Mandatory yoga session reveals wide range of skill among Warriors


Mandatory yoga session reveals wide range of skill among Warriors

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Anderson Varejao lowered his 6-foot-11 frame into a runner's lunge and raised one arm high into the air to add a twist, demonstrating after a recent shootaround the new yoga pose he just learned.

Then, he took it up a notch and attempted an airplane balancing pose on one leg with his arms spread wide.

The Golden State Warriors have become yogis.

Coach Steve Kerr is committed to changing things up, and he gave Golden State a day off from the practice floor one day last week so the players could practice yoga instead. In the middle of a prolonged stretch at home with a more regular routine, the schedule allowed for some improvising.

"I really liked it," Varejao said. "I'm going to do more."

Doubt you'll see Draymond Green or Klay Thompson doing downward-facing dog again soon - though Green might be talked into another try eventually.

"I'm bad," Green said. "Yoga isn't for everybody. I think it's a great thing, I just don't think my body is made for all of those different positions. I did well at a few of them. It's hard, it's tough. My body really isn't cut out for yoga."

The very next night after the group class, during warmups for a home game with the Pistons, player development coach Bruce Fraser pulled his foot to his opposite inner thigh for an impromptu tree pose. He laughed as an amused Shaun Livingston watched from the baseline.

Andre Iguodala is an experienced yogi who can really cat-cow and is considered top on the team, often taking classes. Center Zaza Pachulia also can forward fold with the best of them. They took prominent positions in the class led by Lisa Goodwin, Golden State's director of corporate communications and also a yoga teacher, at a Berkeley studio - a first for Kerr taking the team away from team headquarters for a yoga session.

No surprise, two-time reigning NBA MVP Stephen Curry can bring it on the mat, too.

"We've had some optional yoga sessions at our facility. This is the first time we took everybody and made it mandatory," Kerr said. "It was good."

The temperature was about 92 degrees for the hour-long power vinyasa class, so it was steamy.

Everybody was drenched in sweat by the end for final resting pose, or savasana.

"My muscles felt good," forward James Michael McAdoo said, rubbing his stomach where his core got a workout. "It was fun. It was hot in there, like working in a sauna. I told our strength and conditioning coach, `You got to step up your game. Lisa embarrassed us.'"

"It's awful, it's pitiful," Thompson said of his own yoga ability. "It's something I worked on and it's something I actually enjoy. More than just being physically challenging, it's an incredible mental workout. It tests your pain tolerance and your ability to push yourself mentally. That's why I like it. It was really good. I think it helped a lot of us - everybody, even the coaches."

Along with the experienced yoga veterans, there were some first-timers.

A few found it extremely tough.

"I'm not the most flexible," acknowledged player development coach Chris DeMarco.

Assistant coach Mike Brown described his debut as "terrible."

"For me, it was really hard, but it was fun," he said, later adding, "I nearly passed out."

Ron Adams, another assistant who focuses on preparing Golden State's defense, happened to work out in the hottest corner of the room for his first time practicing in that high temperature.

"It's such a cleansing exercise," he said.

The Warriors aren't the only ones doing it.

Detroit coach Stan Van Gundy has scheduled yoga time for the Pistons, saying: "It's got its value, no question about it. Would I consider doing it with them? Probably not."

Kerr goes whenever he can fit it in, typically taking an hour-long class during the lunch hour on game days when the schedule - and his body - allows.

It's a time he can focus on taking some deep breaths, literally, away from the pressure-packed NBA workload and just be just another yoga student for 60 minutes out of his day.

This weekend marks one year since Kerr formally returned to the bench last Jan. 22 against Indiana after a lengthy leave of absence to deal with complications from a pair of back surgeries. Current Lakers coach Luke Walton led the way during a record 24-0 start and went 39-4 before Kerr's comeback on the way to winning Coach of the Year after an NBA record 73-9 finish.

While the 51-year-old Kerr still has some discouraging, physically challenging moments dealing with pain and headaches, he considers himself fortunate to be on the sideline doing what he loves.

"I guess normal is a good way to say it. He seems like his old self," Curry said. "You know he's been through a lot just physically trying to recover from the surgeries he's had. I can't imagine the frustration, how long it took and things he had to do and all the doctors he's met with. His whole story is crazy. We're obviously happy to have him back but not only that, you see him with energy and his presence like he wants. It's been good to see."

Whether Kerr will take his team back to yoga any time soon, time will tell. The Warriors are at the season's midway point and the "dog days" of January as Kerr has put it. Golden State was home for all but a night from Dec. 26 until leaving for Houston on Thursday for Friday's game against the Rockets, with just a quick bus ride to Sacramento as the lone road trip in a 10-game stretch during that span.

Because there was so much time to practice, the yoga day was a nice change of scenery.

"Just to get away and go do something else," Green said. "We're still together doing something productive. But, it's not for me."

Something fans will have to accept: Warriors won't always have 'A' game


Something fans will have to accept: Warriors won't always have 'A' game

OAKLAND – Three fans wearing Toronto Raptors black and red were so proud of their team Wednesday night that they shouted out their support in enemy territory.

They stood inside Oracle Arena, where the Warriors are idols of worship, and in the fourth quarter unfurled a Raptors banner while uttering sounds of blasphemy: Let’s Go Raptors! Let’s go Raptors! Let’s go Raptors!

“It was weird,” Stephen Curry said Thursday. “But we didn’t do anything about it.”

That sight and those sounds, in that setting, were more stunning than seeing the Warriors used as mops on their own floor.

Those Raptors fans were comfortable because they practically had the place to themselves. Warriors fans vacated the place at such a rapid pace that Mary Babers, mother of Draymond Green, turned to Twitter, referring to them as “spoiled brats.”

There was, to be sure, some truth to her words, for Warriors fans have quickly become so accustomed to winning that they expect it and some don’t react well when they don’t get it.

There will be nights, like the 113-93 loss to Toronto on Wednesday, when the fans don’t get their win because the Warriors don’t bring it. They weren’t engaged early and dug in only for a few minutes here and there before coach Steve Kerr surrendered in the fourth quarter.

“We’re not invincible from getting smacked in the face if we don’t show up and execute,” Curry said. “So, you’ve got to learn that lesson.”

That lesson was taught to the Warriors several times last season. Six of their 24 losses were to teams that wouldn’t sniff the playoffs and as many more were practically given away.

But even when they stumbled into playoffs after a 7-10 finish, the Warriors engaged and went 16-5 in the postseason. They didn’t bother to immerse themselves until it mattered most.

As much as they don’t like to acknowledge the ability to “flip the switch,” there is a higher level of focus the defending champs can summon. They found it last week in Milwaukee and it was the driving force behind avenging an ugly home loss to the Bucks last month.

“That takes tremendous focus and energy,” Kerr said. “And we haven’t had that very often this year.”

They didn’t have it Wednesday when circumstances suggest they should. They’d lost at Toronto two weeks earlier. The Raptors have the best record in the NBA. The game was on national TV. It was at Oracle.

And, yawn, the Warriors were as flat as they might be in a preseason finale against the Suns in Tijuana. There was a similar listlessness in a loss to the Clippers last month. There were traces of it home wins over the Nets and for halves at home against the Hawks and Magic.

Kerr and his staff are urging more of what the Warriors delivered in Milwaukee.

“We’ve shown flashes of it,” Curry said of. But we haven’t put together a sustained run of game after game playing at the level we expect on the defensive end.

“As much as we’ve built chemistry and an identity – and we’ve talked about it a lot (during) our run – we have to re-identify ourselves this year and put together consistent efforts night after night.”

The Warriors on Thursday practiced for less than an hour. They spent more than twice as much time reviewing video of the loss the Toronto. They saw the lapses that both Draymond Green and Kevin Durant insist are up to the leaders to fix.

But is it not realistic to believe furious effort will be there every night? Well, no. The problem for the Warriors is that they’ve won so many games without it that they, perhaps psychologically, believe they don’t always need it.

That’s how you end up with performances like that of Wednesday night.

“Our fans have seen the highest of the highs and expect greatness every night,” Curry said. “And we didn’t show that.

“I’m sure they had home-cooked meals and dinners to get to and didn’t want to see us getting beat like that.”

Nobody wanted to see it – except for Raptors fans on site.

But it’s going to be visible again this season at Oracle. The Warriors defense of home court has evolved from obsession to flexible goal, and that’s going to take a while to sink in, particularly among their fans.

Why the Warriors should rest Andre Iguodala vs the Kings


Why the Warriors should rest Andre Iguodala vs the Kings

Programming note: Watch Friday night's Warriors-Kings game streaming live at 7:00 p.m. PT on the MyTeams app.

Andre Iguodala did not practice on Thursday and is officially listed as questionable for Friday's game at the Kings.

The 2015 Finals MVP did not play on Monday vs Minnesota or Wednesday vs Toronto because of left hip soreness.

"This was just something the other night during warmups -- his hip kind of locked up on him a little bit -- and he came back in the training room and trainers looked at him and said it's not worth it," Steve Kerr told reporters prior to the Warriors' loss to the Raptors. "Same thing tonight. It's just a day-to-day thing, but we're gonna do the wise thing and keep him out."

At this point, it would probably be wise to just keep Iguodala in street clothes when Golden State takes the floor in Sacramento. After Friday's game in the state capitol, the Warriors get Saturday and Sunday off before they host Memphis on Monday night. This would give the 34-year old nine full days off between appearances -- a welcome period of rest for somebody with his mileage. 

Iguodala appeared in 10 of the Warriors' first 12 games this season -- logging 18.7 minutes per contest. But with Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Alfonzo McKinnie sidelined for extended stretches, Iguodala was thrust into a bigger role.

From Nov. 10 to Dec. 7, the 2012 All-Star suited up for all 15 games (making 11 starts) and averaged 26.5 minutes over that stretch. That's too much playing time at this point of the season for Iguodala.

There's a solid number of Warriors fans who get frustrated with Iguodala's production (or lack thereof at times) and/or perceived passive demeanor throughout the regular season. Many of those people cite his $16 million salary and believe he shouldn't coast through certain games.

But that mindset is short-sided because Iguodala is incredibly valuable and important to everything the Warriors do. It's as if people forget what happened when he went down last year during the Western Conference Finals vs Houston.

Last Friday in Milwaukee, Iguodala delivered his best performance of the regular season -- 15 points (6-for-10 overall, 3-for-6 from deep), 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 block and 0 turnovers -- and reminded everybody of the bigger picture:

You gotta love how he doesn't even include April anymore -- when the playoffs actually begin. Speaking of playoffs, he averaged 7.9 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.4 steals over Golden State's first 13 games last year (12 starts), while shooting 48 percent overall and nearly 36 percent from deep.

Late in Game 3 of the Finals in Cleveland, he did this...

... and in Game 4, he hit 3 3-pointers and racked up 2 steals and 2 blocks.

The point is -- Golden State needs to be patient with Iguodala during the regular season and pace him so he's in peak form when it matters most. Rushing him back to play on Dec. 14 makes no sense and the Warriors know this.

Take the night off, Andre, and go record another entertaining podcast or something...

Drew Shiller is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders. Follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller