West leaving Warriors to add new challenge in his illustrious career

West leaving Warriors to add new challenge in his illustrious career

Jerry West was the first brick.

It didn’t take long for Joe Lacob and Peter Guber to see what they were inheriting when they took ownership of the Warriors in November of 2010. They quickly discerned this franchise, toiling in the NBA doldrums for the better part of 20 years, needed to be rebuilt from the ground up.

They went after West, an NBA legend as a player and unsurpassed in his success as an executive. Going after such a major figure meant the new owners were serious. West would give the Warriors instant credibility. Officially listed as an adviser and executive board member, he gave this fixer-upper of a franchise a solid foundation.

Six years and five consecutive playoff seasons later, West is ready to leave the Warriors. Not merely leave, but take his talents to the rival Los Angeles Clippers, as has been speculated for a couple weeks.

All that’s left to complete is the contractual fine print, according to multiple reports.

So why would West, two weeks after turning 79, depart the uber-successful Warriors for a team that is light years behind them on the NBA’s elite list?

West has a need to be needed. And in a brief conversation with NBCSportsBayArea.com earlier this month it was apparent he felt the Warriors were in about as good a place as they could possibly be. He gushed about the roster, about the “magnificent” Kevin Durant, about the “really strong” coaching staff, about the commitment of the owners.

Even before the Warriors finished the Cavaliers in five games to take the NBA Finals, West sounded like a man without a challenge.

Jerry West needs a challenge. Makes him feel alive. Makes him feel valuable.

He’ll get a challenge the minute he officially joins the Clippers.

Though they have been among the NBA’s better teams over the past six seasons, the Clippers during that time also have been the league’s most disappointing postseason team, bounced in the first round three times -- including the last two years -- and ousted in the second round the other three times.

They’ve changed coaches, from Vinny Del Negro to Doc Rivers, who has been promoted twice and now also has the title of team president. They’ve even changed ownership, from the contemptible Donald Sterling to the fireball Steve Ballmer.

Through it all, despite All-Stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, the Clippers have shown only flashes of promise -- consistently derailed by collapses.

This is enough to attract the interest of West, who commuted to Oakland several times a year but lives in Southern California.

If in the wake of the Warriors winning their second championship in three seasons West seemed particularly maudlin for someone not predisposed to such conduct, well, there was a reason. The man who was instrumental in the drafting of Klay Thompson, the decision to keep Thompson rather than trade him to for Kevin Love and also a voice in the recruitment of Durant was feeling he had done his work for the Warriors.

“I knew I was going to be leaving; I didn’t know what I was going to be leaving to,” West told ESPN on Wednesday. “Was this the end of me being productive? Every person is different in terms of their lives and how people age. I don’t feel old. I feel competitive.

“Sometimes, you need to be challenged. I’ve kind of been defiant my whole life, the way I was raised. And I think this is like the defiant streak in me. I don’t know.”

West becomes the second member of the Warriors brain trust to move on, as former assistant general manager Travis Schlenk left last month to become the GM of the Atlanta Hawks.

Curry claims he didn't throw mouthguard at ref: 'I've got a pretty good aim'

Curry claims he didn't throw mouthguard at ref: 'I've got a pretty good aim'

Just before the Warriors officially lost the game in Memphis on Saturday night, their superstar point guard lost his cool.

After not getting a foul call with 43 seconds left in the game, Steph Curry chucked his mouthguard in the direction of referee Scott Wall in a fit of rage reminiscent of Game 6 of the 2016 NBA Finals.

Wall immediately ejected Curry, who continued to argue with the officials.

After the game, Curry wanted to make it clear he wasn't trying to his Wall with his mouthguard.

"If I tried to throw it at him and hit him, I've got a pretty good aim," Curry said told reporters after the game. "I've thrown my mouthpiece plenty of times and thrown it on the floor. Probably not the best thing to do, but I've done it. I own up to it.

"If I was trying to throw it at him or hit him, I would have been able to executed that."

Curry explained why he reacted the way he did.

"That last play, I thought I got fouled. My frustration boiled over, did something stupid, deserved to get kicked out and that's what happened. Obviously learn from it and try not to do it again," Curry told reporters.

Now Curry and the Warriors wait to see if the NBA will suspend or fine him. He has an expectation of what the punishment will be.

"Don't think it will be a suspension or anything. My pockets will be a lot lighter," Curry said after the game.

What's caused Warriors' slow start and why it should come as no surprise


What's caused Warriors' slow start and why it should come as no surprise

It’s much too early to get legitimately nervous, much less start tumbling into a panic.

The Warriors are going to be fine.


They most certainly are not yet what they will become in about two weeks, when they settle in for a four-game homestand that begins Nov. 6. That’s 10 games into the season, and it’s conceivable the Warriors might be 6-4.

After a 111-101 loss to the ever-tenacious Grizzlies on Saturday in Memphis, the Warriors are 1-2 and, by their lofty standard, looking about as lost as a stray cat in a hurricane.

“We’re obviously not ready. We knew that,” coach Steve Kerr said. “We’re not ready to put together a full effort. And I’m not doing a great job of putting together combinations, finding the right motivation to get guys going, to get some joy and laughter in here.

“It’s just one of those rough patches. And, hopefully, we can climb our way out of it. I’m sure we will. It may take some time.”

It will take some time, and of that there is plenty.

Do not blame this lull entirely on China, not when there is so much more. The Warriors are coming off their third consecutive prolonged season, this one followed by the training camp disruption caused by spending eight days in Oakland, eight days in China, followed by eight days in Oakland leading up to opening night.

It’s easy to see the timing is off on an offense that relies on precision. The spacing is off on an offense that requires room to operate. The energy is lacking on a defense that lapses into ordinary without its bedrock intensity. Both body and spirit appear less than peak.

“We’ve been playing hard,” Kevin Durant told reporters at FedEx Forum, “but I think we’ve got to take it up a level.

“We’ll be fine. It’s 79 more games left. I’m sure we’ll figure it out.”

Understand, a team that won an NBA-best 67 games last season and posted a league-record 16-1 postseason doesn’t lose it because opponents load up. When the Warriors are on their game, opponents don’t matter.

For now, though, there is an individual listlessness that results in collective slumber. Stephen Curry has gambled himself in foul trouble in both losses and was booted in Memphis. Andre Iguodala missed an entire game and Draymond Green missed the fourth quarter of the first loss, a game in which the Warriors gave up a 13-point lead over the final 12 minutes.

And Durant’s 4.6 blocks per game is impressive. It also happens to be offset by his 6.3 turnovers per game.

“That’s on me,” he said. “I’m turning the ball over at a high rate right now. I’m really pissed at myself about it. I’ve just got to hold on to the ball. Just make the correct pass. I think I’m just rushing. I just need to calm down, settle down, and that would ignite the whole team. But if I turn the ball over, that’s contagious.”

The Rockets turned 17 Warriors giveaways into 21 points. The Pelicans turned 14 into 20. The Grizzlies turned 17 into 24.

Asked what has to change, Klay Thompson went to exactly the right place, saying “probably our defensive intensity from the jump.”

That’s where it starts, at least on the court. Meanwhile, there is more video work, more group texts about details and the need for more time for their bodies and minds to become one.

“We’ll be better,” Durant said. “We’re still finding a groove with each other. We’re still getting back into shape as far as playing our game, the flow, just the reads off not calling plays. We’ve got to get used to that again.”

Thompson is, however, displaying a modicum of impatience.

“We’ll come out Monday and we’ll play a great game,” he said. “I guarantee it.”

He’s probably right. The Warriors will be playing at Dallas, against a Mavericks team that is built to be devoured by the powerful.

That might be a quick fix. But it won’t be the final fix. That is weeks away.