The happy-go-lucky approach to life of Golden State's coach is guiding how the Warriors approach their successes
POSTED: Mar 28, 2016 12:49 PM ET
Coach Steve Kerr provided some laughs during the team's visit to the White House last week.
In This Week's Morning Tip
On a beautiful spring morning in Kapalua in 2005, Bill Belichick wasn't having any of it.
He had been asked, rather innocently, how he had spent his time after his New England Patriots won their third Super Bowl in four seasons. It was March. The sun was warm and inviting over the Hawaiian Islands; the ocean blue and calm. And, still, Belichick's mask stayed firm and tight, as he managed to smirk and grin at the same time. There would be no reminiscing.
"What Super Bowl?" he said. "We're two months into the offseason. Nobody cares about the Super Bowl."
You can't dismiss his attitude. Belichick has now won four Super Bowls, and been in six as coach of the Patriots, one of the NFL's true dynasties. The way he has approached his job -- with unsparing lack of sentimentality, never looking back, never being satisfied -- has worked for him and his team.
It is not the way Steve Kerr approaches life.
It doesn't make Kerr right and Belichick wrong. It just makes them different. Belichick would no doubt recoil at the idea of celebrating what happened last season during the following season. To Kerr, such rigidity is unfathomable.
The Warriors Visit the White House
An all-access look as the Golden State Warriors celebrate their NBA title with a visit to the White House.
Which is why, after laying the wood to the Washington Wizards the night before, the Warriors went to the White House Thursday, watched President Barack Obama impersonate Stephen Curry's jump-in-place jig, and celebrated their 2014-15 title in the East Room along with 75 friends and family members, and two former teammates: David Lee and Justin Holiday, now in Boston and Atlanta, respectively.
Forget their title? Are you nuts?
"I think that stuff is overplayed," Kerr said afterward, standing outside 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. "It doesn't really make any difference. We're obviously doing really well, and our guys are competitive and focused. We're just playing. Everything's loose around here. We don't worry too much about semantics, or whatever. We got to visit the White House."
President Obama Receives Warriors Jersey
Warriors coach Steve Kerr presents President Obama with a personalized Golden State jersey.
Now, let's get real. If the Warriors weren't 46-4 that morning, having yet to lose a game at Oracle Arena after pushing back another challenger in the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday night, and posing the first real challenge to the Bulls' all-time single season record of 72-10, Kerr might not be as sanguine. But, they are. So, he is. And, look: it's his nature. Ever curious about the world, and quick with a joke, Kerr usually moves toward the bright side of life. The Warriors work hard, but play hard and laugh hard, too.
Kerr has his team living in the moment, the way coach Phil Jackson insisted the Bulls did when Kerr played with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, the journey more important than the result. They are ever-present for whatever they're doing -- physically, mentally and emotionally.
It's part of why the Warriors were able to play so well while Kerr recovered from two back surgeries that cost him the first two months of the season, why they were so sharp for interim coach Luke Walton in winning their first 24 games of the season. They aren't suffocated by challenges. They're inspired by them.
President Obama: Curry Clownin'
President Obama describes Steph Curry's 51-point performance against the Wizards.
Don't get it twisted: Kerr is a competitive SOB who burns to win, and he still goes crazy when the Warriors are so, so loose with the ball. A clipboard died a hero in New York last week after facing Kerr's wrath. But he lets his players indulge their crazy.
"We're less of a team," assistant coach Ron Adams says, "and more of a fraternity."
But they're a frat without the drunken toga parties.
The Warriors' rush chairman remains the amiable and accessible Curry, who was sporting a scratch on his forehead all week, after getting cut by the long nails of the Knicks' Carmelo Anthony in New York.
"Light-skinned problems," Curry said; such is his cache that he can even joke about his complexion -- the difference in supposed favor between light-skinned and dark-skinned African-Americans has historically been a third rail issue among many black folk -- and everybody laughs.
Thunder vs. Warriors
Stephen Curry scored 26 points,and the Warriors beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 116-108 on Saturday night.
Well on his way to back-to-back league MVP honors, Curry's performance in D.C. last Wednesday -- 51 points, including 25 in the first quarter, on seven 3-pointers -- was the latest display of how, incredibly, Curry could and should get consideration for Kia Most Improved Player Award honors as well this season. His handle is immaculate, his range infinite, his control of almost every game firm.
On another team, Klay Thompson's stroke and/or Draymond Green's all-around game would be catalysts around which teams would try to build contenders. Both are that good. But it's Curry that stretches the geometry of basketball, taking the game places it's never been -- the ultimate intersection of the game's emphasis on offense, and his incredible skill set. It's not a stretch to say no one has ever possessed such a set.
I think we play the game the right way. We respect the game. It's kind of like -- I wouldn't say a traveling circus, a traveling show. It's a lot of different fans. We've made a lot of believers.
– Golden State Warriors guard Shaun Livingston
I asked Andre Iguodala how the Warriors could possibly be better this season than last year, when they went 67-15. "You know why," he said.
The drive that pushed Jordan's greatness, night after night -- he always said there was someone in the arena that may have never seen him play, and he didn't want to disappoint -- is present in Curry. He was going to spend Super Bowl Sunday at the Super Bowl in Santa Clara, Calif., rooting on his close friend Cam Newton and Curry's hometown Carolina Panthers. It was killing him not to be able to do anything but watch.
"I hate (being a fan), actually," Curry said. "I get nervous and jittery. When you're watching a game, obviously I have no control. It's tough. I enjoy the fan in me watching what they do and the success they're having, but I get into it. It's a different experience."
Curry and Wall Duel in D.C.
Check out the battle between Warriors reigning MVP Stephen Curry and Wizards All-Star John Wall in D.C. on Wednesday night.
He left Newton alone last week -- no encouraging texts or calls.
"Having been in a similar situation six months ago, you kind of understand how much is going on," Curry said. "I don't know what Super Bowls are like, but you get asked the same questions over and over again, and you're obviously all the while trying to prepare to win a Super Bowl. So I just leave him alone."
The Warriors, of course, won their first title in 40 years in Cleveland last summer, and it feels like that was the last time Golden State really played in a hostile environment. At almost every venue this season, Warriors fans come out in huge numbers and take over opposing arenas.
It's about not so much wins and losses, but what level can we reach? Because we need to if we're going to reach our ultimate goal, to play at that level consistently. Otherwise we'll suffer a tough fate in the playoffs.
– Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr
"It's just like a movie," forward Marreese Speights said. "It's just like a dream when you're out there. But, it's reality."
Every team that wins a title gets more fans as an ancillary benefit. But the crowds rooting for the Warriors on the road are ridiculous.
Jordan's Bulls were loved by millions, but there was also a hint of danger with them when they came to town -- like if you didn't capitulate, they could plunder the town, steal your girlfriends and take all the choice parking spots. That's not the case with the Warriors. Opposing fans seem to almost wish for a beatdown, if it means they can watch Curry drop three or four seemingly impossible shots, or watch the Warriors' tic-tac-toe passing end in a layup or a Thompson shot on the weakside.
And afterward, there's Kerr to tell them what they need to do better. It's no slight on Walton, who did a great job. But Kerr has some edge to him, and his team will need it down the road.
"It's huge," Thompson said. "Believe it or not, things go by really fast, and before we know it, we'll be on our last leg (of the season). We have to be as sharp as possible. Steve, even when we win games, he's harping on the little things that we can do better, like ball control, and having stingy defense. It's huge to have him back. We were a great team without him, but it's even scarier with him, how good we can be."
Warriors vs. Wizards
Stephen Curry scores 51 points, including 11 3-pointers as the Warriors beat the Wizards, 134-121.
Said guard Shaun Livingston: "We have a very likeable team, all the way down to our coach. Obviously, a lot of people are fans of his as well. I think we play the game the right way. We respect the game. It's kind of like -- I wouldn't say a traveling circus, a traveling show. It's a lot of different fans. We've made a lot of believers. A couple of games it was like, are we in Oracle? Are we in the Bay right now?"
Thursday they were in D.C., with bipartisan politicos (former House Speaker and Democrat Nancy Pelosi; House Majority Leader and Republican Kevin McCarthy) trying to get a reflected piece of their glory. After a tour of the Oval Office, it was off to the East Room, where Obama opined that Thompson's jumper might be a little purer than Curry's, disclosed that Barnes is known as "The Senator" by teammates, meaning someone dropped a dime on Barnes during the tour ("I think it was Coach Kerr," Barnes said afterward) and told Green that while he loves his game, Green needs to watch the cussing and technical fouls.
"I've been doing good lately," Green said.
Only Kerr, Walton (who won back-to-back titles with the Lakers) and Curry (who'd visited Obama last year in D.C. as part of his work raising funds for the Nothing But Nets anti-malaria initiative), had previous White House experience.
"I told President Clinton, the third time, 'we've got to stop meeting like this,' " Kerr said. "He had no idea what I was talking about."
The Warriors have actually regressed -- slightly -- defensively this season, falling from first in defensive rating last season to third this season. And they're allowing almost three points a game more this season than last. But it doesn't matter much because of how lethal the Warriors' offense has become.
Inside The NBA: Warriors' White House Visit
Shaq, Kenny and Chuck re-visit President Obama's visit with the champion Warriors.
Tops in the league last season at 110 points per game, the Warriors are somehow averaging five more points per game this season. (Their average margin of victory -- 12.6 points per game -- would be the biggest in league history if not for the fact that the San Antonio Spurs' margin is 13.4 ppg.)
Kerr said before the season that he thought the Warriors could be even better.
"I think just the championship teams that I've been on, when you win one, there's a much deeper level of confidence after the fact," he said. "There's also, I think, a little bit of a burden that's lifted. Our guys never have to worry about people saying 'yeah, but.' We've already won one. A little bit of playing with house money. We should be loose, we should have fun.
"So the combination just of the extra confidence, the continuity that comes from being together for a while, that burden being lifted, I think that all means we should be out here having fun and doing exactly what we're doing."
Their passing makes loading up one side of the floor useless. The ball never sticks when it goes from the strong side to the weak side as whoever gets it sends it on its way within moments.
If Green has it, he drives the paint if the defender closes, often finding whatever big is on the floor, either Andrew Bogut or Festus Ezeli, for a lob dunk. If the Warriors are playing their "Lineup of Death" with Green at the five, he looks for baseline cutters. If that's cut off, it's back to screen and roll with Curry, with Thompson always available for yet another crosscourt look. Through Sunday, via NBA.com/Stats, Green is 10th in the league in passes made this season (62.4) and sixth in Assist Points Created per game (17.8).
We're obviously doing really well, and our guys are competitive and focused. We're just playing. Everything's loose around here. We don't worry too much about semantics, or whatever.
– Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr
And the Splash Brothers' green light is on all the time.
"Most of the time, guys like Steph and Klay that freelance all the time on the plays, (Kerr) don't really get mad at that," Speights said. "Other guys, he might say something to them, 'cause it's been our rule. So you just go out and play and find open guys for a pin down, or just keep the ball moving, and he's okay with it."
The bench is no easier, with Iguodala and Leandro Barbosa hunting runouts. Iguodala is shooting 49.8 percent, his highest percentage since his second season in the league (2005-06). Barbosa, per NBA.com, is fifth in the league in percentage of shots taken in the first six seconds of the shot clock (24.9). And the 6-foot-7 Livingston is locked in, his confidence in his game and body the highest it's been in years, able to post up just about every guard that tries to check him.
"I just think last year, playing all the way into The Finals, winning a championship, having a role defined, first time I've been on the same team for multiple years," Livingston said. "It has a lot to do with just settling in, having a role here, an identity, and just confidence, trusting my game and the work I've put in."
At some point, the Warriors will have to address the elephant in the room. With 32 games left, they have to go 27-5 to break Chicago's record. Who, now, doesn't think that's more than possible -- even with three games left against San Antonio and two with Oklahoma City?
And who thinks it isn't possible, with a coach who laughs loud and was smiling down the stretch of Saturday's tight game with the Thunder ("it's about time we were in a close game," he said to his team during a timeout), but who is still pushing for perfection.
"I'm very laid back," Kerr said. "We're very loose and we have a lot of fun. So every once in a while if I snap and break a clipboard, I think the guys respond to it. If I did it every day, they would get sick of it. I think they all understand it is about reaching a standard that we've set. It's about not so much wins and losses, but what level can we reach? Because we need to if we're going to reach our ultimate goal, to play at that level consistently. Otherwise we'll suffer a tough fate in the playoffs."
(previous rank in brackets; last week's record in parenthesis)
1) Golden State  (2-0): Forty-one straight wins at Oracle after holding off the Thunder Saturday. That is the equivalent of a full season's worth of home games.
Inside Access: Thunder - Warriors
In a matchup of two of the top teams in the NBA and the past two league MVPs, this game didn't disappoint - but once again, it was the Golden State Warriors who prevailed, matching the best 50-game start to a season, equaling the Wilt Chamberlain-led 1966-67 Philadelphia 76ers, who also started 46-4.
3) Oklahoma City  (2-1): Thunder can take a lot of positives from their loss to the Warriors, but they did get sliced up on D for far too many stretches.
4) Toronto  (2-1): Jonas Valanciunas, last dozen games: 12.8 points, 10.6 rebounds, 52.6 percent from the floor. The Raptors will take those averages for the rest of time.
Valanciunas Finishes Strong
DeMar DeRozan drives baseline and finds the open man, feeding Jonas Valanciunas who drops the hammer.
5) L.A. Clippers  (2-1): Losing Austin Rivers for 4-6 weeks will be very hard for the Clippers to survive while staying up in the West standings. He's been a key cog without Blake Griffin, helping take pressure off of Chris Paul by taking on the opposition's better scoring guard.
6) Cleveland  (2-2): Attention to detail does the Cavs in Friday as they blow a four-point lead in the final 10 seconds at home against Boston.
7) Memphis  (2-1): Can Grizz, currently in fifth in the West, ride their recent momentum at FedEx Forum and overtake the Clips into a top-four spot with home court advantage down the stretch?
8) Atlanta  (3-1): After going 1 of 4 on 3-pointers Sunday, Al Horford has attempted 155 threes so far this season. He'd shot 65 3-pointers total in his previous eight seasons.
9) Boston  (4-0): Why, exactly, would the Celtics trade for Dwight Howard?
10) Dallas  (1-3): Chandler Parsons starting to look like pre-injury Chandler Parsons.
Parsons, Mavs Best Grizzlies
Chandler Parsons scores 26 points with eight rebounds and four assists as the Mavericks beat the Grizzlies, 114-110.
12) Miami  (2-2): Triple double by Hassan Whiteside (10 points, 10 rebounds, 10 blocks) in 27 minutes off the bench Friday.
13) Houston  (2-1): On the road for the rest of the month, with the exception of Feb. 27, when they host the Spurs.
14) Indiana  (2-2): Pacers trying desperately to hang on until Rodney Stuckey (ankle) comes back after All-Star break, and Ian Mahinmi (back) back at center -- though rookie Myles Turner continues to impress.
15) Detroit  (2-2): Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (groin) back after All-Star break, but it looked like it was going to be a lot worse when he went down against the Celtics on Wednesday.
Utah (4-0): Jazz's numbers since the return of Rudy Gobert (knee) Jan. 7: 10-6 record, opponents averaging 92.3 ppg on 42.3 percent shooting.
Milwaukee (0-4): Three double-digit losses in four games, and the fourth was a loss to the Lakers. This is not going the way we all thought it would at the start of the season; the Bucks desperately need more than two guys (Khris Middleton, Jerryd Bayless) who can shoot the ball with any consistency on the perimeter.
How can any one person, or team, make a meaningful difference on the ground in Flint, Mich.?
But how can you not try?
The filtered water comes, day after day, so fast that they don't know where to put it all. The damage, though -- insidious, unseen -- is all around the city, in the eyes of the children who drank from the Flint River, and who will suffer the rest of their lives because no one told them the water wasn't safe.
Thousands of people drank the water from the Flint River, which became the city's main water source in April, 2014, even though the water in that river is more corrosive than the water the city had previously used from Detroit, and the city didn't use corrosion controls to keep lead in the water from leaching into pipes. Even though separate, independent investigations found alarmingly elevated levels over the next two years, and residents complained about smell and color of their drinking water, the state government did not switch back to Detroit's water system until October, 2015.
By then, it was too late. Thousands of residents complained about physical ailments, especially in their children, many of whom had highly elevated levels of lead in their blood. Lead poisoning in children has been linked to developmental and physical disabilities.
I can tell you that the entire organization, the coaches, the players, the entire staff at the Pistons and the Palace, we're all committed to making a difference. This is not going to be a one-month effort of writing some checks. We're going to be involved and continue to be of help and support to this community.
– Vice Chairman of Palace Sports and Entertainment Arn Tellem
"When the story first came out, a lot of residents had kind of been complaining already, saying this water is brown and it's making me break out and different things like that," Morris Peterson said Saturday.
"So after the story came out, it's kind of like, I'm trying to think about how bad it is. I know its bad. But it's like, every day, every couple of days, it's worse. I can't imagine this happening in the United States right now -- if you had told me this would be happening in the United States right now, in 2016, I wouldn't have believed it."
Peterson, who played 10 years in the NBA for the Raptors, New Orleans Hornets and the Thunder, grew up in Flint, and went to Flint Northwestern High. He now lives in Grand Blanc, about 15 minutes south of Flint. But he has cousins, uncles and aunts who still live there. He owns a couple of small apartment units there, and he wants to open a juice bar downtown in the summer.
And, he still gets his hair cut in Flint.
"Not too long ago, I got my hair washed there," he said, "and got my face washed there, everything and stuff. And the next day, my face broke out a little bit. And I was thinking it was the barber. I was thinking it was his clippers or something like that. I went and I bought my own clippers after that. I thought it was his clippers, and come to find out it was the water. You look at businesses. They have to get water filters. What are they going to do? All these businesses are affected by it."
And Tom Gores, who grew up in Flint, too, was spurred to try and do something.
Gores, the Detroit Pistons' owner, pledged to raise $10 million toward relief efforts in Flint, through his FlintNOW Foundation. Arn Tellem, the former high-powered player agent who joined the organization last fall as Vice Chair of Palace Sports and Entertainment, was in Flint Friday meeting with philanthropic and charity organizations, and returned Sunday morning to meet with local leaders and hear presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who came to Flint and spoke at a local church.
"We're committed, starting with Tom," Tellem said Sunday. "He's a native. He's deeply concerned about Flint, and cares about it. I can tell you that the entire organization, the coaches, the players, the entire staff at the Pistons and the Palace, we're all committed to making a difference. This is not going to be a one-month effort of writing some checks. We're going to be involved and continue to be of help and support to this community. It's sustaining it, and we get that. And Tom's committed, and I'm committed. Everyone that's involved in this effort is committed to seeing it through."
Gores brought Tellem from a comfortable life representing players to working in and around Detroit, including trying to work on a new local television deal and a potential new downtown arena. But he also has challenged Tellem to help expand the Pistons' footprint in the local community.
But it's like, every day, every couple of days, it's worse. I can't imagine this happening in the United States right now -- if you had told me this would be happening in the United States right now, in 2016, I wouldn't have believed it.
– Former NBA guard and Flint, Mich., native Morris Peterson
Tellem never envisioned he'd be meeting with local leaders about lead poisoning. But this is where they are needed.
"Part of having a community asset is having social responsibility," Tellem said. "I really admire Tom for stepping up for Flint. Being here on the ground, my hope is I can execute his vision to make a difference."
In addition to the $10 million pledge from Gores, Pistons players, along with Coach Stan Van Gundy, pledged an additional $500,000.
It is here where one tries not to be cynical.
There is nothing -- nothing -- wrong with donating money. We do it all the time to try and help others in their time of need. There is nobility in giving back. There is nothing wrong with Diddy and Mark Wahlberg giving one million bottles of water to Flint, former Piston Rasheed Wallace and Detroit native Derrick Coleman sending separate trucks full of bottled water there, or Detroit Lions defensive lineman Ziggy Ansah giving 94,000 bottles of water.
But while Flint needs water, it needs so much more. And there are so many horror stories of well-intentioned people whose donations in times of crisis never get to the people affected.
Tellem says Gores and the Pistons are into Flint's recovery for the long haul.
"There are different needs," Tellem said. "One is really the infrastructure to deliver water, food, filters to the community. There's a lot of people who can't drive, providing bus vouchers. It's unbelievable what has to happen here to get things delivered so everyone has the benefit. There's just a total lack of trust in the government. So the private sector, the foundations are the ones that are filling a huge void that was left by the government."
Gores put $1 million up immediately, with $250,000 of it going to the United Way of Genesse County Friday morning. It was granted out to food banks, Catholic Charities and other on-the-ground entities that are serving local residents in a couple of hours.
"Arn and the group that is sort of on the ground from Platinum Equity took a great deal of tine to come and meet with us and find out what was going on," United Way CEO Jamie Gaskin said Sunday afternoon. "The commitment of $10 million is a commitment that will take place over time. We expect them to not only invest in the immediate recovery but the long-term health care fund that's been set up for these kids, and even looking into and exploring economic development, because that's such an important part of our community. Even with this tragedy and challenge, we have to have jobs. People have to live here. Our expectation is that they're going to continue to stay plugged in here as they continue to make that longer term commitment."
And in the long term, $10 million is a drop in the bucket.
"I think the $10 million does help," Peterson said. "But I think with (President) Obama pledging to bring so many dollars here, its going to be a long process. You're talking about everyone's pipes in their house that have to be changed, replaced. Do we treat it like (Hurricane) Katrina and move people to different cities until it gets done? This is a real problem. You're talking about uprooting people from where they are. When you think about the big picture, I mean every little bit helps. (But) I think the government has to step in. I look at this as a billion dollar project. The water has been a band-aid, and they need it for now. But this is a big project."
It is staggering to consider what it will take to truly rebuild Flint, a former thriving town where 40 percent of residents now live below the poverty line. What business doesn't need clean water? Think about it; is there an office building that doesn't have drinking fountains, or bathrooms, or cafeterias? (The General Motors engine plant in Flint was one of the first to notice the water problem; its engine blocks were rusting much faster than they should have after coming off the assembly lines. GM switched from Flint water to nearby Flint Township water in December, 2014.)
Flint Mayor Karen Weaver has said it will cost more than $40 million to take out the lead service lines in 1,500 homes.
It will take decades to find out exactly how harmed the estimated 8,000 kids between 0-6 years of age were by the lead exposures -- years and years of cognitive testing. Every child will have different injuries. (The blood test for lead has to be administered within Expanded Head Start programs for those kids, who will need more attention in the system, will be $8,000 per child. The fund that has been set up to try and help those kids has a goal of $100 million.)
The attention is going to go away from this problem as the water goes back to normal. But the children and the people that have been exposed, they don't ever get to go back to normal.
– United Way CEO Jamie Gaskin
"If you have a child in that age range, it's hard to tell that parent, 'well, we just don't have enough money to give your kid that extra chance they need,' " Gaskin said. "The science around lead is very precise. People have been struggling with this issue with lead for some time. We know that it lowers IQ. If you're a parent and your kid has been exposed significantly over the last couple of years, what does it mean to lower your child's IQ a few points?...
"The attention is going to go away from this problem as the water goes back to normal. But the children and the people that have been exposed, they don't ever get to go back to normal."
That mental anguish has a cost down the road, too.
"A lot of the residents, a lot of the people I've been talking to -- because it's affected some of the members of my family -- they're scared," Peterson said. "They don't know what's going on. They've got to be able to figure out ways (to use water) Imagine not being able to take a bath, or drink the water. They're making us pay for it. A lot of residents are mad. It's anxiety, it's fear. A lot of them really don't know what the future's going to hold. It's just tough. But this has opened up a lot of the problems that were already existing, not only in Flint, but in a lot of these urban communities."
And this is where Gores' pledge can do the most good.
The medical community, the philanthropic community and the direct service community are trying to figure out the next two decades on the fly, in the midst of chaos. What will 30 days out look like in Flint? Sixty days? Six months? Five years? And how do you save funds for those days when so many people need help now?
"This is why gifts of this magnitude are so critical," Gaskin said. "We need to take federal support. We need federal and state government to step in. But then we need to supplement those dollars with private dollars. There will be large gaps that we have to try and bridge to make a wrong right."
A lot of the residents, a lot of the people I've been talking to ... they're scared. They don't know what's going on. ... A lot of residents are mad. It's anxiety, it's fear. A lot of them really don't know what the future's going to hold.
– Morris Peterson
Tellem said the Pistons are talking with other corporations to try and get short- and long-term commitments.
"Our first focus was just go get in there and learn what was going on, and it's a step by step process," he said. "But now, there have been banks and other businesses that have been reaching out. 'Cause I think everyone has been sort of overwhelmed by the enormity of the challenge, but our hope is we'll be able to pull people together in the business community, and there have been a number now who've reached out to us."
On the ground, Peterson will play in a charity basketball game in Flint Feb. 20 featuring fellow "Flintstones" Mateen Cleaves and Charlie Bell, and former Syracuse player Eric Devendorf. Peterson says Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo has offered to help any way he can.
Peterson still gets water bills from the tenants in his buildings. Some of them are up to $1,000. The citizens of Flint have to pay for the water that is poisoning them, and their children.
"For me, I feel like everybody in Flint that I know, they're part of my family," Peterson said. "The whole city. The support they've given me over the years, I wouldn't be where I am without Flint, without them. So I've got to be there for them."
To make a donation to the Flint Child Health and Development Fund, click here.
The Peeps wanted to talk about my Hack-A column and ideas in the Feb. 2 column. Go. From Hadi Sabaa:
I was reading this week's Morning Tip and was particularly interested that you were writing about Hack-a since I know you are vehemently against its over-use. I, like others, disagree with your views on that matter. But to say that "ESPN.com's Kevin Pelton, who -- like all right-minded people -- has called for the NBA to do something about the spread of Hack-a"! Come on David, are we (including Mark Jackson, Donnie Walsh, etc) all not right-minded because we did not call the NBA to do something about the rule since we disagree with your views (and many other people who share them as well)? Is that not offensive?
You're being a little too literal in your interpretation of my phrasing, Hadi. No, it was no offensive. It was use of exaggeration to make a point. No, I don't you're "wrong-minded" if you disagree with me. I am not an absolutist; as I wrote, if anyone has an idea of how to make this better, I want to hear it.
The Starters: Redick's Hack on Drummond
Smart move? Annoying move? Both? Will it change "Hack-A-Shaq" rules?
From Robert Bakos:
I wanted to address the conversation of Hack-a fouling and what it means for the game.
Firstly, I firmly believe that you cannot ban hack-a fouling purely for the purposes of entertainment. This would send a message saying that we will protect players who cannot hit their free throws.
Secondly, those who say this isn't basketball, are dead wrong. Growing up I played a lot of basketball; on the streets, house league, rep, high school, intramural, you name it.
One of the primary objectives is to get the ball out of the hands of the best and in to the hands of the weak players.
We did this because the weakest players were either; poor dribblers, poor shooters, poor decision makers, or just the best option for us on defense because it would disrupt their "flow."
This would be like putting the ball in the hands of an Rafael Araújo or Anthony Bennett and telling them to run the team.
In all honesty, free throws are part of the game. If players hit their free throws consistently enough this would eliminate hack-a fouling. If you protect the players who can't hit free throws, then what's next?
Okay, Robert, let me ask you: did you consistently foul the worst free throw shooters on the opposing team when you played pickup? Did your high school team hack your rival's worst free throw shooter and put him on the foul line 36 times? Did your intramural team jump on the back of the frat house's worst free throw shooter in the final minutes of a tight game? I'm guessing the answer is no to all three questions. Why? Because y'all wanted to find out who the better team was by playing the game, not by having a free throw shooting contest. There is a qualitative difference between leaving a bad jump shooter open and deliberately fouling someone and putting them on the foul line 15+ times. I know you know the difference.
From Ken Stuart:
There is one angle being missed here. Basketball professionals and basketball fans have no idea what an NBA game looks like to a non-fan.
Every time I introduce NBA basketball to someone, there is ALWAYS the following reaction: "Can't they do something about the last two minutes taking so long?"
This is unnoticed by long-term fans because it is normal to them. But it is tedious and boring for casual fans. This is MUCH more important than "Hack-A".
The whole scenario of a 107-105 game with 12 seconds left, which then takes 10 minutes of free throws is FAR more absurd than "Hack-A" - you are just used to it and thus don't notice it. (You only notice Hack-A because it is now used much more.)
The whole concept of "intentional fouls" is a dubious one to begin with. A "foul" is when someone has done something WRONG. We have flagrant fouls -- because while unintentionally hitting someone with an elbow is regrettable, intentionally doing so is unacceptable. So, why is "doing wrong to get a tactical advantage" part of sports? Do we think it is okay to rob a liquor store to get money to run for office?
The whole point of 12 SECONDS LEFT is that time has almost run out. Allowing teams to "do wrong to prolong the game" is just nonsensical.
So, how about making intentional fouls worse than unintentional ones -- just like the real world? Two free throws and the team retains the ball. This eliminates everything that non-fans hate about the NBA game, both the super-long "last two minutes" and Hack-A in one fell swoop.
The Starters: Hacking In 2015 Playoffs
The 'Hack-A-Whoever' was the biggest issue of the 2014-15 postseason.
Here's what an NBA coach pointed out to me, Ken: the NBA is the only basketball league in the world -- in the world! -- that allows intentional fouling off the ball. Nobody else does -- not in high school, not in college, not in international play. That points out the absurdity of the practice. And Hack-a is not limited to the last two minutes, as the Rockets proved against Detroit. I'm okay with your idea on two free throws, but as I wrote, I don't want to completely eliminate Hack-a; I just want to make it less beneficial for the team that does it.
Someone now wants to talk about something else. Sorry. From John Looney:
Would you please inform your peers in the media to stop talking about trading Blake Griffin until after the Clippers have resolved their TV contract? There is no way they are trading a draw like Griffin (who's a phenomenal player) for anyone lesser than him in terms of marketing appeal -- i.e., no one available.
Maybe there's an argument that trading Griffin makes sense basketball-wise, because Griffin and DeAndre Jordan don't fit perfectly. Though, I'd disagree with that. Regardless, owner Steve Ballmer is not giving away potential profits for what could potentially be a slightly better basketball team, probably via depth while lowering the ceiling.
I think you're right on the money, John. Blake is the guy that sells tickets in L.A. -- he did when Donald Sterling owned the Clips, and he does now. His presence, or lack thereof, would also make a big difference in the team's potential takeaway from its new local TV deal. I will be very surprised if the Clips trade him, either by the deadline or this summer. He's just too valuable for the franchise.
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(last week's averages in parentheses)
1) Stephen Curry (38.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 6 apg, .537 FG, .875 FT): He's got in-the-building range.
2) Kawhi Leonard (19.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 1.8 apg, .491 FG, .818 FT): Monday's win over Orlando marked just the second time all season that Leonard didn't attempt a free throw during a game.
3) Kevin Durant (35 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 4.7 apg, .485 FG, .933 FT): Hasn't scored fewer than 25 points in a game since Jan. 17 (10 games, in which he's averaged 32.1 per game. Wow).
4) Russell Westbrook (34.3 ppg, 11.7 rpg, 12.3 apg, .491 FG, 1,000 FT): Averaging 7.6 rebounds per game, along with 24.0 points and 10.0 assists per game. To average a triple-double for the season, with his current numbers, he'd have to average 14.2 rebounds per game the rest of the way.
5) LeBron James (26 ppg, 7 rpg, 6 apg, .453 FG, .686 FT): He's never been a great 3-point shooter, but 26.7 percent this season? Yikes.
9 -- Consecutive wins by the Nuggets at home over the Bulls after Saturday's come-from-behind win against Chicago, rallying from a 16-point fourth-quarter deficit. The Bulls' last win in Denver was on Feb. 8, 2006, with Ben Gordon's 30 points leading the way in a 110-107 victory. (No, you can add correctly; Chicago didn't play at Denver during the 2011-12 lockout season, so the Bulls have only played nine games in Denver in 10 years.)
Bulls vs. Nuggets
Danilo Gallinari scores 33 points to top Derrick Rose's 30 and nine boards, as Denver wins it, 115-110.
3 -- Games in which the Spurs have trailed at home in the fourth quarter this season, the third coming, quite surprisingly, at the hands of the Lakers Saturday night -- though San Antonio pulled away late for its 37th straight regular season win at AT&T Center.
1,736 -- Career steals for Clippers teammates Chris Paul and Paul Pierce, tied for 18th on the NBA's all-time list, 23 behind 17th place Shawn Marion.
2) Terrific (and, long) Q and A with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar by George Mason University economics professor Tyler Cowen. (This has Kareem's "one trick pony" quote about Dirk Nowitzki. I think there's context here that shows the comment wasn't as bad as it seems, but judge for yourself.)
3) We're two months from the playoffs, but it's already looking like another episode of Clippers-Grizz in the first round could be in the offing. Seven games of nasty. Sign me up!
4) Now, this is the way you announce where you're going to college!
5) Congrats to Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, but especially Manning, whom I hope will ride off into the sunset after a second Super Bowl title. But, it's his life and career. He can do what he wants. (Though I hope he retires.)
1) No surprise that Jeff Hornacek was fired in Phoenix last week, given the team's dreadful performances through much of the first half of the season, but everyone owns this, starting with Robert Sarver and GM Ryan McDonough. The big choices that have been made in the last two years -- signing Isaiah Thomas from Sacramento, which alienated Goran Dragic; trading Thomas to Boston and Dragic to Miami at the deadline last year; trading Marcus Morris but keeping Markieff Morris; giving Tyson Chandler a big contract to try and entice LaMarcus Aldridge to sign last summer -- have blown up in the Suns' faces.
2) Scary but compelling stuff from the great Jackie MacMullan on the deaths of so many former NBA players, both in the past few months and years, in middle age.
3) This guy ... well, God don't like ugly, I'll leave it at that.
4) No Tip next week while I'm hip deep in All-Star madness up in Toronto. We'll return with another 8,000 words or so Feb. 22.
It was a dream last year in Atlanta, and Kyle Korver was the Prince of Threes. Making his first All-Star appearance at age 33, Korver was otherworldy for the Hawks, who won a franchise record 60 regular season games and made the Eastern Conference finals. Korver was the team's lifeblood; every time he rose up for a three, the crowd at Philips Arena rose with him, the noise rising in their throats. He had one of the greatest shooting seasons in history, making 49.2 percent of his 3-point attempts.
But Korver's season ended with injury -- an elbow that got worse and worse with every shot, and a right ankle that was wrecked all at once, when Cleveland's Matthew Dellavedova ran into him in Game 2 of the conference finals, tearing ligaments in the ankle. That led to separate surgeries on the ankle (in May) and elbow (in June), and a slow start this season -- something a player of Korver's age doesn't need.
Hawks vs. Magic
Kyle Korver scores 19 points and hands out five assists to lead the Hawks past the Magic, 103-100.
This season, Korver isn't shooting as well from range, making just 37.5 percent of his threes. Per NBA.com/Stats, among players who've played 20 or more games this season, he's 17th in the league in catch and shoot 3-point attempts (4.2 a game). Last season, he was fourth in that category (5.2 per game).
And the Hawks, while still very good at a Southeast Division-leading 30-23, are also off of last year's pace. But Korver and his team are still in the mix, with defense leading the way -- Atlanta is fifth in defensive rating, seventh in points allowed. And while Korver couldn't do all of the offseason training he normally does in Santa Barbara with physician Marcus Elliott, Korver can bend his elbow again without fire shooting down his arm. Things are different, but in some ways, they're better.
Me: We were talking in the studio last night, and the thought was it might be better for you all not to be running away with the conference and division like you did last year, because you'll be sharper at the end of the regular season than you were last year, when a lot guys sat getting ready for the playoffs.
Kyle Korver: Yeah, in some ways, I kind of felt we didn't play a meaningful game for like a month and a half before the playoffs started last year. You always want to be playing your best basketball right now, as players, as coaches, as an organization. You want to feel like you're doing your best every day. I really feel like we're heading toward our best basketball. I feel like we're on track to get there.
Me: Can I ask you about you? I know it's not your favorite subject.
Me: I know a player's shot is a personal thing, like a pitcher's release point or a golfer's putting stance. But do you feel like with the new release point you have on the shot, that it feels right again?
Korver's And-One 3-Pointer
Kyle Korver drains the spot-up 3-pointer and gets fouled for the four point play opportunity.
KK: I feel like I don't think I'm trying to put anything back together any more. I think that's the biggest thing for me. After the surgeries it really took a lot longer for the dots to connect for me than I thought it would. You don't ever want to be a mechanical basketball player, but as far as technique and things, I like to have certain check points in my shot, certain things that I can count on and think about. It kind of helps me to be consistent. For a good part of the season, the dots weren't connecting. It was super frustrating. It hasn't been a great shooting season, the first part of the season especially, it's been a struggle. But I feel like the last little bit here, things are coming together, and it's got me excited about the last part of the year.
Me: Your shooting numbers were much better last month (38.7 percent on threes in January, after shooting 29 percent in December). Does the combo of the elbow feeling good and seeing the ball go in the basket more make you feel like you can get back to where you were last year?
KK: Yeah. My body feels healthy again. I feel like things have healed, and I'm back and whole. There was, I felt like I missed so many shots for a while, and I think mentally, that does throw you a little bit. The last month, having a few better games has been good for me. I mean, at the end of the day, shooting is about confidence and the right mindset. At the end of the day, you have to make a few shots to feel right. I feel like I'm heading in the right direction, so I'm excited.
After last year, there was a standard set for where we wanted to be as a team. ... It feels like the last couple of weeks, there's been some good conversations. It feels like the ship is turning back in the right direction.
– Atlanta Hawks shooting guard Kyle Korver
Me: I still marvel how much confidence matters, even at this level.
KK: The mental side of sports, it's huge. It's such a massive part of the game. You can visualize and you can try to trick yourself into thinking a certain way. There's all kinds of things you can do to try to get in the right spot mentally. But at the end of the day. To have real confidence, you've got to be doing good at your craft. For me, mentally, it was like I was guessing all of the time or trying something new today. Trying to figure out something out in warmups, that's not a good head space to be in. It doesn't exactly give you a ton of confidence. For me, just feeling like I'm settled back into my mechanics, more than anything, that really helps with the mental side of things.
Me: Did Bud or the coaches do anything in particular -- maybe a new set or look to get you a good shot, or anything verbal -- to encourage you to stick with it, that it was going to come back?
KK: More than anything, it's not always what coaches do, it's what coaches don't do. A player senses when a coach loses confidence in him. That more than anything can throw a player. Bud, he's so good at Xs and Os, or drawing up a new play or a new wrinkle or something to try and get you a shot. He's really good at that. But, not just me, but from a player's standpoint, we sense when someone loses confidence in you more than when someone's really trying to throw you a bone. Everyone knows, the guys on our coaching staff know, who's coming off a couple of surgeries. Going into the season, I think people knew it wasn't going to be perfect in the beginning. Moreso than anything, you think when people stick with you and have your back, and don't lose faith in you, and feel like the next one's going to go in, that probably does more for you than anything else.
Korver Drains The Three
Kyle Korver hits the contested 3-pointer from the top of the key.
Me: Do you sense that helps other guys on the team as well, like Baze? He plays with a lot of emotion; does he need people to show they're confident in him?
KK: Baze is never hurting for confidence. Baze always has ultimate belief in himself and what he's capable of doing. He sees the trajectory that he's on and where he's headed in his basketball career. One of the ultimate strengths of our coaching staff, and really the organization now, is that they're just a real positive vibe. You really feel like everyone's pulling for you and everyone's trying to help you get better. There's obviously constructive criticism, and we have film sessions and we try to hold each other accountable. But you really feel the coaching staff is pulling for you and they're putting in the work with you on off days, shootarounds, whenever you want. We've got a really bunch of solid people kind of running the ship here, and it feels like people really have your back. With players, that really creates a healthy environment, where you don't just feel like pawns in the game.
Me: Do you talk with Marcus during the season about your shooting or mechanics?
KK: Marcus is one of my good friends in life. We talk quite a bit. If we're going to talk about basketball or performance, or anything like that, we're going to talk regardless. He's created a great partnership with our new training staff, too. They've been excellent this year. It's a whole new team. They're totally open minded and outside the box thinkers trying to find any way that we can be better. Been really impressed with them this year. They've helped me out a ton.
Korver Shines In New Orleans
Kyle Korver scores 22 points, hitting all eight of his shots, including four from 3-point range, as the Hawks beat the Pelicans, 121-115.
Me: Is there an example of that?
KK: They've done a lot of things. A lot of us deal with knees or ankles or hips. Most of us have something that we're always kind of trying to manage. It's just what kind of happens when you play basketball. They have a really holistic approach to how they look at your body and evaluate it, not just treat the knee that's hurting, but trying to understand the movement pattern that's causing the hurt knee or the hurt hip, or whatever it is. They're really excellent with the physical therapy side of everything, not just treating what's hurt, but really trying to be proactive and trying to make this not happen again. There's been a whole lot of buy in from our whole team, not just me. Guys that you never really see in the training room much, coming in. They're coming in because they feel a difference in their body. They're really feeling a difference as they're doing these extra exercises and therapies. They're into our sleep and our eating. Everyone's always been into those things but they've kind of taken it to a new level that I've never been around. I mean, a lot of those things just give you information, blood testing, working with nutritionists, working with sleep doctors, all of these things. They really see the whole thing. I feel like everyone's kind of really learned a lot.
Me: You keeping a sleep diary?
For a good part of the season, the dots weren't connecting. It was super frustrating. ... But I feel like the last little bit here, things are coming together, and it's got me excited about the last part of the year.
– Atlanta Hawks shooting guard Kyle Korver
KK: I don't keep a sleep diary. But especially on road trip, they give us target sleep times -- sleep from here to there. They're doing a good job of when shootarounds are, when practices are, when flights are, things around guys trying to get better sleep, trying to work with different medications. If you have a hard time sleeping, making sure you have a certain amount of sleep at certain times. Everything kind of works together: sleeping, eating, exercises, therapies. It's how do you get a plan? I think what's really cool about this right now is the coaching staff, obviously with Bud being in the front office, the training staff, everyone's on the same page. Everyone's putting together a singular plan for each player, where all these things are involved.
Me: I know there were some bad losses early. Do you think there's room for growth in the second half of the season?
KK: I feel like we're a better team than we were last year. I think we're a more talented team. Guys who've come back are better. Paul [Millsap]'s better than he was last year. Al [Horford]'s added 3-point shooting. Jeff [Teague] has added to his game; Dennis [Schroder] is playing at a higher level; Baze adds something to us we didn't have before, another ballhandler, another person who can create off the dribble. Our bench is a year deeper, another year of experience, another year that we've been together. A lot of it for us is finding that mental focus and that sense of urgency that we have to play with. When we're really at our best we're playing as one. The ball is moving. We have tons of activity on defense, so we're causing turnovers and getting out on the break. But to do that stuff, you really have to have a sharp mindset. I think at the beginning of the year, I don't know why, but I didn't feel like we had that urgency for quite a while. Those losses have been a reminder that we do have to play a certain way for us to be good. After last year, there was a standard set for where we wanted to be as a team. I think we all felt the slippage. I think we all felt it from top to bottom. It feels like the last couple of weeks, there's been some good conversations. It feels like the ship is turning back in the right direction.
"He certainly has been remorseful, which is great, and we'll find a way to move past it. That's part of life. An important part of life is learning how to have consequences."
-- Clippers owner Steve Ballmer, telling the Los Angeles Times Thursday that Blake Griffin will be disciplined by the team for punching assistant equipment manager Mathias Testi during a fight at a Toronto restaurant late last month. Griffin broke his right hand during the fight, and will be out several more weeks.
"Just because I haven't done a lot of interviews and voiced my opinion on a lot of things, I want you guys to understand that not only do I endorse Sam Mitchell, but the other players do, too. We believe not only in him, but the system and what we're trying to do here. I think everybody needs to understand that. The transformation and what we're trying to do here is build something for the future and these are the first steps of that."
"Did I say I was retiring? I'm very thankful for (the recognition on the road). Don't get me wrong. But I plan on coming back. I just go year to year at this point. I don't put a timetable on it. I don't want to say two years and then everybody says 'Well this is it, right?' But 20 years would be cool."
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