Jackson: 'I'm fighting for my life; my guys fighting for their lives'
Programming note: Coverage of Game 7 between the Warriors and Clippers starts Saturday night at 7 p.m. with Warriors Pregame Live, only on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area (Channel locations)
OAKLAND – It's almost a daily occurrence now. A current Warriors player speaks out. A former Warriors player speaks up. A former NBA coach dives into the subject.
They're all rushing in to defend Warriors coach Mark Jackson, whose future with the franchise is very much in doubt and, therefore, a constant topic of conversation.
When I asked Jackson about it on Friday, he said the support is appreciated but his cause is not something he cares to promote or even follow closely.
"I don't get caught up in that," he said shortly before the team boarded a flight to Los Angeles for Game 7 of their playoff series against the Clippers on Saturday night at Staples Center.
Jackson can afford to remain silent. He doesn't need to campaign for himself. Not after a commendable regular season and not in the midst of a postseason series during which the shorthanded Warriors are impressing observers with their scrap in a series few gave them any chance of winning.
Their win in Game 6 was an example. The Warriors are smaller than the Clippers, with a thinner roster that did not shoot very well. But their effort was extraordinary. The Warriors won, above all, by refusing to quit.
Any time a team does that, all eyes must turn to the coach.
"Just like everyone else here, coach Jackson is on the hot seat," forward Draymond Green said. "We hear the same things. We're not away from the world. We see and read everything and hear everything that everyone else hears. Until that happens, we're going to continue to battle for him."
The concern is that Jackson, who has one year remaining on his contract, will not be offered an extension. There has been no such discussion and CEO has been cryptically silent throughout the constant swirl of speculation.
Lacob's silence surely is one reason veteran center Jermaine O'Neal believes there will be a change.
"I don't know . . . we don't know if this group is going to be together, no matter what," O'Neal said. "You get the feel that no matter what happens, this group won't be together. You get the feel that our coach won't be our coach next year. You just get that feel.
"But we are willing to give all we've got for this group, for that coach. And hopefully, whatever that . . . is good enough to take us as far as we should go."
Jackson has consistently expressed public appreciation for the roster, for Warriors management and ownership. When I asked him directly whether he had any inkling of what might happen, he paused and said he did not.
He added that he was too concerned with his current task to let such thoughts infiltrate his mind.
Being a man of faith, he is confident that there is a plan by which he will prevail.
Meanwhile, others offer their thoughts.
"With what he's brought to our team, we definitely have his back because he's always had ours," forward Andre Iguodala said.
ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy, a two-time NBA coach and former broadcasting partner of Jackson, continues to marvel at all the debate about Jackson's worthiness as a coach.
He implied Friday, in an interview with 95.7 The Game, that league owners are becoming more mercurial – and demanding. He cited as examples the Grizzlies dismissing Lionel Hollins after appearing in the Western Conference finals and the Nuggets dumping George Karl shortly after he was voted Coach of the Year.
"I don't get it," Van Gundy said. "And in Mark's case, I really don't get it."
On a scale of 1 to 100, Van Gundy said his surprise at Jackson's tenuous status registers a 200.
Yet Jackson and his players realize the gravity of the matter. And they notice Lacob's utter refusal to address Jackson's predicament.
"We understand this is going on," O'Neal said. "Let's just keep trying to go. And guys have done a really good job of just being focused. But you feel it. You feel the hovering. You feel the negativity. You feel it. But we've done a great job of saying, `Hey man, let's just do what we're supposed to do. Let's go out here and fight for each other. Let's go out here and fight for coach,' and whatever happens happens.
"I think it is absolutely incredible that we won 51 games this year. With all the injuries, with all the extras, with everything, we won 51 games this year."
The Warriors now have won 54 games. They've forced changes to the franchise's postseason record book, managing to submerge the obstacles and push the Clippers to a Game 7.
And all the while, the chatter never ends.