The Warriors have been accused lately of playing down to their competition, and so it was Monday night against Philadelphia.
Not the score, oh God no. They beat the tire-fire-in-sneakers that are the Sixers, 123-80, the night after the Sixers lost to the Clippers in Los Angeles, 123-78, proving that sometimes a wounded animal is actually the easiest thing to confront.
But the pre- and postgame dances with Mark Jackson, Andrew Bogut and a largely bewildered media -- now that was playing down to the competition. I mean, this is the kind of small-time bickering and finger-pointing one should get from a team that has lost its last two games by 88 and whose starters have combined to go a spectacular minus-313.
And yes, I know plus-minus is not a great stat. I just know that nuance or no, minus-313 speaks libraries about bad basketball.
[RELATED: Warriors 123, 76ers 80]
Anyway, Bogut took umbrage to a toss-off line from Jackson’s pregame presser about Bogut’s current shoulder injury, and Jackson objected by using the media as the foil for his displeasure, a time-honored canard that frankly Jackson should be better than using. Here are the details, as provided as Your Team’s Comrade Poole:
[RELATED: Jackson fires back at media: 'Don't twist my words']
Jackson was before the game if he would divulge how or when Bogut injured the shoulder, and said, “As far as I know, it was not on the court. It wasn't in practice. It wasn't in a game. I'm not really sure. It may have been sleeping. And I say that in all seriousness. But it's important for us to make sure we continue to treat him. It's legitimate. And, then, let's be smart with him.”
Bogut in turn heard Jackson’s explanation and got snippy, as he has in the past when people have talked about his propensity for injuries (tell him he’s injury-prone and duck, as an example).
“It's gotten worse and worse, so I just wanted to address it,” Bogut said. “The sleeping comment is absolutely ridiculous. I don't know where it came from.”
In other words, what we seem to have here, Strother Martin fans, is a failure to communicate. Jackson seemed to be at least a bit behind the info curve about the nature of Bogut’s injury, though he did say, “It’s legitimate,” and Bogut disliked the flippancy (or doubt) about the severity of the injury, saying he got hurt sometimes during the Utah game 11 days earlier. Sounds like your classic player-coach meeting on a wide range of topics is due.
But Jackson, knowing he had a problem (or perhaps knowing that finally people perceived a greater problem), used his postgame show to claim the media had twisted his words.
“I made a statement about Andrew Bogut,” Jackson said with considerably stridency. “My statement said 'legitimate.' My statement said I had the same thing. My statement said he was hurt. Please don't twist my words. And understand this also: You will never see a problem in my locker room. You will not see a problem in my locker room, with my group. We are tied together. We are committed. This is not the old culture. This is the new culture.”
There are several potential conclusions to draw from this, and some make you wonder just how truly unified this team is. On the other hand, some make you think this could all be a badly constructed Jenga tower, a conspiracy theory-that-isn't stacked haphazardly only to collapse in a heap:
• Jackson doesn’t know Bogut well enough to know how sensitive he is to questions about his injury status. This seems unlikely, but Bogut is not the type who takes to flippancies like “maybe he slept on it wrong.”
• Jackson made a mistake in his pregame presser and claimed the media contorted his words in the postgame presser. That much is fact, and a better way to go would have been, “I shouldn’t have been so flippant about his injury, and that’s on me.” The media heard what he said, asked the obvious question and Jackson hadn’t foreseen Bogut’s unhappiness at being even questioned even benignly about it.
• Jackson is feeling the heat of a team (and maybe its owner) whose expectations were jacked upon all reason. Weirdly, most of the extravagant views of this team’s up-side were provided by national writers and statistics-based analysts who saw title contending, while most locals saw a team that had at best 52 wins in a difficult conference, and thus a fourth-to-seventh-slot feel. You know, like they are today.
• Or, and this is the most damaging one if so, Jackson suspects (or maybe wonders if) management’s support for him is less than total. This has been a good but erratic Warrior team, a price that comes with being too reliant on the three-pointer as the Robitussin for other offensive shortfalls, but Joe Lacob resides on the far edge of owner-fandom, and he and Peter Guber may not be in the mood to look at an eighth-place team after getting their financial ears pinned back on their true pet project, the Palace On The Water.
[RELTAED: Warriors' arena plan pagued by reality]
In trying to manage what should have been a simple crisis-ette, Jackson has now put all these other possibilities into the air. This may be what comes of a coach who has had the media play going all his own way and took his own way-with-words for granted, or it may speak to fissures under the paving stones.
Oh, and Miami’s coming in Wednesday. I suppose we’ll get an initial answer to all these questions then, and maybe a peaceful All-Star Break. Or not. It depends on how well Jackson can take the next step in coaching management.
I mean, this is why coaches get paid all that jack, because anyone can give a pregame speech or draw up an out-of-bounds play. It is people management that separates coaches from each other -- and sometimes from their jobs.