Programming note: Warriors-76ers coverage starts today at 3pm with Warriors Pregame Live on CSN Bay Area, and streaming live right here.
Credit must be given to the Golden State Warriors for keeping the brand alive on multiple platforms – to the point where they are now indirectly and barely tangentially linked to the Great Oscars Envelope Piefight.
Stay with us here. We’ll get to it.
The mundane matter of winning has, as expected, taken care of itself. They’ve clinched a playoff berth earlier than any other team, at least in the 16-team playoff era, they’ve hit their full stride with the Kevin Durant trade, they’re nervously navigating the Draymond Green Cavalcade of Technical Fouls, and they have led their supporters into the same old trap of thinking that regular season success is the same as postseason invulnerability.
In that way, they are much as they were a year ago, and the year before that.
But it is their underrated ability to find ancillary links to the world outside the NBA that makes them more than merely, say, the 1983 Fo’-Fo’-Fo’ 76ers.
Steve Kerr has been a political and social critic, and more than once – meaning that he hasn’t stumbled into discussions about the political state of the nation as much as he has leaped into them eyes wide open and feet fireproofed. He has not been tricked into a comment, ever. He says what he wants, and is in that way the management equivalent of . . .
. . . Green, who is more often than not the de facto team spokesman, Pushback Division, in that he will speak to anyone on any subject at any time. He is in many ways the Swiss Army Knife of sound bites, and when he decides to err on the side of volubility does not mind taking on opponents, strangers, his coach and, occasionally even teammates. He is a walking debate about temper management that is either 1 or 1-A to DeMarcus Cousins.
Durant and Russell Westbrook have, less voluntarily, been the subjects of a semi-philosophical debate about loyalty vs. business vs. opportunity vs. abandonment. Much of it has been driven not by them but by us, but we let go of cheap and easy narratives with the same willingness that Rottweilers demonstrate with a burglar’s femur.
JaVale McGee, the backup center, has just now engaged with some force with megabus/provocateur Shaquille O’Neal over O’Neal’s intermittent needling of McGee that finally hit the red, resulting in a unilateral cease-fire imposed by O’Neal’s mother Lucille that has not yet been agreed to by McGee’s mother Pamela. In other words, this is a family thing, with all the landmined dynamics that implies – a sure-fire talker both for those who like their debates either trivialized or broadened to take on larger social themes.
And the Oscars? Well, Best Supporting Actor Mahershala Ali is a self-admitted huge fan of The Bridge, having grown up in the area, played at Mount Eden High and Saint Mary’s on a ball scholarship, and now he is part of the best Oscars story that doesn’t involve movie junkies since Sacheen Littlefeather rejected Marlon Brando’s Oscar on his behalf. That the Warriors weren’t wearing black armbands Monday night in Philadelphia to protest the envelope screwup is a missed opportunity that only having Ali courtside amid Joe Lacob, Pete Guber, Phil Hellmuth and Beyonce for Game 2 against Denver in April can remedy.
In other words, cue the marketing department.
Next to all this, the arcane notion of the Warriors clinching a playoff spot and being on pace to having the largest margin between conference winner and ninth-place team since Boston (67-15) whipped Cleveland (29-53) in 1986 by a smooth 38 games means – well, next to nothing. Especially since we now know, or should know, that nothing happens until June says it happens.
And if the Warriors are the brand name they occasionally claim to be by being more than just a superb basketball team, they will remain abreast of all social and cultural trends, fitting them as best they can between the 21 remaining off-days as best they can.
It is apparently their second calling – to be small but available thermometers for any subject you’ve got, from the changing nature of basketball to the coming civil war to the death of the sun. It’s a good thing they’ve taken care of the playoff thing; otherwise, there’d be no getting them to maintain focus.