Warriors

Casspi, Young fill huge void for Warriors: Come off the bench and let it fly

Casspi, Young fill huge void for Warriors: Come off the bench and let it fly

OAKLAND -- The departure of Marreese Speights last summer snapped a Warriors streak that, with very few interruptions, lasted for the better part of 30 years.

It’s a link that began with Terry Teagle and Sarunas Marciulionis before running through the likes of Victor Alexander and Tony Delk and Chris Mills and Gilbert Arenas and Anthony Morrow and, eventually, Brandon Rush and Speights.

The Warriors almost always have had someone, through times good and bad, who comes off the bench for the specific purpose of scoring. Instant offense.

Not so last season, when they placed 21st in bench scoring (32.8 points per game) and, moreover, 29th in 3-pointers made at 2.1 per game.

Consider that hole patched. Veterans Nick Young, who signed last week, and Omri Casspi, who signed on Wednesday, are here to score. They’ll mix in some defense and they’ll pass a bit. But they’ve come to light up the scoreboard, with Young providing what was delivered by the best of Rush and Casspi filling the vacuum left by Speights.

“Those are two guys we’ve always liked,” assistant general manager Kirk Lacob said Wednesday, during the ESPN telecast of the Warriors-Timberwolves game in Las Vegas Summer League. “They’re multidimensional. They’ve got size. They’ve got length. And they can shoot. They’re shooters. We like shooters. We’re really happy about both guys. It adds a new dimension to our bench.”’

Casspi, who has come off the bench in 361 of his 499 NBA games, was quick to clarify what drew him to the Warriors.

“I want to run, I want to shoot 3s,” he said during his introductory news conference.

“Obviously, my game, I don’t shoot a lot of mid-range whatsoever,” the 29-year-old added. “I want to do whatever it takes to help, whether to play tough defense, shoot open shots or move the ball from side to side, defend, do the stuff I do.”

The 6-foot-9 forward -- the first native of Israel to reach the NBA -- has played for five different teams, usually in the role of bench scorer. He’s a 36.7-percent beyond the arc shooter for his career, though twice has posted seasons above 40 percent.

Casspi’s single-game scoring high is 36 points, compiled against the Warriors while he was a member of the Kings in December 2015. He was 13-of-18 from the field, including 9-of-12 from deep in a 122-103 Sacramento loss.

Casspi was outgunned that night by Warriors stars Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, who combined for 52 points, including 11-of-25 shooting from deep.

“It was fun, one of those moments,” Casspi said. “It doesn’t happen often that you make shots (like that). Some guys make shots, but then you have a guy like Steph coming right back and doing even better. It was a night to remember.”

It’s that kind of offensive capability that has kept Casspi in the NBA and also made him attractive to the Warriors, who signed him to a one-year contract worth $2.1 million.

“I can’t wait for the season to start,” he said. “I have so much to prove, and a big chip on my shoulder to go ahead and do the stuff I need to do to help my team win. This is what I’m looking for.”

The Warriors, despite finishing first or second in nearly every offensive statistic, were looking for bench scoring. They are returning to their roots. With Young and Casspi on board, the team has doubled down in its pursuit of triples off the bench.

“I don’t know (Young) personally, but we’ve played against each other plenty of times,” Casspi said. “We have shooting all over the place. This is just great. This is something that compliments his game and my game. I’m looking forward to working with him and our coaching staff.”

The lesson of this second-place Warriors team at the All-Star break

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AP

The lesson of this second-place Warriors team at the All-Star break

And so ends a thoroughly confusing half-season for the Golden State Warriors – doing all the things you love and hate them for in one fell swoop.
 
In losing, 123-117, at Portland, they showed their full game. Big game by one of the Gang Of Four (Kevin Durant this time)? Check. Lousy start? Check. Big rally after lousy start? Check. Defensive lapses? Check. Impassioned yet disgusted pregame soliloquy by Steve Kerr on the manifest inadequacies of modern American thought? Check, and mate.
 
Of those things, the Kerr attack on the Florida school shooting was the most meaningful development of an otherwise meh evening, but Kerr’s having to explain to us again what we should already know is almost a default position now – like everything else about this season.
 
The Warriors go into the All-Star Break in second place in the Western Conference, which is pretty much what they deserve. They have lost the standings initiative through the sin of boredom, and even if leading the conference at the All-Star Break is essentially meaningless (which it is), it is still fascinating to see so many people buying the argument that “they’ll get it together when they need to get it together.” Never has the argument that the regular season doesn’t matter been put so succinctly; not even Sam Hinkie and his Process fetish did it as well.

In other words, Kerr's latest attempt to re-focus the players lasted about as long as you figured it would.

Things can certainly change between now and June; most NBA observers are still banking on it. The notation “pulled attention span, questionable” does not enter their thoughts. They still see the Warriors as clearly superior in any series, and barring catastrophic injury regard them as essentially invulnerable over a seven-game series – which is an interesting analysis given that they’ve only played two, and lost one of those.
 
But unless the Warriors put on a game-by-game pyrospectacular from this point forward and wipe out all traces of this half-plus of the season, this year will be remembered as the oddest of their run. They seem to have given in to their own hype, believing as we all do that they are merely a toggle switch that only needs an educated thumb to start the engines churning again – which they might well be, no matter how occasionally dissatisfying that may seem to the proletariat.
 
If they win their third title in four years, they will meet expectations without exceeding them, and this season is the first of their four long and delightful seasons that actually seems to be providing more length than delight. This is not condemnation, but rather a reminder that not every plan goes according to plan, and winning gets harder each time it is accomplished. That is the lesson of 2018 – so far, anyway.

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?