Monte Poole

Warriors coaches understand why team inspires juicy debate this season

Warriors coaches understand why team inspires juicy debate this season

As the flurry of activity that defined this NBA summer ambles toward its end, debating the future of the Warriors continues to run hotter than it has since 2008, when folks argued the merits and potential of Year 2 of the “We Believe” team.

After four seasons during which it was widely accepted that the Warriors were championship favorites, 2019-20 brings fresh intrigue and -- as we’ve learned in casual conversations around the league -- sharp differences of opinion among media members, scouts, agents and others.

One side: If Stephen Curry and Draymond Green stay healthy, they can reach 50 wins. Maybe more. And if Klay Thompson makes a strong return by March, they’ll win a playoff series.

The other side: Anyone putting the Warriors in the playoffs is delusional. Their defense will spring too many leaks, Curry is bound to miss games, they’re too small and the Western Conference is too deep.

Seeking a candid opinion from an informed individual, I reached out to Warriors assistant coach Ron Adams. He’s pragmatic, devoid of BS and, obviously, has a stake in the matter. I dropped some of the outside chatter into his lap.

“I don’t know,” he said recently, chuckling. “I mean, we have a lot of moving parts, a lot of young players. They’re good guys, willing to learn and eager to get better.

“I’m hopeful.”

Adams is 11 days away from perhaps his most important season as a member of Steve Kerr’s coaching staff. He thrived in his initial role, to coordinate and promote a defensive mentality. His new role means a reduction in game input, with greater emphasis on behind-the-scenes development. His job is to help the kids grow up.

He has a ton of clay to mold.

D’Angelo Russell last season progressed from gifted player to All-Star. What’s next for D-Lo? The Warriors, for the first time under this staff, which has been revamped, will need contributions from at least one rookie, maybe two. Can 7-foot Willie Cauley-Stein become, at age 26, the rim protector in San Francisco he was not during four seasons in Sacramento?

Adams on Russell: “I’ve spent some time with D’Angelo and I find him to be a really charming guy. Intuitively, I really like him as a person. He’s still young, still growing, but I like what I see. He’s going to help us.”

On rookies Jordan Poole, Eric Paschall and Alen Smailagic: “I like all of them. We have a really good crop of gym rats. I don’t think there’s any question Jordan is a pro shooter. He has quick release, can handle and has defensive potential.

"Eric has a chance to contribute this year. He needs to keep working on his shot, but he's got a good vibe. Alen is very dedicated and wants to be good, but he’s pretty green.”

On Cauley-Stein: “This experiment is going to be really interesting. He’s got length and he’s a good athlete. He’s got some developing to do, and I think he knows that.”

On the reserves playing behind Curry, Green, Russell, Cauley-Stein (the presumptive starter) and whomever opens the season at small forward: “Our bench could be a little more dynamic, regarding the ability to score, than it was last season. But stopping people is going to be challenging.”

Adams can be an old-school contrarian, but he enjoys the teaching aspect of his job. That’s one reason for modifying his duties toward that end.

Kerr, on the other hand, takes more of a new-school approach, no doubt because of his own 15-year playing career.

But, yes, both agree that defense is going to be pivotal.

“Nobody knows what we have right now,” Kerr said earlier this summer on the Warriors Insider podcast. “We know what we’ve lost. We’ve lost Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and Klay Thompson. So, from that perspective it doesn’t sound that great.”

Kerr allowed himself a laugh before continuing.

“We’ve got all these young guys and we’ve got to see how they fit together. We’ve got to figure out how we’re going to play, who can play together and what our defense is going to look like. That’s probably the thing I’m most worried about. We’ve had a great, versatile defensive club every year since I’ve been here, and we’re losing so much of that defensive versatility on the perimeter.

"We’ve got a lot to sort through.”

[RELATED: Biggest questions Warriors face heading into this season]

That’s why there is such fuel to the debate. The Warriors have gone from sure thing to mystery team. Adams and Kerr know what’s ahead, and they understand it will be their most challenging season.

On that point, there is not even a rumor of debate.

Why red-hot A's still have work to do to captivate Oakland's home fans

Why red-hot A's still have work to do to captivate Oakland's home fans

OAKLAND -- Redoubtable and relentless, the A’s are four months away from being the only game in town, the most visible representative of a city that craves positive recognition.

They’re launching home runs at an astonishing pace, delivering the equivalent of baseball fireworks.

They’re winning, generally the first requirement of sports popularity, at a rate that keeps them in the thick of the race to the AL playoffs.

Despite these advantageous factors, fans are not flocking to the Coliseum. And, please, let’s not blame local indifference on the ballpark’s lack of freshness and charm. Too simple.

This is about emotional attachment. Listening to fans of baseball in general and the A’s in particular, some variation of that theme consistently surfaces. There are varying degrees of emotional scar tissue, and it has them in their feelings, making them reluctant out of fear of getting burned. Again.

It’s unfortunate, because what these A’s are producing is worth the time and money.

Here they are, surging into the postseason with the second-best record in baseball since the All-Star break and averaging 14,870 fans over three games this week. That included 16,714 witnesses Wednesday afternoon for a stressful 1-0 victory in 11 innings over the Kansas City Royals.

These A’s have something for everybody. Shortstop Marcus Semien, who is having an MVP caliber season, grew up in the East Bay, as did Stephen Piscotty. Mark Canha, who lashed the game-winning hit Wednesday, grew up in the South Bay. Third baseman Matt Chapman and first baseman Matt Olson mash with their bats and sing tender ballads with their gloves.

If homers are supposed to lure folks to the yard, how is it that this club, which now owns the single-season franchise record, remains in a relative vacuum?

Mostly because too many local fans have too often been captivated by A’s teams of the past 20 years, only to feel victimized by the franchise’s cycle of assembling and disassembling, usually in the name of payroll discipline. Each time around, a few more folks stop coming and decide to observe, if at all, from the distance of living rooms and bars.

“I know if, knock wood, we’re able to get into the postseason, they would show up,” manager Bob Melvin told NBC Sports Bay Area on Wednesday. “Our fans are into it. They might not be here every night. And I’m not telling people how to spend their money. But it is a terrific fan base. When they’re ignited, and they come out and full force, we feel them like a 10th man.”

This has been true in the past and likely will be again. There is a bandwagon, but it sits in a distant corner, idling, ready to get into should the A’s reach the postseason.

Postseason baseball in Oakland is so vibrant it makes the Coliseum feel spectacular. And some are waiting for a playoff game to light up the yard. Even then, though, there will be holdouts who can’t overcome the scar tissue reminding them of old heartbreak.

Too many fans remember those engaging teams of early 2000s, when pitchers Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito were rocking batters to sleep while Jason Giambi, Miguel Tejada, Eric Chavez and Jermaine Dye were terrorizing pitchers. Those clubs averaged 98 wins per season and made four consecutive playoff appearances, each ending in painful AL Division Series defeats over the full five games.

The core of that roster -- which drew an average of 2.03 million fans per season from 2000 through 2003 -- broke up and scattered.

Most remember the 2006 team, led by Frank Thomas and Nick Swisher and Chavez, with Zito taking the mound every fifth day. That bunch, which came 23,375 short of drawing two million, swept the Twins in the Division Series before being by the Tigers in the AL Championship Series.

Thomas, the most commanding clubhouse presence the A’s have had this century, left as a free agent and landed in Toronto. Zito, priced out of Oakland -- with, to be fair, declining effectiveness -- headed across The Bay and signed with the Giants.

Lastly, all A’s fans remember the 2012 (94-68) and 2013 (96-66) teams, both of which made quick postseason exits but generated enough momentum for the 2014 A’s (88-74) to draw more than 2 million for the first time since 2005.

Ever since the leader of those teams, third baseman Josh Donaldson was traded exactly two months after the 2014 season despite expressing a commitment to Oakland, attendance has been in decline.

The roster has, once again, been revived by team architect Billy Beane and his lieutenants. The A’s won 97 games last season and have 92 wins with nine games to play this season.

[RELATED: Treinen out 4-6 weeks with back injury; Bassitt to A's 'pen]

An A’s home game offers the best value in Bay Area sports, maybe the highest entertainment-per-dollar ratio in baseball. It’s quality ball at budget-friendly prices in a town that has lost the Warriors and soon will lose the Raiders.

But the breakups of the past have left too many scars. Only if this team finds its way deep into the postseason would those scars be easier to ignore.

Steph Curry hopes to change face of golf after revolutionizing basketball

stephgolfap.jpg
AP

Steph Curry hopes to change face of golf after revolutionizing basketball

SAN FRANCISCO – On a damp Monday morning, on a golf course a few inches east of the Pacific Ocean, Stephen Curry explains his desire to go where no man or woman has gone before.

To succeed where Tiger Woods, hindered by personal priorities, did not.

Curry is committed to making golf, despite its reputation as a refuge for the elite, accessible to all. To put a finer point on it, a basketball player wants to change the face of golf.

It’s a novel concept, that of an athlete – one of the greats in this instance – lifting his platform beyond the sport he identifies with and trying to make a tangible difference elsewhere. But Curry is not of a mind of waver. Even as he remains dedicated to remaining crucial to the fortunes of the Warriors, he is trying to speak his quest into existence while also financing it into reality.

“The game plan is forming as we go,” Curry said Monday. “But I just get so excited about the game that I hope other people will, too.”

Curry and scores of others were at TPC Harding Park for the inaugural Stephen Curry Charity Classic, presented by Workday. The goal of the event is to raise $1 million mostly for two causes: 1) PGA Reach, a charity with the stated purpose of increasing golf access to youth and military while also fostering diversity; and 2) Eat. Learn. Play., the foundation initiated by Curry and his wife, Ayesha.

The event carried enough weight to attract San Francisco Mayor London Breed, PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice – as well as former Warriors forward Andre Iguodala and the team’s CEO, Joe Lacob.

Curry’s love for golf is on display every chance he gets. That’s not enough. Upon signing a five-year contract worth $201 million two summers ago, Curry vowed to invest in specific charities and causes. He has made golf one such beneficiary.

When it announced last month that Howard University, a historically black college in Washington, D.C., was resuming its golf program, which was disbanded in the 1970s, it simultaneously was announced that Curry was the man behind the game’s return. He’s making a seven-figure donation over the next six years.

“Basketball has been the best experience of my life in terms of (making) a career out of it, with all the things we’ve been able to do on the court,” Curry said. “But understanding how things I enjoy doing in life outside of basketball, growing the game of golf, there are a lot of different ways of going about that.

“But in terms of somebody outside the normal golf voice lending time and resources and opportunities to share how much the game means to me, the people you get to play with, the places it can take you, the things it teaches you about yourself. Reaching out to underrepresented communities and people that are just looking for access to the game, get them introduced to it early and, hopefully, through their competitive experience, if that’s what they want to do, provide opportunities for that.”

One of the constant themes in conversation with Curry is “growing the game.” And he’s not talking about basketball, which is immensely popular and is represented in some form, on every continent, by practically every racial and ethnic group. Golf, however, still is beyond the reach of many, partly for financial reasons and partly because it simply intimidates those unfamiliar with an environment that can feel quite exclusive.

“We’ve got four pillars: kids, veterans, inclusion and a place to play,” Waugh said. “We want to make a difference in all of that. Golf can be such an engine for good, and we are at the center of golf at every level, from the Ryder Cup to the PGA Championship. We have the opportunity to touch the most people. We want to shepherd that into those pillars, which are needed to evolve the game and make it more relevant to the next generation. We need to make it a game for our kid’s kids, as opposed to protecting a game that our parents or grandparents played.

“Our ability to do that, through making the game more welcoming and accessible and understandable – along with more fun – is what this is about. It can rehabilitate kids because this is a game that can be played for life.”

There was a time early in the millennium, when Tiger, with his brown face and dynamic game, was visualized as not only an ambassador but also the forerunner to many more that looked like him, even if they couldn’t play like him. He opened the door, so to speak, but made only occasional attempts to invite others behind him. The faces of golf haven’t changed much.

[RELATED: Check out Steph's new UA 'Range Unlimited' golf collection]

Nearly 20 years later, Curry is trying to fill that void. He’s going grassroots to expose the game to those who barely know it, if at all. He has made a difference on the basketball court, and now one of his missions is to do so on the golf course.

“There are different measures that you can think about, like getting more kids involved in the game early,” he says. “Or leveraging the traditional golf verticals that hopefully will get more kids competitive in the game. More representation at the early ages.

“From there ... this is a game for life. So, hopefully, my involvement in it will be for life.”