A disinterested Warriors team got smacked around by the Lakers on Christmas Day — a Laker team without LeBron James for most of the second half. Didn’t matter. The young Lakers stepped up — Ivica Zubac had 18 points — while the Warriors stars did not.
Which led to a lot of “should we be worried about the Warriors?” talk on message boards, and sports talk radio and television shows.
First, no. They’ll be fine when it matters.
Second, it plays to the level of scrutiny the Warriors face in a 24-hour news cycle that demands instant analysis and reaction. After 82 games there has to be something to say, some big picture to be drawn. Steve Kerr — he who used to play on Jordan’s Bulls and now coaches the Warriors — talked about that scrutiny with Nick Friedell of ESPN.
“I told our guys that; I gave them that line today. You guys have set the bar really high. So everything takes on a little greater sense of urgency in terms of what happens around the team. We’re maybe the most scrutinized team in the history of the league. We’re right there with the Bulls teams that I played on. I felt the same, but even more so now because of the number of media outlets and the immediacy of the judgment and criticism. So it’s all part of it; our guys have learned how to deal with all of that over the past few years. It doesn’t matter. What matters is how you respond to a bad loss, to a bad stretch, to injuries. As long as you keep responding, keep showing up to work, keep sticking together, keep working, good things are going to happen.”
Kerr is right. It’s not that people in Chicago newspapers didn’t question and challenge the Bulls during the Jordan run, they did, but there were not the number of media outlets then that there are now. To cut through and be heard in today’s media environment leads to people being loud, being shrill, being critical when there is little to really be critical of.
The Warriors are in the forefront of that. So is LeBron James. (To be fair, so are Tom Brady, Aaron Judge, Clayton Kershaw, Serena Williams, and on down the line.) It’s not that players in the past did not have their games broken down and criticized, but not as often and in the same way — the spotlight is much brighter now. So if Klay Thompson struggles, it becomes A THING.
The Warriors also know how to deal with that. They know that how they perform on Christmas has zero impact on their legacy, that effort starts in April. And they played like it on Dec. 25. But we’ve also seen this team flip the switch, we know they still get DeMarcus Cousins added to the roster, and there’s no real need to worry.
Except everyone needs something to talk about.