No team as exciting to watch — or play for — as the Warriors

By Art Spander

OAKLAND — There have been other great basketball teams, probably in the minds of some, particularly those in the east, better basketball teams. But for the here and now, if not the forever, there is no team as enjoyable to watch and cheer — and play for, verifies Klay Thompson — as the Golden State Warriors of 2017-18.

OK, the Celtics had Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, K.C. Jones and Tom Heinsohn, and won seven championships in row and nine in 10 years, still unequaled. And those Lakers teams of the recent past, Magic, Shaq and Kobe — and James Worthy — well deserved the embellishing, copyrighted label, “Showtime.”

But the NBA now, top to bottom, is better than it’s ever been, and at the top, the very top, are the Warriors, the team of a dozen stars, if you’ll pardon just a slight exaggeration, and a thousand moves. But of only one direction.

You want to know about these Warriors? Their gunner, their spark, their two-time MVP, Steph Curry, was unable to play Monday night because of a leg contusion.

“What that means,” said Shaun Livingston, who started in Steph’s spot, “is we’re missing 25 to 50 points a game.” But they didn’t miss a chance to win their seventh in a row, defeating the Orlando Magic, 110-100, at the Oracle, if failing for the first time to win by 17 points or more.

“This experience is good for us,” said Livingston of victory without Curry. “I know it sucks for the fans. They want to see Steph.”

Of course. He’s a star. He’s an attraction. He makes commercials. He makes three-pointers. He makes a ton of money. But sometimes the chorus, the people in the back of the stage, carry the show. Only, on the Warriors, the subs, the role players, are people like Andre Iguodala, an NBA finals MVP, and Livingston, who had it not been for a terrible injury to his left knee 10 years ago might have been one of the greats.

We haven’t heard that slogan “Strength in numbers,” much in the opening weeks of this season. But the numbers are stronger than they’ve ever been. What a roster. What a problem for head coach Steve Kerr, trying to get the subs off the bench or off the inactive list and onto the court.

Kerr’s own background was as a backup. “I sometimes didn’t play for three weeks,” he said of his days with the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls. “I didn’t feel part of the team. I learned from (head coach) Phil Jackson the real power is playing a lot of people. I just know we are lucky to have such talent we can win games without Steph Curry.”

Talent such as Kevin Durant, also a league MVP, who Monday night had 21 points and eight assists, and Draymond Green, 20 points and five assists. Livingston scored 16 points and had six assists. Thompson had 15 and five.

Nick Young, a starter for the Lakers but a role player for the Warriors, scored nine. David West had 11 rebounds. Iguodala was in nearly half the game, 23 minutes, 9 seconds, passing, shooting and, perhaps most significantly, defending. Yes, the Warriors are loaded.

Thompson said it’s as much fun watching these Warriors as playing for them. "It doesn’t matter if it’s the finals or preseason,” he pointed out. "The fans are great. It’s like that every night.”

Kerr, in effect, has been given the key (players) to the kingdom, and he’s making the very best of the opportunity — while determined to give everyone on the squad an opportunity.

“It’s a luxury to have Shaun Livingston,” said the coach. “He was headed for an All-Star career before that severe injury. It’s amazing how he’s stayed himself since the injury.  He’s one of our most mature teammates. He has an incredible basketball IQ.”

And he’s a reserve.

It was a different look without Curry, although there was not a different pattern. The Warriors were behind early, caught up and then blew the game apart in the third quarter, as they seem to do night after night.

“Teams come out and play great against us in the first half,” said Durant. “Then we play defense, get a hand up, make them miss and score quick.”

Kerr has his own explanation: “We have such great talent, everybody is comfortable just treading water. Then we seem to pay more attention to detail.”

And win big, very big.

10:31AM

Kerr on losing Warriors: ‘At some point game has to matter’

By Art Spander

OAKLAND — You want theories? They are almost as numerous as the Warriors' bad passes.

The Dubs are thinking that, as champions, they can win virtually by pulling off their warm-ups. That trip to China has cost them conditioning and timing. Each opposing squad plays its best against the team that everyone says is the best.

And, oh yeah, the season started two weeks earlier than in recent years. True, that doesn’t make them any different from the other teams in the NBA, of course, Nor does the inescapable fact that when they play as imprecisely as they did Sunday night — make it sloppily — they’re going to lose.

Which they did to the Detroit Pistons, 115-107, at home, at the Oracle.

Despite leading by 14 points in the third quarter.

Despite shooting 48 percent from the field.

Despite making more field goals than the Pistons.

Despite grabbing more rebounds.

Despite Klay Thompson getting 29 points, Kevin Durant 28 and Steph Curry 27.

But oh, those turnovers. Twenty-six of them. So unlike the Warriors. Last year’s Warriors. This year, this season, the Warriors are a team trying as much to find their old selves as find the ball on a pass.

A team that having lost two of its four home games, according to head coach Steve Kerr, lacks intensity, lacks focus — and certainly lacks the ability to throw a pass when and where it’s supposed to be thrown.

"At some point,” said Kerr, “the ball has to matter. The game has to matter enough for us to win. We must be leading the league in turnovers.”

Sure, it’s just one game out of 80. Sure, there’s another Monday night in Los Angeles against the Clippers, who Friday night were beaten by the Pistons, their first loss of the season. Sure it’s only October, and no one is supposed to care until May — or at the least, April.

But trends develop. Suddenly the team that was said to be unbeatable becomes very beatable. And maybe there’s an injury to one of the stars. And maybe the other team on the court begins to hit virtually every shot, as the Pistons did in the fourth quarter, when Detroit shot 63 percent.

“This has to do with a complete lack of focus and fundamentals,” said Kerr. The NBA champs, the team that dropped only one of 16 playoff games, unfocused, lacking fundamentals? How can that be?

“We are throwing the ball all over the place,” said Kerr. “Even some passes just hitting guys in the shoes ... I didn’t feel like most of the turnovers were because of their pressure. It just felt like more of them were just us throwing the ball around.”

It was a tough Sunday for the Bay. The Raiders lost. The 49ers lost. Then, at home, stunningly, the Warriors lost. Blowing a big lead.

“We finally started caring with six minutes,” said Kerr, “when we were threatened. We immediately cut it to three. But the right team won. Karma was in the right place tonight.”

Unlike many of the Warriors players trying to receive a pass.

“I think we care,” said Durant. “We’re just trying to squeeze the basketball into places that are not there. We care about the game. It’s the small details.”

That have become big mistakes. “They did a great job of converting our turnovers,” said Durant. “They made shots when they needed them.”

That happens more often than not in the NBA. These guys are the best in the world. Avery Bradley made 8 of 13 for the Pistons, scored 23 points. Reggie Jackson made 8 of 12, scored 22 points.

Detroit out-Warriored the Warriors, hitting on 12 of 27 3-pointers, while the Dubs were 10 of 27.

The fans who usually have that rolling chant, “War-rrr-iors,” instead were begging “Let’s go Warriors.“ First they were pleading and then, too quickly, the game was over and they were leaving.

"We won a championship on this floor,” Durant reminded. “There so much the crowd gives us. They were ready to explode. We didn’t take advantage of it.”

You might say they threw away the chance, just like they did the basketball.

9:45AM

Warriors’ Kerr: ‘We deserved to lose’

By Art Spander

OAKLAND, Calif. — So the greatest team in NBA history, or least what many forecasters told us it either would be or should be, lays another egg on another opening night. Well, one down and 79 to go.

Yes, after ceremonies, speeches and the dispensing of the little ornaments that athletes say drive them more than money — championship rings — Tuesday evening became a bummer for the Golden State Warriors.

Ahead by 17 points late in the second quarter, giving the all-too-confident fans exactly what they wanted, the Dubs lost Draymond Green, their lead and the game, 122-121, to the all-too-eager Houston Rockets.

Not that the Dubs, despite every publication from Boston to Beijing predicting they were a lock for a second straight title and third in four years, were going to go undefeated. But they did want to start things off a little better than this.

That the game came down to a last-second shot by Kevin Durant, which he made but the red light glowing under the backboard properly negated, was not the issue.

You’re up by 17 before the first half ends, you’re supposed to win.

Especially after the stories that the Warriors were far and away the best team in the NBA and that everyone else was merely play for exercise, particularly in the Western Conference. “The Warriors and 14 other guys,” was the headline in the New York Times.

One of those “guys” is the Rockets, with that nemesis James Harden. He scored 27, and with Green, the league’s defensive MVP, out of the game because of a leg injury incurred in the first half, Harden was throwing up those jumpers when he wasn’t throwing down those dunks.

The big problem, according to Warriors coach Steve Kerr, was their lack of proper condition, a byproduct of their eight-day trip to and from China where, adored by the fans over there, the Dubs helped promote basketball internationally but not their own well being.

“It didn’t surprise me,” he said of his team’s inability to stay in front of the Rockets. The Warriors, who had only a few days of what would have been the normal training camp, were gassed.

“Our lack of conditioning was apparent,” said Kerr. ”We deserved to lose. They outplayed us. We had control of the game most of the way, (but) it never felt like were executing or defending at a high level. I just thought we looked tired.

“I don’t think we are in good enough shape yet to play a 48-minute game against a great team.”

Not with Green bruising his knee. Not with Houston getting 43 rebounds to 41 for the Warriors.

Kerr said Green, who played around 12 minutes in the second half, tweaked his left knee. “He was our best player tonight. He brought most of the energy. He had an incredible dive for the loose ball in front of our bench. He had so many great hustle plays. When you are lacking conditioning, like we are right now, you have to have your high-energy guys out there.

“As soon as he went out, things went south for us. We just couldn’t get any traction.”

What they did get was a huge first half, 8 of 9 and 20 points from the guy they signed this summer as a free agent, Nick Young, who calls himself “Swaggy P.” He finished with 23, one more than Steph Curry, three more than Durant.

“Nick was great,” affirmed Kerr.

The Warriors still may be great, but after winning a title and then receiving so many endorsements for this season, the danger is complacency. Sometimes, teams believe they are as good as people tell them they are.

And everyone’s been telling the Warriors they are not just good but fantastic.

"We will keep our edge,” promised Kerr before the game. ”We have a lot of depth. On nights that we don’t have the motivation or the energy, we have a lot of guys to go to who should be able to help us in that capacity,”

They couldn’t on Tuesday night. There were ceremonies, but in the end there was no jubilation.

9:36AM

S.F. Examiner: Return of Kerr, Klay’s shooting are welcome sights for Warriors

By Art Spander
San Francisco Examiner

OAKLAND — One of them hadn’t been seen. The other hadn’t been appreciated — except by those who understand what makes a basketball team a winner, a category that includes the guy who hadn’t been seen, Steve Kerr.

Yes, Kerr, with his one-liners and perception, was on the bench Sunday night coaching the Golden State Warriors in person. So, welcome back, coach. And in a way, the other Special K, Klay Thompson also was back, with his 2- and 3-pointers. Of course, hoops cognoscenti who look beyond points totals — Mr. Kerr, for one — know Klay never left.

Read the full story here.

©2017 The San Francisco Examiner

8:17AM

S.F. Examiner: In uncertain times, Steve Kerr finds pride in NBA’s inclusiveness

By Art Spander
San Francisco Examiner

The question was terribly appropriate for Steve Kerr, a man of the world as much as the basketball court.

On this Saturday evening of contradictions — the Warriors honoring one group of immigrants to America, the Chinese, wearing jerseys with Mandarin letters, while the nation had been ordered to ban other groups of immigrants — Kerr was asked if he had any thoughts on President Trump’s decisions.

Read the full story here.

©2017 The San Francisco Examiner