Warriors

Miles above the pack, Warriors not bothered by Wade-to-Cavs, other moves

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USATSI

Miles above the pack, Warriors not bothered by Wade-to-Cavs, other moves

OAKLAND -- Though the Warriors tread carefully when discussing the white-hot activity throughout much of the NBA this offseason they still are keenly aware of who has moved, to where, and, moreover, why.

That’s because as defending champs that have posted the best record three years running, they have a very good view. They’re alone atop the mountain, looking down on a league scrambling about the foothills in hopes of climbing higher.

“They’re loading up,” David West said the other day as one of the few Warriors willing to go beyond the party line: we’re focusing on us.

That was before Dwyane Wade maneuvered his way out of Chicago to become a free agent so he could to join forces with his dude LeBron James in Cleveland. That move is, from where the Warriors sit, barely enough to raise their eyebrows.

Wade-to-the-Cavs is not a surprise; indeed, the minute Wade was granted his wish to be bought out by the Bulls, it was widely presumed he’d make his way 350 miles east to join LeBron. As NBA stars muscle up to dictate their movement, with James being the pioneer of this new age, a Wade-James partnership was inevitable. Even the Warriors, who were curious about Wade’s availability, knew as much.

Yet the new Cavs pose no more of a threat to the Warriors than what they’ll have to confront within the treacherous Western Conference.

No more than the new Thunder, who added Carmelo Anthony to a nucleus of Paul George -- acquired from Indiana in July -- and reigning MVP Russell Westbrook.

No more than the new Rockets, who in June traded for future Hall of Fame point guard Chris Paul to play alongside perennial All-Star James Harden.

No more than the new Timberwolves, who added All-Star guards Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague, along with respected vets Taj Gibson and Jamal Crawford, to a roster already rich with tantalizing youngsters Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins.

No more than Spurs, who always find their way to a top-four seed because coach Gregg Popovich is the best in the league.

And certainly no more than the Celtics, who after posting the best record in the Eastern Conference lost sparkplug Isaiah Thomas but added All-Stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, as well as veteran forward Marcus Morris.

Meanwhile, the Warriors brought back 12 players, including their top five free agents, to ensure their top eight players from a year ago -- in terms of minutes played -- would begin the quest for back-to-back championships.

“As you can see, the landscape of the league, it changes fast,” Warriors general manager Bob Myers said. “No one could have predicted a lot of things that have transpired.

“But for us, thankfully, we've got our core back and hopefully added some guys that can help us.”

The primary additions, shooting guard Nick Young, forward Omri Casspi and rookie forward Jordan Bell, project as upgrades over the three players -- Ian Clark, James Michael McAdoo and Anderson Varejao -- on the opening-night roster last season but have since departed.

Having retooled while so many others rebuilt, the Warriors still believe anything that might stop them, injury aside, would have to come from their own locker room.

Las Vegas agrees, placing the over-under for the Warriors at 67.5, a full 13 games ahead of the field. The Cavs and Rockets are at 54.5, while the Spurs and Celtics at 53.5. The only other team set above 50 is the Thunder, at 52.5.

If the Warriors are improved, as they believe they will be, the rest of the league merely is planning and plotting to see who finishes second and beyond.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr, looking around the NBA, noted the Cavs-Celtics trade for being the rare deal between rivals, Paul-to-the-Rockets for being seismic and “interesting,” and how Rudy Gay gives the Spurs a different look.

“Those are the ones that jump out,” Kerr said. “Beyond that, I'm mostly worried about our team and concerned with what we're doing.”

Which is watching, from afar, the front-office calisthenics of the competition.

“Those teams are amazing teams that will have great seasons I'm sure,” Kevin Durant said. “But it's tough enough to worry about yourself than worry about someone else. So I would just rather focus on us.”

That’s the luxury of being miles above, if not light years ahead.

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?