Warriors

Warriors

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

In the fourth quarter of the Christmas game, when the Lakers were about to lock up a 26-point win at Oracle, I asked fans this question.

That tweet got more than 200 replies.

The Lakers loss is part of a collection of 20-plus-point defeats on the Warriors' home court, joining those against the Bucks, Rockets and Raptors.

Many mailbag questions are starting with "What’s wrong with ______???" I'll tell you what’s happening.

Opponents have figured out the Warriors. It took them two to three years to deeply study their tendencies, and now defenses are prepared to muck up the flow. Teams have built rosters specifically to compete with the Warriors.

The moment is now. The Warriors are coming back to earth against tough competition, combined with some lapses of their own. They either can adjust and evolve, or do the same thing and unravel during games. Champions evolve. These are the days when the Warriors will check in with their identity. Who must they be *this* season to win?

For perspective, “unravel” is a funny word to use when the team is 10 games over .500 and tied for first in the Western Conference.

 

Game on!

@Richard75108808 Klay is having an off year shooting. What's going on?

@happymegwv #askkerith I second this question. What is wrong with Klay?

@lmcd9999 Will Klay cut his hair and shave his beard? #askKerith

In the game against the Lakers, it was strange to see Klay shoot 2 of 7 and 1 of 3, and end the night with five points. This season, his field goal percentage is down. His 3-point shooting percentage is down. I understand the concern, but consider a few things to make these drops less shocking.

Steve Kerr reminded everyone that Klay having a slow start to the season isn’t out of the ordinary. Then Klay set a new NBA record for threes in a game with 14 in Chicago. Then injuries started picking off teammates. That messed up the offense. When Steph and Draymond were out at the same time, defenses could gang up on Klay and KD. Plus, this duo felt like they had to carry more of the load without Steph’s points, so they jacked up more shots. That impacted the averages.

This season didn’t have a smooth start. For a guy like Klay, who loves to catch and shoot, changes to the flow can make things off-kilter. It is possible for Klay to dribble and create. I watched him take on Ricky Rubio in Utah. Klay lifted his left forearm to shield himself and be aggressive as he drove, then rose up for a jumper. Klay is trying to do the things that get him going.

There could be something mentally going on as well. Even though Klay has maintained, frequently and loudly, that he wants to be a Warrior for life, his pending free agency is a big deal. If he wants a max deal, he needs to hit certain marks. Is he forcing things? When he is in a funk, no one is harder on himself than Klay.

Finally, because of Klay’s reliability and predictability, I feel like when he doesn't have it, his game is an indicator of larger things going wonky with the Warriors' offense.

He doesn’t need to shave his beard. He needs to see the ball go through the net. That can start with layups and jumpers. That can start with teammates helping him get sharper catch-and-shoot opportunities.

The notion that “shooters shoot” is made for Klay Thompson. He’ll figure things out as the team evens out, too.

@ImShyLabz I’m wondering what happened with pat mccaw? #askkerith

@alexpsvca When are the Warriors going to cave and pay McCaw? Lol

Since the creation of this mailbag at the beginning of the season, some version of “What’s up with Pat McCaw?” is the most frequently asked question, week in and week out. It seems like fans feel ghosted. Let’s review.

 

Warriors insider Monte Poole wrote in October about McCaw turning down the team's qualifying offer. That link is packed with details that are good to revisit. McCaw also reportedly turned down a two-year deal with the team.

Marcus Thompson later got additional details about the team’s thinking. Players were puzzled by McCaw turning down deals when the Warriors own his rights. The team likely won’t let him go for nothing in return, so what is McCaw doing by sitting out? The Warriors can match any offer.

One player told Thompson: "You can’t do this after two years. You’ve got to get the clout first. He doesn’t have the leverage." Another player said: "I don't know what he's doing. I don't understand. But I don’t take it as personal. He has to do what’s best for him. It’s just weird."

The last on-the-record comment I can recall from anyone in McCaw’s camp happened when Connor Letourneau wrote about the stalemate and talked to his dad. Jeff McCaw told Letourneau, “Right now, I’m not a fan of the media because they get to write things and it’s not true, and no one calls them on it.”

I don’t know what Jeff McCaw feels is false. Reporters on this beat write about the information they have, and that info is coming from team sources because his son isn’t speaking.

Pat McCaw popped up on Instagram on Christmas Day, when he posted a story where he was dunking in what looks like a high school gym in his hometown. He also promoted his Snapchat account.

Before that, McCaw hadn’t posted on Instagram since the Fourth of July. His last Twitter post was a Nov. 13 retweet of Caris LeVert thanking God his injury wasn’t as bad as it looks. McCaw’s official Facebook page hasn't had a post since Media Day in 2017.

And then news broke Friday that McCaw had signed a two-year, $6 million offer sheet with the Cavs. Sources told NBC Sports Bay Area's Monte Poole that the Warriors are unlikely to match the offer due to financial reasons. 

 

What McCaw is thinking is a mystery. If I had to guess, he's being guided by family, faith and his belief in his talents as a basketball player. During this mystery, McCaw deserves compassion. He went through a devastating back injury, where he lost feeling in his legs. Even though he returned to play in the postseason and take part in the Warriors' championship parade, scary incidents can have aftershocks in a person's life. If he's still going through something, I wish him peace.

This is the best Pat McCaw answer I can give you. Until there's more to report, this mailbag will be a McCaw-free zone in 2019.

@Nas_Isms #askKerith why is coach Kerr blaming himself for the last few road games? Also what did you think of #birdboxmovie?

The Warriors are 8-8 in road games this season. Not bad. But I do remember what you might be thinking of ... Steve Kerr said he needs to do a better job preparing his team after the Raptors came to Oracle and beat them by 20, without Kawhi Leonard. That was a low-energy game for the Dubs.

Sometimes a coach will take the heat so it doesn't fall on the players. This is intentional. A coach will say something strong about himself so he becomes the story instead of seeing his players’'performances get nit-picked. It's a strategic way to guide the narrative. What Steve said is true, but he can amplify the feeling to redirect things if he feels like his guys need a break from being under the microscope.

As far as "Bird Box," I liked it more than I expected. I don’t watch a lot of horror movies, and this one felt more suspenseful then scary. The deadly wind-blowing force in "Bird Box" reminded me of the smoke monster in the TV show "Lost."

@bennea33 Best coach you’ve been around: Geno or Kerr? Or someone else?

Steve Kerr and UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma sat down for a conversation moderated by Cal women’s coach Lindsay Gottlieb on Dec. 21. You can read about that conversation here.

I don't know how to answer who is the best coach, but I will say I've noticed the best coaches surround themselves with top talent.

For example, Mike Brown was a head coach (2009 NBA Coach of the Year!), and he knows the job inside and out. Ron Adams has been in the NBA for 26 years and was voted the top assistant coach for the fourth consecutive year. Steve is smart to surround himself with people with ample knowledge and experiences. The group exchanges ideas that make everyone stronger. That’s what you want from leadership. Insecure coaches don’t want to be challenged.

 

Geno Auriemma has had the same assistant head coach, Chris Dailey, by his side since he took the UConn job. She recently went into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. She is Geno’s right hand.

The best coaches realize they can't do it all alone.

@THBevilacqua After your Colum McCann tweet... what are your top 5 favorite works of fiction? #AskKerith

Here’s the tweet this question is referring to ...

This mailbag is getting long, so I’ll give you my quick top three:

Colum McCann’s “Let the Great World Spin.” It’s interconnected stories of New Yorkers making their way through life and loss. I cannot capture how lyrical and engrossing the prose is.

Tim O’Brien's “The Things They Carried.” It’s about soldiers in Vietnam. They carry gear and know how much it weighs by the ounce, but what they’re really carrying is their memories and the weight of their decisions as they try to keep their moral compass.

Zora Neale Hurston's “Their Eyes Were Watching God.” Hurston arrives at truths simply. There are sentences that pack a wallop as her narrator describes the relationships in her life. Hurston also is responsible for one of my favorite quotes: “Gods always behave like the people who created them.”

High Five

Happy New Year, everyone. This high five is for you. Thanks for reading the mailbag and adding your thoughtful questions.

Coming into 2019, I’m grateful there's no time in my life I'd rather go back to. I am happy. I am healthy. Bigger things keep coming into my world. I don't have the words to express my gratitude. My husband and I talk about how lucky we are ... the ways we made our own luck as best as we could ... and what we want to do with this luck while we have it.

In 2018, I got engaged. I covered a professional team's championship for the first time in my career. I went on a long honeymoon to places I’ve dreamed of visiting. I got married on a beach after the honeymoon. And I started Year 2 covering the Warriors with incredible NBC co-workers and a deeper relationship with the team.

I ran into a couple at the game against the Clippers who told me their daughter in high school wants to do what I do. Hearing that makes me pause and swell with joy. The mother told me, "There are children behind you," and I thought about that all the way home. It’s a duty to make the path easier and better for the next ones to walk it.

 

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