From certain perspectives, the decision that Warriors coach Steve Kerr has to make regarding Kobe Bryant’s replacement as the starting shooting guard for the NBA’s Western Conference All-Stars is both tough and delicate.
From the only perspective that really matters, which is the perspective of the men who play for — and the men, women and children who root for — the Warriors, it’s a ridiculously easy call.
So easy, in fact, that it’s a tad baffling Kerr didn’t make his decision the second the “Black Mamba” was ruled out.
(And pardon the digression, but aren’t you glad Kobe decided to add the “Black” clarification when he gave himself that nickname? Is there a “White Mamba” out there that we haven’t been told about? An “Albino Mamba,” perhaps?)
Kerr’s decision, which is being painted as far more monumental than need be, is an either/or thing on two fronts.
1) It’s either Klay Thompson, his very own shooting guard for now and through the 2018-2019 season, or James Harden, the fabulously gifted and equally fabulously bearded shooting guard for the Houston Rockets who is in the midst of an MVP-caliber season.
2) It’s either piss off the one guy on your roster under contract longer than anybody else (not to mention every single person out there who has any sort of tie to anything GSW, because Harden this season as openly mocked the Dubs — saying in a videotaped team huddle, among other things, “They’re not that good!” — despite the fact that Golden State ripped the Rockets a new one in Oakland and absolutely humiliated them in Houston), or play it safe for fear pissing off those who think Harden’s no-doubt-legitimate MVP candidacy would make his exclusion from the starting lineup and All-Star farce.
First of all, nobody should be concerned about any accusation involving the NBA All-Star Game and the word “farce.” The whole thing is a farce, a glorified afternoon of sloppy street ball during which the best of the NBA’s best play even less committed defense than they play when the lowly Philadelphia 76ers are in town on a sleepy Tuesday on the tail end of a back-to-backer in late November. That the “Ebony Mamba” got voted into the starting lineup to begin with underscores what a farce it all is.
How did that happen, by the way? Don’t let anybody tell you different: Kobe is an absolute god in China, and China has Internet access. End of explanation.
And let’s not even spend much time on the dunk contest and its pathetic County Fair cousins, the 3-point shootout, the skills challenge, and the “Look how progressive we are in allowing a girl to play with us” shooting thing that also features a few recent NBA retirees clearly and desperately missing the spotlight.
There hasn’t been a truly original new dunk in the contest for at least a decade, and if LeBron James isn’t out there trying to come up with one, you’re being told by the best player on the planet just how insignificant it really is.
All that Kerr needs to concern himself with, for now and forever more, is how his team and his fans feel about him.
Is Harden the better player? If we’re being honest, probably. But it’s damn close, and even that doesn’t matter.
Look at it this way: You’re at a party, and standing next to you is your beautiful spouse. Also next to you is your spouse’s friend, who is slightly more attractive.
Who are you taking home that night? Even the dirtiest dirtbag goes home with the spouse because that’s who you have to live with and look in the eye every single day, hoping for respect.
Kerr isn’t married to Klay, but he does have to look him in the eye every day and hope for respect. Picking Harden to fill in for Kobe kills that hope, whether Klay would admit it or not.
Mychael Urban has been covering Bay Area sports for 25 years and has worked for MLB.com, Comcast SportsNet Bay Area and KNBR (680 AM).