'Oakland's own' Brian Shaw recovers in LA with Walton

'Oakland's own' Brian Shaw recovers in LA with Walton

LAS VEGAS – Strolling past an interview being conducted with Lakers assistant coach Brian Shaw, head coach Luke Walton would not bite his tongue. Would not let it go. Would not stay silent.

“Why don’t you tell the real story about Brian,” Walton said.

“Tell what really happened with Oakland’s own,” he added.

What really happened to Shaw over the past five years is a tale of a man being unceremoniously dismissed by the organization for which he shed blood, after which he was compelled to work for another under less than ideal circumstances.

He was a Laker as a player and as an assistant coach. He was lined up to become head coach. Yet Shaw somehow found himself in Denver, coaching a team with a plethora of issues under an ownership with a reputation for getting in its own way.

And now, 19 months later, Shaw, a graduate of Bishop O’Dowd High in East Oakland and still a resident of the city, has reunited with the Lakers, where as associate head coach he sits on the bench next to Walton.

“I felt like I needed Brian,” Walton said Saturday, after Lakers shootaround at T-Mobile Arena. “He’s a phenomenal coach in this league. I played for him. I knew what he was like to play for him. He’s had success everywhere he’s gone – except for Denver.

“I feel like he got a real raw deal in Denver, especially in hindsight now, looking back at what he had and what he was dealing with out there.”

The Nuggets were a mess entering the 2013-14 season. Star forward Andre Iguodala wanted out, and had bolted for the Warriors. Star forward Kenneth Faried earned a big contract and became a less impactful player. Guard Ty Lawson, the floor leader, had legal issues and was chronically clashing with Shaw and his assistants.

A job that was, at best, only modestly attractive – several folks around the league cautioned Shaw – became downright hazardous. Shaw’s blood pressure and the losses on his coaching ledger were rising at the same warp speed.

Why take the job in the first place? Well, despite – and because of – his connection with the legendary coach Phil Jackson, the Lakers bypassed him to hire Mike Brown in 2011. Shaw could have more easily digested this if new owner Jim Buss, who had taken over for his ultra-successful father, Dr. Jerry Buss, had made courtesy phone call to deliver the news.

Shaw left for two seasons as an assistant in Indiana. And when the Nuggets were seeking a coach in June 2013, Shaw jumped.

“That was my 12th head coaching interview,” Shaw said. “And every time I went on an interview, they would say they’d like to hire someone with head coaching experience. So I had to get some head-coaching experience somewhere.”

Going to Denver, where Shaw never wanted to be, nearly derailed his coaching career. He was 56-85 with the Nuggets before he was fired with six weeks left in the 2014-15 season. After spending last season visiting NBA teams and doing TV analysis for NBA-TV, he took a call from Walton and contemplated returning to LA.

Jim Buss was still in the big chair. Mitch Kupchak, one of the few holdovers, was still the general manager. Why would Shaw go back to the organization that treated him so shabbily?

There was the influence of Walton, who played under the Jackson-Shaw staff, and made a convincing pitch. There was the need to patch things with Buss and Kupchak, which was done with frank, and sometimes vociferous, discussion.

There also was this: Shaw never wanted to leave the Lakers. But when Jim Buss took over, he made the decision to purge many longtime employees, including Shaw, who after spent four seasons as a player and six more as an assistant under Jackson.

Though Shaw concedes to a fondness for the Warriors – he spent half a season with the team in 1997-98 and once acknowledged that he’d love to some day become the GM of his hometown team – his greatest NBA days have come with the Lakers, where he won three championship rings as a player and two more as an assistant coach.

“I don’t look at this as a second chance,” he said. “I made the choice to come here and do this. I have a great relationship with Luke. So I’m good. I’m content with where I am and what I’m doing now. My wife says she doesn’t care if I’m never a head coach again.

“But if I got the opportunity again, now I don’t have to take it if it’s not the right situation.”

Warriors thought they had found consistency, but it vanished in Mavs loss

Warriors thought they had found consistency, but it vanished in Mavs loss

OAKLAND - Less than a week ago, the Warriors were seemingly out of their post-All-Star Game hangover. 

Following a 4-5 start after the break, the Warriors entered Saturday evening having won four of their last five games. They beat the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets, and crushed the Pacers 112-89, all but alleviating any ill will entering the final 11 games of the season. 

Two days later, that equity all but vanished against the Mavericks, who handed the Steph Curry-less Warriors a 126-91 loss, the team's worst under coach Steve Kerr at home, exposing, at least for a night, the inconsistency that's marred the champs for most of the season. 

"A lot of breakdowns," Kerr said. "A lot of miscommunications or lack of communication." 

With the Warriors in a malaise, the Mavericks jumped out to a 35-16 lead in a first quarter that saw Dallas shoot 65 percent from the field, including two 3-pointers from Dirk Nowitzki. By halftime, Dallas had built a 28-point advantage. More alarming was Golden State's offense, which made just 40 percent its shots, was Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson combined to go 13-of-38 from the field.

The loss dropped Golden State a half-game behind the Denver Nuggets for the top spot in the Western Conference.

Performances like Saturday night have been an all-too-familiar occurrence for a team pushing for its third straight title. Of the team's 11 losses at home this season, six have been by more than 23 points, and three have been by teams eliminated from playoff contention. 

"It is weird, you're supposed to win at home," Green said. "And you expect to win at home. We've had quite a few letdowns this year."

"These late-season games for teams like Dallas, who are out of the playoffs, it's a free swing," Kerr added. "There's no pressure. We talked about that before the game. We knew they'd come out firing and playing with freedom and just letting it loose. I kind of expected a slow start, a little bit of a letdown game, but I thought we'd pull it together." 

Most curious about Saturday's loss is that it came during a stretch where Golden State was playing its best basketball of the season. Entering Saturday, the Warriors were 4-1 over their last five games, holding opponents to just 98.8 points per game, posting a 97.8 defensive rating.

[RELATED: Oracle not an advantage anymore]

Two weeks ago, following the loss to Phoenix, the Warriors stated their goal to was to reach the top seed in the Western Conference for the fourth time in five seasons. But, as Saturday proved, that will require a consistency the Warriors have struggled to find much of the season. Fortunately for the champs, they'll have another chance less than 24 hours, against the Detroit Pistons, to find it. 

"I think everybody in that locker room had their asses beat down," Durant said. "We all did. I know this experience is different with how much winning we've done the past few years, but we still are in the NBA... And guys have been a part of terrible games, along with great games as well, so the good thing about it is we play tomorrow night too."

Roaracle no more: For Warriors, Oracle no longer real home court advantage

Roaracle no more: For Warriors, Oracle no longer real home court advantage

OAKLAND – It’s old and cranky and probably bitter about being abandoned.

That would explain why the magic of Oracle Arena, once the most reliable component of recent seasons – the best stretch in franchise history – has turned on the Warriors this season.

The cloak of invincibility they used to wear like a shield has been shot through with holes signifying vulnerability, the latest example coming Saturday in a 126-91 shellacking under a torrent of 3-pointers by the openly transitioning and largely nondescript Dallas Mavericks.

For all the talk about chasing the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference – which still is probable – and having home-court advantage for as much of the postseason as possible, the Warriors in this game were light on both spirit and performance.

The talk might be appropriate for reasons of identifying a goal, but it is profoundly hollow in the face of reality. With a home record (25-11) that is one game better than the road record (24-12), the Warriors no longer have a real home-court advantage. It has been weakening for a couple years, and now it’s as gone as the easily affordable ticket.

“It is weird,” Draymond Green said. “You’re supposed to win at home. And you expect to win at home. We’ve had quite a few letdowns this year.”

This 35-point loss is, however, the worst in 200 games at Oracle under coach Steve Kerr. And it comes 18 days after the previous worst, a 33-point drubbing by the Boston Celtics on March 5.

The Warriors went 39-2 at home in 2014-15. That’s a home-court advantage. They were 39-2 the next season, solidifying their dominance at Oracle. They thought they might be slipping when they were 36-5 at home in 2016-17.

The real slip came last season, when the Warriors were no better at home than on the road, posting 29-12 records in both columns. That, folks, is not a home-court advantage at all.

The Warriors, coaches and players, expressed a strong desire, to make this season, the last in Oakland and at Oracle, special and memorable. Give Oracle a proper farewell. Go out with a splash.

This was the sixth time this season they’ve lost a home game by at least 20 points. The Bucks (134-111 on Nov. 8) were terrific, the Thunder (123-95 on Nov. 21) were rolling, the Raptors (113-93) were out to make a statement, as were the Celtics (128-95).

But the other two blowouts, to the Lakers (127-101 on Christmas Day) and the Mavericks should be unfathomable, no matter how bored the Warriors might be with the regular season.

“You kind of sensed the energy wasn’t there,” Green said. “That’s kind of normal in a game like that. I didn’t really get the sense we would lose by 40.”

It was 35, but it may as well have been 40, as Dallas led by as much as 43.

The Mavericks, who had lost their last 12 games at Oracle, attacked from the start and never backed off. Nor was this 28-44 team put in its place. Dallas drilled 13 3-pointers in the first half and finished with 21 triples (in 49 attempts), one short of their season-high and tying the Rockets’ total (on Jan. 3) for the most against the Warriors this season.

Houston’s 21 triples also came at Oracle.

What magic?

“It was their offense and it was our (defensive) breakdowns,” Klay Thompson said.

The Warriors lacked verve at both ends. They defended as if they had no respect for the Mavericks and compounded that by shooting 40 percent overall and only 13.3 percent (4-of-30) from distance.

The Warriors were down by 12 (14-2) less than four minutes after tipoff, down by 23 (51-28) less than three minutes into the second quarter. Six different Mavericks made at least two triples, with rookie sensation Luka Doncic banging four and Dirk Nowitzki, in what may be his last season, draining a season-high five while totaling a season-high 21 points.

“I think everybody in that locker room has gotten their asses beaten at home before,” Kevin Durant said. “I know this experience is different, with how much winning we’ve done the last few years. But we’re still in the NBA. Guys have been a part of terrible games, along with the great games as well.

“The good thing about it is we play (Sunday) night, too.”

Well, yes. The Detroit Pistons come into Oracle for their annual visit. They won here last season. They’re nearly as beatable as the Mavericks, as if that matters.

Oracle doesn’t mean what it once did for the Warriors, who don’t exploit its advantages as they have in the past. If the Warriors are to win another championship, we’ve seen enough to know home court won’t be the deciding factor.