Warriors spreading contagious joy, smile most when helping each other

Warriors spreading contagious joy, smile most when helping each other

The coach rarely goes more than a couple days without finding a gripe, and some of the players are matching him grumble for grumble.

The team is three games behind their record pace of last season but one game ahead of that which they set during their championship run two years ago.

The Warriors are having a fantastic season, yet there is little indication of satisfaction – unless they’re reliving the exploits of teammates.

These Warriors light up brightest when spreading love over each other, when marveling over the work of the man next to them. From MVP winners Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant to those on the far end of the bench, from the joyous reactions to Klay Thompson’s 60-point night to the dances that follow an Ian Clark crossover, the quickest way to a smile is when they are pointing fingers in praise.

“We get excited,” Kevin Durant said, “when we see our bench play well.”

No, they get ecstatic. They break into rapturous jogging, as Curry did when fellow All-Star Thompson was scorching the nets for 60. They start dancing, as Durant did when Clark, a backup guard, executed a crossover move that twisted Portland’s Noah Vonleh into a pretzel.

They even replayed the Clark-Vonleh video in the locker room, so everyone, including Clark, could fully enjoy the moment.

“Somebody just showed me in the locker room, and I saw Kevin on the ground, swimming,” Clark said, grinning. “It’s always fun. We enjoy each other while we’re on the court. We like to have fun and I think that’s why we play so well together.”

One of coach Steve Kerr’s four abiding tenets is “joy.” The other three – mindfulness, compassion and competition – can be difficult to interpret with the naked eye. Shared joy, however, is unmistakable.

“I’m sure when Ian looked back to the bench, he saw me on the ground and knew he had made a great move,” Durant said.

“But that’s the type of team we have. We have fun over there and we support each other.”

There was concern in some quarters, mostly outside the team, that the acquisition of Durant might upset the oft-publicized esprit de corps that seemed to lift the Warriors in previous seasons. Adding a superstar to a team with three All-Stars surely could alter the temperature in the room and even lead to envy.

There has been no such sign. The Warriors are pointing fingers, but always while grinning or winking.

The Warriors are 24-4, and they’re sharing the ball at a historic rate, leading the NBA in assists and in secondary assists, also known as hockey assists. Moreover, they’re swapping compliments as often as they share lotion in the locker room.

“When he shoots the ball,” Durant said of Curry, “I think every shot is going in. And I don’t say that about a lot of people. But there’s still a wow factor when I’m playing with him and Klay. It definitely makes my job easier.”

As the clock ticked to zeroes at the end of the third quarter of a 135-90 win over Portland on Saturday, Curry was the recipient of a creative pass from Durant. Both players are sprinting in transition when Durant crosses midcourt and zips a bounce pass to Curry who launches a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Durant was the team’s hottest shooter, with 34 points. He could have taken the shot. He chose, happily to pass it to the guy who has won the past two MVP awards.

"There have been moments throughout the season where I wouldn't say you're surprised, but it's kind of just 'Wow' moments where you appreciate the talent on this squad all the way through," Curry said.

"That's an amazing pass when he's obviously had it going from all over the floor and he recognized he had two people on him, found me and I was able to knock it down just in time."

This is why you have a ninth-year journeyman like center JaVale McGee tweeting, as he did Sunday, that he has “never had this much fun” at any time since he was drafted in 2009.

This is how you have Durant, noting how proficient his teammates have been in throwing lobs to McGee – and how they bond over his ability to slam them through the hoop – bemoaning his lack of such passes.

“I’ve got to join the party,” Durant said. “I’ve got to be better.”

He was grinning. Of course he was, as it’s trait common to everybody on this team. They may need such communal joy to carry them well throughout this season and, above all, once they get into the playoffs.

Quinn Cook states his case for spot on Warriors playoff roster

Quinn Cook states his case for spot on Warriors playoff roster

Because it’s only two games against two of the worst teams in the NBA, it’s prudent to resist the temptation to fall in love with Quinn Cook.

Putting up Stephen Curry numbers in consecutive games does not make one Stephen Curry.

It’s impossible, though, not to clearly understand why the Warriors have consistently expressed faith in Cook, the two-way point guard who has spent three years trying to make an NBA team.

Two fine games are enough, though, for the coaching staff to recommend adding him to the postseason roster. It’s wise to have a contingency in case Curry has to miss any of the games that matter most, and the Warriors are a smart bunch.

Cook on Saturday told reporters in Phoenix that the Warriors have not addressed the possibility of being on the postseason roster. That doesn’t mean they aren’t thinking about it.

“He’s proven that he can compete at this level,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters Saturday night in Phoenix. “The last couple games, you’re seeing what he can do. He’s a great shooter. We’ve known that."

Cook scored, on back-to-back nights, 25 and 28 points, shooting 70 percent (21-of-30) from the field, including 71.4 percent (10-of-14) from deep. That’s Curry-type quality when he’s on a roll. Cook also handled the ball well, recorded seven assists and was pesky enough on defense to nab five steals.

“Quinn is showing the world that he is an NBA player,” Draymond Green said.

Cook’s 10 3-pointers over the past two games are more than anybody not named Curry, Durant or Thompson have drained over a similar stretch -- and only Nick Young among the team’s reserves have made more over any single month.

The Warriors, it just so happens, are dead last in 3-pointers made by reserves, averaging 2.0 per game, with Young accounting for 1.5 per game.

Cook is showing he might be able to help with this.

Kerr loves 3-point shooters. General manager Bob Myers is fond of saying he can never have too many shooters.

The Warriors are discovering they can’t have too many capable point guards, particularly when Cook is proving that he, like Curry, also is comfortable playing off the ball. Pairing Cook with Shaun Livingston, the primary backup to Curry, is a nice option to have.

“I’ve said all along,” Green said. “I sit here and watch so many other teams play and I wonder, ‘How is Quinn Cook a two-way player?' And then you’ve got guys in the league that can’t dribble with their left hand, or can’t go left, can’t go right, but you’ve got a guy like that as a two-way player.

“So I’m happy for him. I pray that he gets rewarded and gets what he deserves.”

Cook had brief trial runs with the Pelicans, as a rookie, and the Mavericks last season. He played a total of 14 games with the two teams. He has played 21 with the Warriors, seven as a starter, but only in the last two has he looked entirely comfortable in his role and with these teammates.

With Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Curry out, the Warriors need Cook to score. He knows he needs to score. He is scoring. And doing a few other things, too.

“Playing in the NBA is something that I’ve dreamed of my whole life,” Cook said after his 28-point performance in a win over the Suns. “I can’t really put it into words, just being able to put on an NBA jersey night in and night out, practice with an NBA team every day, has been my goal since I can remember. I’m just trying to get better every day and live in the moment. I’m just trying to win games. I’m trying to help out as much as possible, whether it’s getting guys shots, playing defense, shooting the ball.

“Lately the ball’s been going in a little bit. But with three All-Stars out, I’ve got to step up. I’m just taking it game by game and competing night in and night out.”

Sometime early next month, if not late this month, the Warriors expect to have their starting backcourt. Curry and Thompson will have returned before the playoffs begin April 14-15, and both will need to be available if for reasonable chance to repeat as champs.

But Cook is making his case for inclusion. He’ll get another test Monday night in San Antonio, where Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is sure to throw at Cook a few wrinkles he may not have seen, but the Warriors have seen enough to know he can help.

“He’s a good fit for us, too,” Kerr said. “It’s not just his ability. It’s his maturity. He’s very professional, does whatever is asked, the guys love him. They want to go to war with him.

“He’s a guy. He’s an NBA guy. We’re lucky to have him.”

That’s not an demand, or even a preference. To add Cook to the roster, the Warriors would have to shed one of their 15 players currently on a standard NBA contract.

But somewhere among Kerr’s words, I believe I see an endorsement.

Warriors need vets to bounce back against young Suns


Warriors need vets to bounce back against young Suns

The Warriors have lost three of their last four games, their roster is in shambles and, still, they look like pure gold in contrast to the Suns team they’re facing Saturday night in Phoenix.

Coverage on NBC Sports Bay Area begins at 6 o’clock, with tipoff scheduled for 7:05.

Reeling from the absences of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, the Warriors (52-17) showed plenty of the scrap in losing to the Kings on Friday in Oakland but couldn’t get much offense from their veterans.

The Suns (19-51) are having the worst season since 1968-69, their inaugural season. They’ve lost seven in a row, 16 of their last 17 and 21 of their last 23.


Warriors by 3


Quinn Cook vs. Elfrid Payton: Payton bolted to a 16-point first quarter and scored 29 the last time he faced the Warriors. Quinn is coming off a career-high 25-point game. With teams relying on diminished rosters, whichever of the two young PGs can set a tone gives his team an advantage.


Warriors: G Omri Casspi (R ankle sprain), G Stephen Curry (R ankle tweak), F Kevin Durant (R rib soreness), G Pat McCaw (L wrist fracture) and G Klay Thompson (R thumb fracture) are listed as out.

Suns: G Devin Booker (R hand sprain) and F Alan Williams (R meniscus tear) are listed as questionable. G Brandon Knight (L ACL tear) is listed as out.


Warriors: 7-3.

Suns: 1-9.


Tony Brothers (crew chief), Jacyn Goble, James Williams


The Warriors won the first of four meetings this season, 129-83 on Feb. 12 at Oracle Arena. They swept all four games last season and are 12-1 against the Suns in the Steve Kerr era.


MOTIVATED VETS: Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Zaza Pachulia, David West and Nick Young, expected to generate offense, combined to shoot 19-of-59 (32.2 percent) in a five-point loss Friday. They must be better; they can’t be much worse. Phoenix leads the NBA in points allowed.

THE BIG MEN: JaVale McGee started nine straight games at center, but Pachulia started the last two. The Suns are long up front, so McGee could be in line for a start or more minutes. In addition, Damian Jones, the team’s other 7-footer, also could get playing time.

STREAKING WITH THREES: The Suns own the longest active streak of games with at least one 3-point make (1,128). The Warriors are No. 2 (1,121). Both streaks are endangered. Curry, Thompson and Durant are out for the Warriors. Booker will either sit out or play with a splint on his shooting hand.