In addition to revolutionizing basketball, the Warriors have contributed mightily to discombobulating LeBron James’ return to Cleveland. What climaxed the other night with a beatdown of the Cavaliers, which led to the firing of overmatched coach David Blatt, began with a rejection that didn’t please James in the fall of 2014.
He wanted Mark Jackson to be his coach, after the Warriors had fired him and hired Steve Kerr.
And his bosses — yes, James occasionally has bosses — said no.
As reported by Yahoo Sports, James and his agent, Rich Paul, already were plotting for Jackson to become coach before Blatt had coached his first game. Remember, Blatt’s hiring by owner Dan Gilbert pre-dated James’ celebrated return to his native northeast Ohio, and James wanted no part of an NBA neophyte who had built his name in Europe and Israel. Since then, James has undercut Blatt to the point he never had a chance. Jackson hasn’t gotten an NBA head coaching job since, but he has said some weird things about Stephen Curry and the Warriors behind an ESPN microphone.
New coach Tyronn Lue is a better fit in Cleveland because he’s a former NBA player who knows the game and league, has the respect of his players, and most of all, president-general manager-player James likes him.
“I was just as surprised and caught off guard like everybody,” James claimed Saturday. “It’s unfortunate what happened yesterday, and as a team we just have to focus on what’s now, what’s now in front of us with the coach that we have now and we’ve got to continue to get better.”
Surrrrre. Closer to the truth, James had lobbied on Lue’s behalf since last season.
“I’ve got a problem in general with this narrative — and those of you that have been with us for a while understand this — LeBron plays for this team . . . LeBron doesn’t run this organization,” said David Griffin, the GM in name only. “LeBron is about this organization and he is of this organization and he’s of our community. But this narrative that somehow we’re taking direction from him, it’s just not fair. It’s not fair to him in particular. But frankly, it’s kind of not fair to me and our group anymore.”
And if you believe any of that hocus pocus, Balls has a resort island in Lake Erie that it wants to sell you.
GREEN BLUE AFTER SNUB: Yep, Draymond Green and the Warriors got robbed again, all right. Based on overall value and team success, he deserves to start in the All-Star Game in Toronto next month.
Heck, even TNT knucklehead Charles Barkley knows as much.
“There are three guys who should be no-brainers — Steph Curry, Kawhi Leonard and Draymond Green,” Barkley said in a rare fit of knowledge. “The fans, they got two out of three right.”
“My mom made him (say that),” Green joked at the shoot around on Friday.
Indeed, no one was more upset than Mary Babers-Green, who tweeted, “Like I said . . . A POPULARITY CONTEST!”
Mama Green nailed it — the All-Star Game is a popularity contest. And it should be. The league hasn’t hosted a competitive All-Star Game from start to finish in years. Mostly, it’s about entertainment now. It has morphed into an exhibition game for the fans who spend their time and money to watch it.
To his credit, Green didn’t complain about the result.
“My Twitter was always going up because of the job our P.R. staff did as far as getting me to the All-Star Game,” Green said. “To be where I was, I can’t ask for anything more.”
The question is, who does Green deserves to start ahead?
Kobe Bryant is the most correct answer. Except that the future Hall of Famer received more votes than anyone, sort of a like a lifetime achievement award. In this, the final season of his legendary career, Mamba deserves an ovation when his name is announced with the starters one last time.
As the two best teams in the league, the San Antonio Spurs and Warriors deserve at least one representative each. Leonard and Curry are the obvious picks. But the Oklahoma City Thunder have two starters — Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook — and therein lies the real culprit.
Yet the raw numbers say Durant and Westbrook should be starters themselves. As metrics geeks point out, both rank ahead of Green in Win Shares and Value Over Replacement Player. In the end, Green may have been the victim of his own unique game. Much of his value lies in flexibility and leadership, intangibles that statistics cannot measure. And if the fans recognize anything, it’s glitzy numbers.
Anyway, Green will make team as a reserve. Expect to hear from him.
CHIP AHOY!: Defensive coordinator may be the most important position on Chip Kelly’s staff, but given what little regard the new 49ers dictator has for defense, what experienced candidate wants such a thankless job? Mike Vrabel was offered the chance to replace Eric Mangini, who was fired only one year into a three-year contract extension, but he wisely turned down the apparent promotion to remain Houston Texans linebackers coach.
Hardy Nickerson will serve as linebackers coach, which allows him to be near his son Hardy Jr., a Cal linebacker and future NFL draft pick. The one-time Pittsburgh Steeler spent two seasons in that position with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before coach Lovie Smith and his staff were shown the door earlier this month.
Ex-Detroit Lions running back coach Curtis Modkins will have the title of offensive coordinator. His primary duty will be to stay out of the way while Kelly calls the shots.
FISH OUT OF WATER: If you thought predecessor Jim Tomsula was quirky, then get a load of what Kelly had to say at his introduction the other day.
“When you fall out of a boat, sometimes you land in crap and sometimes you land in San Francisco,” said Kelly, whom the Philadelphia Eagles threw overboard earlier this month.
Kinda makes you wonder what floats his boat, doesn’t it?
Oh, and the Niners may want to remind Kelly that his team is based in Santa Clara lest he show up at Kezar Stadium next season.
SO LONG, EVERYBODY: Speaking of sinking ships, Cal offensive coordinator Tony Franklin announced his resignation to accept a similar position at Middle Tennessee State, not exactly a football powerhouse.
Franklin cited a desire to be closer to his family, which is another way to say that star quarterback Jared Goff and wide receiver Kenny Lawler are headed to the NFL draft.
BUSINESS AS USUAL: The A’s will stage their annual Fanfest today, and wouldn’t it be nice if baseball brain Billy Beane makes an announcement that gets their fans really pumped about the season ahead? You know, like free agent Yoenis Cespedes has been signed to a long-term deal?
Instead, the O.co Coliseum hostages will be able to pay their last respects to stud pitcher Sonny Gray, who’s a good bet to be moved before the next trade deadline.
JUST ASKIN’: The A’s added former ace Mark Mulder to their broadcast team for 20 games, and shouldn’t he spend the other 142 in their rotation?
FREE ADVICE: Detroit Pistons rim-wrecker Andre Drummond missed a record 23 free throws the other night — Curry has missed 22 this season — a complete embarrassment that woke up the tiresome debate about what should be done to discourage so many intentional fouls.
What would former Warriors great Rick Barry do?
“Nothing!” Barry responded to Balls in an email. “The coaches will just have to take their bad free-throw shooters out of the game. Would another team sport put in a rule to protect a player with a major deficiency in his game? That makes no sense!”
The solution has little to do with the rules and everything to do with the guys who can’t drain an uncontested 15-footer to save their lives. If Drummond and DeAndre Jordan converted even half their freebies, opponents would be far less anxious to send them to the line.
But improvement takes practice and an open mind, and Drummond and Jordan have zero interest in either one. When Balls asked Jordan whether he would consider a change in approach at some point, the Los Angeles Clippers bricklayer wouldn’t rule it out. Here it is two years later, and the guy still has the same technique and results.
As long as Drummond and Jordan refuse to help themselves, no way should the league do it for them.
YOUR TURN: “With all due respect, the Warriors may be a little too optimistic about their confidence level playing San Antonio this year. Looking at the fact of recent history, the Warriors haven’t gotten past the Spurs mentally or on the court. In fact, the Spurs really the only team they haven’t ever beaten or dominated.” — Daniel Cano, Austin, Texas.
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andre drummondCharles BarkleyChip KellyCleveland Cavalierscurtis modkinsDavid BlattDavid GriffinDeAndre JordanDetroit LionsDetroit PistonsDraymond GreenEric ManginiGolden State WarriorsJim TomsulaKawhi LeonardKevin DurantLeBron Jamesmark mulderMary Babers-Greenmike vrabelNBA All-Star GameOakland AthleticsOklahoma City ThunderPaul LadewskiRussell WestbrookSan Antonio SpursSan Francisco 49ersSonny GrayStephen CurryTorontotyronn lueYoenis Cespedes