Warriors

While Iguodala disrupts shooters' rhythm, he searches deep for his own

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AP

While Iguodala disrupts shooters' rhythm, he searches deep for his own

OAKLAND -- He’s shooting 42.9 percent from the field, the lowest among the Warriors. His 22.7-percent shooting beyond the arc also is last on the team. His free-throw percentage, 63.6, is second lowest.

As much he would like to find some rhythm and consistency for his shot, Andre Iguodala is smart enough to know why he can’t be aggressive in his search.

He’s sharing the court with at least two, sometimes three, of the best shooters in NBA history.

Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson have to get shots because their scoring represents the bricks upon which the Warriors’ offense is built. How does Iguodala, not a volume shooter by nature, get the in-game repetitions required to develop rhythm and gain confidence?

Iguodala takes one shot for every 5.4 minutes he’s on the court, the lowest attempt rate on the team. In his last 48 minutes, against Boston and Utah, he took three shots. Total. It’s hard to find your shot when you don’t have many opportunities to search -- or when you’re so exasperated that you become reluctant.

When the subject shooting repetitions, from the field or the free throw line, was addressed in a recent conversation, Iguodala nodded affirmatively.

“You have to just get a rhythm and confidence, too, because you know the ball is coming,” Iguodala said in a recent conversation with NBC Sports Bay Area. “You know you’re going to get to the line. Other times, you may not know. And then your head gets in your way. It’s just part of the game.”

Said teammate Omri Casspi, sitting nearby: “Ask anybody, man. The more you shoot, the better you shoot. Can’t get one free throw a game always expect to make it.”

When Iguodala isn’t sharing the court with Draymond Green, Curry, Durant and Thompson in the “Hamptons 5,” group, he’s with David West and Thompson as part of a second-unit group. Thompson is the primary scoring threat and West is having a fabulous season; his 60.2-percent field goal percentage is the best on the team.

Iguodala is at best, the third shooter. And just as his minutes vary, so do the circumstances. His role is to adjust his game to fit the needs of the team.

“The guys that can weather that best end up playing the longest and end up figuring it out,” Iguodala said. “Everybody is going to come to that time when they’re not going to be that particular guy. You’re going to have to come off the bench, or be the third or fourth option. Or you just quit. So (I) figure it out and try to weather it. Figure out how to make impact plays in other ways and staying ready.”

It’s accepted that Iguodala’s primary role is to agitate the offense and be a disruptor on defense. Pile up primary assists and secondary assists on one end, while using anticipation and active hands to take opposing offenses out of rhythm on the other.

His scoring is a bonus, and bonus scorers are low on the shot priority chain.

“Andre is such a big part of what we try to do, at both ends, that he’s valuable even if he’s not scoring,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.

But there is definite benefit to Iguodala making shots insofar as it forces opponents to guard him, which creates more room for the team’s sharpshooters. An offense can operate only so well if a defense can disregard one of the players, and teams are visibly playoff off Iguodala.

Is Iguodala, who turned 34 last Sunday, a victim of age and mileage? That may be a factor, along with the assorted physical issues he takes onto the court. There are moments when he looks five years younger, and moments when he looks five years older.

Maybe it’s time to put Igoudala on a scheduled maintenance program, on which he would be rested at designated intervals, a strategy the Cavaliers have used for LeBron James and the Spurs employed over Tim Duncan’s final five seasons.

“If it comes to that, we would,” Kerr said. “But we haven’t had to think of doing that this year. But we did that last year. It was more of a routine rest. I don’t know how many games he missed (six), but I don’t remember him missing a lot from injury. But this is how it’s going to be.”

To determine player availability, Kerr consults with Iguodala as well as Chelsea Lane, the sports physiotherapist that facilitates the team’s physical performance and sports medicine. If Lane advises Kerr that a player should not play, that player sits, as was the case with Iguodala on Jan. 20 at Houston.

Iguodala, who in July signed a three-year contract worth $48 million, is lukewarm on the idea of regular rest.

“You want to keep what rhythm you have,” he said. “So I’m in the gym a lot, staying late, getting extra shots and sometimes I’m coming early in the morning. You want to get game pace, with a decent rhythm with your shot, because if you lose that, your confidence can waver a little bit. And you don’t want that happening in key moments late in the season.”

That’s the course the Warriors are trying to navigate. That’s the big picture. They want Iguodala healthy and whole for the postseason, when the mental elements of the game become more crucial, therefore adding to his value.

“The great thing with Andre is he’s such a great basketball player, and so smart, that his last few years are still going to be productive based on his brain,” Kerr said. “Our job is to keep his body as fresh as possible.”

That’s a challenging job, nearly as difficult as the task facing Iguodala.

He has to keep searching for a part of his game that will become increasingly important. He has to continue his search despite rarely being in position to look. He’s trying to regain confidence without benefit of the conditions that best create it.

And he has to do it all while continuing to contribute in the ways his teammates have grown accustomed to expect.

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?