Idea that Warriors ‘have failed’ Curry is preposterous

Man, the Warriors have nine games left in their season, and anything could happen. They could miss playoffs entirely, make the play-in games, make playoffs … get eliminated in first round, make a run or hell, maybe win back-to-back titles for the second time in this dynasty.

Anyway, going to start writing more about the Warriors as their games get more and more important, and here’s one we talked about on my radio show today: The idea that the Warriors have “failed” Stephen Curry this season. The famous Bill Simmons said that the other day, and it’s clear there’s a portion of Warriors fans who agree with him.

I think that notion is preposterous. How did the Warriors fail Curry? They “ran it back” because owner Joe Lacob and president Bob Myers owed it to Curry and the championship core to try to win it again.

The Warriors won it all last year, and almost nobody saw it coming. So what did the Warriors do in the offseason? How about everything they could to give the Warriors the best chance to go back-to-back. For Stephen Curry!

Thompson and Green were already under contract. But the Warriors made sure that Jordan Poole, Andrew Wiggins and Kevon Looney were back this season. The Warriors paid them all — meaning the Warriors’ brought back their top-6 players from their championship team. Hell, they brought back Andre Iguodala, so how the hell did they “fail” Curry? Curry might be the only reason Iguodala was even on the team this year.

They didn’t bring back Gary Payton II, which may have been a mistake. But they re-acquired Payton II at the trade deadline for James Wiseman, a player with a big upside but not yet ready to help a championship-type team. Jonathan Kuminga is back and he played a limited role last year.

So you’re telling me that not having Otto Porter Jr., Juan Toscano-Anderson, Nemanja Bjelica and Damion Lee — instead of having JaMychal Green, Donte DiVincenzo and Anthony Lamb — is not giving Curry enough to work with? Please.

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If Iguodala is healthy, how can you NOT play him?

The Warriors got beat by the Lakers on Sunday, but there was a new player in the rotation: Andre Iguodala. He played 14 minutes, didn’t score, but as is his M.O., the team was a positive when he was on the floor.

Still, there were a lot of Warriors fans lamenting that Iguodala’s minutes came at the expense of Jonathan Kuminga. Why is Iguodala, on the last legs of his career, taking minutes from anybody, let alone Kuminga, the thinking goes? Well, this is the deal the Warriors made — with Iguodala, his teammates, and yes, in a way, the fans.

When the Warriors brought back Iguodala for one final season, there was no way he was going to be entrenched in the rotation from October through the spring. Nobody expected his body to hold up for a full season, and Iguodala delivered on that promise.

The plan was always in place, though. If Iguodala were healthy, he’d play. The issue now is, the Warriors looked like they’ve boxed themselves into a corner. Fans have been disappointed all season that Iguodala has occupied a roster space even though he was unavailable to play. Fair enough. On the other hand, if Iguodala is on the roster and healthy, how can you NOT play him?

But the deal was always that if Iguodala was healthy enough to play, he had to be part of the rotation. All season long the Warriors have seemed unconcerned with Iguodala or his health. They’ve had the big picture in mind all along. And the big picture was that Iguodala would be a player who could help down the stretch and into the playoffs.

We’re into the stretch run now and Iguodala, as of right now, is healthy. So the bottom line is he’s got to play, right? He’s a four-time champion with this team, and player after player, coach after coach, has talked about Iguodala’s importance off the court and on.

When you have an aging championship core, but you’ve done everything you can to give that group one more crack at a title, how can you not go with Iguodala? Especially when the games are so important now.

My guess is the Warriors are going to give Iguodala a shot at playing as much as he can for them down the stretch of the regular season. If the results are good, and he’s healthy, he’ll likely play in the postseason. The next few weeks will give the Warriors a look-see at what, if anything, Iguodala has left.

But rest assured, if Iguodala is healthy and playable, he’s going to be taking minutes from a teammate — whether it’s Kuminga or Anthony Lamb or anyone else. That’s the deal the Warriors made with Iguodala, and we all should have seen it coming.

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NBA official Greg Willard (Nov. 5, 1958 — April 1, 2013)

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN IN 2012. It’s been nearly 10 years since Greg Willard, one of the NBA’s greatest officials, passed away due to pancreatic cancer. He remains one of the best examples of what an official should be.


If you’re a hard-core NBA fan, you know who Greg Willard is. But if you’re a casual fan, chances are you can’t create a mental picture of him.

Well, he’s a rugged and strong official, he takes the job seriously, and he’s got an impeccable balance between presence and ego. Or put another way, Willard’s got presence; he has no ego.

I don’t know Willard, and I never talked him. But I feel like I know him because I’ve watched him officiate dozens upon dozens upon dozens of basketball games – many in person and even more on TV.

Willard, 53, is the kind of official who makes me stand up for officials so adamantly. He’s one of the reasons why I’ll defend so vigorously on a referee’s behalf.

Anybody who knows me or reads me with any interest knows that my dad was a high school and college basketball official back East, and I’ll give referees the benefit of the doubt and then some.

I do that because in my heart I believe refs are fair and forthright, they’re doing it for the right reasons and they want to do the right thing. That’s what my dad tried to do. And Willard does, too.

That doesn’t mean that refs don’t miss calls or that some are better than others or that certain ones have deficiencies when this or that happens during a game. And it doesn’t mean your team might not have a worse record with this guy reffing rather than that guy or that so-and-so may have blown a big call against your team recently.

But NBA officials are still the best basketball referees on planet earth and, with rare exception, comport themselves with dignity and professionalism. The best of the best also possess a keen eye, terrific mediation skills and a drive to be right.

Willard is all of those.

When it comes to the scouting report on Willard, it’s all strengths.

He has a steadiness about him that doesn’t waver whether its the first quarter or overtime. He doesn’t officiate with bombast, but he’s not emotion-less, either. He’s always under control, and I can’t ever remember him bringing attention to himself. Willard means business, but he’s approachable. He can’t be intimidated, but better than that he doesn’t lord his power over anyone whether it be player or coach.

Most of all, he’s a hell of an official; one of the best I’ve ever seen.

When I hear fans griping about referees or complaining that a certain guy screwed their team out of a playoff win, it irks me. Despite what some may think, the reality is that most refs do what they do because they love the game every bit as much as you do and they want to be involved in it — like players, coaches, broadcasters, trainers, statisticians, sportswriters, etc.

Hey, I know my dad loves the game, and when he was officiating he was as conscientious and earnest about that as he was about anything else in his life. And I assume Willard is the same way.

There’s that old adage about how the best referees are the ones you don’t notice. Well, if thats true, Greg Willard is damn near invisible.

Be well, Greg.

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