OAKLAND -- They can’t deny the turmoil. The disgust is too visible, the frustration too consistent, the concerns too deeply embedded.
The Warriors these days are about as unhappy and disengaged as any point since 2014, when Steve Kerr took over as coach and they became the NBA’s gold standard.
So on Monday, roughly 16 hours after internal conflicts contributed to blowing a 16-point lead at home, Kerr resorted to humor in hopes of alleviating some of the gravity of this pivotal moment of the season.
Caught on video Sunday expressing sheer and profane frustration -- according to amateur lip-readers -- with the antics of forward Draymond Green during the loss to the Suns, Kerr opted to alter his statement.
“The lip-readers were wrong,” he said, eyes twinkling. “What I said was, ‘I beg to differ with Draymond’s approach tonight.’ Those are my exact words. I don’t know how somebody misconstrued that.”
Though Kerr shed no light on the precise source of his exasperation, league sources indicated at least part of it was related to Green and other Warriors making it a habit to question, sometimes aggressively, calls by officials.
Kerr did mention, without connecting it to any annoyance with Green, the team’s relationship with officials.
“We did have a good game going,” he said, referring to building a 27-11 lead over Phoenix in the first nine minutes. “And then things went south.
“We need to stop looking at the officials. We’re complaining too much to the referees. We’re expending too much energy arguing with the refs, instead of just playing. I don’t think that helped last night.
“We’re putting energy where it shouldn’t be,” Kerr summarized. “We need to put it where it needs to be.”
The misplacing of energy goes beyond the events of Sunday. It has been prevalent in too many games this season, with most of them resulting in defeat.
What made Sunday unique, however, was the breadth of the frustration. Not even the fans were spared.
Kevin Durant, as he headed to the locker room to have his right ankle examined, was overheard expressing irritation over the team not meeting its standard. DeMarcus Cousins didn’t conceal displeasure with being benched for the final 5:32 of a close game. Klay Thompson, interviewed postgame, expressed his disappointment in fans at Oracle Arena.
So, naturally, when asked about the team’s state of mind, Kerr was quick to reply.
“Frustrated,” he said. “Frustrated with our play, with ourselves, our approach. We all feel it.
“We’ve got to build some momentum. We’ve got to build better habits. We’ve got to stay connected emotionally. It’s the only way it can work.”
Yet it requires an iron commitment to stay connected in the age of public video and widespread trolling. Feelings get hurt. Reactions require maintenance. Anger festers and sometimes boils over.
When there is such maddening inconsistency from the team favored to win its third consecutive championship, every incident is magnified, every comment replayed, every loss dissected for deeper meaning.
That’s where the Warriors are. The irritations among them too often are on display.
Kerr did not divulge whether he had spoken with Green, but it is safe to presume they have.
“All of our players and coaches know we’ve got to be more consistent,” Kerr said. “But modern life ... if you don’t think those words have been uttered by every team in the history of basketball, you’re mistaken. It’s just that everything is on camera and lip-read, even when it’s the wrong interpretation.”
Which leaves Kerr and his staff trying to contain the fires within while team leaders frankly address making the corrections necessary to string together a few games that at least approach their standard.
And doing it knowing there are eyes and ears everywhere.
“It’s 2019,” Kerr said. “George Orwell was right; he just had the year wrong. He wrote '1984.' The title should have been '2012' or so. It’s modern life. Everything is recorded. Everything is filmed. I’ve decided I’m going to get a giant laminated board with all of my play calls and I’m going to turn into an NFL coach from here on out.”
Kerr was kidding, barely. At this stage, it might take something drastic for Warriors players and coaches to pull more of their best selves from what all too often are their worst selves.