The Warriors and Sacramento Kings meet for the fourth andfinal time this season on Saturday night at Oracle Arena. The Warriors have wontwo of the three meetings this season.The Warriors are coming off a split of their recent two-gameroad trip against New Orleans and Houston. The Kings are coming off a toughlast-second loss against the Utah Jazz on Thursday.Here are some things to watch for during Saturdaysgame:Evans off bench: Sacramento Keith Smarthas been bringing Tyreke Evans off the bench recently, and also playing himless at point guard. The change seems to have agreed with Evans, who has beenplaying well of late. If Evans plays against the Warriors subs, theyre goingto have to find a way to account for him.Will Benson play?: The Warriors areexpected to sign center Keith Benson out of the D-League to a 10-day contract.He should be in uniform tonight. The question is: Will he play?Benson averaged 15.1 points and 7.6 rebounds in 19 games forthe Sioux Falls SkyForce.Benson was a second-round pick of the Atlanta Hawks a year ago. The Warriorsalso recently signed Mickell Gladness out of the D-League. With Andrew Bogutand Andris Biedrins hurt, lets see whether coach Mark Jackson goes with one ofthose two players or uses David Lee a lot at five.Play better at home: Last season theWarriors went 26-15 at Oracle Arena, but this year their record is just 10-13there. In recent home games, the Warriors have struggled to maintain theireffort level.They have not played well in either of their past two homegames vs. Minnesota and Milwaukee. While the playoffs remain a longshot forthe Warriors, theres no reason why they cant remain competitive when theyplay at Oracle.Klays game: Klay Thompson has beeninconsistent since taking over the starting two guard spot, which is to beexpected from a first-year player. Hes had big scoring nights, but hes alsohad some tough shooting nights.With 21 games remaining, one of Thompsons goals should beto develop some consistency in his overall game regardless of how hesshooting the ball.
As Charles Barkley continues to throw rubber darts at the Warriors, disparaging their style of play at every opportunity, sometimes going out of his way to do so, the Warriors continue to shrug them off.
They believe the only significant response to Barkley or any other critic is by producing successful results.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr has known Barkley for years and he basically sees his act as perfect made-for-TV moments.
“Having worked with Charles in TV, for TNT, I understand that there’s a show that has to happen,” Kerr said Friday on The Warriors Insider Podcast. “There’s an entertainment value that he brings that nobody else can bring. I think Charles is hilarious. He’s really good at what he does.”
Yet Kerr is at least slightly puzzled when Barkley constantly singles out the Warriors for being a “jump-shooting team” or playing “little girly basketball,” as he said Thursday on TNT.
“I think he goes overboard with his criticism of us,” Kerr said. “Everybody is the league is basically doing what we’re doing. Cleveland takes more 3s than we do. They beat us last year in The Finals by going small and shooting 3s and LeBron (James) playing the 4. The series came down to Kyrie (Irving) making a 3.”
It’s apparent to those paying attention that Barkley, who retired in 2000, has not made the observational transition to basketball as it is played in 2016.
The Warriors average 32.2 3-pointers per game, behind the Rockets (37.0) and defending champion Cavaliers (34.8). Only one team, the Pistons, at 19.8, averages less than 20 shots beyond the arc per game.
When Barkley retired in 2000, only the Kings, at 20.2, averaged more than 20 3-pointers per game. The Rockets were second, at 19.8, and Barkley was a member of that team.
“This is just the way the game is played these days: spread the floor, very few low-post plays,” Kerr said. “The game has changed a lot. I don’t know why Charles continues to crush us. But the game’s changed, and almost everybody is playing like this now.”
Whereas the big men of yesteryear – Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal, David Robinson etc. – tended to operate in the low post, those of today are more likely to venture out beyond the elbow, and even the arc.
“The big guys that you see now who are coming into the league, the best players, guys like Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns, they’re out there shooting jump shots, because they grew up handling the ball,” Kerr said. “They grew up as guys who wanted to be Kevin Durant, and not Charles Oakley.”
Though some of the transition is due to bigger players being more versatile, it’s also a matter of coaches understanding new rules and finding rosters that can exploit them. Gone is the hand-check, as well as the days of zone defenses being illegal.
“We do what we need to do to be successful,” Kerr said. “. . . Our players are suited to play the way we play, and we’re not going to apologize for that. But we know that criticism and judgment are just part of the deal. It really doesn’t bother us.”
There were days and nights when he was in agony, when no medication – and he tried many – could stop the headaches from corroding his mere existence.
So Steve Kerr tried something once considered radical.
The Warriors coach sought relief in weed.
“I guess maybe I can even get in some trouble for this, but I’ve actually tried it twice during the last year and a half, when I’ve been going through this chronic pain that I’ve been dealing with,” Kerr said Friday on The Warriors Insider Podcast.
“(After) a lot of research, a lot of advice from people and I have no idea if maybe I would have failed a drug test. I don’t even know if I’m subject to a drug test or any laws from the NBA.”
During the summer of 2015, Kerr underwent two surgeries on his back, the latter procedure in part to alleviate the pain from the first. Still, the pain continued. He arrived at training camp to coach the defending champions and two days later realized he was not up to the grind.
Kerr, now 51, took a leave of absence that lasted nearly four months, during which time he sought comfort through various painkillers and treatments.
He returned to coaching in January 2016, but it was during his absence from the team that he reached the same conclusion as many medical professionals.
“I’m not a pot person; it doesn’t agree with me,” Kerr said. “I’ve tried it a few times, and it did not agree with me at all. So I’m not the expert on this stuff. But I do know this: If you’re an NFL player, in particular, and you’ve got a lot of pain, I don’t think there is any question that pot is better for your body than Vicodin. And yet athletes everywhere are prescribed Vicodin like it’s Vitamin C, like it’s no big deal.”
Vicodin (hydrocodone) and other pain relievers come with side effects – including nausea, vomiting, constipation and blurred vision – that can be even more damaging to the body. Moreover, painkillers invite the risk of addiction that, for some, can lead directly to death.
“I know enough, especially over the last couple years, having gone through my own bout with chronic pain, I know enough about this stuff – Vicodin is not good for you,” said Kerr, who still has experiences discomfort. “It’s way worse for you than pot, especially if you’re looking for a painkiller and you’re talking about medicinal marijuana, the different strains what they’re able to do with it as a pain reliever.
“I think it’s only a matter of time before the NBA and NFL and Major League Baseball realize that.”
Marijuana has been legalized in some form by 26 states and the District of Columbia. It has been used to treat patients suffering from chronic or acute pain. Yet it remains stigmatized in certain segments of American society.
“There’s this perception in our country that over-the-counter drugs are fine, but pot is bad,” Kerr said, explaining that some folks continue to resist the notion that pot is somehow more treacherous than, say, alcohol, while others have studied the subject and become advocates.
“I would hope,” Kerr said, “especially for these NFL guys, who are basically involved in a car wreck every Sunday – and maybe four days later, the following Thursday, which is another insane thing the NFL does – I would hope that league will come to its senses and institute a different sort of program where they can help these guys get healthier rather than getting hooked on these painkillers.”