Yesterday, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr was on the mark when he referenced George Orwell’s seminal tome “1984” in relation to the intense scrutiny public figures have faced in recent memory. Every single move they make is analyzed. Every singe word they utter is parsed, even if in confidence and presumably away from prying eyes. And they are second-guessed instantaneously. No doubt, the inevitability of the situation was what prompted him to address with humor his off-the-cuff remark to an assistant during a timeout late in a home loss to the otherwise-hapless Suns the day before.
As was typical of the 2016 Coach of the Year, Kerr didn’t even bother denying what lip readers figured he said with 1:35 left in a match the Warriors had a 97% chance of winning before opening tip. “I’m so f–ing tired of Draymond’s s–t,” he appeared to have remarked prior to the huddle. Nothing incendiary while in the course of a long season, really. Unfortunately, he was caught on camera, and the broadcast clip quickly made the rounds in social media. And, for not a few quarters, it provided more proof of the difficulties the defending champions were undergoing.
True, the reaction wouldn’t have been as strong were the Warriors winning. As things stood, they were in the midst of a slump that had them suffering from setbacks in six of their last 10 outings. And it didn’t help that they were then about to succumb to the Suns, who possessed the National Basketball Association’s worst record, and at the Oracle Arena to boot. Never mind that they remained on top of the Western Conference, and that they likewise encountered rough waters near the end of their 2017-18 regular season before successfully retaining their title.
Under better circumstances, Kerr’s sentiment would have been taken in a less negative light, if not altogether excused. And, to be sure, it was far from the most controversial. In the aftermath, immediate past Finals Most Valuable Player Kevin Durant made his frustrations known. “Stupid-ass m–f–ing game we[‘re] playing. We need to be playing championship-level basketball,” KNBR quoted him as saying. Meanwhile, five-time All-Star Klay Thompson saw fit to blame the crowd for failing to provide them with the requisite “energy” to compete.
Make no mistake. The Warriors are too stacked not to claim their fourth championship in five years. For all their travails, they’re not new to their plight, and they know they have the wherewithal to compete at their best. On the other hand, they’re clearly due for an upheaval. And, in this regard, what figures to be a bigger question mark is not their capacity to take home the hardware anew, but to stay together afterwards. Change is coming, and precisely because they’re looking forward to it.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994.