Win over Sixers may be what Warriors need to recalibrate themselves

Win over Sixers may be what Warriors need to recalibrate themselves

OAKLAND -- The Golden State Warriors will take some solace in knowing they did not start the last 20 percent of their season with a ghastly home loss to the Philadelphia-Seventy-For-God’s-Sake-Sixers.

In fact, as part of their never-mind-what-you-see-just-listen-to-what-we-tell-you campaign that they have employed over the past two weeks, they postulated that Tuesday’s 106-104 victory over the Not-Nearly-As-Bad-As-They-Used-To-Bes was just the thing they needed to recalibrate themselves for the final 15 games of their Durantless season.

You can buy it if you want to, but that sound of Steve Kerr retching into the trunk of his car is unmistakable.

For three quarters they were as listless as they were aimless, defending without commitment, rebounding only intermittently, taking a laissez-faire approach to loose balls and shooting more out of hope than purpose. They trailed the Sixers by 16 points with 1:55 left in the third quarter, and they deserved every bit of the distance.

But because they are the Warriors, they can do the thing all coaches hate to see because of what it typically says about their team – they can make themselves invincible at a moment’s warning, to the point where they almost come to take its existence as an endlessly renewable resource.

Which is rich, given the fact that they had lost five of their previous seven games playing just as they had Tuesday. Yet the fact is that they still can do it, as Klay Thompson said with typical subsonic blandness.

“We’re gonna find our groove,” he said. “We’re not concerned at all. We’re gonna be all right.”

And because he doesn’t like wasting energy telling meaningless fibs, you tend to believe him when he says it. They are the Warriors. They eat souls when food is not available.

Which brings us to Draymond Green, whose pointed second quarter lecture to the other enlisted men about how hard it is to break out of a rut took on an almost singular ferocity in the fourth quarter. He scored seven points, which isn’t that noteworthy, but they came with four rebounds, three blocks and a brilliant tactical foul on Dario Saric with 2.6 seconds left and a 106-103 lead.

He was, in short, the spur (no pun intended) in the Warriors’ exposed flanks that caused them to stop, at least for the moment, their barrel-roll into Ordinary Flats.

“I just reminded the guys that we’ve been in a little bit of a rut,” he said, “and that the only way to change that is to grind yourself out, grind your way out of it . . . you don’t go into a rut and then come out and hit 20 threes. It just don’t work like that. Once we started to defend, everything else started to go our way.”

Oh, there were other hints that they weren’t that far from their A-games. Stephen Curry, in the midst of his worst shooting slump since he was playing for free, broke out a 12-point fourth quarter to mask the 4-for-17 he offered before that. Thompson was solid throughout en route to a 28-point, five-trey night, and Andre Iguodala was more intrepid offensively in his 33 minutes of play.

Still, it’s home, it’s the Sixers, and it’s a game they led for barely 10 minutes. By the rules of run of play, they should have lost discordantly, and comprehensively.

But because they are who they are, as we have covered, they typically run the run of play because they remain at their essence the most combustible team in the game, at both ends of the floor and in the tunnel on their way to and from the game. They find the pilot light and turn it into a bonfire when they need to – almost when they feel like it.

They have to feel like it a lot now, however. The final 15 games of the regular season, which should have been a turgid countdown toward winning the top seed in the West while waiting for Durant’s knee to stop misbehaving, are now a measure of what the Warriors can do with a bit of desperation in their bellies. It is hard to imagine Kerr so toeing the Popovichian party line on the meaninglessness of seeding that he would rather the Warriors open the postseason with Memphis or Oklahoma City than Denver or Portland.

Indeed, with an eye toward breaking out of their blah, he tweaked his rotations to find better minutes for Shaun Livingston, more minutes for Ian Clark, better shots for Curry, some four-time from Matt Barnes and some sign of ignitions from big men Zaza Pachulia and JaVale McGee. He will tweak more as the Warriors try to relocate their swagger, or at least pimp their grinding so it looks a little more like swagger and a little less like hotplate panic.

And in the end, he got Green’s most ornery leadership, a few late shots from Curry after three quarters of awful (4-for-17, and a near full-on case of the yips), the defense that made the Warriors the Warriors, and a lesson he can use until they regain their routine equilibrium.

If it were only that simple . . . no, wait. Apparently, the Warriors are hell-bent on proving that it can be just that.

Many reasons why Klay Thompson wants to play for Warriors his entire career

Many reasons why Klay Thompson wants to play for Warriors his entire career

Don’t fall for the stories implying the Warriors, because they are so collaborative, are a team comprising individuals without ego. It’s an oft-implied crock, a myth that fits a particular and happy narrative.

So please dismiss the notion that Klay Thompson is without ego. If he were, he would not be a four-time All-Star. And he surely would not be so swaggeringly confident that every jump shot he takes, no matter the conditions or whether he has missed nine in a row, is destined to drop through the net.

Thompson, 28, has a keen awareness of his interests, and being individually celebrated for basketball is nowhere near the top of his list. Despite the bon vivant lifestyle conveyed through social media, his hoops motto is not “look at me” but “look at us.”

So when Thompson becomes a free agent next July -- unless he agrees to a prior extension -- he isn’t the type to shop himself with designs on being “that dude.” Those emotionally attached to the Warriors can take comfort when Thompson says, as he did a few days ago, that he wants to be a Warrior “for life.”

Thompson’s father, Mychal, whose NBA career lasted 13 years, took it step further.

“You can mark it down,” Mychal Thompson said over the weekend.

This is in accord with what I was told in a conversation with Mychal last month. In multiple chats over the past year, he has been firm in his belief that his son would re-sign with the Warriors.

It’s in line with what Klay told NBC Sports Bay Area last Sept. 29, saying he wanted to be a part of a group that could “be known as one of the greatest teams of our era.”

As Thompson’s incumbent team, the Warriors have the advantage. They can pay him more than any other team might offer. And he is amenable to taking a discounted contract -- though discounted only so much.

The Warriors have given every indication they understand Thompson’s value, which goes beyond the tangible. He has played for two NBA coaches, Mark Jackson and Steve Kerr, both of whom concluded Thompson requires zero maintenance. That attribute, folks, is rare and precious.

Growing up the middle son in a NBA household, Klay was taught to appreciate collective success. When he says he doesn’t take the prosperity of the Warriors for granted, as he often does, he means it.

Growing up between two athletic brothers, Mychel and Trayce, Klay learned teamwork in a very real sense. Julie Thompson is more reticent than her husband Mychal -- as is 99 percent of the world’s population -- but is, above all, a voice of reason. When she speaks, the family listens.

Since being drafted in 2011, Thompson has made six trips to the playoffs in seven seasons, missing only as a rookie.  Of those six consecutive playoff appearances, the last four have landed the Warriors in the NBA Finals, with three championships to show for it. He has been the physical backbone of the squad, missing the fewest games and excelling on both offense and defense.

Thompson has had, by any measure, a charmed career. He knows this would not be true if not for the contributions of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Andre Igoudala, Shaun Livingston and a couple dozen others who wore the same jersey.

So when it’s time to put a name in big, bold letters atop the marquee, Klay would be the last Warrior to care. He doesn’t want it, partly because he doesn’t like it but mostly such trivialities give him no gratification.

Nah, he’d rather ride this wave for as long as it’s going.

Mychal Thompson wants Klay to emulate James Harden in one aspect in 2018-19

Mychal Thompson wants Klay to emulate James Harden in one aspect in 2018-19

Klay Thompson is a well-rounded, versatile player. He shot 52.6 percent from 2-point range last season. He shot 44 percent from 3-point range. He made 83.7 percent of his free throws. He averaged 2.5 assists per game. He's the Warriors' best perimeter defender.

There's not a noticeable weakness to his game.

But his father Mychal spoke to the San Francisco Chronicle's Scott Ostler on Saturday to talk about what kind of differences we'll see in Klay will be during the 2018-19 season and he shared the goal he's set for his son.

"I think you'll see a hungrier player. He's going to try to get more versatile, try to get to the basket a little more, more free throws, being more efficient on offense that way. I always tell him, try to make it a goal to shoot eight (free throws) a game. Eight or 10, like James Harden does," Mychal Thompson told Ostler.

Thompson attempted a career low 1.3 free throw attempts last season. His high-water mark was 3.3 free throw attempts per game during the 2014-15 season. By comparison, Harden attempted 10.1 free throw attempts last season and has surpassed 10 attempts per game in five of the last six seasons.

Of course, the elder Thompson was asked about his son's free agency next summer. Klay told the Bay Area News Group on Saturday that he wants to remain with the Warriors for the rest of his career. His father said the same thing at the Thompson Family Foundation's charity golf tournament on Saturday.

“Oh yeah, you can mark it down. Klay’s going to retire in the Warriors’ uniform. He’s going to play at Chase Center (the Warriors’ new arena, opening in 2019), and he’s not going to be at Chase Center as a visiting player, he’s going to be a Warrior for the next seven or eight years," Mychal said according to The Chronicle.