Warriors

Steve Kerr's silence shows NBA-China relationship is league's third rail

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USATSI

Steve Kerr's silence shows NBA-China relationship is league's third rail

SAN FRANCISCO – The NBA has done so much to craft a progressive image, and been so careful about maintaining it, the league is caught in an international crossfire so sizzling that even Steve Kerr, so often the voice of reason, dares not get near it.

“Actually, I don’t,” was Kerr’s response when asked Monday night for his thoughts on the civil unrest in Hong Kong, where protesters are clashing with the Chinese government.

“It’s a really bizarre international story and a lot of us don’t know what to make of it. It’s something I’m reading about, just like everybody is. But I’m not going to comment further than that.”

What followed was five seconds of silence, finally pierced by the Warriors coach.

“You’re not used to me saying that, are you? No comment. You’re all stunned.”

Stunned, no. Surprised? Somewhat. But only a little bit, and there are two reasons.

First of all, this is not Kerr’s comfort zone. His social views are fairly well known by anyone who follows sports and politics. He urges Americans to vote. He believes President Trump is an aspiring dictator. The bullseye in Kerr’s circle of social concern is his staunch advocacy for national gun control, a stance formed from personal tragedy.

“What I’ve found is that it’s easy to speak on issues that I’m passionate about and that I feel like I’m well-versed on,” Kerr said. “And I’ve found that it makes the most sense to stick to topics that fall in that category. So, I try to keep my comments to those things. So, it’s not difficult. It’s more ... that I’m trying to learn.”

Secondly, and this is the real bag of vipers, is the financial partnership between the NBA and China. Or, should we say, the powers that be in China.

Everything eventually is about money. That is at the heart of the hottest NBA controversy since April 2014, when Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s life of certified bigotry leaked into our eardrums, angering players and embarrassing owners and every human being in the league office, including new commissioner Adam Silver.

The Sterling issue was a five on the 1-to-10 crisis scale because he was not a movement but a man. He could, for the good of all, be dismissed without a peep of protest beyond himself.

This latest controversy, which landed upon the NBA late Friday, after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted in support of the protesters in Hong Kong, is far more complicated because there can be no clean victory. This is a nine.

Morey’s tweet – “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.” – exposed his humanitarian principles. Once China got wind of it, the blowback was fast and fierce, forcing Morey to delete the tweet and his boss, Rockets chairman Tilman Fertitta, to parachute in to control the damage, scolding his GM as part of the process.

Claiming the Rockets are apolitical, Fertitta was not particularly successful because the damage runs too deep, as it always does when revenue is at stake. China is the NBA’s most lucrative partnership, and it was jeopardized with a single tweet. Chinese sponsors fled from the Rockets, as did the Chinese Basketball Association, of which Rockets Hall of Famer Yao Ming is president. Tencent, the Chinese digital media that covers most NBA games in the United States, is suspending coverage of the Rockets despite their popularity in China.

Silver was forced to respond because he’s the commissioner. The NBA issued a statement Sunday that apologized for Morey’s tweet, supported his right of expression and praised the “history and culture of China.”

We’re now on Day 5 of the outrage with no indication of a truce.

The Lakers and Nets are scheduled this week to play two preseason games in China. Silver will be in attendance. Questions will be asked. Of Silver. Of LeBron James. Of Kyrie Irving, I hope, simply because his response could be fascinating.

But no answer by anyone will please everyone.

The NBA’s reputation as a liberal paragon always has been a rather illusory, a myth perpetuated by social positions that are progressive when compared with other major American sports leagues. If there is a league interested in being on the right side of history, it is the NBA,

Still, it is a capitalist enterprise. When revenue streams and business partnerships are at stake, it’s wise to be prudent, to be mindful.

[RELATED: How Steph stunned D-Lo with first shot of preseason]

Kerr said he’d already emailed his brother-in-law, a “Chinese history professor,” seeking more enlightenment. Though he eventually may disagree with government policies, I know he sees cultural value in the NBA-China relationship. Even if he concludes the Chinese government is evil, he still may see the benefit in experiencing it.

For now, though, the wise move is to recognize nothing is worse than dismissing one’s ignorance to say or tweet something regrettable.

Warriors takeaways: What we learned in 112-94 loss to red-hot Kings

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Warriors takeaways: What we learned in 112-94 loss to red-hot Kings

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Warriors-Kings matchup has provided some fun in recent years. The fun was entirely one-sided Tuesday in Sacramento's 112-94 drubbing of Golden State. 

It was the Warriors' seven straight loss and their third consecutive to the Kings this season. Sacramento (24-33) can sweep a series with Golden State (12-46) for the first time since 2003 with a win on April 15. Kings guard De'Aaron Fox scored 21 points and dished out five assists as Sacramento won its third straight game. 

Here are three takeaways from another dejected Warriors performance in a season full of lows. 

Sloppy play dooms first half

The easiest way to catch Steve Kerr's ire is to turn the ball over, and the Warriors did just that Monday. They committed nine of their game-high 17 turnovers in the first half, allowing the Kings to hold a 12-point lead at halftime. 

The Warriors have turned the ball over a lot against the Kings this season. Golden State committed 20 turnovers against Sacramento the last time these two played in San Francisco, and the two teams combined for 57 in an unwatchable affair that night.

While their ballhandling improved in the second half, the Warriors' lack of talent all but sealed another loss. On most nights, Golden State won't be the best team on the floor. The Dubs have to limit mistakes enough to give themselves a chance. 

Warriors can't shoot

The Warriors became one of the best-ever shooting teams during their dynastic run. Golden State demoralized teams with a 3-point attack led by Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. Tuesday showed just how far the mighty have fallen. 

Thompson and Curry are sidelined, and the Warriors shot 4-for-28 (14 percent) from beyond the arc Tuesday. Even worse? The ways the Warriors missed. Marquese Chriss and rookie Juan Toscano-Anderson traded airballs in the first half, as the Warriors shot just 5.9 percent from 3-point range in the first two quarters.

The Warriors' 3-point struggles are understandable. Only one Golden State player who dressed Tuesday -- Damion Lee -- shot better than 35 percent from beyond the arc entering the night. As long as Curry and Thompson are out, the Warriors' 3-point shooting will continue to decline. 

[RELATED: Kerr says 'hope' is Steph can return to Dubs on March 1]

Chriss shines 

The last time Chriss faced his hometown team, he played knowing he'd be cut by the end of the evening to make room for Lee's multi-year contract. Chriss showed how indispensable he is to the Warriors right now Tuesday, finishing with 21 points and 10 rebounds in 25 minutes. 

Chriss showed his potential in the first half, jamming an alley-oop pass from Dragan Bender over Kings big man Harry Giles. By the end of the half, he scored 13 points and grabbed five rebounds. 

The 22-year-old has played well since signing a multi-year deal last month. Chriss has averaged 18.4 points and 9.0 rebounds over his last five games. If he continues his current pace, he'll be an intriguing piece when the Warriors are healthy next season.

Watch Steph Curry mesmerize adorable baby Warriors fan with high five

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USATSI

Watch Steph Curry mesmerize adorable baby Warriors fan with high five

Warriors fans intently watch Steph Curry during his pre-game shooting routine, especially now that the injured star is so close to returning to Golden State's lineup.

None, however, stared as intently at Curry on Tuesday at Chase Center as this adorable baby with primo floor access. 

Curry was kind enough to give the tiny fan one high five, but he completely left them hanging for a second! Steve Kerr said Saturday that news of Curry's participation in a scrimmage prompted a standing ovation from his teammates, but that was before the two-time MVP left a baby hanging. 

That probably won't diminish any excitement in Golden State's locker room, though, especially after Curry did Curry Things before the Warriors' game against the Kings on Tuesday. 

[RELATED: Klay shares moving tribute to Kobe after attending memorial]

Curry has not played since breaking his left hand on Oct. 30. Four months and two surgeries later, Kerr said "the hope" is that Curry returns to the Warriors' lineup Sunday against the Washington Wizards. 

The 31-year-old's hand will be re-evaluated Saturday, and he'll play if all goes well. Whether or not he's cleared, the Warriors at least know that his hand is capable of making a young fan's day.