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Three things to know: Kerr is honest about Warriors after blowout loss, 1-5 road trip

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Michael Holley and Vincent Goodwill discuss the state of the Golden State Warriors following a blowout loss the New York Knicks, and wonder if the Warriors can even make the playoffs without Steph Curry.

Three Things is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out NBCSports.com every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks that make the NBA must-watch.

1) Kerr is honest about Warriors after blowout loss, 1-5 road trip

The Golden State Warriors are not a good basketball team right now.

We all know Stephen Curry is out with a shoulder injury, and there have been flashes this season that reminds us these Warriors won the championship six months ago and can reach those heights again.

But that’s not who they are today, is it coach Steve Kerr?

“You are what your record says you are,” Kerr said in his postgame press conference, echoing a Bill Parcells line. “It was a bad road trip. We are 15-18, so we’re a below-.500 team, and we’ve got to find a way to reverse that.”
The Warriors

Kerr’s comments came after the Brooklyn Nets put up 91 points on the Warriors Wednesday night — in the first half.

Is everyone excited about the Warriors playing on Christmas Day now?

The Nets didn’t set the record, that’s the third most points scored in half an NBA game in league history. As bad as the Warriors’ defensive effort was, everything went right for the Nets in those first 24 minutes: they shot 71.4% overall, 13-of-19 from 3, had 19 fast break points and 30 points in the paint.

The Nets fans were even on point Wednesday.

Kevin Durant scored 23 and led nine Nets in double figures as Brooklyn went on to win 143-113.

There are reasons for this uninspired Warriors outing: The last game of a road trip, one where they rested Klay Thompson in addition to Curry being out, plus there was a real “let’s just get through the week before Christmas” energy. On top of all that, the Warriors ran into a hot Nets team that is healthy and putting things together.

We keep giving the Warriors the benefit of the doubt — and with good reason, we saw what the core of the Warriors can do back in June. But this is not the same team. It lost some of its depth — Otto Porter, Gary Payton II, Juan Toscano-Anderson — and the Warriors’ younger generation has not been able to step up and fill those spots in the rotation. Beyond that, these Warriors have not taken the first third of the regular season seriously, they have not built good habits, and the team with the best defensive rating in the league last season is 24th this season.

Nobody is running away with the West this season, but the Warriors’ slow start — not likely to get better in the coming weeks with Curry still out — is going to leave the Warriors fighting for a middle-of-the-pack playoff spot if/when they do turn it around, and the path from there to the Finals is much more difficult. Nobody is counting the Warriors out, but they and their fans have to know their path to repeating gets tougher and tougher with every ugly loss.

2) Cavaliers take a step forward with win over Bucks

Like the Warriors mentioned above, when it gets to the playoffs we’re going to trust the Milwaukee Bucks. They have done it before and have a ring. They have Giannis Antetokounmpo. They have experience and are not using their top gears in December (but they may shift up one for Boston on Christmas Day).

The Cavaliers are good and young but have not yet earned that level of trust.

However, Cleveland took care of business against Milwaukee on Wednesday night and showed some maturity, looking like a team taking a step forward toward being a real postseason threat to the top two teams in the East. The Cavs built an early lead and then held off the Bucks’ second-half runs to pick up the 114-106 win behind 36 from Donovan Mitchell.

There are no statement games in December and this win will be forgotten if the Bucks and Cavaliers meet in the playoffs, but this was a confidence-boosting win for a Cleveland team that looks more and more dangerous with each step forward. It’s a good sign.

That said, Antetokounmpo was the best player in this game and would be a serious problem in a playoff series.

3) NBA shows it does not care about tampering

This year there were 38 new contracts agreed to and seven contract extensions signed on the first day of NBA free agency — nearly half of them the first 90 minutes after the free agent window opened. That is a lot of tampering, using the NBA’s by-the-book definition.

Teams shrug. That’s how the game is played. Every GM in this league would give up a future second-round pick to land an All-Star level player.

That’s the price the NBA set when it slapped the Knicks on the wrist for tampering. The NBA’s nearly five-month investigation into the Knicks’ recruitment of Jalen Brunson concluded that New York “violated league rules governing the timing of this season’s free agency discussions.” Meaning the Knicks tampered with Brunson.

The price: The Knicks lose their 2025 second-round pick.

The Knicks will gladly pay it. Brunson is averaging 20.8 points and 6.2 assists a game, has been the steady floor general the Knicks need and has played like an All-Star.

Rarely will there be cases with such blatant evidence of tampering — there were multiple reports the sides had agreed to terms before free agency officially opened. Also, the Knicks hired Brunson’s father, Rick Brunson, as an assistant coach (although he has been on Tom Thibodeau’s staff before). Then there was Knicks executives William “World Wide Wes” Wesley and Allan Houston, as well as forward Julius Randle, sitting courtside for a Mavericks-Jazz playoff game in Dallas (to be seen by Brunson). And the list goes on and on.

The recruitment worked and Brunson agreed to sign with the New York Knicks for four years, $104 million early in free agency.

There is an easy fix here: Allow free agents to be to talk to teams once their season ends. To use Brunson as an example, why shouldn’t the Knicks or other teams have been able to contact him once the Mavericks’ season ended? We all get why the NBA wants to stop teams from tampering with players still under contract — reaching out to Kevin Durant or Luka Doncic, for example — but for a free agent to be in the lame duck last month of their deal? Who cares.

BONUS THING TO KNOW: Bulls’ Ayo Dosunmu with the putback game-winner

The Bulls and Hawks were tied 108-108 with :04 left, the Bulls were inbounding the ball and got it to DeMar DeRozan, who faked left and then spun back toward the baseline for a fadeaway. Four Hawks were around the basket to get a rebound but none of them put a body on the Bulls’ Dosunmu, who slid past all of them to get the rebound and hit the putback game-winner for Chicago.