Warriors

With technical fouls piling up, Warriors look to strike a balance

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USATSI

With technical fouls piling up, Warriors look to strike a balance

OAKLAND -- Maybe it’s the sense of entitlement that comes with unprecedented success followed by immense popularity, but the Warriors have become one of those teams that make NBA officials cringe.

The griping and gesturing and staring and occasional profanity -- the Warriors are guilty of it all and, yes, sometimes the calls are so atrocious they’re an affront to the art of refereeing.

General manager Bob Myers has seen and heard enough. On Thursday, he acted.

In the wake of the Warriors being slammed with five technical fouls and the ejection of Draymond Green on 125-105 loss to Oklahoma City on Tuesday, Myers met with the team to discuss on-court conduct and the spate of technical fouls that are assessed to the Warriors.

“Hopefully, they remembered it for more than five minutes and they hung on to it,” he said prior to a 121-103 victory over the Mavericks. “But you never know. It seems like they were listening a little bit.”

Green quickly proved containing this issue is going to be a work in progress. He picked up technical foul with 8:12 left in the second quarter. After making a layup in transition, the ball dropped into his lap before he quickly dumped it on the floor and that was enough for referee Tre Maddox to issue a delay of game warning.

When Green, jogging out near the midcourt stripe with his back to Maddox, heard the delay whistle, he turned and raised both arms in surprise. As he spun away, getting back on defense, he waved his hand in the general direction of Maddox, who was maybe 40 feet away when he whistled the technical.

“Miss more layups, don’t let the ball hit me and then don’t throw air punches, which I’m still trying to find out what an air punch was,” Green said as part of a colorful, animated, scientific response.

That was Green’s 14th technical foul, leaving two away from a one-game suspension, something that surely was on Myers’ mind as addressed the team earlier in the day.

“They’ve worked very hard as individuals to cultivate a reputation that I think is mostly appreciated out there, certainly in our local market,” Myers said. “Beyond that, through their play and their character, their demeanor, the way Steve coaches, the way they share. I said that we need to work to protect that and acknowledge it. But that takes care to sustain that.”

Green leads the NBA with 14 technical fouls, according to NBA.com statistics. Kevin Durant is tied for second with 11. Steve Kerr has five, leaving him in a six-way tie for fourth place among coaches, which is a problem in itself.

“I’m as guilty as anybody,” Kerr said. “I think I’m second in the league in coaches’ technicals with seven. We all need to do a better job of staying poised. I don’t like the look of the constant complaining, myself included. We have to get better with that.”

Kerr was wrong on his total but correct in his acknowledgment. The Warriors are tarnishing what once was a fairly upstanding reputation.

The players are keeping officials busy. The Warriors have been slapped with 35 technical fouls, putting them in a first-place tie with the Suns and two ahead of Oklahoma City.

Green and Durant account for 25, with no other player with more than two (Stephen Curry and Andre Iguodala).

“We want competitive people,” Myers said. “One of my favorite things about Steve and Draymond is their deep, deep competitiveness. That’s fantastic. That’s what we want. But at the same time, how do you channel that appropriately? How do I do it? How do they do it? How do any of us that have that inside of us live in that?

“You don’t want to tame someone who has that characteristic. But I think they both would say that they can work on that.”

There is a line that must be walked and managed. The Warriors at their best are a passionate bunch, with Green and Kerr particularly fiery. But if they can’t keep their emotional blazes under some degree of control, it could backfire.

“We need to represent our team in a better light,” Kerr said.

“Just play the game,” Durant said. “Worry about each possession and trying to be the best we can each possession, trying to win in possession. We did that tonight. That’s a step in the right direction and that’ll make up for a lot of problems if we just worry about trying to win each possession no matter what.

“Guys flew around tonight. We got stops. We blocked shots. It felt like we got back to getting our hands on basketballs, helping out a little bit more, getting steals. When we do that, we don’t have enough time to worry about refs.”

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?