Weary Warriors struggling in adversity
Off-colour jokes. Criticising officiating. Lamenting a tough portion of the schedule.
The Golden State Warriors have rarely dealt with adversity over the last three regular seasons. Now that it has arrived, there are signs of tension and frustration with a team trying to find a groove without Kevin Durant while in pursuit of a third straight trip to the NBA Finals.
After a loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night - Golden State's fourth defeat in six games - forward Andre Iguodala made several racially tinged comments during his postgame remarks to the media. The comments came after coach Steve Kerr announced that Iguodala, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson would sit out a showdown with the second-seeded Spurs in San Antonio on Saturday night.
"No clue," Iguodala said when asked if he was aware of Kerr's plan before the game. "I do what master say."
Iguodala also was asked what was at the root of the issues for a Warriors team that was dominant with Durant, but has looked tired and vulnerable since he went down with a knee injury on February 28.
Iguodala, who is black, used a racial slur to imply that was what the media was looking for, then said "Just play harder. Figure it out. Change gonna come. You know what we used to say. Change gonna come."
He later clarified to ESPN that he has no issue with Kerr or his decision to rest players in a nationally televised game on Saturday night.
The Warriors also expressed significant frustration with the officiating from Ken Mauer's crew in the 103-102 loss to the Wolves. Kerr said Andrew Wiggins "did not get fouled" on a play late in the game that put him on the free throw line for the winning foul shots.
Green didn't speak to the media until about 45 minutes after the game ended, a very long time for a player who normally likes to address things quickly and move on. He said he spent most of that time contemplating whether he wanted to risk a $25,000 fine from the NBA for criticising the officials. He joked that he was going to buy himself a watch for deciding to use restraint, even after questioning a technical foul he received for getting tangled up with Karl-Anthony Towns.
The road-weary team is at the tail end of a tough stretch of eight games in eight different cities in 13 days. With Durant not expected back for another month or so, the minutes are piling up and the heavy favourites to come out of the Western Conference for a chance at a second championship in three years is just one and a half games up on the Spurs for the No. 1 seed.
Curry is struggling with his shooting. He was 1 for 8 from 3-point range against the Wolves and is 18 for 76 from long distance in March.
But a reprieve is right around the corner. After the Spurs game, the Warriors finish the season with 11 of their final 16 at home, and Green, Curry, Iguodala and Thompson will get three full days of rest before they have to play again.