Admit it, Dubs Nation, you were a bit uneasy about this Luke Walton thing at the start of the season, weren’t you?
Walton had no experience as a head coach when he replaced Steve Kerr on the bench. He was a well-liked assistant if a bit laid back. Could he play the bad cop if necessary? Would he have his team prepared? Could he make the necessary in-game adjustments? Could he even pick up a well-timed technical foul?
The early schedule did the Warriors no favors, either. You probably would have taken a 8-3 out of the gate, maybe even 7-4. The truth is, Walton might have taken it, too.
“Early on, there was lot of pressure and stress on making sure everything was done right and not forgetting anything,” Walton fessed up to Balls before a xx-xx victory over the hopeless Brooklyn Nets on Saturday night. “It kind of weighs on your mind and doesn’t allow you to be as effective.”
Well, here the Warriors are at 11-0, the best start in franchise history. How crazy is that? If Walton isn’t the Coach of the Year, then he’s at least the best interim coach in NBA history.
As Walton would be the first to tell you, the streak is all about the players. But coaches have let their egos wreck good teams before. If one of the marks of a successful one is the ability not to mess up a good thing, then Cool Head Luke has been a unqualified success.
And Walton feels more comfortable in his skin every day.
“Absolutely,” Walton said. “It’s nice because the more comfortable I get, the more relaxed I am and more I can enjoy it. As in any job, when you’re comfortable, you’re focused on the what you can do and what advantages you have with matchups. It’s a more efficient way to coach as opposed to not trying not to mess up, which takes away from being as effective as you can be.”
Now there are whispers that Kerr and his bad back are healthy enough to be on the bench again. But the Walton gang has done so ridiculously well without him, what’s the point? It’s far better for Kerr to come back one day too late than one day too early. Logic says the team will need him at some point, but until the Champs actually lose a game, that time isn’t now.
LAKE SHOW NEXT?: The early success bodes well for Walton, who aspires to become a full-time head coach one day. While not at that level yet, obviously, he has made a pretty good first impression around the league.
Hello, Los Angeles?
The Lakers are in the middle of a tedious rebuild under old-school coach Byron Scott, who is in the second year of a four-year contract. By the time the deal expires, the organization will be ready to head in a different direction with a young nucleus and fresh game plan. And Walton may have enough experience to take the next step. As a San Diego native who played in the Lakers’ glory days, he would make for a popular if not obvious choice.
DECISIONS, DECISIONS: Walton and his staff do have a few riddles to solve. One is how to juggle Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli at the center position. Ezeli made his 10th consecutive start on Saturday.
“We just don’t want to mess with the chemistry and the flow we have going right now,” Walton said.
It hard to argue that logic. Ezeli can become a free agent after the season, when the front office intends to resign him. If he’s the heir apparent in the middle — Bogut’s deal expires after next season— then this is as good a time as any to throw him into the fire against guys such as Nets vet Brook Lopez, an accomplished low-post scorer.
Plus, the 31-year-old Bogut has a history of health problems, as we know well. A reduced workload should make for a healthier and more effective big man come playoff time.
CAL STARTS FAST: If there’s anything to be taken out of Cal’s 97-65 rout of a second-rate Rice team Friday, it’s that Ivan Rabb will make some NBA lottery team very happy next spring.
A number of Bears made good first impressions, but Rabb was a manchild among boys. The Bishop O’Dowd product barely broke a sweat because of foul trouble and the lop-sided score, and he still had 14 points, 13 rebounds and two blocked shots in only 16 minutes.
From size to instincts to skill set, Rabb is a dead ringer for Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett, whom he idolized as a kid. If Garnett had a weakness, though, it was that he too often deferred to others especially in crucial moments. If coach Cuonzo Martin can help the the 18-year-old develop a killer instinct, he’ll be flat out unstoppable one day.
LET’S GET READY TO RUGBY: Rugby has been a strong niche sports in the Bay Area, and soon locals will have a pro league of their own to follow.
The Professional Rugby Organization announced the formation of a six-team league that will begin play in April. Two of the teams will be located in Northern California, a league insider told Balls, and one will play its home game in a cozy venue down the block. (Hint: It won’t be Kezar Stadium.)
The talent pool is a bit shallow in this country, but some experienced players apparently will sign for less to enhance their brands. If all goes well, the league could add two teams in Canada and two more in the U.S. in the 2017 season.
Balls nominates Jarryd Hayne to throw out the first stiff-arm.
THE LIST: Balls’ can’t-miss picks against the spread in Week 10 of the NFL season:
Carolina Panthers at Tennessee Titans (+6): Unbeaten Panthers aren’t for real.
Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers (-4 1/2): The Browns have never won in Pittsburgh in the Ben Roethlisberger era. Or the Landry Jones era, for that matter.
Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers (-11): Which comes first: The Lions win an NFL title or the Packers lose three in a row?
Minnesota Vikings at Raiders (-2 1/2): The Raiduhs and their defense get well in the Black Hole.
New Orleans Saints (0) at Washington Redskins: Take the better quarterback and more desperate team.
Last week: 2-3. Season: 30-15 (.667).
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