Kerith Burke

DeMarcus Cousins, Damian Jones, Kevon Looney and Warriors' post depth

ask_kerith_toyota_web.jpg
Tara Funk / NBC Sports Bay Area

DeMarcus Cousins, Damian Jones, Kevon Looney and Warriors' post depth

Editor’s note: Kerith Burke, NBC Sports Bay Area’s Warriors reporter, will take you inside the two-time defending NBA champions as only she can each Friday with the Ask Kerith Mailbag. Send her a question on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #askkerith

Tip-Off

The Warriors crushed Game 3. Exhale, everyone!

Kevin Durant set the tone from tip-off and dropped a monster performance with 38 points and seven assists. After declaring at practice, "I'm Kevin Durant" and Steve Kerr backing that up with, "Kevin is the most skilled basketball player on Earth," KD let his play do the talking during the game.

The Clippers have yet to hold the Dubs to less than 50 percent shooting from the field in the series. And when the Warriors limit their turnovers, it's a whole new ballgame.

Game On!

@Danno869 "Team" is important to the Warriors, how much did the injury to Boogie affected the emotions of the team?

Via IG, @jeffvega: Do you think losing Boogie for possibly the rest of the playoffs will make the entire team re-focus?

The Warriors are sad for DeMarcus Cousins because they know the work he did to rehab. He missed nearly a year of playing time. He was open about the dark days he went through. When there was so much build-up to his return, and seeing his skill level and the kind of teammate he is, watching DeMarcus go down with another injury is a punch to the heart.

Now, they play for him. Add it to the gas tank fueling the desire to three-peat.

The Warriors are forced to re-focus because the season-long mission to fold DeMarcus into the offense now is a sudden change to adjust without him. This situation takes attention and recalibration at a time when the competition is at the highest level.

Before the team flew to LA, Draymond Green said they’re giving DeMarcus his space for a little while. Sometimes there’s nothing to say in those first days until you have time to process the emotions.

@wiltthestilt20 Is Cousins going to re-sign with the warriors for next season?

That’s uncertain, but the door is open a little wider. As Monte Poole explained, the Warriors couldn’t afford DeMarcus next season because he was expected to command a deal in the $20 million range. Now with two injuries to the same leg, DeMarcus’ value could drop into affordable territory.

The Warriors like having DeMarcus around. A sad situation could turn into something mutually beneficial.

@dfs30745 What is the status of Damian Jones? Is he up to playing speed?

@Nickaiah #AskKerith Please what are the options to fill up Cousins’ spot on the roster (if necessary) and how far away is Damian Jones?

Via IG, moks_ma: When will Damian Jones play?

It’s unlikely Jones will play in the postseason. Steve Kerr said he’s happy with how Jones is progressing after his pectoral muscle tear, but Jones has not been cleared for contact.

Also, if Jones were to become available, it would be rough to throw him into playoffs. Remember all the runway DeMarcus got to get his conditioning up? Jones hasn’t played in a game since December, and throwing him into the toughest games in a season, with the highest pressure to perform, isn’t ideal.

As far as adding someone to the roster, that someone was Andrew Bogut. Teams can go into the postseason with 15 players. Then that playoff roster locks.

Via IG, @anthony_baldini: What is Kevon Looney’s ceiling? Are these playoffs his payday?

Kevon Looney has been solid, notably in Game 2, when he had 19 points, a new career high, on 6-of-6 shooting from the field and 7-of-8 from the stripe. He’s also setting some vicious screens and fouling less.

Loon is an unrestricted free agent next season, and the Warriors will try to bring him back. He tested the open market last season and found it tepid. Next season could be an occasion for both parties to commit to each other longer.

To me, Looney’s growth is what happens when you give a guy room to develop and play regularly. Youngsters take time to reach their potential, plus he had injuries to overcome. Kerr likes Loon’s easygoing nature and professionalism. That’s the kind of guy you want in the locker room, and his play is making an impact.

@kelcatinc Your thoughts on Jordan Bell and potential for minutes with Boogie sidelined. Looks to be on a short leash but understandable. He looks slow and not engaged, is it due to lack of minutes or is it just him?

I don’t think Jordan is slow or not engaged. I think he’s low on the pecking order on Warriors’ centers, and playing time has been hard to come by. That compounds an issue: How do you play well when you’re not getting game time to work out the kinks? How do you build a rhythm?

Some of the lack of playing time is on him. He needs to be reliable. Some of this is his small role on a really good team.

Jordan played well last season against Houston, so matchups will have a say on his minutes, in addition to the Warriors relying on their depth with DeMarcus out. Jordan's job is to be ready.

Via IG, @jewwels85: With so much experience how do the players deal with the mental effect of the playoff highs and lows. What do they do to stay grounded?

A handful of them bring their golf clubs on trips. They get away from basketball and find their happy place.

If you’re on a team defending a championship and the playoffs require your absolute best, your emotional bandwidth prioritizes work. You must perform with no distractions. Work takes up the bulk of your time. In the small pockets when you’re not working, you clear your mind with the things that enrich you. That definitely includes time away from coworkers. The Warriors didn’t practice the day after the Game 2 loss. They exhaled, away from each other. It’s a mental reset.

The players simplify things this time of year. The routine shrinks to basic things like eat, sleep, work, family, repeat. They do fewer events and charity work during the playoffs. Time is precious, and they devote most of it to the championships hunt.

@stagedarren #askKerith Does the coaching staff have individual game plans? Do they make specific strategies for the specific opponent? Or do they just plan to do the same thing, no matter who they play?

The strategy is specific for the opponent, because each opponent is different. The four assistant coaches rotate “scouts” during the regular season. A scout is where they study a team’s players and tendencies to make a plan for disrupting how that team operates.

As the Warriors headed into playoffs and three teams could have been the eight seed, the coaches (and video staff!) started doing their scouts to be as prepared as possible for whichever opponent they got. In the playoffs, everyone combines observations for the scout.

@Brasi_Leo #askKerith How do you cope when the Warriors lose a game? Does it get to you?

Losses don’t bother me. I hope that doesn’t sound cold, but I’m a reporter, not a fan of the team. My job is to be neutral.

The environment feels better when they’re winning, but the outcomes don’t swing my emotions. I’d do the same things covering a 60-win team as a 20-win team.

Follow Kerith on Twitter @KerithBurke and on Instagram @warriorskerith, and, of course, watch her on NBC Sports Bay Area’s Warriors coverage all season.

Draymond Green, Warriors in playoff form; Kevin Durant's free agency

ask_kerith_toyota_web.jpg
NBC Sports Bay Area

Draymond Green, Warriors in playoff form; Kevin Durant's free agency

Editor’s note: Kerith Burke, NBC Sports Bay Area’s Warriors reporter, will take you inside the two-time defending NBA champions as only she can each Friday with the Ask Kerith Mailbag. Send her a question on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #askkerith

Tip-Off

How cool were the “We Believe” jerseys for the last regular-season home game at Oracle? What a treat. Steph Curry was pumped!

I got some questions this week about whether the Warriors will wear those again during the playoffs, and the answer is no. They’re auctioning those game-worn jerseys to benefit the Warriors Community Foundation. 

Game On!

@wordsareheavy Did Draymond lose weight since the ASB? He kinda looks slimmer and faster. #AskKerith

I don’t know about weight, but Draymond has looked good this season. He explained he truly got away from the game for several weeks in the offseason so he could come back sincerely rested. He’s said a few times he’s feeling his best physically and mentally.

Since the All-Star break, Draymond’s scoring and 3-point percentage is up. As you know, Draymond doesn’t have to score to play an impactful game, but he likes forcing the other team to guard him. In the five April games he played in, he averaged 10 points, 51 percent from the field and 39 percent from three, with at least a block and a steal per game.

Draymond takes ownership of the Warriors’ defense, too. The uptick in defensive toughness the Warriors have achieved has happened with Draymond’s help as he rounds into playoff form. He’s engaged for these games that will determine if the Warriors can make history with a three-peat.

@OAKjaviLAND #askkerith hi Kerith! With all the “rumors” about KD’s upcoming free agency and all the “it’s a done deal” hoopla earlier in the season Jim Barnett said “he believes KD will stay.” Where do you believe KD’s mindset is about the future and does JB still believe??

I understand why these KD free agency questions are popping up again because the season will come to a close soon, but there’s nothing new to say. Jim Barnett declined as well.

I wrote back in November that it will take something special for KD to leave the Warriors. I expressed some concerns about the Knicks organization being a dysfunctional place to play. 

I revisited this topic in February. My feeling still boils down to “I don’t know,” and I don’t think he knows either yet. A lot can change in the offseason. Consider how in your life, you’d want to weigh all the options, with all the facts at a time that’s appropriate before you make a big decision about your job. Concentrating on individual matters when you’re working on a historic team goal -- a three-peat! -- is not the time.

Golden State is tough to beat as an organization and environment. KD told me he wants to be in the best environment to grow as a player and a person. Only he can determine what that means. I’m skeptical of anyone who thinks anything is done right now. 

@iStayWinning247 Have you ever wondered how good the Warriors would be if they had never signed KD? #askkerith

Nope. Change happens. It’s inevitable as teams shapeshift to evolve in the pursuit of championships. If it wasn’t KD, the Warriors would have found a different way to re-tool the roster. 

I try not to dwell in hypotheticals like “What if X never happened?” or “Could the best Bulls team beat the Warriors team in a seven-game series?” There’s no satisfying answer, and the arguments feel like a shoe tumbling in a dryer, clunking round and round to a timer set for eternity.

@kayleearca Hi Kerith, how did you get your start as a sports journalist? #askkerith

My interest in reporting goes all the way back to fourth grade. My teacher, Mrs. Bryant, was doing a lesson on democracy and voting. She put on a mock presidential election for our class and invited a local TV news crew to come. I was the teacher’s pet, and Mrs. Bryant pointed at me when the crew needed a student to interview.

That night, I was so excited to tell my parents I was going to be on TV. That’s what I thought reporting was. You got to be on TV!

As I got older, I followed my mom’s example by reading the newspaper every day. I liked to write. I was the co-editor of my high school paper. I went to college specifically for journalism. 

At Washington State University, I dabbled in everything. I got involved with the student TV station all four years. I had a radio show for two and a half years on KZUU -- my favorite thing I ever did in school. I did a radio internship. I wrote for the paper one summer.

I knew I was going to be some kind of reporter, and it came down to who offered me a job first. It was TV. I got my start in local news, actually. And I hated it. 

I had trouble reporting the stories where kids got hurt, or people lost their lives, or corruption hurt the community. I was sensitive. Thankfully the first place I worked out of school was small, so I learned how to do everything. I was doing the interviews, shooting my own video, editing it, presenting it, and then publishing it online. The sports director asked if I could help him out with the Friday night high school football show. He asked if I had ever shot football before, and I lied and said yes. I figured it out on the job.

When the sports director took vacation, I filled in. When he left for another job, I became the interim sports director. There was a push to hire more women for sports roles, and that was a wave I was glad to ride. I gave up the things I didn’t like in news to do the things I enjoyed in sports: informing people and showing some personality.

My first small job turned into a weekend sports anchoring job in another small market, then a leap to a top-30 market, then a leap to NYC and now to the Bay Area for the best sideline job in the country. I’ve been lucky, but I’ve had to climb.

Via IG, @kayfreakin asks, How exactly will Steph replace the tunnel shot in Chase Center, does he have any ideas or something?

The tunnel shot will stay at Oracle. Steph said the angle isn’t right at Chase Center. He’ll leave it behind in favor of a new tradition in a new building. There are all sorts of opportunities for new routines, and those things will be discovered once he makes Chase Center home.

Via IG, @lo925 asks, Do you know if you will have courtside seats at the new Chase Center?

Via IG, @brynnwalther asks, Do you know where your spot is going to be at the Chase Center?

I don’t know yet, although it won’t be courtside. Those seats are valuable, and I’m not a paying customer. Hardly any arena in the country has media sitting courtside anymore. Those seats are best for fan experiences. 

I’m pretty good with “anywhere in the building” for my seat.

Via IG, @yashwantsathish asks, Favorite memory this season? 

I liked the night Klay Thompson had 14 3-pointers in Chicago to surpass Steph Curry and set an NBA record for the most threes made in a single game.

I like that Steph was giddy to feed Klay to break the record. To me, that captures who this team is. It was amusing that Klay was wearing a headband to cover the bandage on his bleeding head after taking an elbow. He got two stitches. 

The whole night was surreal, capped by Klay telling me he’ll give the game ball to Rocco if, or “when” Klay believes, the record falls.

Via IG, @mixpixels asks, Coach is very well spoken and has some excellent viewpoints and perspectives about the game, the players, the association, current events, and life in general. Any plans of writing a book?

I would read that book for sure! Steve Kerr told me yes, he’s thought about it, but it won’t happen for a while. He does not want to write a book while he’s coaching.

High Five

High Five for Washington State University finally retiring Klay Thompson’s number. He is the face of university athletics among all alumni. The ceremony will happen sometime after this season, maybe into next season to give Klay a chance to figure out his schedule and make it up to Pullman, Wash., for the ceremony while hoops season is in action.

Here’s the story about WSU’s director of athletics visiting Klay at Oracle Arena to give him the good news in person, with some details on Klay sneaking away to see his Cougs when they’re in the Bay Area. 

Follow Kerith on Twitter @KerithBurke and on Instagram @warriorskerith, and, of course, watch her on NBC Sports Bay Area’s Warriors coverage all season.

Why Warriors leaving Oracle Arena means so much to team worker Eric Housen

Why Warriors leaving Oracle Arena means so much to team worker Eric Housen

For Eric Housen, the Warriors' director of team operations, leaving Oracle Arena will feel like moving out of a childhood home. He grew up here in this sporting epicenter of Oakland. 

“The ballpark is connected, and I was a bat boy (for the Athletics)," Housen said. "There’s so much ... I’ve slept in every corner of this building. Every single room, from the coach’s office where I used to have a couch, to the locker room training tables, the clubhouse, the visiting clubhouse, the umpires’ room. That’s what I did growing up.”

Housen has worked with the Warriors since 1985. He became a full-time staff member in 1999. 

Ask him about his favorite memories of Oracle, and the man called “E” drifts off into deep territory, like he’s starting a movie reel behind his eyes. The images flicker, blending clips of happiness and long hours. 

“Some I can’t talk about,” he said, letting the smallest smile creep on to his serious face. 

“I remember Sleepy Floyd. That quarter where he had 29 against the Lakers and we were such underdogs …”

“I remember the We Believe team was amazing …” 

“I remember the people who would turn the music on when Mully and I would come in here at midnight, 1 o’clock in the morning.” 

Housen remembers Warriors legend Chris Mullen liked to shoot late into the night, after his kids went to bed. He liked to get shots up with Bruce Springsteen albums playing over the sound system. 

Housen said his favorite memories have people at the center.

“All the hours, all the time ... the people behind the scenes that you have relationships with," he said. "The people who stand behind their team and want the team do be so successful. They’d do anything for them.”

Housen continued: “Whether we were 17 wins one year (2000-01), the fans have always been amazing, always been supportive. There was no building like it in the league. I don’t know if visiting teams or referees would admit that, but it was just known. You couldn’t go through a day here at Oracle and not have someone on the visiting team recognize what the atmosphere was like and how much passion the fans had.” 

[RELATED: Why Steph's iconic tunnel shot won't follow him to Chase Center]

A bittersweet feeling rose in Housen’s voice as he revealed what he’s overheard in his decades on the job. 

“This is a crazy place to play. This is a hard place to play," he said. "I could always hear those conversations because I was always in the locker room. Someone would say, every day, every where, this place was off the charts. As we got better, it was just pandemonium.”