Steve Kerr’s championship hangover cure: one part patience, one part Clippers

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LOS ANGELES — Championship hangovers are a real thing.

“There always is (a championship hangover),” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said, talking from experience as the coach of the champion 2008 Celtics. “I just remember a conversation I had with Michael Jordan. I reached out to a lot of players and coaches about what to expect (after Boston won), and I thought he had the best answer. He said, ‘Your role players have been carrying around that championship trophy all summer long, they’re going to come back and think they were the reason. And they were… but then they have to get back into their roles.”

The Warriors started this season with a pretty severe hangover. They were 4-3 to open the campaign, turning the ball over at a frightening rate, getting crushed on the defensive glass, and they had one of the NBA’s worst defenses during that stretch. The Warriors were a combination of moving slowly and disinterested.

It left Warriors’ coach Steve Kerr where a lot of us have been before — looking for a hangover cure. And in this case, the hair of the dog was not an option.

Monday night he may have found his magic elixir.

It started with one-part Clippers — a team the Warriors always get up for and beat, 10 times in a row now during the regular season. The Warriors rose up Monday night and routed the Clippers 141-113, behind 31 points from Stephen Curry.

“I told the guys that tomorrow is Halloween,” Kerr joked after the game, referencing the traditional NBA season start. “Which means that tonight was opening night, and we are back to being us.”

Kerr’s cure is also one-part patience. That’s the hard part.

“Honestly, it’s about not snapping right now,” Kerr said of coaching the team through this. “You know I want to snap — I’m competitive, I want to win every game. But I recognize, having been in their shoes literally with the (1998) Bulls team, I recognize we’re gonna be fine. I know we’re gonna be fine. And we have to get there, but I can’t force that.

“Ron (Adams, Warriors assistant coach) had a great line a couple weeks ago. He said Chuck Daly, after winning a title with the Pistons, he said ‘Sometimes you have to wait on a championship team.’ You have to wait on them. You can’t lead them, you have to wait on them. And I kind of feel that’s the case right now, we’re waiting on these guys a little bit. It’s not effort, the physical effort is there, it’s the mental approach, it’s the focus. And I know that’s going to come from my own experience.”

Kerr’s experience was that even the mythologized Jordan-era Bulls had championship hangovers. Kerr lived through it.

“In ’98 with the Bulls, we were 8-7, after winning 72 and 69 (games),” Kerr said of a team that had won back-to-back titles and would go on to make it a three-peat. “Everybody was (wiped out), we started off the year 8-7, and we had all these team meetings. It feels exactly the same.

“It’s not easy. I think that’s the hardest thing for people to understand — fans, media, whomever — the fatigue, the spiritual and emotional fatigue that sets in when you’ve been going to the Finals. That’s why I think LeBron (James) going to the Finals seven years in a row is, to me, one of the most amazing accomplishments ever for a player in this league. You feel it. You feel it after a number of years. The team has a different vibe and you have to play through it.”

That mental fatigue leads to sloppy plays on the court.

“Guys have their legs underneath them, but our minds aren’t right…” Kerr said. “We’re letting our guard down constantly. With the ball, with our minds…. We know how hard it is to win in this league, but we’re not respecting how hard it is to win in this league.”

Monday night they finally respected it. The Clippers bring that out of the Warriors (Chris Paul or not).

The question now is will Golden State build on those good habits — Kerr said that was his most important job right now — or revert back to their lackadaisical ways? Next up is an always tough test, the Spurs in San Antonio (TNT Thursday night).

“We’re beating ourselves with some things,” Kevin Durant said after scoring 18 points against the Clippers. “It’s the nature of the beast right now, early in the season, it’s the small detail things why we’re losing basketball games. You see tonight when we correct that we can be a phenomenal team.”

It’s one win, the Warriors are still a long way from being a phenomenal team yet.

“I don’t think we are better at all right now,” Green said comparing last year’s title team to this one. “We have a long ways to go…. Do I think we have the potential to be better? Absolutely. I think we have a lot more depth, a lot of guys have gotten better individually, we are more familiar with each other, but we are nowhere near where we are going to have to be or where we can be. It’s a long road.”

A road where the Warriors look a little more comfortable with each step.

Which should scare the rest of the league.

Curry, frustrated with Poole, gets ejected for throwing mouthpiece into crowd

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Stephen Curry has been ejected three times in his NBA career, and each time the incident was mouthpiece related.

The latest came Wednesday night. With 1:25 remaining in the fourth quarter of a tight game with the Grizzlies, Klay Thompson missed a floater, Donte DiVincenzo tipped the rebound out and kept it alive, Thomspon grabbed it and passed it to Poole out top to reset the offense, with Curry calling for the ball a few feet away from him. Instead, Poole jacked up a three like the shot clock was going to expire. The shot missed and Curry, out of frustration, threw his mouthpiece in the stands. That got him an automatic ejection.

“He knows he can’t make that mistake,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said postgame, via the Associated Press.

Poole had fun with Curry postgame, throwing his mouthpiece in the hallway.

“I did see that,” Curry said, via NBC Sports Bay Area. “It’s like one of those ‘too soon’ jokes. I was still hot. I was still hot.”

After the game, some fans tried to argue that, by NBA rules, Curry did not have to be ejected. The NBA rulebook specifically states that any “player who throws or kicks the ball directly into the stands with force” will be ejected, as will a player who throws “the ball or any object at an official.” The argument goes Curry didn’t throw his mouthpiece at an official. However, the rulebook also says a technical can be “assessed to any player on the court or anyone seated on the bench for conduct which, in the opinion of an official, is detrimental to the game,” and the league has said consistently in recent years that throwing a mouthpiece or anything into the crowd is detrimental to the game, penalized with a technical and automatic ejection. Maybe there should be more leeway with the enforcement of said rule, but Curry knew better.

The Warriors went on to get the win over their rivals from Memphis, the old guard held the new guard off again. But the next time these teams meet, the Warriors will need Curry on the court until the end of the game.

What will happen with Warriors biggest free agent this summer: Bob Myers

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This summer, the Warriors have on their plate a couple of major decisions that could lead to free agency and change the course of the franchise. One is Draymond Green, who has a $27.6 million player option, didn’t get an extension he wanted with the team last summer (while Jordan Poole and Andrew Wiggins did), and could be the guy standing without a chair when the music stops. The Warriors can’t pay everyone.

The other free agent: general manager Bob Myers.

His is an even more complex and nuanced situation — will the Warriors make him the highest-paid executive in the league, and does Myers still want the job — that could be the latest sign that the dynastic Curry era in Golden State is coming to an end.

At the Athletic, Anthony Slater, Marcus Thompson II and Sam Amick break down the situation incredibly well in a story Warriors fans should read.

As the clock ticks and extension talks remain flat, many around Myers are wondering whether – and even predicting that – his days with the Warriors are about to run out…

For all the nuance that surrounds the situation, this much is clear: team and league sources, who like all of the sources in this story were granted anonymity so they could speak freely, say Myers believes he should be among the highest-paid front office executives in the league, if not the highest. He’s been the architect of four NBA title teams, was the lead recruiter in the Durant free agency signing, and has been the trusted conduit between players, coaches and ownership. Myers also has served as chief problem solver, the coolant in an ecosystem that periodically overheats…

Part of the equation for Myers, known for his deep conversations and intellectual curiosity, is the contemplation of what’s next. After more than a decade of building a dynasty, and managing it through the intensity of modern scrutiny, and living beneath the relentless pressure of the Warriors’ championship standard, might Myers be interested in a new challenge? Would it be better for him and his family to move on, build up another franchise away from the Golden State fish bowl? He walked away from a successful career as a player agent to become an NBA executive. Is it now time to leave the front office behind and try his hand in another industry?

While there are other layers, it’s always about the money.

The very top NBA executives make north of $10 million a season. While Warriors owner Joe Lacob has said Myers is one of the highest-paid general managers in the league, titles get fuzzy (and somewhat meaningless) around the league — many guys in Myers’ role have a president or VP title attached to their name. His pay relative to title can get bogged down in semantics that miss the basic “pay me” bottom line of this.

There are no straight lines and simple answers here, but if Myers gets paid like Daryl Morey or Masai Ujiri he is far more likely to stay. Even if he gets that money, how badly does Myers want to stay on for the final years of the Stephen Curry era and start rebuilding whatever comes next? Does he want to walk away? Hang around for a few years then take his leave?

More than whatever happens with Green, the Myers situation will signal what comes next for this era of the Warriors and what they may look like going forward. He is the ultimate architect. This is the biggest decision the Warriors have this offseason.

PBT Podcast: Rui Hachimura trade to Lakers and All-Star team

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Rui Hachimura is a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. That is a win for the Lakers front office — “Look! We’re doing something!” — but how much of a win was that for the Lakers? Does it change much of anything for them on the court?

That’s the first topic of this week’s PBT Podcast with Corey Robinson of NBC Sports and myself. Then we talk about the Orlando Magic and the return of Jonathan Isaac to the floor. Corey’s Jukebox ties together the Magic and the Phantom of the Opera.

From there, we dive into my selections for the NBA All-Star Game, both starters and reserves, and what can be done to liven up that game. Plus, who would you want to star as if you were in a movie?

You can always watch the video of some of the podcast above (the Christmas games segment) or listen to the entire podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google Play, or anywhere else you get your podcasts.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please feel free to email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

Kyrie Irving still seeking contract extension, agent says “ball is in Nets” court

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How many guaranteed years are the Nets — or any team — willing to give Kyrie Irving?

It will be one of the questions of this offseason (Irving is in the final year of his current contract). It was a question last offseason, too. Irving and the Nets talked extension last summer — how close they got depends upon who you ask — but after two years of issues the Nets refused to give Irving a long-term deal. They did give him permission to find a sign-and-trade, but after checking out the market, Irving opted into his $36.9 million player option for the season.

The latest buzz around the league is that with the Nets winning, Irving is likely to re-sign and stay in Brooklyn. Apparently, his agent is ready to talk extension again, as she made public through Chris Haynes at Bleacher Report.

“Around Kyrie and staying with the Nets? I have reached out to the Nets regarding this,” his agent Shetellia Irving told Bleacher Report. “We have had no significant conversations to date. The desire is to make Brooklyn home, with the right type of extension, which means the ball is in the Nets’ court to communicate now if their desire is the same.”

“The right type of extension” sounds like we’re back to talking about years. Brooklyn can offer Irving a four-year, $190+ million max extension (which would align with the extension Kevin Durant signed last summer). The Nets may not want to lock themselves into Irving for that long.

Would another team? The question isn’t money — on the court, Irving is a max player averaging 26.8 points per game and he is likely voted an All-Star starter when those are announced Thursday — but instead how long is a team willing to be locked into paying Irving?

The Nets and Irving can reach an extension up through June 30, Brooklyn management may not be in a rush to get a deal done while the team is still playing. Brooklyn would be wise to want to see how the postseason plays out before talking about next season and beyond with anyone.