How Warriors are using current NBA season to prepare for the next one

How Warriors are using current NBA season to prepare for the next one

Editor’s note: Kerith Burke, NBC Sports Bay Area’s Warriors reporter, will take you inside the Dubs as only she can each Friday with the Ask Kerith Mailbag. Send her a question on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #askkerith


When visiting media come to town, they tend to have the same three questions:

1) What is it like going from the Finals to the basement?

2) How are the coaches and the veterans leading the team through this tough, injury-prone season?

3) Is this surreal for Steve Kerr specifically, given all the success he has known as a player and coach in his career?

The questions are repetitive, but Steve tackles them graciously. Here’s what he explained at the last game: “The point of the season for us is to develop our young players.” 

It’s possible to want to win and demand the best from yourself, while understanding the realities of what you’re facing. Yes, the Warriors want to flush certain results, but the season itself is not in the trash can. It means something for growth.

I can already hear the top question for next year: “How did the struggles in 2019-20 strengthen or recalibrate the team for another playoff run?

Game on!

Via IG, trey5fanpage says, Please talk about D’Angelo in the next mailbag. Looks like he’s a good teammate and has stood up for most of the games. Would love to know more about him if you can share! 

When D’Angelo Russell was injured, I kept an eye on him when I was around the bench.

I noticed during timeouts, he typically would offer a teammate some observations or pay attention to what a coach was saying. He’s engaged, and let’s be honest, doing that for every game -- especially when you’re injured -- is not easy. I wouldn’t fault anyone for a spacing out a little when they’re not playing. D’Angelo doesn’t space out. 

On the floor, I hear him talking. He brings energy and encouragement. 

I see him taking his time with the Warriors seriously. This is year one for him, and he’s a positive teammate. He wants to lead the team on the court, because they need him. He’s young at 23 years old, but he’s putting the responsibility on his shoulders because this team needs someone to be a consistent scorer or a “big moment” guy. 

He had a big moment bucket on Wednesday to send the Warriors and Knicks to overtime. 

@30crossesFC Will Draymond be cleared off his 27-minute restriction and more DNPs?
@JavyBaez_curry Why Draymond minutes under 30?

As things start to normalize for the players returning from injuries, the coaches will figure out what makes sense for Draymond’s minutes.

The Warriors want to win. Draymond is always a part of that effort. He played 39 minutes against the Knicks and notched a triple-double. 

The team also is smart about what this season is. Draymond typically will rest on back-to-backs. Steph and Klay are forced to rest because of their injuries, but Draymond played in the Finals for five consecutive years as they did. He needs rest, too. There’s no point in running him into the ground. 

The Warriors will be careful about preserving Draymond’s body and mind for things on the horizon. 

@FirmanWinardi Are we keep fighting for 8th spot? There are 60 games to play, being .500 team is good enough?

To be fair, this question came in after the Warriors beat the Bulls. The Warriors returned home feeling good with the Grizzles and Knicks next on the schedule -- two winnable games. The idea that the Dubs could build a little three-game winning streak as they got healthier was fun to think about.

That’s not what happened. The Dubs lost both games to fall to 5-21 on the season, the worst record in the NBA. 

To reach .500 with a total of 41 wins, the Warriors need to win 36 out of the remaining 56 games. That’s highly unlikely. 

@chauzer1234 What's the right etiquette for getting an autograph?

What a great question, and one I haven’t seen before! You can maximize your chances of getting an autograph by anticipating when and where it would be easiest for a player. 

At the game, go to the tunnel the players use to get on and off the court. They will not stop to sign anything as they come on the court for warmups. But they will sign as they come off the court and go to the locker room. This time is your best chance. 

Have a sharpie in your hand, uncapped, and the item you want to be signed easily accessible.

Players don’t sign things coming on or off the court at halftime. It's hard to predict if they’ll stop to sign something postgame. 

At team hotels, consider trying to catch a player when they’re coming back from practice or a game, instead of when they're getting on the bus to go to those things. 

The most important thing is: BE POLITE. 

Children have a better chance for autographs than adults. Do not push kids out of the way. If your kid is trying for an autograph, have them shout “Mr. Curry!” instead of “STEPH STEPH STEPH STEPH!!!!” Players aren’t used to “mister” and it makes them pause. They can cut through the noise this way. 

Remember to say thank you. 

@irenealcachupas When will Klay and Steph comeback??? We really miss the Splash Brothers!!!! #askKerith

Steve Kerr said at the beginning of the season it is unlikely Klay plays this season. Don’t plan on seeing him. 

Steph recently had some pins removed from his broken hand. Expect an update on his status in early February. 

I’m hearing some rumblings we might see Klay or Steph back on a game-day broadcast soon. Remember, Klay nailed his night as a reporter, and Steph joined NBC Sports Bay Area’s pregame and postgame shows. Shhhhh, we’ll see. 

Via IG, @pamg_fitness says, The Warriors played at Oracle for 47 years. Why didn’t they ever wear “Oakland” on their jerseys? I understand “The Town” signifies Oakland, but they were at Chase Center one week and wore San Francisco jerseys. The also have “The City” which signifies San Francisco. 

This team has never been known as the Oakland Warriors. But they were the San Francisco Warriors from 1961-1972. 

Some people are curious why the Warriors wore “San Francisco” on their chests this season, and whether that has anything to do with the move to the Chase Center. Nope. It’s simply a throwback jersey. The Golden State Warriors belong to the Bay Area, not one city.

High Five

This week’s High Five goes to Gary Payton for a great conversation on the Runnin’ Plays podcast. Find it here, or on Spotify or iTunes. 

Gary told me about his love for the 49ers, growing up in East Oakland and what his dad did to protect kids in the neighborhood, which point guards he enjoys watching today, why he believes it’s okay to “go there” if you’re trash-talking on the court -- yes, even someone’s mama is fair game -- and why he’ll do whatever it takes to bring an NBA team back to Seattle.

This podcast was a ride. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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

NBA rumors: Ex-Warrior Quinn Cook changing number to honor Kobe Bryant

NBA rumors: Ex-Warrior Quinn Cook changing number to honor Kobe Bryant

Quinn Cook grew up in the Washington D.C. area worshipping the Los Angeles Lakers.

He loved Kobe Bryant.

So it's not a surprise that the former Warriors guard -- who signed a two-year contract with the Lakers last summer -- is honoring the NBA legend:

Kobe and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were two of nine people who tragically died Sunday morning in a helicopter crash.

[RELATED: Why Kobe's death made Perkins want to end beef with Durant]

Cook and the rest of the basketball world will help ensure that their legacies live on forever.

Follow @DrewShiller on Twitter and Instagram

How Kobe Bryant's sudden death is first of its kind in wireless world

How Kobe Bryant's sudden death is first of its kind in wireless world

Most of us with an early love of sport were drawn to a particular athlete who touched us and became our first favorite. For me, that was Roberto Clemente.

Baseball was my first sports passion, inherited from my mother, who told stories of her youth in Louisiana, where several relatives were good enough to play in the Negro Leagues -- the only one available to them -- and make a buck while entertaining locals.

Growing up in Oakland, baseball meant choosing between the Giants and the A’s. I liked both, really, with a slight edge to the A’s. No one on either team captured my attention as Clemente did, even though he played for the Pittsburgh Pirates, 2,500 miles away.

He captured my attention with his style and performance, and he maintained it with his intensity, which burned through the TV screen. He was fierce and clutch. Playing the game as if obsessed with getting all he could from it before it was taken away, he left no room to question how much it meant to him.

I pleaded for and received a Clemente bat, with the distinctive thick handle, and tried imitating his violent swing. I wanted a Clemente glove, which I did not get. Through it all, I read every page of every newspaper article or book that I could find. I still remember one sportswriter’s description of Clemente’s skin as “so tight it barely fits.”

So, when the news came on Dec. 31, 1972 that Clemente had been on a plane that dived into the Atlantic Ocean and was lost at sea, my naïve mind somehow imagined he could survive. That he would swim ashore. Not until a few days later, when reality set in, did I weep, along with all of baseball.

I later learned a few things. One, that Puerto Rico, as a nation, went from frantic to distraught. That day after day, for weeks, people would line up along shore to watch scuba divers scour the ocean. That one of Clemente’s teammates, catcher Manny Sanguillen was so hysterical that for three days he insisted on joining recovery efforts that never recovered Clemente’s remains.

I also learned that Clemente had, over a period of years, told numerous people he would die young. He was 38.

There was Hall of Famer Tracy McGrady on Monday, trying and failing to suppress his sobbing, saying Kobe Bryant had talked of dying young. He wanted to be immortalized.

Kobe was 41.

Died in an air disaster.

Was there ever any room to wonder how much competing meant to Kobe?

But 47 years later, the world is much different. Technology has made it a much closer place. Whereas Clemente’s sudden death hit specific areas exceedingly hard, Kobe’s death is the first of a superstar athlete dying, while still vibrant, in our wireless world.

It is that component that makes the sadness so massive. It is Day 4 and we still are reeling. All of us, to varying degrees. Businesses unaffiliated with sports are sending emails to employees notifying them of Kobe Remembrance days.

Have we ever seen so many men, from so many walks of life, shedding tears? Droplets streaming down the face of 7-foot-1, 350-pound Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe’s teammate with the Lakers for eight seasons. Jerry West, a certified legend and the man who ensured Kobe would be a Laker, blubbering “I don’t know if I can get over this.”

Players, coaches and fans wiping tears, a lump in every throat. Every pocket of the planet is shaken, every continent grieving. Never have so many sneakers been scribbled on, so many No. 8s and No. 24s gracing jerseys across so many sports. So many moments of silence in so many gyms. Kobe jerseys are being worn in China, in Europe, in Brazil, in Canada, even in Boston and Sacramento. Probably in Russia and certainly in Italy.

Nike, the largest athletic wear company on earth, has been raided of its Kobe apparel. All out. Orders must wait.

Kobe was known to billions. And the first favorite for millions.

The games go on, as Kobe would have demanded. The Warriors and 76ers played Tuesday night in Philadelphia, a few miles from where he was born.

Joel Embiid, who normally wears No. 21, asked permission to wear No. 24, which is retired as the number worn by Sixers legend Bobby Jones. Jones gave his OK. Embiid, who had not played in three weeks, scored 24 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Those numbers. Again.

“That was cool,” Embiid told reporters in Philadelphia. “I didn’t know it was actually 24 points as I shot that fadeaway. That was what he was about. I actually yelled, ‘Kobe!’ A lot of us, since I started playing basketball, that’s how we’ve always done it. You shoot something in the trash and you just go ‘Kobe!’ so that was cool.”

The shock is fading ever so slightly, giving way to heartfelt remembrances and testimonials, a futile effort to breathe life into a perished legend.

“A few days out, we’re able to reflect a little bit and think about Kobe’s career and his life,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.

“The reality that Kobe has passed gets a little bit more, for me, real,” 76ers coach Brett Brown said. “It’s final and the impact that he has had on our game ... really, it’s been interesting for me to see the connection that the basketball fraternity has, in an incredibly sad way, been forced to make. Everybody reaches out and there is a connection that you feel as a basketball world.

"It’s deeper than the NBA.”

[RELATED: Dubs' first game after Kobe's death doesn't ease pain]

Thousands continue to wander, at all hours, the area of downtown Los Angeles near Staples Center. They’re bringing flowers. They’re writing messages. They’re hugging. They’re crying. They’re staring at images of Kobe.

Los Angeles and the world in January 2020 are aching, just as my little corner of Oakland, along with all of Pittsburgh and Puerto Rico, were in January 1973.