The Great Player Empowerment Debate has come and gone, the National Basketball Association stands as before, and Steve Kerr is again slightly irked that a relatively harmless idea to fix that dent in his own team has become everyone else’s cry of disrespectful injustice.
Indeed, rarely has anyone felt so sorry for the Phoenix Suns since they lost that coin flip 48 years ago and ended with Neal Walk instead of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
But the underlying oh-crap moment in Kerr’s decision to let his players run practices and timeouts before the 46-point win over the Suns is actually just one more acknowledgement that the regular season can be a tedium-fest, even for the elite.
The Warriors have been less lasered-in this year. They have been less defensively mindful, and they have tried to overadorn passes in search of the adrenalin fix that used to sustain them so easily two and three years ago. It is mid-February, and they have set such a high bar of stimulus, and to be fair such a high self-image, that they find playing to their standard is often an exercise in overexertion.
They’re bored, pure and simple.
The playoffs are still too far away to be real. The excitement of wondering if they will open with Denver or Utah or the Los Angeles Clippers or New Orleans isn’t that exciting yet. Listening to that 45th lecture about focus is becoming the equivalent of listening to sad-trombone.
Kerr knows it. The players know it. They get along fine, and nobody is spoiling for Kerr to be replaced by Tom Thibodeau, but messaging loses some of its power after 366 games and 1,205 days, give or take the odd golf outing.
Indeed, all the messaging around the league is that the regular season as a whole is about combating boredom. Some teams (at least eight this year) indeed regard the regular season as a loss leader in search of that magical draft pick that usually never comes. Teams rest players and hide behind “sore right ring toe” as an explanation to keep the network mall cops at bay. Cleveland was performing a ritual self-immolation until Koby Altman dynamited the roster, an act of electroshock therapy unheard of in midseason. The Los Angeles Lakers are playing for 2019 even though 2018 is only 45 days old, and LaVar Ball is not disruptive enough to get anyone’s notice any more.
Everywhere, the message is the regular season is a month longer than it needs to be, and there is no cure for this mass ennui but time. Kerr played a card to energize his veterans for an evening, and it worked -- although the evidence suggests that they could have beaten the Suns by 46 even without the new time-out structure.
Only mid-March will make this problem go away, because by then title aspirants will start prepping for the time when the games matter a lot, mid-level teams will battle for the remaining 10 playoff spots, and everyone else will be doing mock drafts. They’ll have things to amuse them.
In the meantime, though, Adam Silver rises each day knowing that the solution to all this regular season disrespect (since that is what the Warrior-Suns game actually was) is eliminating February entirely – and no amount of network money can do that.
In the meantime, Steve Kerr has to figure out what form his next set of jumper cables will take – getting kicked out of a game during the National Anthem? Sitting in the stands? Sitting on the other team’s bench? Promoting JaVale McGee to assistant general manager and letting him work the buyout market? Don’t miss our next exciting episode, “The Burden Of Trying To Look Engaged,” or “Brooklyn on March 6.”