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.

Report: Richard Jefferson signing with Nuggets

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Update: The Nuggets will waive Jameer Nelson, according to Wojnarowski:

It looks like Denver will ride with the younger Jamal Murray and Emmanuel Mudiay at point guard — a risky proposition. Nelson stabilized the position in the event Murray or Mudiay weren’t ready for bigger roles. The Nuggets aren’t hedging their bets now, which puts plenty of pressure on Murray and Mudiay.

Murray should be fine eventually. Mudiay’s promise is far less certain. But this is a team trying to reach the playoffs now, and it might have to ride out growing pains from its point guards without Nelson as a safety net.

 

Richard Jefferson became a late entrant into free agency when the Cavaliers traded him and the Hawks waived him.

But the forward is landing on his feet.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Jefferson could help the Nuggets, who look primed to end a four-season playoff drought. They were set to squeeze backup small-forward minutes behind Wilson Chandler out of the undersized Will Barton and oversized Juan Hernangomez. Jefferson is far more comfortable at the position.

He’s 37 and doesn’t offer long-term upside, but he’s a savvy defender and still pretty athletic. He picks his spots well enough offensively to help on that end, too.

But Denver also has a deep roster that already had 15 players on standard contracts. There’s not an obvious cut to make room for Jefferson, though the Nuggets clearly have something planned.

Sixers to keep Joel Embiid’s minutes in teens to start season, he’s not happy

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Joel Embiid wants to get on the court, he wants to unleash himself on the NBA this season. After three seasons of being bottled up — even in the 31 games he has played there was a minutes restriction — Embiid wants to impose his will on the league.

He’s going to have to do that in less than 20 minutes a night, at least to start the season.

Sixers coach Brett Brown says to start the season there will be a tight minutes limit on Embiid, who averaged less than 15 minutes in two preseason games after finally being cleared to play. Embiid does not like that. Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia has the quotes.

“I don’t really know if there’s a solid number,” Brett Brown said Monday after practice. “I can tell if you were to choose a number, it’s somewhere in the teens.”

“I didn’t know about that, but that’s very disappointing,” Embiid said Monday of the minutes restriction. “I feel great and hopefully that changes based on today’s practice and tomorrow’s practice.”

The Sixers being cautious with Embiid is about as surprising as the last Transformers movie sucking.

That said, if any particular game is close going into the fourth quarter don’t be shocked if Embiid breaks his minutes limit — this is a team that wants to start winning, and that means keeping their best players on the court longer. If Saturday night against the Raptors Brett Brown thinks giving Embiid 22-23 minutes helps get them the win, he will. The goal will be to get him up to the high 20s by the end of the season.

The real test for these Sixers will not be how the offense fairs with Embiid sitting — they have guys that can create and knock down shots if needed, such as Ben Simmons or J.J. Redick – instead it’s how well they can defend with him resting.

Report: Spurs signing LaMarcus Aldridge to two-year, $50 million contract extension

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From troubled to extended, LaMarcus Aldridge‘s Spurs tenure has changed directions in a hurry.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Piecing this together, Aldridge is exercising a $22,347,015 player option for 2018-19. That means his extension is worth $50 million over two years will carry him through age 35. All in all, Aldridge is now under contract for four more seasons.

Aldridge is a borderline All-Star, and he raises San Antonio’s floor. His back-to-the-bask mid-range games remains reliable, and he’s a willing defender. Him signing this deal should end pining for greener pastures, but it certainly won’t force him into diligent acceptance of his role forever. Players can become discontent whenever they please.

This extension significantly limits the Spurs flexibility the next two summers and maybe even in 2020, depending on Aldridge’s guarantee in the second year of his extension. They seem fine with that, perhaps believing they already have enough to topple the Warriors if Kawhi Leonard is healthy.

With Aldridge, Pau Gasol and Patty Mills all under contract for the few years around Leonard, San Antonio should remain stably good. But will these deals for aging veterans limit the Spurs’ ceiling? That’s the risk for an organization that has built its identity on championships and already has a young, in-his-prime superstar who has proven capable of being the best player on a title team.

Hawks: Dennis Schroder will face discipline for physical altercation

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Hawks point guard Dennis Schroder was arrested on a misdemeanor battery charge a couple weeks ago.

Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk in a statement:

“There is an ongoing investigation into the details of the incident involving Dennis Schröder that occurred on Sept. 29th. During this process, we plan to support Dennis as we would any of our players working through a situation.

However, from our preliminary findings, we are aware that Dennis was involved in a physical altercation. That behavior is unacceptable, will not be tolerated by the Hawks organization, and will result in discipline for Dennis at the appropriate time once the matter has been more fully developed through the law enforcement process and otherwise.

Dennis has accepted responsibility for his actions. He looks forward to learning from this incident and focusing on the season.”

On one hand, it’s odd that the Hawks are both deferring to the process and pledging discipline. On the other hand, teams should more often make their own judgments on how to handle these issues than blindly rely on the legal system.

This statement is intentionally vague, and it gives the Hawks wide latitude in how to proceed. Eventually – likely dependent on legal outcomes – they’ll reveal Schroder’s punishment.