My all-time Warriors team

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My all-time Warriors team

Hard to believe I've been covering -- and some might suggest, hanging around -- the Golden State Warriors for almost 20 years now.

First season was back in 1994-95, the year Chris Webber was traded to the then-Washington Bullets for Tom Gugliotta and three draft picks.

Over that period, close to 200 players have worn the Warriors' uniform. Some had distinguished careers with the Warriors, and others didn't. Using my own criteria, here's a list of my starting five when it comes to the most favorite guys I've covered:

Guard: Mookie Blaylock. Few players were as misunderstood as Blaylock. By the time he got to the Warriors, he had 10 NBA seasons under his belt and already had experienced playoff success with the Atlanta Hawks. When he got to the Warriors in 1999, he saw the writing on the wall. He was a veteran on a young team, his winning days were over and he knew it. Still, I've never seen any Golden State point guard as effective defensively as Blaylock. And, oh, by the way, that time Blaylock blew off practice to go golfing in San Antonio the head coach at the time, Dave Cowens, had given players permission to bring their clubs on that trip.

Guard: B.J. Armstrong. Very few Warriors brought the kind of professionalism that Armstrong brought to the Warriors in 1995. I've never seen a player with a more rigid and comprehensive pregame routing. He arrived at the arena at the same time before every game, had a cup of coffee at the same time before every game and headed out for early shooting at the same time before every game. Off the court, he took care of his body, ate the right kinds of foods and got his rest.

Forward: Chris Mullin. Few players offered the kind of basketball insight that Mullin did, whether it was before games or after games. Mullin always had a way of pointing out something that most people -- particularly the media -- never saw or realized about a game or situation. Mullin also was the hardest-working player I've ever seen.

Forward: Clifford Robinson. He played only a season-and-a-half for the Warriors, but game after game he outplayed his opposite number over that time. Without a doubt, Robinson was the best defensive power forward the Warriors have had on their team in the past 20 years. My lingering memory of Robinson was him routinely shutting down a young Pao Gasol, who was playing for Memphis.

Center: Felton Spencer. He certainly wasn't the best center in Warriors history, but he might have been the most friendly and most classy. I cannot remember Spencer without a smile on his face, and no player ever supported his teammates anymore than Spencer.

Sixth man: Nick Van Exel. I have a soft spot for truth-tellers, and that's what Van Exel was. By the time he got to the Warriors, his best days were behind him -- and he never hid from that. He certainly wasn't a calming influence in the locker room -- or for coach Eric Musselman -- but he always had his reasons for what he did. And he'd share them if you asked him.

Kerr befuddled by Barkley's criticism of Warriors: 'I think he goes overboard'

Kerr befuddled by Barkley's criticism of Warriors: 'I think he goes overboard'

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.”

Kerr acknowledges marijuana use for chronic back pain, advocates for change

Kerr acknowledges marijuana use for chronic back pain, advocates for change

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.”