David West

David West sounds off on the NFL, Kaepernick and kneeling

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AP

David West sounds off on the NFL, Kaepernick and kneeling

As NFL owners and their besieged commissioner, Roger Goodell, blame kneeling players for diminished interest in the games, one prominent American athlete believes the league is hurt by its treatment of the man at the center of the uprising.

The failure to crack a door for Super Bowl quarterback Colin Kaepernick has some fans turning away from the NFL, according to Warriors big man David West.

“One part (of declining interest) that I think is being overlooked and is being dismissed is the impact of them not hiring or getting Colin Kaepernick in the league,” West said on this week’s Warriors Insider Podcast. “We know he should be on somebody’s roster.

“But what they’re discounting is that people aren’t watching the NFL because of the way they are treating Colin Kaepernick. That is a real thing. There are a lot of people who have stopped watching football, who are not going to games.”

As team after team turns to quarterback after quarterback with vastly inferior credentials, Kaepernick sits unemployed, ignored by NFL power brokers who imply their “fans” would revolt if he were signed to their team.

Some fans surely are jersey-burning angry over the wave of demonstrations started last season, when Kaepernick decided to kneel during the national anthem as a way of protesting social inequality in America.

West is certain plenty of fans stand with the former 49ers quarterback. And there is anecdotal evidence to support West’s assertion, instances of fans turning to social media or attending games at various NFL venues carrying signs supportive of Kaepernick and others involved in the movement.

“That idea is not being talked about enough,” West said. “It’s the other way around. They’re saying people aren’t watching the NFL because guys are protesting.

“I’m not sure that the numbers, if we really, really look at who’s watching and who’s not going, I’m not sure that those numbers are the way that they are projecting them to be, in my opinion. I think there are a lot of people who aren’t watching because of the way Colin Kaepernick is being treated.”

Warriors veteran David West considered retiring, but...

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AP

Warriors veteran David West considered retiring, but...

His shooting percentage is tops on a Warriors team of noted shooters.

His Player Efficiency Rating among teammates ranks behind only that of Stephen Curry.

And only Kevin Durant has more total blocks and no one on the teams is averaging more than blocks per 36 minutes.

The first four weeks of what may be David West’s final season have made quite the statement. His game is simply not ready for retirement.

Yet West considered just that last summer, in the wake of being on a championship team for the first time in his 14-year career.

“You’ve got to think about every year, for these last three or four years,” West said on this week’s Warriors Insider Podcast. “You always think about it. It’s something you’re marching toward. When the season was over, I took time to enjoy what we had done, what we had accomplished.”

While Warriors coach Steve Kerr was ready to welcome another season of West, general manager Bob Myers kept in contact with the veteran as he pondered his decision in the two weeks following the NBA Finals victory.

No one on the team had enjoyed this championship more than West. His display of unrestrained exhilaration in the locker room after the Game 5 clinching was unforgettable.

So, naturally, after the scent of champagne had dissipated, West had questions of himself. His 37th birthday was approaching. Did he still have the vitality to continue? What about his wife, Lesley, and their two kids? What about his teammates?

He got full approval from all parties, including himself.

“I just talked to my family and I just felt like why not?” he said. “We won it. Let’s see what this experience is like defending it.”

West agreed on July 1 to return to the Warriors, for a second consecutive one-year contract, and there are no regrets. If there were the slightest twinge, it would have faded during the team’s trip to China in the first week of October, when they spent a few minutes in conversation with tennis great Roger Federer.

“One of the things that stood out for me that he said is that he still has the fire to compete, and that’s the one thing that’s probably still burning for me,” West said. “You want to compete. You want to face new challenges. When you get older, you have to figure out different ways to be productive and how to deal with younger and more explosive (competitors). That’s a challenge that’s intriguing to me.

“With all of that thrown in, and on top of the fact that this is a great environment to be in -- I’m learning every single day -- it just felt right to come on back and give it another shot.”

Analysis: Gifted young stars no match for Warriors' group of veteran big men

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USATSI

Analysis: Gifted young stars no match for Warriors' group of veteran big men

When the Warriors brought back 37-year-old David West, 33-year-old Zaza Pachulia and 29-year-old JaVale McGee back for second seasons, the common response was a yawn and a shrug.

OK, fine, maybe that’s enough to do it again. Maybe.

The Warriors stayed pat at center because they liked what they had. Three veterans, none close to All-Star status, dividing playing time were good enough for them to sprint to a record 16-1 postseason and an NBA championship.

At a time when the NBA is rife with gifted young big men, the Super Team Warriors are content with part-timers. Hmm. Weird? Perhaps. Recent results, however, indicate they’re onto something.

The vets, with assistance mostly from firebrand Draymond Green, are teaching harsh lessons to the gifted youth -- and sometimes simply dismissing them from the classroom altogether.

The latest to be schooled by this tag-team was Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns on Wednesday night. His name may be the most popular answer to the hypothetical question: If you could pick any player to start a franchise, which would you choose?

Towns played 27 minutes, his second-lowest total of the season. He gave the Timberwolves 16 points, on 5-of-11 shooting, and 12 rebounds. The man who shoots 55.4 percent and averages 22 and 11 didn’t quite disappear, but he was barely there.

Before Towns there was Hassan Whiteside, averaging 18.3 points and 14 rebounds when coming into Oakland with the Miami Heat on Monday. He’s coming off a season in which he was the league’s No. 1 rebounder and a top-10 paint scorer.

Whiteside lost his courage early, lost it so transparently that Heat coach Eric Spoelstra benched him for good barely a minute into the third quarter -- after Pachulia opened the half by scoring four points in 59 seconds. Whiteside lasted all of 16 minutes, delivering three points (1-of-9 shooting), six rebounds and one block.

Some of this forgettable performance was on Whiteside; he’s a head case. But some of it was his reaction to the opposition.

Whiteside had 21 points and 17 rebounds one night earlier, against Clippers big man DeAndre Jordan. Two nights after being stifled by the Warriors, Whiteside hung 23 and 10, with four blocks, on the Suns.

Before Towns and Whiteside, there was Denver’s Nikola Jokic, who in the six games before facing the Warriors averaged 20.1 points and 14.7 rebounds. And that’s with an 8-point game in which he had 16 rebounds and 10 assists.

The Warriors never let Jokic get anything close to a rhythm. Facing different looks from four different players, five when Kevin Durant got involved, he played a season-low 20 minutes and finished with 8 points on 2-of-6 shooting, seven rebounds and three assists.

Three nights later, Jokic lit up the Nets for 41 points, along with 12 rebounds and five assists -- all before fouling out in 31 minutes.

That’s one of the telltale signs. The gifted youth look like stars before facing the Warriors and against afterward. The NBA’s Player Efficiency Ratings has Towns, Whiteside and Jokic all among the top 12. They’re fabulous.

The Pachulia-West-McGee tag team puts up terrific numbers, combining for 15.4 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks. Their collective field-goal percentage is 58.4. West is ninth in PER, while Pachulia and McGee are posting strong plus-minus numbers.

They offer little in the way of spectacle, aside from McGee’s soaring slams that bring citizens of JaVale Nation coming out of their seats. They are, McGee included, decidedly blue-collar but highly effective, kind of like reliable pickup trucks.

It’s early, yes, but Pachulia, West and McGee have been precisely what the Warriors need. They’re budget friendly, combining for less than $8 million in salary. They have different skills, span the athletic spectrum and give coach Steve Kerr and his staff a lot of flexibility at center.

They’re shining right now, and here comes another youngster to test them: Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid, if healthy, will step into the classroom Saturday.