Iguodala: Kerr's absence forces Warriors to 'focus a little bit more'

Iguodala: Kerr's absence forces Warriors to 'focus a little bit more'

Programming note: Warriors-Jazz Game 1 coverage starts tonight at 6:30pm with Warriors Playoff Central on NBC Sports Bay Area Plus, and streaming live right here.

OAKLAND -- Up and down the roster, man after man, the Warriors have cleared their throats, straightened their ties and furrowed their collective brow.

They are getting serious. Not so serious that they can’t have fun. The laughs will always be there because that’s how they live and also because ailing coach Steve Kerr insists on joy being a component of the overall experience.

But the Warriors are adopting a more earnest approach, a higher and more conspicuous level of professional obligation. And it’s a direct result of Kerr’s indefinite absence.

“It makes us focus a little bit more,” concedes veteran forward Andre Iguodala.

As they enter the Western Conference Semifinals Tuesday night against Utah under acting head coach Mike Brown, the Warriors have never looked and felt more like the team Kerr wants them to be. They’re primed to more consistently take ownership in ways they occasionally did when Kerr was constantly pleading for it.

“You have to as a leader,” forward Draymond Green says. “Steve’s the head of the snake. If you chop the head off, it’s done. We don’t want that to be our case, where the head of the snake is out and we go down the drain. You can’t expect, as great a job as Mike B has done, to just expect him to step in and be Steve. It’s unreal.”

Backup guard Ian Clark acknowledges the new vibe and attributes it to the players understanding the situation and, with Kerr out, embracing the responsibility.

“We want to make sure that we do the little things and not necessarily make him proud . . . but it’s more of a pride thing for us,” Clark says. “Knowing that we can tighten up in certain areas, knowing things that he would want us to do -- and make sure that we do them.”

The most graphic example of the Warriors holding themselves more accountable is in the number of turnovers committed in their series sweep over Portland. In Games 1 and 2, with Kerr on the bench, they committed 33. In Games 3 and 4, on the road and with Brown on the bench, they committed 17 -- 8.5 per game, numbers plucked from Kerr’s dreams.

After blowing a 3-1 lead in The Finals last June, the Warriors clearly understand the postseason is not the time to devolve into Globetrotters mode. While they’ll be sure to play with joy, and there always will be specific showboat elements, they will be light on pretension. Going playground now, or playing hero ball, would look like kids acting out before the sub.

Then there is this: The Warriors may be realizing they can play great and exciting basketball without getting silly or reckless. What happens on the court is a more explicit reflection on them and their commitment to the process.

“When I’m out there on the floor, it’s not like I’m looking over at Coach Kerr every second wondering ‘What do I do now?’ Stephen Curry says. “The principles are set in stone of how we need to play. It’s my job to execute them.”

It helps that the team is built around self-aware veterans. Curry, for one, is more acutely mindful -- another of Kerr’s tenets -- of his role in making the Warriors run as smoothly as possible. Green and Iguodala practically are unofficial assistant coaches. Veterans David West and Shaun Livingston also bring plenty of savvy and knowhow.

They all feel what Brown, who joined the team last summer, is facing. He’s taking the seat normally occupied by the man who was behind the team that last season won an NBA-record 73 games. He’s sitting in for the only coach to preside over a team that won at least 67 games in three successive seasons.

It’s a position that, for Brown, has vast potential for awkwardness, something Green quickly recognized.

“As a leader,” he says, “it’s your job to make things comfortable.”

Which provides some insight into the sizzling start of Game 4 in Portland. Looking the close out the series, the Warriors played a near flawless first quarter, needing only a few minutes to destroy the Trail Blazers.

That was the first time the players rolled out of bed in the morning knowing Brown, not Kerr, would be holding the clipboard. Their focus at both ends of the court was sharp enough to cut glass.

“We have some great leaders on this team,” Brown says, “and those guys are taking the approach that, ‘Hey, we’re going help out Mike and the staff. We’ve got to make sure we’re on point, because we don’t want to mess them up, nor do we want to mess ourselves up and let Steve down.’

“When you have guys that can police themselves, and they’re players that are impactful for you, it makes things easier. Those guys have all stepped up that way.”

If the Warriors take this approach throughout the postseason, no one would be happier than Kerr, who values the process above all, regardless of conducting practices and calling timeouts during the game.

A focused Warriors team, after all, would be tough for any opponent to deal with.

It's official -- Steph Curry will return vs Hawks, Dennis Schroder awaits him


It's official -- Steph Curry will return vs Hawks, Dennis Schroder awaits him

OAKLAND -- At a time when the Warriors could use a boost, they’ll get Friday night when Stephen Curry rejoins the lineup as they face the Atlanta Hawks.

The Warriors (53-18) have been shorthanded for two weeks, and still they’ll be without three of their four All-Stars. Curry’s return after a six-game absence, however, will send a jolt of energy through the team and the crowd at Oracle Arena.

The Hawks (21-51), in full rebuild mode, have lost 10 of 13 since the All-Star break, including a 105-90 loss to the Kings on Thursday night in Sacramento before the lightest NBA crowd of the season due to protests in the wake of a police shooting.


Warriors by 9


Stephen Curry vs. Dennis Schroder: Under normal circumstances, this is worthy of attention, but it’s particularly intriguing with Curry making his return. Schroder, who rested Thursday night, is a defensive pest, the type of player whose presence lights a fire under opponents. Not that Curry needs it. He’s downright anxious to get back on the court.


Warriors: F Omri Casspi (R ankle sprain) is listed as questionable. F Kevin Durant (R rib cartilage injury), F Draymond Green (pelvic contusion) and G Klay Thompson (R thumb fracture) are listed as out.

Hawks: G Kent Bazemore (R knee bone bruise), F De’Andre Bembry (abdominal strain), G Antonious Cleveland (L ankle surgery rehab), F/C John Collins (L ankle sprain), G Malcolm Delaney (L ankle sprain) and G Jaylen Morris (L ankle sprain) are listed as out.


Warriors: 6-4. Hawks: 2-8.


Sean Wright (crew chief), Kevin Cutler, Rodney Mott


The Warriors prevailed in the first of two meetings this season, 114-109 on March 2 in Atlanta. They swept the two-game series last season and are 6-1 against the Hawks in the Steve Kerr era.


DEFENSIVE INTENSITY: Green’s absence robs the Warriors of their best defender and emotional leader. How do they compensate? That’s going to be tough. Expect Jordan Bell (who will start) and Kevon Looney to handle most of the minutes at PF. They’re capable and willing defenders, but neither has Green’s savvy.

THE GIFTS: Though the Warriors, even without a full roster, are much the better team, those circumstances have guaranteed nothing this season. They have a tendency to keep games close by committing costly turnovers. The Hawks are second in forcing turnovers (15.5 per game) and third in points off turnovers (18.2).

THE GUARDS: Curry’s return gives the Warriors a fourth guard, with three PGs (Quinn Cook, Shaun Livingston, Curry) and SG Nick Young. Because Curry and Quinn Cook are capable of playing off the ball, there will be several variations. Any two can be paired as a duo. The coaching staff gets to satisfy its desire to experiment.

Former agent Christian Dawkins to blame? Jordan Bell knows 'exactly what happened'


Former agent Christian Dawkins to blame? Jordan Bell knows 'exactly what happened'

So here's a story for you:

At 9:25pm on April 16, 2017, The Vertical's Shams Charania sent out the following tweet:

This angered Jordan Bell, who soon thereafter tweeted twice:

So what actually went down? It turns out that former agent Christian Dawkins -- who is a key figure in the FBI's investigation into corruption in college basketball -- may have been responsible.

Bell explained everything to Logan Murdock on the Planet Dubs Podcast.

"I was mad ... I know exactly what happened. One of the agents I met with -- the one who got in trouble. What's his name? Dawkins or whatever. Something like that. When I met with him, he was throwing me shade -- he acted like he didn't know who I was. 

"We had dinner and he's on his phone like not really paying me attention. I'm like, 'Why am I meeting with you?  You're wasting my time.' ... I kid you not, he didn't read over his (research). It had all of the top power forwards, big guys in the draft. And he was like, 'Let's just look at this.'

"And he's looking at it, and he was like, 'Oh! You're Top 3 in everything!' And he started getting excited and I was like, 'I'm cool. I'm done with this meeting.'"

Bell then explained how one of his coaches at Oregon tried to teach Bell a lesson.

The coach wanted Bell to "be a man" and contact all of the agents that he was for sure not going to sign with to let them know.

Bell didn't want to do that because he wanted to announce he was declaring for the draft on his own terms, without any information potentially leaking to the media.

But the Warriors rookie took the coach's advice and texted Dawkins to say he was going in a different direction.

"And I kid you not, like an hour later, I get an (alert) -- I'm upstairs at my coach's house -- 'I hear Jordan Bell declares for (the draft)' and I just started screaming...

"... I feel like I have to go (to the NBA) now ... when that happened, I was like, 'I really want to go back now just to prove him wrong, just to make him lose all credibility."

Bell quickly came to his senses, and at 10am on April 18, 2017, he retweeted the following message:

Interestingly -- the last line of The Vertical's story that broke the news regarding Bell reads:

Bell is projected to be the No. 38 overall pick in The Vertical’s latest mock draft by Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress.

The Warriors paid the Bulls $3.5 million for the rights to Bell at... No. 38 overall.

Drew Shiller is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders. Follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller