We knew this already, but Steve Kerr is finally and officially 1-0 as a coach after a tough but decisive win over the people in the Golden State Warriors office who love shiny things.
Now we’ll see if it was a win worth having.
Kevin Love is now an official Cleveland Cavalier (because Adrian Wojnarowski pretty much says so), which means he is not an official (or any other kind of) Golden State anything. The reasons why the Cavs had to have Love (for Andrew Wiggins and some other flotsam) are many, varied, swirling in Dan Gilbert’s tortured cerebral cortex, and being examined at great length elsewhere.
[NEWS: Report: Cavaliers, Timberwolves set for Love-Wiggins deal]
But in Oakland, it will be remembered either as The Day Joe Lacob Learned To Let His Employees Stand On Their Judgments, or The Day Steve Kerr Lost His Mind.
It is certainly The Day Defense And Continuity Won The Day with a franchise that historically has been an antithetical concept. And it is absolutely and positively The Day Klay Thompson Was Forced To Be A League-Standard Badass. After all, if you are the reason Kevin Love is going to the Eastern Conference, you had better be worth the discipline.
And as one of the many teams that finished second in the Love sweepstakes, the Warriors oddly shifted the center of their team. Stephen Curry is still the default setting for your eyes, but when he doesn’t have the ball at 26 feet and preparing to shame some defender, the macro thinkers pull back and see a team that is Thompson- and Kerr-centric.
Between them, they represent a number of things the Warriors have not been since the title season, which is now entering its 40th year.
1. Defense first.
2. Non-Nelsonian (which is a subset of 1.).
3. Long-term planning-centric.
Now 5. is dangerous, because the Warriors still haven’t done anything of longterm note. They have, from the macro view, beaten a flawed Denver team without Danilo Gallinari and lost to superior San Antonio and Los Angeles Clippers teams. This is their history since 1976 -- the right first-round matchup, and then a team that was either more talented or more used to winning in the second round . . . with vast stretches of nothingness and mockery around it. They were an idiosyncratic failure, which -- with the passage of time -- is just another way of saying failure.
4. is interesting because the decision to hold Thompson means that they can now resist the shiny toy in the window for what they already have. Lacob loves kicking tires, even on players (Dwight Howard) who have no intention of ever setting foot in Oakland for more than one night, and he kicked Love’s tires a lot, but in the end decided he either had to trust Kerr and Jerry West or run and coach the team his own damn self. Lacob’s decision showed a restraint many owners do not have, and that he didn’t very often. Pinocchio, you are a real boy now.
3. is a bit like 4., only that this team finally believes it has a workable formula to replace the Spurs (in time, of course, because you do not beat Becky Hammon until Becky Hammon is ready to be beaten). We suspect they are overclubbing that thought, but they believe what they believe and are acting with that as their guiding principle.
2. which is to say 1. and 2., is just an acknowledgement that while they are a thoroughly modern team in some ways, they are also a traditionally constructed team -- big, power forward, and three at the arc. Don Nelson invented a lot of things in his time in Oakland, but a lot of them worked only awhile, which means that they were fascinating concepts that couldn’t stand the rigors of means-testing. In other words, you see the Warriors a few times in a row, you figure out what they can’t do just as much as what they can. They don’t do things that scouts and other coaches can’t parse out, and they are not yet good enough to overwhelm with what they can do, or come up with a diabolical different gear like the pre-Becky Hammon Spurs.
But, to bend a line from The Wire, their name is their name. That is, until they get their new building in San Francisco -- when they become the San Francisco Bay Area Golden State Warriors Of Narnia, or whatever they end up being -- they are who they are, and Kevin Love would have made them something else. Time will tell if their organizational stubbornness serves them well, but knowing who they are also means knowing who they aren’t.
And the thing they most aren’t is the team with LeBron James.