Warriors

The night the Warriors hated their display of 'disgusting basketball'

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USATSI

The night the Warriors hated their display of 'disgusting basketball'

An evening that began with a sheer absence of passion and profoundly negligent defense ended in an orgy of self-described masochism in Salt Lake City.

The haters came hard and heavy at the Warriors late Tuesday night, with the hardest and heaviest coming from those representing the team.

“It happens. It’s the NBA. It’s a long season,” coach Steve Kerr told reporters at Vivint Smart Home Arena after he and his team were on the blunt end of a 129-99 pummeling by the Utah Jazz. “The key is always how we bounce back.

“I think our guys will tell you, that was a pathetic effort out there. That was disgusting basketball.”

Informed of Kerr’s description, Stephen Curry barely hesitated.

“That’s pretty accurate,” he said.

“They just outplayed us in probably every aspect of the game,” said Klay Thompson, who provided a few glimpses of sunlight on offense (27 points, 12-of-17 shooting) while giving the Jazz guards plenty of daylight on defense.

This was the Warriors at their worst, comically bad, reminiscent of some of the rock-bottom days under the bargain-basement Chris Cohan ownership and its nondescript rosters and revolving door of coaches.

“Our hearts weren’t in it,” Kerr said. “At this level, if your heart’s not in it, I don’t care how much talent you have. You’re going to lose.”

This was Kerr’s 297th regular-season game as Warriors coach, and the previous 296 passed without anyone -- much less this utterly mediocre Utah team -- so thoroughly shredding the defense upon which they’ve built their elevated status. Utah shot so well as 58.2 percent from the field, blowing right past the previous high in the Kerr era, 54.5 percent by the Nuggets last February.

Forward Joe Ingles, a one-dimensional shooter who would be maybe the ninth man in the Warriors’ rotation, scored 17 points in the first half, draining 5-of-6 shots from deep. He made Kevin Durant look like a totem pole. Check that. Durant deserves all of the credit for that.

“I’ve got to be better. I can’t let Joe Ingles get loose on 3s like that and expect us to play well on the road, especially in here,” Durant said. “I’ve got to start off the game better if we want to win games.”

Durant wasn’t alone in playing an unsubstantiated rumor of defense that ushered Utah to its tip-to-buzzer rout. One game after deploying spectacular individual and team defense to close out the contending Boston Celtics, the Warriors threw their championship rings on the floor and watched their jewelry get ground into the floor.

Every member of the Jazz roster that played, and all 12 healthy bodies did, shot at least 50 percent, with the exception of terrific rookie guard Donovan Mitchell, whose 8-of-17 shooting dropped the team’s percentage down to 60.9 overall and 50 percent from beyond the arc.

It was not much of a surprise that the hulking and deliberate Jazz owned the paint, with a 58-46 scoring advantage, but it was downright shocking to watch the them score as many fast-break points, 14, as did the Warriors.

Such a darkly comic evening wouldn’t be complete if the Warriors didn’t toss the Jazz a few gifts. How about 20 turnovers, off which Utah scored 18 points?

“I asked Draymond on the bench in the fourth quarter if he could remember that bad of a performance we’ve had in recent memory and we really can’t. They’re few and far between,” Curry said. “But we’ve got to understand that every game we can’t show up and expect to win, especially on the road.

“It’s kind of cheating the game.”

Not only did the Warriors cheat the game, they also cheated themselves and their fans that were among the crowd in the arena.

Though they own the best record in the NBA at 40-11, it’s too much to believe the Warriors are going to be excellent, or even good, every night. There are going to be games when the desire to compete at the highest level fails to materialize.

That’s what happened. They didn’t want it. From the moment they stepped between the lines, the Warriors were, in boxing parlance, looking for a soft place to land.

They know it, and they have to wear it. The saving grace is that this was one of 82, and the Warriors are two days away from the next chance to better represent what they’re about.

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?