Ray Ratto

Warriors get back in win column, but record over final month a concern

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USATSI

Warriors get back in win column, but record over final month a concern

It has been a staple of all Warrior-based analysis that there is a point at which the Warriors should be playing their best basketball in preparation for the postseason grind. That much is true. There is a point.

And the Warriors have passed it.

Even with Sunday’s 117-100 win over the spectacularly inert Phoenix Suns, the Warriors are a substandard-by-any-standard 7-9 in the last month, and while the ziggurat of injuries out back is an impressive one and Steve Kerr has soothed over and injured feelings by re-defining the word “care,” nobody trying to beat the Warriors cares about the Warriors. That would match the number of condolences the Warriors sent the rest of the league in 2015, 2016 and 2017, when they were the fourth-healthiest team in the game by games-missed-to-injury.

Still, only one other playoff-bound team has a worse record in the last month, the 5-10 Washington Wizards, and nobody has empowered them with championship aspirations at any point.

Even more daunting, only two teams that finished below .500 in the last month of the regular season went on to win the championship, and that goes back to 1975, which as we all know is the first year the NBA existed.

It is also the first Golden State championship team, which is why you can tell we have phrased it the way in which we have.

Only the 1985 Houston Rockets and 1996 Miami Heat, both of whom finished the regular season 7-9, rallied in the real season, and both those teams were filling voids left by vacated powerhouses – the first Chicago Jordan in the case of the Rockets, and the demise of the Lakers, Spurs and Celtics in the case of the Heat.

Indeed, the average last-month record of the champions in those 43 years is roughly 11-5, which means that yes, one of the helpful if not necessarily foolproof predictors of a deep playoff run is indeed a strong regular season close. The last two Warrior champions finished 15-2 and 15-4, and the 2016 team that stopped being the Warriors for the worst five minutes of the season finished 14-3.

This explains why Kerr has been so insistent about focus and emotion and effort, and why the team’s continued erratic behavior has so widely broadened the team’s playoff possibilities from second-round loser to imperious victors. And no, this will not be another tedious polemic on their wasteful level of play in March and April, or their intermittent indifference to defense. That particular dog has been hunted out, and the Warriors are at the point where they and only they will decide just who they are and who they don’t want to be.

Put another way, the teams who people mention most frequently as potential successors to the Golden State throne – Houston, Toronto, Cleveland and Philadelphia – have been acting like it. Philly (admittedly a longshot still, but an increasingly charming one) is 15-2, Houston 14-2, Utah (no on a title but yes on great botheration of anyone who might) is 12-3, Cleveland is 12-5 and Toronto is 12-5. Boston, 9-7, will have to do what damage it can without Kyrie Irving, so we have chosen not to include them.

But the point remains the same – you are how you finish in today’s NBA, and ascribe whatever reasons you wish, but the Golden State Warriors closed the last three regular seasons by going 59-12 after March 1. If they want this season not to be forgettable, they will have to figure a way to make people forget that March and April actually do matter, and a lot.

Yelp reviews for Ayesha Curry's restaurant in Houston just plain mean-spirited sabotage disguised as hyperfandom

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AP

Yelp reviews for Ayesha Curry's restaurant in Houston just plain mean-spirited sabotage disguised as hyperfandom

There is always a good reason to despair for humanity these days. Humanity is, on the whole, performing at a Baltimore Orioles/Arizona Coyotes/New York Jets level, and needs a serious makeover if it is to last through the current millennium.

The latest example of this is in Houston, where local Rockets fans have decided to flood Yelp, the only populist reviewing site, with reviews slagging the new barbecue restaurant opening in town that is owned by megachef Michael Mina and Ayesha Curry, wife of Him.

The key here being that the restaurant hasn’t actually opened yet, so these reviews are meant only to ruin a business run by someone whose husband has a nice jump shot and who otherwise has never meant anyone any harm (although I can’t vouch for the coleslaw).

This is a gentler modification of the campaign by Kentucky fans who tried to ruin referee John Higgins’ roofing company in Nebraska in 2017, and then doubled down with death threats, because Kentucky basketball is that kind of a thing.

Now Warriors fans, who have the same problems with excessive free time that Rockets fans evidently do, have flooded Yelp with five-star reviews of the restaurant, which is no more open for their expertise than that of the Houston fans. In other words, this is one more example of how technology and democracy are wasted on people like us.

The argument has been advanced that Curry somehow invited this by opening up a restaurant in a town that has been bedeviled by her husband’s accuracy for four years now, but this is grandiloquent nonsense. The Kentucky fans showed us that state boundaries are no deterrent to such hate-fueled Internet hijinks, and I have unwavering faith that Rockets fans would have done this if she and Mina had opened their restaurant on the surface of Io. And that Warrior fans would have responded similarly.

Now maybe this is an old guy’s argument (and in the spirit of transparency, I have never met Ayesha Curry or eaten a morsel of her food-based products, so I am aggressively indifferent to her future, good or ill, as a pan jockey), but back in the day the traditional way of objecting to a restaurant was not to patronize it, and when sufficiently aggrieved to give it bad word of mouth. But that was always in response to a poor meal, inadequate service or hygiene shortcomings. That was presumably the idea behind Yelp – to widen the sensible review base.

But in all such cases, the establishment had actually plated a meal and delivered it to the customer before people took to their keyboards or not-so-smartphones to register their views. This strategy is just plain mean-spirited sabotage disguised as hyperfandom, and is one of the reasons why people who take the extreme view that fans suck are not entirely off-base.

The clear solution here would be for Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta and general manager Daryl Morey to attend the grand opening of the joint and chow down in earnest. They don’t have to rave about it, or even comment about it. They just need to be seen doing so, and when asked by a member of TMZ’s guerilla restaurant desk after the meal what they thought, they should say this:

“We are pro-Houston, and we are pro-business. We want everyone’s businesses to succeed, including this one. If you like us, and you do, you’ll leave these folks be, to make their eatery survive or fail on the merits. Oh, and be sure to try the brisket.”

Reason: We wouldn’t want Warrior fans to get the idea that Fertitta’s restaurants should be similarly attacked, or that they should start smearing his casinos simply because he owns the Rockets. Because once this starts, it never stops, because our culture has taken the greatest information delivery system and turned it into a gigantic hate farm.

There. Wasted lecture over. And yes, by all means, do try the brisket, even if your outraged sensibilities about the Western Conference Final allow only to do take-out.

No matter how much Steve Kerr makes in his next contract, he will be undercompensated

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AP

No matter how much Steve Kerr makes in his next contract, he will be undercompensated

Steve Kerr either has completed or is about to complete negotiations on his new contract as the head coach of The Team That Ruined Everything, and we know one thing already.

He is still sadly undercompensated at any price.

Only this isn’t because his boss is a cheapskate. Joe Lacob does not squeeze the wallets of those to whom he owes a debt, and Kerr is owed a massive one. Three rings say so.

But Lacob’s climb in the national consciousness is tied to the work of many others, and Kerr is one of those, so if his new contract pays him twice his current $5 million per annum or even more, it’s still less than it ought to be.

[LISTEN: Warriors Outsiders Podcast -- Will Steve Kerr get $10 million annually?]

And yet Kerr is fortunate that he didn’t win the Stanley Cup. There, the prize is only $300,000, take it or leave it. And Barry Trotz, the head coach of the Washington Capitals who no longer is, decided to leave it.

It does bring us to an interesting conundrum, namely finding the answer to the question, “What’s the love of a city worth to you?” Ted Leonsis, the owner of the Capitals who decided to lowball the only coach who ever gave him a parade, decided that the principle of not overcompensating a coach is worth more than the best moment he has ever had as a sports owner. Lacob, on the other hand, pays for his parades and the people who make them possible.

There is a measurable but also quantifiable difference between those two positions, and the word “gratitude” comes immediately to mind.

But the words Caps general manager Brian McLellan used were “high character and integrity,” and he used them to describe Trotz while he explained how the further care and grooming of the Cupholders could no longer use such a man in their employ.

No, this was about a plan to fire Trotz if he didn’t win the Cup (or, in the parlance of the day, “choose not to renew his contract,” or the even newer one, “choose to part ways”) that backfired because he got his players to do just that. It’s almost as if he screwed the organization by giving it a championship.

Oh, there will be other explanations offered in the next day or two as to why this had to be done for the good of the franchise, and how Trotz was surely losing the team while guiding it eagerly to the thing hockey players crave most.

But mostly, this was about valuing a once-in-a-lifetime moment at 20 percent of a man’s annual salary because, well, damn it, a deal’s a deal, and it’s just a coach and you can find them anywhere.

Of course you can. Cup-winning coaches are a dime a dozen – 52 total, or 14 percent of all the men who ever coached in the NHL. It’s a job so easy that most baristas could do it while foaming your latte.

Except that it isn’t, and never has been. Steve Kerr, who allegedly has the easiest job in NBA history, can vouch for how hard the Warriors’ third championship was, with the best team of its era. Joe Lacob can vouch for it, too, and is.

Oh, there will be a time when Kerr might be called overpaid, after the championship window has closed and the Warriors flail to repeat what it is doing now with such facility. But he will know he was treated well for those three Larry O’Briens, and that they now have a value of their own.

Specifically, about 10 Stanley Cups worth. Weird, because I always was told the Cup is the greatest trophy in sports. Now, it’s worth $300K, because Ted Leonsis said so. How lucky Kerr is to work for a guy who thinks about the long game, and the many millions more he made by going pocketward when it was the right time to do so.