What I’m Hearing: HoopsHype’s Alex Kennedy spoke with a coach in the Western Conference who shared his feelings on how DeMarcus Cousins has affected the reigning champions.
In a bubble, the Golden State Warriors have stepped in a barnyard mine. They lost to the worst team in the Western Conference, the Phoenix Suns, at home, Klay Thompson ripped fans for not having energy in the building and, in the most salacious of items, lip readers think coach Steve Kerr said, “I’m so (expletive) tired of Draymond’s (expletive).”
After the game — the Warriors’ sixth loss in 10 games — Kerr, according to reporters in the Golden State locker room, sought out Green after Kerr learned cameras caught him mouthing something. Green had vanished, and Kerr, who already had met with reporters postgame, said he would talk at Monday’s scheduled availability.
So the Warriors have a new mini-controversy to deal with in a season filled with them, and media-savvy Kerr did his best to defuse the situation with humor when he spoke with reporters.
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“The lip readers were wrong. What I said was, ‘I beg to differ with Draymond’s approach tonight,’ ” Kerr told reporters. “Those were my exact words. I don’t know how somebody misconstrued that.”
While the words were not ideal, it’s not yet a major reason for concern. The Warriors are bored with the regular season and have been, most likely since the first game of the season when they know all that matters are the playoffs and a third consecutive title, which would be their fourth in five seasons.
The regular season is a drag for a team like the Warriors with so many stars (Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Thompson, DeMarcus Cousins, Green) chasing titles.
It’s impossible for this team to get up for every game, and it’s easy to have letdowns against teams the Warriors think they can beat just by showing up.
In the meantime, these lackluster performances irritate Kerr, especially with the Houston Rockets again showing signs they can go the distance with, and perhaps beat, Golden State in a seven-game series.
Kerr has every right to fret. That’s his job, and he has known from his experience as a player and a coach how difficult this season would be. All year he has had to walk a fine line of understanding that all the players care about are the playoffs and making sure the team improves enough throughout the season to win a championship.
In the moment, these letdowns bother Kerr, but it’s always the next game that concerns him. How do they respond the next game? The next game will be telling: at Houston on Wednesday.
Kerr played for a three-peat team and knows the physical and mental fatigue that wears on a team.
“My job is to pace the team during the season and try to figure out when to push some buttons, when to back off and all that,” Kerr said. “As a player, it’s your job just to show up ready to work every day. It’s the coach’s job to set a tone and give a message and set a course.”
As for Green and Kerr, they have had their words before and will have them again. A coach upset with a player is nothing new. A coach getting caught saying something makes this a big deal, but Green and Kerr have said worse to each other.
Six weeks ago, when the Warriors came to Washington to play the Wizards, Kerr said Green is “making great decisions over and over and over again. It’s just an incredible stretch of basketball, and just being solid over the past few weeks has allowed us to build this momentum. Draymond’s right in the hunt of all of that.”
Asked if he has relayed that sentiment to Green, Kerr responded, “I just ask him why the hell can’t he always do that. No, I’ve talked to him about it.”
I’m not dismissing what the Warriors are going through out of hand. There are concerns, but I have watched too much NBA and have seen this many times, whether with the Miami Heat, the Cleveland Cavaliers or the Warriors. It’s the cycle of a long season.
Until I see the Warriors lose four games in a playoff series, they remain the favorite to win the championship.
Given the championship makeup of the team, the Warriors are quite capable of accelerating to championship mode with the flip of a switch. No one likes to hear that, but that’s just the nature of how an NBA dynasty operates.
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt