Donald Trump's Steve Kerr remarks prove sports, politics inseparable

Donald Trump's Steve Kerr remarks prove sports, politics inseparable

SAN FRANCISCO -- Thanks to Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey and United States President Donald Trump, we finally can kill and bury what should have died at least 83 years ago.

The fallacy of sports and politics sleeping in different beds.

They’ve always been linked, always will be locked in an embrace of varying comfort levels. Pretending otherwise is brazen ignorance of facts that pass before our eyes every day.

Continuance of the war, initiated last Friday with Morey’s tweet expressing support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, came spilling from Trump’s mouth Wednesday, with his words landing upon the head of Warriors coach Steve Kerr and then, by circumstance, into the lap of Golden State superstar Stephen Curry.

Asked Monday night if he had any thoughts on Morey’s since-deleted tweet, which prompted Rockets chairman Tilman Fertitta to apologize to China and marginalize his GM, Kerr said he had nothing to offer. He said it was a complex issue with which he’d like to be more familiar.

His non-response sent tails wagging throughout Trumpian society, which branded Kerr -- usually outspoken on certain domestic political topics -- a coward for failing to address this controversial international issue.

Sports and politics, together again in disharmony.

When the topic came before Trump on Wednesday, he followed his usual based-on-TV-viewing script, launching into a dismissive, middle-school belittlement of Kerr.

“I watched this guy Steve Kerr and he was like a little boy,” Trump told reporters. “He was so scared to be even answering the question. He couldn’t answer the question. He was shaking. 'Ohh, ohh, ohh. I don’t know.'

“He didn’t know how to answer the question. And yet he’ll talk about the United States very badly.”

News of Trump’s comments came barely one minute after Kerr had concluded his daily media availability -- but minutes before Curry, often at odds with Trump, had his.

“I’ve got to welcome Steve to the club,” Curry said, referring to the list of sports figures, entertainers, independent women, Gold Star families, American prisoners of war, fellow politicians and others who have been publicly ridiculed by Trump.

Meanwhile, China’s reaction to Morey’s tweet has been harsh and thorough. Tencent, the Chinese media partner of the NBA, has put the Rockets into a black hole, suspending that partnership. No Rockets games on TV. One social-media post Monday showed someone in Shanghai painting over Rockets artwork, including the logo, inside a gym.

It’s as if, at least for now, the Rockets have been erased from China.

Indeed, one Rockets fan in China, daring to side with his favorite team, reportedly threatened to burn the national flag and invited authorities to arrest him. They did. He could face as much as three years in prison.

Sports and politics. Can’t keep them apart.

For nearly 20 years, since Houston drafted Yao Ming in 2002, the Rockets have been conceivably China’s most popular American sports team. Longtime Rocket and Basketball Hall of Famer Tracy McGrady was, for a time, the most popular athlete in China.

Warriors star Klay Thompson, who has an apparel contract with Chinese corporation Anta, is a huge celebrity, attracting massive crowds every time he visits. That, too, is in peril, as Anta announced Wednesday that it will “immediately stop contract renewal negotiations with the NBA.”

Which points up the thorniest issue, one without an easy resolution. The business aspect.

The NBA and China are business partners, each benefitting off the interests of the other. China is the league’s biggest market outside the U. S.

That’s why NBA commissioner Adam Silver has made multiple attempts to satisfy the Chinese government while simultaneously affirming American freedom of speech. It’s a dance so delicate and, perhaps irresolvable, that it could go on the weeks or months. Maybe even years.

It was in 1936 that Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany sought to affirm its physical and intellectual superiority by triumphing in the Olympic Games in Berlin. This international sports event would, once and for all, prove that Hitler and his “master race” of Aryans were bred to rule the world.

It didn’t work out so well Hitler, of course, but those Games crackled with political overtones, as have many others. Take Mexico City in 1968, when American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos took a stand to fight for equal rights, and Munich in 1972, when Black September, a Palestinian terrorist group, took Israeli athletes hostage and killed 11.

[RELATED: Steph responds to President Trump's comments on Kerr]

Here we are, 83 years removed for the ’36 Games, and the NBA and China are at odds. A basketball league in a country of 325 million vs. a nation of more than 1.4 billion.

It’s a form of war. All because of a single tweet.

Alfonzo McKinnie wants to stay but is prepared if Warriors tenure ends

Alfonzo McKinnie wants to stay but is prepared if Warriors tenure ends

SAN FRANCISCO -- Fairy tales indeed can come true, as one did last autumn for Alfonzo McKinnie. After four years hopscotching the world in pursuit of an NBA career, he landed on the roster of the defending champion Warriors.

Life was great. His work and perseverance had paid off. Two years after scrapping by in makeshift gyms in Luxembourg and Mexico, he was teammates with Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. McKinnie bought a house for his mother and still had money in his pocket.

One year later, the 6-foot-8 forward is discovering that fairy tales don’t always stay true.

There is a reasonable chance the status McKinnie earned one year ago will go to someone else.

The Warriors acknowledge a need for size, and Marquese Chriss, the 6-10 forward/center who signed a non-guaranteed contract two weeks ago, has impressed players and coaches with his work ethic, adaptability and cognition.

“Marquese is doing great,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Sunday. “He’s probably been the surprise of camp, given that he came in late on a non-guaranteed, one-year contract.”

The Warriors cannot upgrade Chriss’ contract and add him to the roster unless someone else is waived or traded. The simplest sacrifice is McKinnie, whose contract is not fully guaranteed until January. None of the free-agent acquisitions are eligible for trade, and the Warriors won’t be moving second-year guard Jacob Evans III or any of their three rookies.

McKinnie is a 27-year-old reserve, making him a trade candidate.

“I hear it, but I try not to pay attention to it,” McKinnie told NBC Sports Bay Area. “All I can do is just come out, put my work in and perform. Whatever happens from there, that’s out of my control. I can only control what I do and how hard I go. Everything outside of that, it’s front-office business. I can’t control what goes on up there.”

With two centers on the sideline -- Willie Cauley-Stein (mid-foot sprain) and Kevon Looney (hamstring) --  Warriors general manager Bob Myers is seeking a way to add Chriss, a 2016 lottery pick (No. 8 overall) by the Kings.

The need for a big man and the way Chriss is playing -- he’ll make his second consecutive start Monday night against the Lakers in Los Angeles -– imperils McKinnie’s hold on his roster spot.

“We did have a lot of injuries to the bigs, so we definitely need some bigs,” McKinnie conceded. “Outside of the ones that are hurt, we’re a little smaller than a lot of teams.

“But I’m coming in here every day and competing. Whether you’re guaranteed or non-guaranteed, unless you’re totally solidified, you’ve always got to compete, whether it’s for a job or a spot or more minutes. Competition is always first nature.”

In 37 preseason minutes, McKinnie has been less than dazzling, scoring nine points on 4-of-12 shooting from the field, including 1 of 5 from beyond the arc. He has grabbed 13 rebounds, as well as contributed three assists and two blocks.

“I know where I’ve been,” he said. “With this basketball thing, I’ve been at the bottom of the totem pole. Being here, with this organization, experiencing what I experienced last year, having a role on a championship-contending team, this is the highest I’ve been. I’m really self-motivated, because I know where I’ve been, and I know what it’s like to be at the bottom.

“I want to stay here. And continue to be here for years to come.”

Kerr expressed relief that he is coaching instead of facing the decisions looming before Myers.

“These guys are all working hard,” Kerr said. “And you know it’s their dream to play in this league. You wish you could keep everybody. But the nature of camp is generally that you’ve got to release four or five people, and it’s no fun at all.”

If the Warriors decide to keep McKinnie, it will be out of familiarity with the system and culture, as well as his rebounding ability.

If they decide to move him and cut him, it will be out of a greater need elsewhere on the roster.

Either way, McKinnie has a clear-eyed view.

“I definitely feel like I’m a mentally strong person,” he said. “I’ve been through a lot, on and off the court. When it comes to basketball, it’s for a job. People go through much tougher times. I’ve seen people go through [stuff] way harder than getting cut from a basketball team.”

[RELATED: Warriors reportedly push Myers to keep Chriss]

That’s the voice of McKinnie past, when there were nights when he barely knew the name of the city where he would lay his head. When he barely knew his teammates, some of whom had full-time day jobs.

No matter how this turns out, McKinnie is prepared. He’ll continue to live the fairy tale. Or he’ll remember the lessons of survival when the fairy tale went no further than his imagination.

Eric Paschall fitting in with Warriors, making good early impression

Eric Paschall fitting in with Warriors, making good early impression

SAN FRANCISCO -- Four months ago, the Warriors had a pretty good idea they wanted to select Eric Paschall with one of their two second-round draft picks.

Following a four-year college career, Paschall -- though listed at 6-foot-7 -- impressed with his athleticism, defensive prowess and basketball IQ. Only one question remained: Would he fall to the 41st overall pick?

"We were kind of holding our breath," Warriors coach Steve Kerr admitted Sunday. "Hoping for him to fall, and it happened. We're lucky to have him."

As the Warriors get through training camp, Paschall is beginning to make good on Golden State's trust. Through two preseason games, he's averaging 11 points and three rebounds in 22 minutes. More importantly, with big men Kevon Looney and Willie Cauley Stein injured, Paschall has been tasked to guard multiple positions on defense, often the opponent's best player, and impressed the staff along the way.

"Really excited about Eric," Kerr said. "The strength, the explosiveness. He may be undersized from a height standpoint, but he's got long arms, so he makes up for some of that. To me, he fits right in, maybe even stands out on an NBA floor athletically from a strength and explosion standpoint."

Six months ago, Paschall -- who signed a three-year, fully guaranteed $4.2 million deal, in July -- was competing for a third straight Final Four appearance with Villanova, playing against zone defenses and the structure of college basketball. When he entered his first preseason game last Saturday, Kerr tasked him to guard All-NBA big man Anthony Davis.

In the second quarter of last week's Warriors loss to the Lakers, LeBron James took a pass at half court, dribbled three times and barreled into Paschall's chest for an easy layup, emphasizing the rookie's steep learning curve. 

"It's kind of weird because you see these guys, AD is on the cover of [NBA 2K] and my first game I have to guard him," Paschall said. "It's kind of crazy, but I'm glad Coach trusts me enough to go out and guard those guys."

An adjustment has manifested off the court as well for Paschall. Long a resident of the East Coast, he wasn't much of a driver and still doesn't have a license, despite being 22 years old. Following practice Sunday afternoon, Paschall stood outside Chase Center with a bag packed for a week-long trip, waiting for fellow rookie Jordan Poole to take him to San Francisco International Airport for the team's trip to Los Angeles. 

While Paschall has impressed thus far, his NBA dreams weren't always a sure thing. Despite averaging 26.0 points, 11.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game as a junior at Dobbs Ferry High School (NY), Paschall only garnered interests from mid-major schools like Virginia Commonwealth, George Mason and Providence before enrolling at nearby Fordham. After transferring to Villanova following a coaching change, Paschall won a national title in 2018, but he was just a second-round pick in June's NBA draft.

"My whole life, I've been underrated," Paschall told NBC Sports Bay Area. "To be able to be here is a blessing in itself."

Entering the season, Paschall comes to an organization in transition. Three months removed from Kevin Durant's departure, coupled with the Klay Thompson's knee injury, the Warriors are left to navigate the start of the season with eight new additions. Nonetheless, the team has established stars like Draymond Green and Stephen Curry, who have defined roles.

As his tenure progresses, Paschall hopes to be added to the Golden State's lineup of stars.

[RELATED: McKinnie prepared for end with Warriors]

"Eventually, I feel like I can come into my own at this level," Paschall said. "But now, especially as a rookie, you just have to do what they say and do what you got to do to stay on the court, but I feel like eventually in this league, I'll be able to play my game, and I hope it's with the Warriors." 

"I feel like I ended up being in a great spot," Paschall added. "They gave me a great contract, and I feel like in these next few years, I feel like I can contribute, to try to do what I can to just bring whatever they want me to bring to the table."