Steve Kerr resorts to humor for control damage with Warriors in turmoil

Steve Kerr resorts to humor for control damage with Warriors in turmoil

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.

[RELATED: What went right, what went wrong in loss to Suns]

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.

Warriors' Steve Kerr makes odd request of Steph Curry in NBA playoffs

Warriors' Steve Kerr makes odd request of Steph Curry in NBA playoffs

OAKLAND — Steve Kerr’s latest request of Steph Curry is short, simple and initially puzzling: Let ‘em score.

Three words, easily understood, but completely against the competitive instincts of an elite NBA player conditioned to accept defense as an essential part of the game.

Kerr isn’t telling Curry to neglect defense. Rather, the coach is advising his superstar to weigh his overall value to the Warriors in the NBA playoffs against the significance of committing fouls in hopes of preventing two points.

“Sometimes, he just gets in the habit of trying to strip the ball,” Kerr said Tuesday after practice. “So, more than anything, it’s just about trying to get him past that habit. I keep telling him how valuable he is. I’d much rather he just got out of the guy’s way and gave him a layup and kept playing.

“He’s much more valuable than two points. And we’ve got plenty of help; our defense is predicated on help.”

This, in the big picture, makes sense. While the Warriors seek to close out the Clippers in Game 5 of their first-round series Wednesday, advancing likely means getting a dose of potent Houston.

Anyone care to imagine Curry on the bench with foul trouble against the Rockets?

Curry’s impact against Los Angeles was neutralized by foul trouble in Games 3 and 4. Though having him on the bench for long stretches, saddled with foul trouble, is not ideal in this series, it would invite disaster should the Warriors advance and face Houston.

After committing four or more fouls just four times over the final 27 games of the regular season, Curry has been whistled at least that often in every game against LA. Picking up five fouls in Game 3, including his fourth early in the third quarter, limited him to 20 minutes.

So Curry, prior to Game 4, put a message on his shoes, “No Reach” -- a reminder to avoid a tendency that usually is his quickest route to foul trouble.

“I have confidence in my hand-eye coordination and hand speed,” Curry said. “That’s how I get steals usually, by being quick. But that’s how I get fouls, too, so I’ve got to balance both of them.

“The ones I’ve had trouble with in this series are ones that I shouldn’t even be in that situation to begin with. There’s help behind the play. I’m not even involved in the play, really. I’m just kind of lunging at it. That’s just a lack of focus.

“We could nitpick each one of them and understand exactly why. But at the end of the day, I’ve got to continue to stay on the floor on our normal rotations and not foul.”

There was progress in Game 4 insofar as Curry generally avoided reaching. And when he committed his third foul with 4:16 left in the first half, Kerr stayed with him.

Curry rewarded the coach by playing the rest of the half and the entire third quarter without a whistle. He played 35 minutes, committing four fouls.

Moreover, the Warriors won both games.

[RELATED: Beverley explains why he doesn't talk trash to Curry]

“If he’s got a couple fouls already, he should be able to play with those fouls,” Kerr said. “I’ve always trusted him. Since I’ve been here, I’ve generally played him with two fouls in the first half or three in the third quarter. I believe in letting a guy go, letting him play, a star player like that especially. The second half was a great sign that he’s kind of made it past that habit.”

The Warriors would like to think so.

They’d like to believe that building better habits in this series will make them stronger in the next one. History has shown they are strongest with Curry on the floor.

Richard Jefferson offers opinion on Kevin Durant's comments about media

Richard Jefferson offers opinion on Kevin Durant's comments about media

Programming note: Watch the pregame edition of Warriors Outsiders on Wednesday night at 6, streaming live on the MyTeams app.

Richard Jefferson gets paid to talk about basketball and express his opinions.

Over the last couple of years, he hasn't shied away from discussing his feelings about the Warriors and/or Kevin Durant.

On Tuesday, he was a guest on ESPN's show "The Jump" and KD's recent comments about the media was obviously a topic of conversation.

"You go back and look at the history of the game -- Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, the amount of pressure that they had to save this league; Michael Jordan, no player to me has ever had so much weight on his shoulders; then you go forward to Kobe Bryant after the post-Jordan era; then all of a sudden Kobe kind of faded away because LeBron James was in the prime of his career.

"If you want that 'Best player, I'm going to be the guy to hold this league down the next five years' (title), you need to be able to handle this better than how he (Durant) has," Jefferson said. "We need you, the game of basketball needs you to be better at this."

So what did KD say exactly?

“They need me. If I wasn’t a free agent, none of this s--t would go on, right?" the reigning two-time Finals MVP told NBC Sports Bay Area's Logan Murdock. “ None of this speculation about who I am, what’s wrong with my mental, why I’m miserable, why I ain’t happy with life. Nothing.”

Last summer, Durant elected to sign another "1+1" contract with the Warriors in order to maintain flexibility and possess the option to become a free agent again this summer. Ever since, there has been rampant speculation about his future and incessant discussion about his state of mind.

Back in mid-November, Steph Curry said: "With how active our guys are on social media, it’s hard not to see that stuff. But it tests your character, makes you figure out how to compartmentalize stuff. Either you take it as entertainment or you get influenced by it. Whatever you think, however you are in real life, in terms of how impressionable you are, how insecure you might be, how confident in yourself you might be, that’ll all reflect in how you handle it.”

Things boiled over for Durant in early February when the 10-time All-Star broke his silence and lashed out at the media following the Warriors' win over the Spurs.

[RELATEDJerry West believes Warriors' weak point is very obvious]

Jefferson has the utmost respect for KD the basketball player, but believes he needs to tweak his approach to reporters.

"I think he's on the Mount Rushmore of this generation," Jefferson added. "But make no mistake, the game of basketball -- which has provided for me, all of us, all of our families and his -- needs him to be able to handle this better because that's what the title of 'king' means.

"When you are the king, when you are No. 1, that means you have a ton more responsibility that you have to handle or you're not fit for that."

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