The Warriors own a nice, shiny 11-0 record, and it’s hard to quibble with perfection, but that’s not to say everything is rosy in paradise.
There’s the matter of that achy back — no, not coach Steve Kerr’s but that of Klay Thompson.
Thompson has been bothered by the problem for weeks now. That’s as good an explanation as any for his early struggles. When Balls asked him about the problem last month, he dismissed it as something minor that treatment would cure eventually.
But when Thomson sat out because of a stiff back Saturday night, it was an indication that the problem hadn’t gone away. Bad backs are no fun, Balls is told, and the condition has the potential to linger for weeks if not months.
Yet the fact remains that Thompson has been off his game since the tail end of last regular season. In the playoffs, he averaged 18.6 points per game and shot 39 percent from beyond the arc, a noticeable dip from 21.7 and 44 percent in the regular season, respectively. The All-Star suffered a concussion in the conference semifinals, and that no doubt contributed to his subpar NBA Finals performance.
Stephen Curry has emerged as such a dominant scorer this season, Thompson hasn’t had to put up big numbers himself. If the Splash Brothers are closer to the Ripple Brothers at that end, the Champs may be able to survive even if it does invite double-team pressure. It’s the other side of the court where Thompson is their most effective backcourt defender. For that reason especially, it’s imperative that he be healthy and active come playoff time.
Could be that Kerr’s back might not be the most troublesome.
RODNEY GETS RESPECT: Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie received some flak for the five-year, $45.5 million offer to veteran center Rodney Hudson last offseason. But when Hudson sat out their 30-14 loss to the Minnesota Vikings because of a sprained ankle Sunday, the outcome confirmed the money was well spent.
“We definitely felt Rod’s absence,” back-up center Tony Bergstrom told Balls afterward. “He leaves some big shoes to fill. It was rough not to have him out there.”
In his second career start, Bergstrom was thrown into the fire against Vikings nose tackle Linval Joseph, the 329-pound earthmover who controlled the middle of the line. The ground game didn’t amount to much and quarterback Derek Carr faced the most pressure that he had in weeks.
“I mean, Rod is a great player,” Bergstrom said. “He’s worth everything we’ve given him. The guys have a lot of confidence in his [line] calls and ability. He’s a dude who makes his block every time and grades out very well every game. He’s consistently the best guy at that spot.”
NOW HEAR THIS: We’ll find out whether the Vikings are for real on Sunday, when they host the Green Bay Packers in an NFC North showdown. They’ve lost one game since the Monday Night puzzler against the 49ers at Levi’s Stadium, where offensive coordinator Norv Turner somehow forget that Adrian Peterson was on the roster.
“I’ll tell you what — if they played again, the Vikings would beat the 49ers,” Bergstrom told Balls. “The outcome would be a lot different. That’s a good team over there. They have their record (7-2) for a reason.”
JUST ASKIN’: So what was more impressive on Cordarrelle Patterson’s 93-yard kickoff return — Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski rolling over and over on the ground like a log in the Lumberjack World Championship or the touchdown itself?
THIS JUST IN: Cal golden boy Jared Goff passed for 453 yards and six touchdowns Saturday night, and if you missed it, you weren’t alone. The schedule-makers had the Bears and Warriors in action at the same time just as Stanford’s game was ending in a loss on the final play.
Better yet, the Bears even won the game, 54-24, as their defense held an opponent to fewer than 30 points for a change.
After a few uneven performances, Goff and the offense were back to their old selves again. They piled up a school-record 760 yards against a depleted Beavers defense.
The Bears are bowl eligible for the first time since the 2011 season, although it won’t be the prime-time game that they had hoped for only weeks ago.
“I said it a million times back when we were 1-11 and last year when we lost to BYU that all the work we put in was going to pay off eventually,” Goff said. “By no means are we done. We still have three games left with the big one against Stanford and ASU (Arizona State), but it’s awesome right now.”
WHO IS THIS GUY? So you wanna be a big-time college coach? If you’re normally a calm, cool customer like ex-Warrior Chris Mullin, be prepared to turn into a raving maniac
Admittedly “emotional and anxious” in his St. John’s debut, Mullin stood the entire game on Friday while he yelled instructions to his players, ranted to referees and received several warnings for leaving the coach’s box.
“As I was leaving home, I said to my wife (Liz), ‘Can you believe I’m nervous for this game?’ Mullen said. “She said, ‘You dragged us into this. I don’t want to hear it.’ It was pretty cool being nervous.”
After the 66-57 victory over Wagner in front of a near sellout crowd, Mullin sought out his longtime mentor Lou Carnesecca, the only person he would ever call “Coach.”
“First thing he said was, I looked all neat and sharp, but that’s not going to last,” Mullin conceded. “Soon my shirt will be hanging out and my tie will be undone.”
’BOUT TIME: It took two injuries and the threat of litigation, but the St. Louis Rams and stadium authorities finally took some steps to make the Edward Jones Dome a safer place.
In consecutive weeks, the Cleveland Browns’ Josh McCown and the 49ers’ Reggie Bush suffered injuries after they couldn’t halt their momentum on the concrete apron. On Sunday, a blue rubber padding covered the area in question.
Bush reportedly plans to sue the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority for damages. He blew out an MCL on the play, the final one of his season if not career.
BACK ZACK: While the Giants wait for Zack Greinke’s price tag to come down — good luck with that — they’re doing their due diligence on Yoenis Cespedes and David Price among others. Both want at least $20 million per season, which makes them long shots to wear orange and black any time soon.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Dodgers took the early lead in the Greinke sweepstakes when utility man Enrique Hernandez posed with his hands folded in prayer in an Instagram photo. “Dear Zack, I have no money to offer you but this is my pitch! PLEASEEEEE stay!” he wrote.
Don’t kid yourself. Hernandez will be paid $512,500 next season, and there’s no reason why he can’t kick in a few bucks to the Greinke welfare fund.
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