Steve Kerr

For the Warriors, 'the motivating factor is not slapping us in the face'

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AP

For the Warriors, 'the motivating factor is not slapping us in the face'

OAKLAND -- For nearly two months now we’ve heard emergency sirens coming from a segment of folks loyal to all things Warriors.

I get it.

They’ve seen the apathetic first quarters and the long stretches of casual defense. They’ve seen Elfrid Payton make his first seven shots, Russell Westbrook hang 21 points in a quarter and Lou Williams go for 50 in a game.

They watched, for crying out loud, the Warriors lose by 20 to the Thunder and by 30 to the Jazz.

And they’re as uncomfortable as they’ve been at any time since the 2014-15 season rewarded their allegiance with the prize they dared allow themselves to imagine. That championship season raised expectations that have since scaled even higher.

There were, however, three separate reasons why the Warriors were so incredible in each of the last three seasons. The problem is that none of those reasons apply to 2017-18, and there aren’t any new ones to stir up anger.

“The motivating factor is not slapping us in the face,” assistant coach Ron Adams said on the Warriors Insider Podcast. “So we have to dig down in a different way.”

This contrasts with the organic motivations in each of the past three seasons.

2014-15: Under a new coach that unlocked their offensive potential, the young Warriors were young and frisky and new to the thrill of consistent winning. Discovering the joy of prosperity is a wonderful thing, addictive in its own way, and they wanted to experience this natural high again and again and again.

This was their honeymoon season and it ended with a parade in downtown Oakland.

2015-16: Coming off the franchise’s first championship in 40 years, the Warriors were subjected to whispers and shouting from NBA folks questioning their legitimacy. They didn’t go through the Spurs. They didn’t have to play the Clippers. They caught a break in The Finals because the Cavaliers were injured.

Annoyed by the chatter, the Warriors opened the season with an edge rarely sustained in any sport, winning their first 24 games en route to a 73-9 record that stands as the best in league history. This was a response to the doubters: Shut up.

2016-17: They entered the season after a summer as a punch line, the first team to blow a 3-1 lead in The Finals. Two of their three consecutive losses were at Oracle Arena, where they had been practically invincible. Then, to the consternation and skepticism of the peanut gallery, they added four-time scoring champ Kevin Durant. Would there be enough balls?

There is no cleansing of such an inglorious finish to the NBA Finals, but the Warriors did all they could to test that theory. They went about annihilating opponents, spending most of the season with the best points differential in league history before settling in at 11.6, No. 4 all-time.

“There was clear-cut motivation,” Adams said.

They followed that up with the most impressive postseason in NBA history, a 16-1 record -- and a 13.5 points differential.

Though other factors, such as the mental fatigue that comes with consecutive extended seasons, come into play it’s also apparent that the powerful forces that previously drove them to such heights are not part of the equation this season.

Sure, the Warriors want to repeat. That’s something the Spurs, the model franchise of the era, have not done. That’s something only six franchises have done.

That’s statistical. That’s an achievement. That’s not something that sits in the gut or puts a chip on the shoulder. There is no chorus claiming the Warriors can’t repeat -- though that could change if the Rockets continue their rampage -- so there is no actual provocation.

The team that has thrived on knocks isn’t being knocked. There is no anger.

“Each individual on the team, both offensively and defensively, we just have to dig down and want it,” Adams said. “And will it.”

This is where Steve Kerr’s experience and belief are a factor. As a member of the great Bulls teams that won three consecutive championships (1996-98), he acknowledges that each year becomes more challenging than the previous. The Warriors have had three seasons of historical greatness, and this is Year 4.

“I don’t think people who haven’t gone through this really understand how hard it is,’ Kerr said in a recent conversation. “I don’t think fans or media really understand. Bringing your best game, physically and emotionally, for four straight years is not realistic. Having been through it as a player, I understand what we’re dealing with.”

It’s a new experience for Adams, so he defers to the head coach.

“Steve is the pacesetter in all of this; he analyzes things well,” he said. “I’m old school, so I look at things maybe through a little bit different lens. But Steve is pretty spot-on in his analysis.”

Is anybody listening? Steve Kerr and the sports world louder than our leaders

Is anybody listening? Steve Kerr and the sports world louder than our leaders

Steve Kerr is hurt and disillusioned and angry. He is completely fed up with government inertia in the face of epidemic gun violence that frequently manifests itself in mass shootings such as that which occurred Wednesday in Florida.

The Warriors coach is on this subject among the broadening chorus of voices, every one of them existing in a vacuum.

Everybody hears it, every time, but those within power structure never listen, for if they truly did they would take responsible preventive action.

In the wake of this latest tragedy it was evident Kerr, even as he prepared to coach the Warriors against the Trail Blazers in Portland, was particularly shaken.

His visage wore the news of another unhinged soul shooting up a school. At least 17 are dead, the vast majority of them students at Majory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland. And the casualty count is likely to rise.

“Nothing has been done,” Kerr said with visible contempt. “It doesn’t seem to matter to our government that children are being shot to death, day after day, in schools. It doesn’t matter that people are being shot at a concert, at a movie theater. It’s not enough, apparently, to move our leadership, our government, the people who are running this country, to actually do anything. And that’s demoralizing.

“But we can do something about it. We can vote people in who actually have the courage to protect people’s lives and not just bow down to the NRA because they’ve financed their campaign.”

Yes, he went there. Kerr urged American voters to seek out and support political candidates independent of the powerful National Rifle Association and, therefore, willing to generate momentum toward enacting responsible gun laws.

He barely bothered to address the current government, opting instead to plead with the voting public. Is anybody listening?

Anybody?

There is every indication that voices such as that of Kerr will not be silenced. He spoke passionately and from personal experience. His life was touched by gun violence in the most extreme fashion when his father, Malcolm, an educator, was assassinated at a school in Beirut 34 years ago last month.

Kerr is not alone in this quest for action. Many others joined in.

Former player Steve Nash, a Warriors consultant bound for the Hall of Fame, expressed his feelings on Twitter: “The rest of the world is having success prohibiting access to guns. I don’t see what the debate is about. It’s not working here. People are dying at alarming rates. If you value guns more than life and safety I don’t understand.”

Jared Dudley, a member of the Phoenix Suns and one of more respected veterans in the NBA, spoke up via Twitter: “So sad man! Gotta change theses Gun laws! I’m tired of the slogan guns don’t kill people only people kill people.. Change the Law!”

Utah Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell kept his message to six words, printing “End gun violence” on his right shoe and “Pray for Parkland” on his left.

Mitchell’s mother is a teacher.

Here’s Tom Garfinkel, CEO of the Miami Dolphins: “How do we stop this? When will there be proactive change from our government leaders to address the complexity of why this keeps happening? Praying for those affected in Parkland. And Orlando, and Columbine, and Sandy Hook, and every other senseless and tragic shooting.”

And former NFL player Damien Woody: “I’m just over here thinking about how we as a society use the term ‘pro life’ . . . days like today doesn’t do it justice.”

And Seattle Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin, quote tweeting the obligatory “prayers and condolences” tweet from President Trump: “Yea.. but the fact is that they AREN’T safe. Just more rhetoric and no action. WAKEUP!!!!”

Is anybody listening?

Anybody?

Wednesday was the 45th day of this calendar year -- and the 18th school shooting. Quick math tells us that equals two every five days, 10 every 25 and 20 every 50.

Many children of color grow up with violence. Studies have proved that the experience traumatizes them to varying degrees. There are neighborhoods all across these United States in which children are as afraid of law enforcement as they are of street gangs. It’s how they grow up.

The powerlessness and apprehension is growing each day. And each time our elected leaders choose to look the other way while holding open their duffle bags to accept NRA cash, the sense of despair gets deeper.

How many children will go to school today and tomorrow and all the days after that feeling anxieties they should not have to bear in a so-called civilized society?

They’ll be looking over their shoulders. They’ll be wondering about the student whose temper is a bit too quick and hot. They’ll be trying to avoid the student who is too much of a loner or makes threats. They’ll be wary of the bully and the bullied. They’ll be trying to escape those that pose with firearms on social media.

The despair is real, and if you look into the eyes of the young you can feel it.

“Hopefully, we’ll find enough people first of all to vote good put people in,” Kerr said. “But, hopefully, we can find enough people with courage to actually help our citizens remain safe and focus on the real safety issues, not building some stupid wall for billions of dollars that has nothing to do with our safety, but actually protecting us from what truly is dangerous, which is maniacs with semiautomatic weapons just slaughtering our children. It’s disgusting.”

Kerr is among those willing to speak up and advocate for change. There are others. And they will be joined by many more who will make it their mission to follow the example of most every civilized society.

If the horrible events of Sept. 11, 2001, a single day, could persuade our government to take steps to make air travel safer, how many deadly events does it take to grow the principle and power to say no to the NRA and yes to the safety of children?

Is anybody listening?

Steve Kerr calls out government in powerful message after Florida shooting

Steve Kerr calls out government in powerful message after Florida shooting

It's only February and another incredibly sad and scary shooting has taken place in the United States of America.

On Wednesday, at least 17 people were killed in a massive shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Before the Warriors game against the Trail Blazers in Portland, head coach Steve Kerr was asked about his thoughts on the shooting. 

"Nothing has been done," Kerr said to reporters. "It doesn't seem to matter to our government that children are being shot to death day after day at schools. It doesn't matter that people are being shot at a concert, at a movie theater. It's not enough apparently to move our leadership, our government, the people who are running this country to actually do anything. That's demoralizing. 

"But we can do something about it. We can vote people in who actually have the courage to protect peoples' lives and not just bow down to the NRA because they financed their campaign for them. So, hopefully we'll find enough people first of all to vote good people in, but hopefully we can find enough people with courage to help our citizens remain safe and focus on the real safety issues, not build some wall for billions of dollars that has nothing to do with our safety, but actually protecting us from what truly is dangerous, which is maniacs with semi-automatic weapons and just slaughtering our children. It's disgusting."