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In uncertain times, Steve Kerr finds pride in NBA’s inclusiveness

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The Warriors gave fans a reason to cheer in Oracle Arena while protests erupted throughout the country’s major airports. (Stan Olszewski/Special to S.F. Examiner)
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The question was terribly appropriate for Steve Kerr, a man of the world as much as the basketball court.

On this Saturday evening of contradictions — the Warriors honoring one group of immigrants to America, the Chinese, wearing jerseys with Mandarin letters, while the nation had been ordered to ban other groups of immigrants — Kerr was asked if he had any thoughts on President Trump’s decisions.

This isn’t the normal pregame item for an NBA coach, but Kerr, born in Beirut — his father was murdered while serving as president of the American University there — and schooled in Egypt and southern California is not your normal NBA coach. How could he be?

“I do but not right now,” said Kerr. “Let’s just say what’s happening is scary and discouraging.”

Then, apropos of nothing, if compared to the protests and federal decisions, Kerr and the Warriors went to an arena where the only noise was from the elated sellout crowd at Oracle. Politics would for the time be secondary to sporting success.

The Warriors won, as they do almost every game, this time crushing the horribly overmatched (no Chris Paul) Los Angeles Clippers, 144-98. Steph, supposedly questionable before the start with a sore left quad, was fine. No, he was fantastic, 43 points, 25 in the third quarter, after tossing in one of those halfway to Berkeley shots to close the first half.

The first two-plus weeks of the season, Curry seemed intent on making Kevin Durant, signed in the summer, and Klay Thompson comfortable.

”I think he thought if he shot too much,” said Kerr, “he would take away from their offense. Then he came to an understanding. So did we as coaches. We’ve worked out the dynamics.”

Durant ended up with 23, Klay with 16. The fourth Warrior to be in next month’s All-Star Game, Draymond Green, had fives all the way, points, rebounds, assists. “I thought Draymond was tremendous on defense,” said Kerr. “And now Steph is Steph again.”

Kerr always has been Kerr, an academic, a long-distance shooter and at one time a teammate of Michael Jordan. Maybe others ignored the Chinese New Year’s celebration — although it’s difficult not to pay attention to the traditional dragon dance — but Kerr was very aware of the situation.

“One of the things I’m real proud of is the way the NBA is part of the global dynamic,” he explained. “We have players and fans from all other the world. We have a very inclusive game.”

Zaza Pachulia of Georgia, south of Russia, and Anderson Varejao of Brazil, both centers are the only non-American on the Warriors this season, but in the past the Dubs had athletes from Lebanon, Lithuania, Australia and other lands.

“At a time when we’re looking at the world change before our very eyes,” said Kerr, “there’s a special pride in being a part of the NBA. There are people from so many different backgrounds, fans from all around the world.”

The sport is universal, in some places even more popular than soccer. NBA players, including those from the Warriors, have crossed the sea to give basketball instruction in Africa, Asia and Europe. Curry, no less promoting his Under Armour shoes, was in China last fall. They know a winner on both sides of the Pacific.

“We’ve got a lot of talent,” Curry reminded. “It was a little bit of a balancing act. But when we’re aggressive good things come out of it.”

Then in response to a question of Chinese night, Curry said, “This was a fun game. Those jerseys were pretty cool.”

So is Curry. And so is Steve Kerr.

Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.realclearsports.com. E-mail him at typoes@aol.com.

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