Steve Kerr, you’re fired!
Hey, as a giddy sellout crowd at Oracle Arena discovered Tuesday night, anybody can coach the reigning NBA champs, right?
That includes emergency fill-in Luke Walton, who only three years ago was playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers, for goshsakes.
When Stephen Curry goes off for 40 points and his team grabs 21 offensive rebounds and the opponent is the New Orleans Pelicans and they’re so hurt that a familiar face named Nate Robinson has to start, a coach shouldn’t have to do much. To his credit, Walton didn’t in the 111-95 blowout victory. Cool Head Luke made a few substitutions. At times, he reminded his players that it was perfectly OK to play defense. He protested a few calls. Basically, he didn’t screw up a good thing.
And what’s so bad about that?
The worst thing a new coach can do is try play the role of bully. That’s not Walton, though. The guy is serious about basketball, but he’s not so stuck on himself that he has to put his stamp on the team in its first game of the season.
As Walton said, “This is Steve’s team. This is what he put together. We won a championship and we did it Steve’s way. He told me, ‘Just be yourself. Players will see through you if you’re trying to be someone else.’”
At some point, Walton will have to raise his voice, no doubt. But this is a team that has been together a while. In Curry, Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut, it has veteran leaders. It also has assistant Ron Adams, who has been around the NBA block before. They should be enough to get the Champs through the first few days or even weeks of the season.
Before long, the players will have to hear Kerr’s voice in the huddle again. But for one emotional night at least, the Walton Gang did just fine.
LONG TIME COMIN’: Finally, Rick Barry and the 1975 Warriors have company in the Oracle rafters, where a second NBA champions banner was raised before the game.
Barry had this advice for the current Champs: Don’t forget what got you there.
“The biggest thing in defending [a championship is], you can’t try to do more than you’re capable,” said Barry, who received a rousing ovation before the ceremony. “The players need to do what they did before. In other words, Draymond Green can’t say, ‘Man, I gotta get 20 points a game this year.’ No, Draymond needs to do the same thing he did last year, OK? The same way with the rest of the players — do the same things and accept the roles they have.
“Don’t try to change what worked. They know what works. They did it. Now do it again. … Change that chemistry a little bit, and all of a sudden, you’re not the same team any more.”
LESS POWER TO ’EM: Game 1 of the World Series was delayed 15 minutes after Fox had a power outage, which left operations chief Joe Torre to frantically search for answers not unlike commissioner Bud Selig at the 2002 All-Star fiasco.
If the TV feed had been lost for hours, Balls wonders how many people would have noticed, what with NBA opening night and fantasy football waiver claims and all.
BARNES ON HOLD: Now that Harrison Barnes has put his contract extension on hold until after the season, he’s a prime candidate to try to do much. Only hours after the announcement was made, he bricked 7 of 8 field-goal tries in the first half.
Barnes expects big money as a restricted free agent next summer. Management says it will match any offer from another team, but whether it keeps the forward is another matter.
“I never define the value of a player with his contract, but I know they need Harrison Barnes,” TNT analyst Kenny Smith told Balls. “They don’t have anyone else who can post up and shoot 3’s and defend. There isn’t anyone else on their roster like that of his size. How much is he worth? I know he’s worth a championship to them. Market value is one thing, but they can’t win without him. Barnes is so unique.”
Yet Barnes isn’t more unique than Kevin Durant, the plum of the 2016 free-agent class. The Warriors may be longshots to sign him, but that doesn’t mean they can’t try.
WELCOME BACK, CRAIG: The best sight of all was the sideline reporter dressed in his Halloween best — brown pants, pumpkin orange shirt, orange checkered tie and bright, multicolored sneakers.
That would be TNT’s Craig Sager, of course, whose leukemia was in the 102nd day of remission.
During a timeout, Warriors players relayed welcome-back messages to Sager on the arena big screen while dressed in crazy-colored pastel suits — his trademark. In an emotional moment, the fans gave him an ovation, which he acknowledged before play resumed.
“I doubt that I’ll enjoy a season more than this one,” Sager told Balls. “I’m just happy to have hair again.”
Last week, Sager had a cancerous growth removed from a leg. Next month, he is scheduled to have two injections in his stomach as part of a post-bone marrow transplant maintenance program.
“It has been a long haul, but I’m grinding my way through it,” Sager said.
BIGGEST FAN: TNT lughead Charles Barkley doesn’t have much good to say about the Warriors, but Klay Thompson is the exception. Chuckles goes so far to say that he will emerge as the best off guard in the league before long.
“Klay is gonna be the best two guard in the next X amount of years,” Barkley said. “Oh, he’s started now. He’s just got to be more consistent. That’s the key. But he should be an All-Star the next five years easily. That’s how much respect I have for him as a player. And I said that before everyone else jumped on the bandwagon because I watched him play a lot.”
Is Thompson better than James Harden, the Houston Rockets’ top gun?
“Harden is a better offensive player, but Klay is a better two-way player,” Barkley said. “He can’t score like James Harden, No. 1. But he’s a terrific offensive player [and] a great defensive player.”
“If I wanted a two-guard, he’s perfect. He’s got the perfect size. He actually covers up a lot for Steph [Curry] on defense, because they don’t put Steph on the best guard a lot. They put Klay on him, which is even more impressive to me.”
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