Curry standing up for Kaepernick's cause more than just another voice in the crowd

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AP

Curry standing up for Kaepernick's cause more than just another voice in the crowd

It is not completely by coincidence that Stephen Curry chose Week 1 of the NFL season to add his voice to the growing chorus in support of Colin Kaepernick. No, it was only after carefully evaluating the pros and cons of this debate did Curry let fly with his thoughts.

With a few words, Curry’s show of support was as a plain as it was powerful. The Warriors star, from his suite at the 49ers-Panthers game Sunday in Santa Clara, used his Instagram account to post a photo that included the hashtag #freekaep and also addressed the subject.

“He definitely should be in the NFL,” Curry told the Scott Fowler of the Charlotte Observer in a pregame interview. “If you’ve been around the NFL, the top 64 quarterbacks, and he’s not one of them? Then I don’t know what game I’m watching.

“Obviously his stance and his peaceful protest when he was playing here kind of shook up the world -- and I think for the better. But hopefully he gets back in the league -- because he deserves to be here and he deserves an opportunity to play. He’s in his prime and can make a team better.”

Curry makes absolute sense. Moreover, his words are bolstered by a preponderance of evidence that was visible to even the most undiscerning eye on Sunday, when several starting quarterbacks were seen spitting up all over themselves.

Exhibit A: Scott Tolzien of the Colts, who made the Rams look fabulous.

Exhibit B: Tom Savage of the Texans, who was atrocious enough to lose to a Jaguars team quarterbacked by Blake Bortles.

Exhibit C: Josh McCown of the New York Jets, who was predictably awful in losing to the Bills.

Exhibits D, E and F: Washington’s Kirk Cousins, Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton and the 49ers very own Brian Hoyer, each of whom strangled his team by tossing blatantly abysmal interceptions.

Because so many employed quarterbacks are well established as dreadful, there was good reason to expect staggeringly wretched performances. Some of this, we saw coming.

What we didn’t see coming was Curry diving in with reasonable analysis on a sports-related issue now fully entrenched in race and class and politics.

We had heard from NBA stars Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Kyle Lowry, from retired players such as Steve Nash, Stephen Jackson and Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf. We’ve heard from baseball players, such as Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle and Astros pitcher Collin McHugh. All of these players have waded into political discourse, delivering a “progressive” -- or humanitarian -- point of view.

We have seen and heard dozens of NFL players expressing support for Kaepernick -- and, more significant, his pursuit of equality, from Seahawks lineman Michael Bennett and Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch to Eagles lineman Chris Long and Browns receiver Sean DeValve.

And it’s not only a boy’s club. Soccer star Megan Rapinoe also has made it clear she is on board with the progress required for a fairer America.

Which is all well and good for these professional athletes. None, though, have greater potential for broad impact that Curry, if only because no sports figure in the country has greater crossover appeal.

Curry, 29, has become the All-American success story. He’s easy to identify with, failing before flourishing, overcoming a legion of doubters to become a transcendent athlete in a human-size physique. He’s married, with two kids, and his Christianity is never, ever in question. He goes out of his way to be not only accessible but also kind to strangers.

No athlete on the America landscape has better engaged young and old, black and white and all the colors in between, as well as liberal and conservative.

Curry told the Observer that he hopes Kaepernick’s protests in search of justice -- which thus far have cost him his place in the NFL -- “actually leads to some awakening.”

It has. More than ever, celebrities are getting a clearer view of the discrimination upon which America was built and continues to exist, limiting out national potential. Curry among those of us watching the NFL and seeing owners willing to sacrifice games for the sake of maintaining control, of keeping players in their place.

So having Curry stand up for Kaepernick’s cause is more than just another voice. It’s a safe voice that invites others who have been silent, perhaps feeling trapped by circumstances.

If you like Stephen Curry, and millions around the globe do, give him a minute. Absorb his words. Hear his plea. This is about Kaepernick, yes, but about a quest that means so much more.

Teams will continue to call about Klay Thompson and Warriors will keep laughing

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AP

Teams will continue to call about Klay Thompson and Warriors will keep laughing

There is a single reason teams keep sniffing out the availability of Klay Thompson, and it’s far more easily understood than the myriad reasons the Warriors keep telling them no.

No fewer than four teams have either reached out or considered reaching out, the latest being revealed as the detested Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Warriors, of course, declined them, perhaps after general manager Bob Myers put Cavs GM Koby Altman on speakerphone so everybody at Warriors HQ could double over with team-building laughter.

The Cavs got the same answer as was previously heard by the Pacers and the Timberwolves, and maybe even the Celtics, whose interest was rumored though never actually substantiated.

All four teams, though, along with maybe few others, all reached the same conclusion. They looked at the Warriors, studied their prime core, and concluded that Thompson was the most available member.

Clearly more available than Stephen Curry, who is the face of the franchise.

Likely more available than Draymond Green, whose two-way versatility and temperament are vital to the grand ambitions of the Warriors.

And infinitely more available than Kevin Durant, who arrived two years after Minnesota shot its shot -- by dangling Kevin Love -- and evolved into their most impressive overall player.

So it’s Thompson who gets his tires kicked. He’s 27 years old, has two years remaining on his contract and, most germane, seems to be the least emotionally invested star in the organization. That is may not be true, but it’s an easy conclusion based on appearances and the misguided thought that the Warriors don’t value him as much as they do the others.

Wrong.

“It's really cool,” Thompson said Wednesday, referring to being pursued and prized. “It shows the Warriors believe in me and these other teams want me to be a part of their success. So I appreciate it. I've been in trade rumors forever. Everyone has. Except for maybe LeBron James, Steph — well, even Steph early in his career.”

Any team that asks about Thompson is aware that the Thompson-Love deal gained considerable traction in 2014 before it was vetoed by then-adviser Jerry West and newly hired head coach Steve Kerr.

If the Warriors were thinking about it then, why not later?

They have their reasons, beginning with the fact they’ve experienced more success over the past three seasons than at any time in franchise history, winning two championships in three seasons and becoming a regular in the NBA Finals. Why even consider breaking the squad that so clearly is the cream of the NBA?

Another reason is that the Warriors have come to fully understand Thompson’s role in their competitive prosperity. He’s a gunslinger that manages to be highly productive without spending much time with the ball, and his fabulous defense makes that end of the court so much easier for Curry. The Thompson-Curry backcourt is the best in the league and already in the discussion for the best ever.

There is another component that is rather understated. Thompson is the ultimate zero-maintenance All-Star. In a locker room of varied personalities, some loud, nearly all opinionated, he’s like a breeze that is cool enough be felt yet never so much it feels imposing.

The Warriors have come to appreciate Thompson being the closest thing to a wind-up All-Star in a league where that is exceedingly rare. Give him a jersey, a ball and some shoes and let him go.

So, no, he’s not leaving anytime soon. The only way he goes before he becomes a free agent in 2019 -- at which time he’s likely to take a peep around the NBA -- is if the Warriors somehow take a tumble in the standings or try to low-ball him.

Until then, teams may continue to ask. They have to as a strategy to improve themselves while diminishing the league’s powerhouse. Understanding this, the Warriors will take the calls and appreciate the humor of it all.

As balance of power shifts slightly in East, should Warriors be worried?

As balance of power shifts slightly in East, should Warriors be worried?

The pursuit of the Warriors got considerably noisier Tuesday, when the Cleveland Cavaliers granted Kyrie Irving’s wish to be traded by sending the All-Star point guard to the Boston Celtics.

Boston is slightly improved, Cleveland is roughly the same and the two teams are set to meet in the juiciest Eastern Conference Finals since James left Miami three summers ago.

As for the Warriors, they’re still holding the Larry O’Brien trophy and smoking fine cigars and waiting for rings to be presented in two months.

While not exactly yawning, they’re not sweating any more than they did last week or last month. The Warriors have good reason to remain confident in their status as the most dangerous team in the NBA.

Granted, only one team had the assets and established contender status to acquire Irving and immediately get within seeing distance of the Warriors. That team is the Celtics, who suddenly are built to challenge the champs in ways the Cavaliers no longer could.

Even with their loss to Cleveland in the 2016 Finals, the Warriors over the past three seasons fairly owned the Cavs, going 4-2 in the regular season and posting an 11-7 record against them over the past three Finals. The Warriors dominated the 2017 Finals, winning in five games.

Furthermore, the Warriors over the last six regular-season meetings have outscored Cleveland by an average of 13.5 points. Though the average margin shrinks to about 7 over 18 games in The Finals, it’s still relatively decisive.

Despite the magnified glorification of the Warriors-Cavs trilogy, the Warriors generally were superior.

Cleveland will be a factor in the East, if only because LeBron James will ensure it and Isaiah Thomas -- acquired in the Irving deal -- will provide capable assistance. But the blockbuster deal sending Irving to Boston blows a massive hole through what was left of the three-year-old rivalry between the Warriors and Cavs.

In its place are intriguing matchups between the Warriors and the Celtics, who over the past three years have played the Warriors tougher than any other team. Though the Warriors also are 4-2 against Boston over the last three regular seasons, the overall scoring difference is only 2.2 points in favor of the Warriors. Each team has a double-digit win, with the other four games decided by five or fewer points.

And that was before All-Star forward Gordon Hayward signed with the Celtics last month, before forward Marcus Morris was acquired and before Irving was brought into the parquet posse.

Hayward at small forward is a huge offensive upgrade over Crowder, who will take his solid defensive game to Cleveland. While the Warriors could sag off Crowder, Hayward will have to be guarded. Gone are the days of Boston’s offense occasionally lapsing into Thomas and four guys in spectator mode.

Irving is a better offensive player that Thomas only in that he is six inches taller. Both are among the top five players capable of breaking down defenses. Both have tremendous shooting range, though Irving is slightly more accurate. Both are 90-percent free throw shooters. Irving has a modestly better assist-to-turnover ratio. Both thrive in the clutch.

So why is Boston better with Irving than with Thomas? Defense. Irving’s poor defense is an upgrade over Thomas’ atrocious defense.

Why aren’t the Warriors more worried about a Boston team that has found ways to exploit them? It’s because the loss of Avery Bradley, a truly great backcourt defender, is going to sting the Celtics. Any defense devised by coach Brad Stevens is going to be compromised if Hayward and Irving are on the floor. That’s where Crowder and Bradley will be missed.

And that’s where the Warriors will go to eat.

This trade signals that the Celtics are serious about chasing Eastern Conference superiority and the Cavs officially are operating on a one-year plan.

The balance of power in the East shifts ever so slightly. About as slightly as the balance of power in the West when the Thunder acquired Paul George.

The Warriors, however, remain well in front of the pack. Yes, there are more and more footsteps behind them, but all of them are in the distance.