During Sunday’s Rockets-Thunder broadcast when Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson spoke about the D’Angelo Russell saga — here’s an explainer for you — in Los Angeles. After each commentator spoke their mind, Jackson added one more thought. “The good news for [Russell],” Jackson said, “is that he could very well one day be an Associate Head Coach in this league.”
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Here’s why: Back in April of 2014, Warriors assistant Darren Erman was reportedly fired by the Warriors for recording conversations between the team’s players and coaches. Russell had secretly recorded Nick Young talking about cheating on his fiancée Iggy Azalea.
In the end, here was the problem for Klutch Sports’ original plan: Cleveland refused to hire Jackson. General manager David Griffin is too well-connected in the NBA, too knowledgeable of the truths inside Jackson’s Warriors regime to let that happen. So much of Griffin’s job has been to manage the constant demands of James’ camp and the volatility of owner Dan Gilbert.
Curry took it in stride, and on Tuesday Hall of Famer Larry Bird went on the Colin Cowherd radio show to speak up for Curry. “I think he loves Steph Curry,” Bird said. “But if you walk in any gym, if there are kids in there, they’re all shooting 3-pointers. That’s the way it was when I walked in gyms years ago. I don’t see anything wrong with it.
“After I heard all of what he was talking about, I understand where he’s coming from – that being for the youth of today and how they watch us play or watch me in particular, and they want to go out and try to do the same thing,” Curry said Saturday. “It’s all about practice and routine and repetition that can help you get to that point, so you can’t skip that part of the process. “I wish he would have phrased it just a little bit differently. I think I’m trying to inspire people to see the game differently in a positive way…I get what he was saying. There was a compliment in there. Knowing him personally, I think that’s what he meant.”
Mark Jackson: Read the Quote!!! Stop Searching!!
Reggie Miller: Did you guys even listen @Mark Jackson words on @Stephen Curry? He said he’s hurting game basically because he’s so good and a COMPLETE PLAYER, that all we see is him making those ridiculous 3-pt shots that’s all kids see him as. NOO, there’s a lot more to the MVP’s game then 3-pt shots. People need to know how hard @Stephen Curry has put into his all around game.. Please watch the clip of what he said.. And not go by headline of Mark saying he’s hurting the game. Mark has zero beef or issue with @Stephen Curry.. He’s giving him props..
Eddie Johnson: I agree with Mark and it’s not a negative on SC. He is unique and No different than kids shooting fadeaways like MJ twitter.com/reggiemillertn…
Jackson’s full rant, which came during the middle of an entertaining Warriors-Cavaliers game on Christmas Day: “I’ve thought about this one. Steph Curry’s great. Steph Curry’s the MVP. He’s a champion. Understand what I’m saying when I say this. To a degree, he’s hurt the game. And what I mean by that is, I go into high school gyms, I watch these kids, and the first thing they do is run to the 3-point line. You are not Steph Curry. Work on the other aspects of the game. People think that he’s just a knock-down shooter. That’s not why he’s the MVP. He’s a complete basketball player.”
Curry chuckled at Jackson’s comments but also seemed confused by them. “I have to talk to him,” Curry told Yahoo Sports. “I don’t know what he means by that. If you can shoot, shoot. If you can’t, stop.”
When you were coaching Steph Curry, did you ever see him becoming what he is now? Did you think he could become the most feared player in the NBA? Mark Jackson: I saw him being a superstar, I saw him being a great basketball player. He had a passion for the game and a tremendous work ethic. He needed someone to put the ball in his hands and believe in him, and most importantly, be healthy. He has all those things, and he has skyrocketed. It couldn’t have happened to a better guy. He’s a great ambassador for the game. This is all Steph Curry, he deserves this.
The Warriors won the NBA championship under Steve Kerr the season after Jackson’s firing. It was Jackson who turned things around after a 23-win season his first year. “I took over a job in Golden State with a bad culture, guys that said they wanted to win, but didn’t want to win,” Jackson said. Now the Warriors are 23-0, and Jackson offered high praise of the current team. “They’re a great basketball team, and you’re not going to be ‘em putting together 12 minutes of quality basketball,” Jackson said. “You’ve got to play 48 minutes, be disciplined and pay attention to detail to have a legitimate chance. And even when you do that, they still can beat you. They’re that good.”
Malone also will seek out Warriors general manager Bob Myers, who has widely supported the coach. Malone also said owner Joe Lacob and former GM Larry Riley deserve a lot of credit for creating a championship roster. Actually, Malone tried to credit just about everyone but himself. “The credit goes to the players,” Malone said. “I give Mark Jackson a ton of credit, and then obviously, I give a ton of credit to Coach (Steve) Kerr. I have so much respect for him, because so many coaches would have come into that situation and tried to change everything and taken the credit for everything. He showed so much character in giving Mark Jackson and the previous coaching staff so much credit.
When Festus Ezeli was sitting out in 2013 with a knee injury, Mark Jackson, then the Golden State coach, accused Ezeli of cheering against the team — presumably because the Warriors struggling would prove Ezeli’s value, per several team sources. Ezeli denied it during a tearful talk with teammates, and still denies it today.
When Ezeli was injured last season, Jackson and his staff told the healthy players that Ezeli was cheering against them — so that he would look good, according to several team sources. Players confronted Ezeli in a meeting, and he wept at the accusation — which he denied.
Kerr overhauled a team culture that had grown poisonous, for well-documented reasons, under Jackson and his assistants. In his zeal to motivate players, Jackson fostered resentment among them and toward the front office. He fired two assistants, requested Jerry West stay away from practices, and asked a younger front-office official to stop rebounding for players, sources have said.
Ex-Warriors coach Mark Jackson picked James Harden for Most Valuable Player, and hours before his old team potentially wins the NBA title in Game 6, he supported LeBron James for Finals MVP. An ESPN broadcaster calling the game for ABC, Jackson indicated on Mike & Mike on Tuesday that the Cleveland Cavaliers star would be his MVP pick even if Warriors won the championship. “He is the MVP of this series thus far,” Jackson said. “There’s no question about it. When you take a look at what he’s doing, this Warrior team is a superior team. They have great depth, 67 wins, talent and versatility to throw at you. To have a chance to win, LeBron James has got to be spectacular, and he’s been that. Up until last game, Andre Iguodala would have been the MVP for the Golden State Warriors. Steph Curry exploded, and he’s in the discussion right now for Warriors MVP. But there’s no question in my mind, the MVP of these Finals has been LeBron James, and he would get my vote.”
Mark, what do you think of Andrew Bogut’s role with the Warriors this season? JACKSON: He has played well. They’ve had a total team effort. They’ve done a great job of buying in and following the game plan and filling the role that is the blueprint of Steve Kerr and his staff. Collectively, they’ve got to be extremely proud of what each and every one of them have done to put them in position to possibly win a championship.
Mark, you seemed to get a little emotional the other night during the trophy ceremony when the Warriors clinched. What has it been like doing their games this year? Have you ever thought, ‘What if I had stayed?’ Mark Jackson: No. To me, people blew out the emotional — a guy came over and said thank you. If you came to my church, you would say, ‘Well, he cries every week.’ People say thank you. People show appreciation. I’m an emotional guy. That was all it was. One guy saying thank you and me appreciating his thoughts and his feelings. Other than that, there’s no emotion. To me, I’m calling games between two teams, just like The Finals. I read articles that I shouldn’t be doing it. To me, it was laughable. I’m absolutely winning and having the time of my life calling games with incredible friends and incredible people and working for an incredible organisation. So it’s been a blast for me. I’m excited about having the opportunity to be part of an incredible group to call a spectacular Finals.
Andrew Bogut was amused by the videographer description. “That’s a good analogy,” he said. “I’d call it a caterpillar to a butterfly.” That, of course is a reference to Jackson’s comment on his first Warriors broadcast in January when he said, “You cannot disrespect the caterpillar and rave about the butterfly.”
Last week, while answering a question about Steve Kerr, Bogut said, “Whenever you get a head coach who’s not full of himself it makes a big difference.”
So, a little more than a year after being forced out, Jackson watched on national television as his team made it to their first NBA Finals in decades. So how did he feel? “Proud,” he said, from his new perch on ESPN. “At the end of the day, proud.”
Asked if he had the opportunity to explain to Stephen Curry his pick of James Harden as the MVP, former Warriors coach Mark Jackson said Thursday he wasn’t going there. “What I will say is there are people that will attempt to create nonsense and create friction,” Jackson told the Dan LeBatard Show. “From my end, that’ll never take place. I’m forever grateful for how he conducted himself as a player of mine. I’m forever grateful for who he is as an individual and the accomplishments that he’s had. And there will never be no issues between him and I as far as I’m concerned. I wish him nothing but the very best, and I’m going to love him.”
Drew Shiller: Mark Jackson with the zinger! “Losing a Game 7 on the road can cost you your job.” #Warriors #Grizzlies
I saw Jackson’s reaction, though: The former Warriors coach was startled at first, smiled quickly as Curry blew past him, and then walked away with a small shrug. These two men are still friends; Curry still credits Jackson for lifting the Warriors out of the muck; and in fact, Steve Kerr gained credibility with Curry by praising Jackson from the moment Kerr took the Warriors job.
And Kerr has allowed the Warriors leaders to keep remnants of Jackson’s tenure, including the “Just us!” chant at the end of every team huddle and the poster that remains in the locker room: “mUSt be jUSt about US”. Jackson, of course, never would’ve allowed a slogan from a previous administration in his locker room. But when Curry and others asked Kerr to keep some of these Jackson traces, Kerr quickly agreed. “I guess it would’ve been weird if he didn’t (let the players keep some traditions),” Curry said, “because there’s no denying the foundation we built the last couple years under Mark and culture change that he was responsible for.
Stephen Curry was sprinting through the Oracle Arena hallway into the Warriors locker room, so everybody had to move aside. Even Mark Jackson had to move. Maybe especially Mark Jackson. I didn’t see Curry make any gesture to Jackson or even slow down on his way through the locker room doors before Saturday’s Game 1, which Jackson worked for ABC.
Jackson did not hesitate to praise Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who replaced Jackson after he was fired last spring. Kerr inherited a 51-31 team and led them to a 67-15 season. “You have to give him a lot of credit,” Jackson said. “He has done an outstanding job. In my opinion, the Coach of the Year. He has elevated this basketball team.”
After making waves by previously backing Houston guard James Harden for the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award, he didn’t make an endorsement Saturday. But Jackson did say that Warriors guard Stephen Curry “very well may be the MVP of this league.” In the first quarter, Curry easily drove for a layup around 7-2 backup center Alexis Anjinca on a mismatch, prompting Jackson to say, “That’s Steph Curry: incredible basketball player.”
When asked Friday about his former coach’s comments, Curry said he was a bit surprised. “It’s his opinion obviously,” Curry said. “He’s probably been watching the league. People are going to ask what he thinks, especially his ties to the Warriors organization and myself specifically. Surprised me he said that. But, it is what it is.”
Curry had been vocally supportive of Jackson prior to the coach’s dismissal last offseason, something the Warriors point guard made mention of Friday. “Obviously I wasn’t shy about trying to defend him last year when things were rumbling outside of our locker room,” Curry said. “But for him to … it’s kind of a different situation, but it is surprising that he didn’t.”
Former Warriors coach and current ESPN color commentator Mark Jackson believes Rockets guard James Harden, not Warriors guard Stephen Curry, should be the 2015 NBA MVP. “If you twisted my arm today, I would probably vote for James Harden,” Jackson told The Dan Patrick Show on Thursday. “He’s single-handedly put that Houston Rockets team in the position they are in today. It would be tough.”
Mark Jackson continues to reference Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob in his sermons, with the latest mention coming 10 months after his firing. “I had a joy when I was coaching,” Jackson said Sunday in recorded comments to his congregation at True Love Worship Center International in Reseda, where he is an ordained minister. “I had a joy when I got fired. The owner of the Golden State Warriors was baffled when I left the meeting, shook his hand and smiled. I said, ‘I’m praying for you.’ He looked at me like I just cussed him out. All I said was, ‘I’m praying for you.’ “There are folks in this world that cannot comprehend or understand the peace that you have…”
When Jason Collins publicly announced his homosexuality in April 2013, Jackson told reporters, “I know Jason Collins; I know his family and am certainly praying for them.” This seemed particularly tone-deaf considering that Golden State COO Rick Welts, the first high-ranking sports executive to come out, worked in the same building. Welts says he approached Jackson and had “a nice conversation, like grown‑ups,” adding, “He knew how I felt, I knew how he felt. I’m sure he thought it was an opportunity to educate me, and I thought it was an opportunity to educate him.”
While Jackson excelled as a leader, he was not interested in the minutiae of coaching, according to sources. He so rarely watched film that the video team eventually stopped loading clips onto his laptop. He didn’t draw up plays during huddles, or carry a clipboard. He often looked at his cellphone during practice, even when management was around. His relationship with the front office grew more strained.
Other times, Kerr’s moves are diplomatic. From day one, he has made a point of consistently praising Mark Jackson, which built good will with his players. Similarly, he downplays his impact on the team at every turn. “In the end both Pop and Phil taught me the players are the ones that do all the work,” says Kerr. “You just want to guide the team in the right direction to play the way that they’re best going to utilize their talent and skills.” In pro sports, this mindset is unusual. “Usually winning breeds arrogance but he’s a rare guy,” says Van Gundy, who makes a point to also praise Mark Jackson’s work as Warriors coach. “I think Kerr’s fully aware that he’s done an outstanding job. You don’t play as long as he did without great pride and ego. But the way that Steve has handled himself, forget the coaching. What I have such great respect for is his humility with this success. Very, very few people I’ve known in coaching would have this humility with this success.”
Meanwhile, the Warriors evolved as a team, due in part to Jackson’s influence. He emphasized individual skill development, mandating that every player put in at least 15 minutes of extra work with an assistant coach. A pastor at a non-denominational church in Reseda, Ca, Jackson had an uncanny knack for fostering an us-against-them mentality. To this day, the Warriors still exit each huddle yelling “Just Us!”, a unifying chant that began in the Jackson era. Upon his hiring, Jackson had immediately – and foolishly – promised that the team would make the playoffs in his first season. The Warriors didn’t, and wouldn’t for two more years, but Jackson’s formidable public confidence and oratorical skill – which, says one team source, is what got him the job over then-Spurs-assistant Mike Budenholzer, because, “Of course Mark’s going to win the interview” – buoyed the players’ confidence.
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It is why it can be so complex for someone like Willie Reed to talk about what might come next, despite affection for the Miami Heat so strong that there were tears at season’s end. “I mean you have an emotional attachment to these guys. This is a special team. We made history this year,” Reed said last week of the Heat’s rise from 11-30 at midseason to 41-41. “Of course I want to be here. But we will see what happens when it comes to time to be able to talk and discuss things like that.”
For now, future salary has yet to be broached. “We spoke just about how a good season it was and how I progressed and have grown,” he said. “But there haven’t been talks about anything else yet, kind of just coming in here and just working out, making sure they see you and let them know that I love being here and I want it to work out. So we’ll have to see what happens.”
A year after overcoming a 3-1 series deficit to beat Golden State in the NBA finals, Cleveland enters Game 1 as underdogs. Cavaliers forward Kevin Love finds his team’s “dark horse” billing humorous. “The whole underdog thing is funny to me,” Love told reporters after the Cavaliers’ practice Saturday. “At the end of the day, we are defending our title. We’re trying to repeat, which is so hard to do. I think we will use it as fuel. We’ll use it as motivation.”
Saturday afternoon, while discussing his first career NBA finals berth, Warriors center Zaza Pachulia told reporters he is “all in.” “You know that’s Cleveland’s slogan,” said ESPN’s Chris Haynes, a former Cavaliers beat writer. “That is?” Pachulia said. “I haven’t heard it. That’s because I don’t pay too much attention to the media right now, social media stuff, especially after the last series. I totally blocked everything.”
However, the network’s lead analyst doesn’t think his employer will get what it wants. “I don’t think the Warriors will be challenged,” Van Gundy said. “I think they’ll be in the same situation as last year, up 3-1 coming home. In my time in the NBA, this is the biggest talent differential between the best team and the second best team. No disrespect to Cleveland, but I just think the Warriors are at a different level.”
After rumor spilled this week that the Utah Jazz had “guaranteed” Michigan prospect D.J. Wilson they would take him in the NBA Draft if he dropped to the 30th overall pick, vice president of player personnel Walt Perrin had his say on Saturday afternoon. “Did not happen,” he said. “Did not happen at all. I don’t know where he got that from.”
“If we tell a guy we’re going to take him guaranteed, which we don’t do very often if at all, we will follow through on that honor and our word,” he said. “It does put you at somewhat of a disadvantage because if someone comes to you with a great trade, you’ve made your commitment to that player, so you can’t trade. … We try to keep our flexibility.” So just how many guarantees have the Jazz given in Perrin’s 16 years? “Since I’ve been here? None.”