Steve Kerr’s toughest job: Winning over Warriors players

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The Golden State Warriors’ players loved Mark Jackson. They had bonded over basketball and religious faith, they were willing to run through walls for him.

And he got unceremoniously axed. Something he and everyone else knew was coming.

Ric Bucher points out something interesting at Bleacher Report — notice there have been no welcoming tweets, no tweets of support for Kerr from any of the Warriors players?

That’s not an accident.

“That is out of loyalty to Coach Jackson,” said the player, who requested anonymity. “It has nothing to do with Steve. Just meeting him when he worked our games, he seems like a nice guy. It has to do more with how Coach was done. Guys loved Coach Jackson. They’d run through a wall for him. It hasn’t really set in that he’s gone and someone else has been hired.”

The players’ pointed silence is about Jackson, despite their pleas that he be retained, getting axed less than 72 hours after their season ended with a first-round Game 7 loss on the road to the Los Angeles Clippers. It’s about Jackson, as a first-time coach, having to settle for a four-year, $8 million deal, while Kerr, a first-time coach, signed a five-year, $25 million package, totally guaranteed. It’s about the vast majority of the players and staff sharing Jackson’s Christian faith and attending services to hear him preach at his non-denominational church, while knowing that Kerr developed a similar bond with team owner Joe Lacob over two decades of shared golf and venture capital interests.

Of all of the obstacles in Kerr’s way as a first-time coach, this is the biggest.

It’s not that Kerr can’t coach or motivate (we don’t know), it’s not that the players dislike him. It’s that he’s not Mark Jackson.

Kerr realizes it to and talked about that with Monte Poole of CSNBayArea.com.

“I know I have big shoes to fill,” Kerr said Friday, speaking from his San Diego home. “Mark was very successful there and has done a great job with the players. They all appreciated him.

“But I look at that as a positive because I’m inheriting a good team. I’d rather inherit a good team with expectations than a bad team with a low bar. It’s not even close. So I’m aware there are going to be expectations. That comes with the territory. I would challenge anybody to find a job in the NBA that isn’t rife with challenges. They’re all just a little different.”

Kerr said he has talked to virtually every single player, which is a start.

What Kerr has going for him is that this team is good, and it is close to contending. The players know it. They don’t want to throw that away on a futile protest, they still want to win. Kerr can rally them around that idea, try to lift them to the next level with a new system and different energy.

Eventually he should get everyone to buy in, but it’s going to take a lot of work. That’s not all on Kerr, it’s really on owner Joe Lacob.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich: I’ve never seen injury like Kawhi Leonard’s

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Gregg Popovich is a basketball lifer.

He’s the NBA’s most experienced active head coach. Before that, he was the Spurs’ general manager. Before that, he was an NBA assistant. Before that, he was a college head coach and assistant. Before that, he was a college player. Before that, he was a youth player.

The San Antonio coach has seen everything.

Except the right quadriceps tendinopathy suffered by Kawhi Leonard, whom Popovich said more than a week would return “sooner rather than later.” Yet, Leonard still hasn’t played this season.

Popovich, via Michael C. Wright of ESPN:

“Never, never,” Popovich said when asked whether he has seen such a condition hampering one of his players. “What’s really strange is that [point guard] Tony [Parker] has the same injury, but even worse. They had to go operate on his quad tendon and put it back together or whatever they did to it. So to have two guys, that’s pretty incredible. I had never seen it before those guys.”

“I keep saying sooner rather than later,” Popovich said jokingly. “It’s kind of like being a politician. It’s all baloney, doesn’t mean anything.”

The 26-year-old Leonard is one of the NBA’s biggest on-court stars. He might be the league’s best defender, and he has built himself into an offensive force. The Spurs (11-7) have fared fine without him so far, but they’ll need him to accomplish their main goals – this year and beyond.

Hopefully, Leonard’s health is better than it sounds here, because Popovich’s answer sure isn’t encouraging.

Tim Hardaway Jr. calls fallen ref safe rather than defend shot (video)

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The Knicks went on a 28-0 run.

They earned the right to showboat late in their win over the Raptors last night.

Tim Hardaway Jr. called a ref, who slipped on the baseline, safe rather than contest Serge Ibaka‘s 3-pointer. Perfection!

Luc Mbah a Moute sets modern record at +57 in Rockets’ win over Nuggets

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Luc Mbah a Moute is a quietly good player.

He’s an effective and versatile defender. Offensively, he shoots 3-pointers well enough to score efficiently and spread the floor. Most of all, the 31-year-old just understands how to play and plays within himself. His teams tend to perform better when he’s on the floor.

That’s an understatement for Wednesday night.

In a 125-95 win, the Rockets outscored the Nuggets by a whopping 57 points in Mbah a Moute’s 26 minutes. That’s the best single-game plus-minus in the Basketball-Reference database, which dates back to the 2000-01 season. It tops Joe Smith’s +52 in a 2001 Timberwolves win over the Bulls, a 53-point game that also produced a +50 for Wally Szczerbiak and +48 for Terrell Brandon.

Mbah a Moute’s traditional stat line was impressive, though not overly so: 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting with four rebounds, four steals and an assist. He played well, contributing to winning in all the small ways he often does, and the Rockets happened to play excellently around him.

Now, Mbah a Moute tops the leaderboard in single-game plus-minus since 2000-01:

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Did Russell Westbrook get mad at Steven Adams for not taking potential triple-double-clinching shot? (video)

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Russell Westbrook chases triple-doubles.

That hardly makes him unique. He’s just close enough to the feat more often than other players, so he chases them more often.

But he still chases them.

Late in the Thunder’s 108-91 win over the Warriors last night, Westbrook was heading toward his final line of 34 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. His teammates shot off his passes on three of Oklahoma City’s final four possessions before he took a seat (including one assist). The exception came when he passed to Steven Adams, who passed rather than shoot – clearly upsetting Westbrook.

Was Westbrook mad because he missed his chance at a triple-double? Maybe.

Was Westbrook mad because Adams passed as the shot clock neared expiration? Maybe.

It could be both!

Watch Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry on Golden State’s bench. They clearly found something funny.