Ask Kerith Mailbag: Where Warriors fans' biggest questions are answered

Illustration by Tara Funk

Ask Kerith Mailbag: Where Warriors fans' biggest questions are answered

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 using the hashtag #askkerith


Hi everyone! Great to be back for another season of Warriors basketball on NBC Sports Bay Area.

This summer was an amazing time in my life. After covering a championship season, I got married! My husband and I also traveled to London, Paris and Dublin. Getting away for a while reminded me how much I wanted to come back. Best job in the world.

My mailbag is new this season, and it builds on the great questions I get from Warriors fans all season. It’s clear you love this team, and you know them well. So, let’s get to your questions …

Game on!

@steffiwu: What will motivate the Dubs to play their best, even though it's a long season and they have their sights on yet another [championship]? Do too many [rings] cause turnovers?

Thanks for this question, Steff -- you’re tapping into the biggest storyline of the season. How can a team that’s been to the Finals four consecutive years ...won three championships … and set the NBA’s regular-season wins record motivate themselves for game 44 in the dead of winter when they know the real prize is in the playoffs?

First, no one is anointed The Champion when a season tips off. No matter how good you are, you have to earn it. The Warriors are a disciplined bunch, too. They know their habits dictate their success. Coaches say the way you practice is the way you play, so it’s a philosophy of doing things right at all times.

The Warriors know they’re hunted. They know the formula for winning. If they ease up on that formula? A team that doesn’t ease up has a window to win.

This might sound like platitudes, because on paper, the Warriors should pummel everyone. This is a roster for the ages. As the roster gets older, it’s human nature to conserve energy. When you know how to win, you know the softer spots where you can let up during an 82-game schedule, and that’s where the motivation is needed. Steve Kerr describes this as “playing with purpose.” He understands there will be ebbs and flows in energy during a long season. What’s he’s asking the guys to do, while understanding where they are coming from, is to play sharp. Play to a standard that represents their greatness.

@BlondMsKang: How do you think the move to SF will affect players’ routines/quality of life? Do you think they’ll have to move to SF or will they stay in East Bay & deal with more traffic?

Bay Area traffic is some of the worst in the country, so guys are making their plans. They were even talking about it last season.

Some plan on keeping their homes in the East Bay but getting crash pads in San Francisco to avoid crossing the bridge on game days. Others will try to stick it out in the East Bay and see how the first season at Chase Center goes. Some guys own multiple properties and already have places in San Francisco.

@TeresaGrant415: Pat McCaw!!!! What is going on? And how long can this go on for?

Pat McCaw questions were the most popular this week. As best as I can tell, McCaw is taking a risk on himself, and I can’t begrudge someone for doing that. He went through a catastrophic back injury, one where he momentarily lost feeling in his legs, and that can change a person.

Maybe he’s feeling like life in the NBA can end in an instant, so he needs to make as much money as he can now. Maybe during his rehab, he saw the devotion he was putting into his recovery and how talented he is, and decided he wants a different environment to showcase his skills. Maybe that’s motivating him to shoot for the moon with different contract terms than the Warriors offered.

The Warriors adore McCaw, as a player and a person. I’ve never seen a team so distraught when McCaw was hospitalized. It impacted Kerr deeply. They’ll carry warm feelings for him no matter what happens.

@TheSFGiantsGuy: How many minutes do you expect Jordan Bell to see, and who else will be on the floor when he sees those minutes?

@couchtomato62: Is steve Just experimenting with line ups because it's pre-season or are we gonna have another year of uncertainty of place, and yank a player for 4 games if they make a mistake. Why is Damian getting all the starter reps and not Jordan or Loon.

I’m going to hit these two questions in one answer. The center position is fascinating this season, with three talented players: Jordan Bell, Kevon Looney and Damian Jones. It seems like Kerr has been starting DJ because he’s the question mark. Kerr knows what he’s getting with JB and Loon because he saw them in action last season.

DJ has some freakish talent, and he did good work in the G-League last season, averaging about 30 minutes, 15 points, eight rebounds, two assists and two blocks per game. Now it’s time to really get his feet wet with the big boy club to build on his two-way call-ups last season.

It’s clear DJ is talented, but for all young players, the mental side of the game, like the decision-making at quick speeds, needs to match the physical skills. DJ’s confidence will only grow as he gets more minutes in more games.

As for the group, it might be frustrating as a fan to read, “It’s going to be center by committee,” but that’s how it’s shaping up. Remember, the Warriors had six (!) centers on the roster last season, so these young fellas were in an environment where sharing felt normal. They got to see how Zaza and JaVale handled the situation professionally last season, so the youngsters have the blueprint and fewer teammates to share with this season.

The guys don’t seem irritated by the situation. JB and Loon trained in the offseason at UCLA together. DJ is coming into the fold well. Each of these guys has a distinct set of skills, and each will be called upon at different times, depending on the match-ups. I don’t have a minutes prediction because I’m curious to see how the committee plays out myself.

@bollob: Would you rather fight one horse sized duck or 100 duck sized horses?

Gimme the tiny horses. Also, to get the inevitable out of the way … sure, a hot dog is a sandwich. Fine. Whatever.

High Five

This week’s High Five goes to Boogie Cousins, who joined Bob Fitzgerald and Jim Barnett during our Warriors-Suns broadcast Monday, and dropped some insightful and funny lines.

Boogie’s teammates already love him. I was watching him during that preseason game, and he’s not a suit-jacket-behind-the-bench kind of guy. Boogie was in warm-ups ... with a sweatband ... sitting on the floor during the game, talking and reacting to the action. Even though he’s not playing, he’s in the mix as an energetic teammate.

Boogie told Bob and Jim that community work is incredibly important to him. I followed up with him after the game about a report I saw where he offered to pay for Stephon Clark’s funeral earlier this year. Boogie confirmed he did indeed help Clark’s family.

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

Steve Kerr knows hard work just starting in fighting racial injustice

Steve Kerr knows hard work just starting in fighting racial injustice

The eyes of the world are on police brutality and institutional racism in the United States.

Protests have erupted around the world in the aftermath of George Floyd's death in Minneapolis police custody last Monday, with demonstrators taking to the streets across the country and all over the globe ever since.

Outspoken Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Friday that the hard work is just beginning.

"I think that that's our job, really, is to make sure that it's not just a press conference and a Zoom call, and then back to normal business," Kerr said on NBC Sports Bay Area's "Race In America: A Candid Conversation." "I think what David (West) was talking about earlier (on the panel) was working with the grassroots organizations. I think being committed -- if you're a corporation, taking on that commitment of building a relationship with these grassroots organizations.

"Not just, 'Hey, here's a check for [$5,000], we're proud of you.' Build a relationship with the grassroots organizations, build a relationship with city government and continue this work. That's the whole key, and that's what I'm going to try to do. That's what the (NBA) coaches association is doing. We're trying to build lasting relationships so that the work can continue, even beyond the emotion of the aftermath of something like this."

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, died last Monday after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer who has since been fired, pressed his knee into Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes while Floyd pleaded that he couldn't breathe. Chauvin was arrested a week ago, and he has been charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Three officers at the scene were arrested this week and charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

Floyd's death occurred within months of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old African American woman, and Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old African American man, also dying. Louisville police fatally shot Taylor in her home, while two white men allegedly followed and murdered Arbery as he jogged in his Georgia neighborhood.

The NBA has the highest percentage of African American players of any of the four "major" professional sports in the United States, and it's also the closest to returning since the leagues paused their seasons in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. The NBA Players Association approved the league's plan to return to the court Friday, agreeing to resume the season beginning in late July at Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports complex with a 22-team format.

Former Warriors big man David West doesn't think the NBA season resuming to the court will stop players from speaking out.

"I think [commissioner Adam Silver] gives guys the space and the room to be people," West said Friday. "I would expect him to be, or the NBA to be in that same vein. I don't think they're gonna try to restrict guys. I think they'll talk it through with guys -- a lot of guys are flustered. They don't know what to say. They know what they feel, they know what they're seeing is not right, but they don't know what to say. The NBA does a good job of helping guys with their message, so I don't think that there's gonna be some restriction.

"I think that players, as they are compelled, will continue to lend their voice because ... [the] grassroots organizations have to do the work, the elected officials have to do the work. We have to do our part in terms of being citizens, but I just think that the players are too in-tune to just turn it off and go back to playing basketball. I think guys want to be a part of the narrative in terms of changing this society and pointing it in a different direction."

[RELATED: Kerr criticizes Trump for 'drawing battle lines' for election]

Protests will continue before the NBA season tips off again, and Kerr is encouraged by those who are leading the way on the ground. When Kerr looks at demonstrations, he sees a young, diverse coalition making their voices heard.

That gives him hope for the days ahead.

"I have great faith in the younger generation that's coming up behind us," Kerr said. "David mentioned this: They're more connected than any generation before them (because of social media). They're also more diverse. Just naturally, the demographics in this country are changing dramatically. What I've seen in my kids' lives, hearing their stories, watching the protests and seeing the diversity that's involved in these protests, I think the young generation is just ... looking at the older generation and they know that we're full of you know what.

"They just do. I mean, how could you not, right? And I think they want a different future, and I think they're gonna get it. I believe in the way they've educated themselves, how tolerant they are, how different they've been raised compared to us 30, 40 years ago. So, I have great faith in the young generation and in the coming decades, I think they're gonna get a lot more things done than we've ever been able to do."

Steve Kerr criticizes Trump 'drawing battle lines' for 2020 election

Steve Kerr criticizes Trump 'drawing battle lines' for 2020 election

Warriors coach Steve Kerr has not been shy about criticizing President Donald Trump.

Since Trump assumed office in 2017, the two have been at odds. Kerr has criticized countless Trump policies, and the President called Kerr "a little boy" after the NBA's suddenly contentious relationship with China following  Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeting in support of protestors in Hong Kong. 

Trump recently caught the ire of Kerr is once again in the wake of George Floyd's death in Minneapolis police custody. During a Tuesday protest near the White House, U.S. Park Police, the Secret Service, the National Guard and other federal law enforcement agencies cleared demonstrators from the area using tear gas as Trump walked to take a picture in front of the damaged St. John's Episcopal Church. Kerr called it a ploy for Trump's reelection campaign.

"Trump is drawing the battle lines for the election," Kerr said during NBC Sports Bay Area's "Race In America: A Candid Conversation" on Friday. "He's now just paving the way for, 'I'm the law and order president, and you've got to vote for me unless you want the chaos to ensue.' Which is ironic because chaos has ensued under his own administration. But clearly, this is the beginning of what's going to be a chaotic campaign. Trump, as he's been doing for not only his presidency, but for much of his adult life, he's just trying to divide people and stir up the pot. And as I said, he's drawing the lines and trying to bring his supporters to the side."

Floyd -- a 46-year-old African American man -- died after fired police officer Derek Chauvin -- a white man -- pressed his knee into Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes while he pleaded that he couldn't breathe. Floyd was detained after a store owner alleged he used a suspicious $20 bill, and police initially alleged he resisted arrest. Nearby surveillance footage disputed those claims.

Bystanders filmed Chauvin pressing his knee into Floyd's neck as three others looked on, and the video sparked protests around the globe. Some demonstrations in the United States have drawn the presence of the National Guard, escalating tensions between protestors and law enforcement.

Trump has criticized the demonstrations, calling protesters "thugs" in a tweet on May 28. The president tweeted "When the looting starts, the shooting starts" a day later, and Trump faced additional criticism from Kerr.

Last week, Vice President Mike Pence tweeted "[we] will always stand for the right of Americans to peacefully protest and let their voices be heard."

Kerr immediately criticized Pence for hypocrisy on Twitter, as Pence staged a highly publicized walkout of a 2017 game between the 49ers and Indianapolis Colts due to San Francisco players kneeling during the national anthem in protest of police brutality and institutional racism. At the time, Pence tweeted he wouldn't "dignify any event" disrespecting the flag and the national anthem.

"When you're incapable of being authentic, you're just throwing stuff at the wall and you don't even really care," Kerr said. "But this is the problem, that truth and facts have sort of gone out the window. So anybody who is paying attention knows full well that not only did the administration not accept peaceful protests, but they turned it around and turned it into an anti-American act.

"So, we all saw that and then to then fast forward four years and say, 'No, no, we actually definitely feel strongly that Americans should be allowed to peacefully protest.' It's just like an utter lack of concern or conviction for anything in terms of your truth. There is no truth. So, no character, no conviction and that's a big part of the issue right now, is that the people leading our country are just speaking from both sides of their mouth and just saying whatever they want to say."

For much of his Warriors tenure, Kerr has been outspoken on social issues and disagreed with Trump's policies. In 2017, he criticized Trump's executive order restricting travel from seven majority-Muslim nations. Trump mocked Kerr last year after Morey send out a tweet in solidarity with Hong Kong.

“I watched this guy, Steve Kerr, and he was like a little boy, he was so scared to be even answering the question,” Trump said in October. “He couldn’t answer the question. He was shaking. ‘Oh, oh, oh, I don’t know. I don’t know.’ He didn’t know how to answer the question, and he’ll talk about the United States very badly."

[RELATED: Ex-Warrior West explains his biggest fear as black father]

Kerr tried to curtail his comments towards the president during last season, privately declining to comment on Trump's impeachment hearings in January. Nonetheless, he continued criticizing Trump on Twitter after the NBA suspended its season due to the coronavirus in March.

Kerr said Friday he hopes for a change in leadership in the Oval Office.

"This is how it works in politics, it's just unfortunate that this is how people in power can think because we would like to," Kerr said. "Or at least hope to believe that we would have people who are in it for the right reasons, trying to actually lead us in a positive direction, but that hasn't been the case."

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]