Mark Jackson didn’t declare a winner in the Presidential election Wednesday. He shared no thoughts on the Dow Jones index soaring beyond 15,000 or cratering down to four figures. He wasn’t drawn into a debate with any leftover Mayans about the world ending Dec. 21 vs. some specific date a bit later.
But mostly, the Golden State Warriors coach was careful in a session with Bay Area NBA reporters not to predict a playoff berth for his basketball team. A year ago, Jackson didn’t show such restraint, arriving as a rookie coach and assuring fans that the postseason was a gimme.
“No, I’m not going to say it,” the Warriors coach told the media folks, including Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News. “Not because I don’t believe it, but ultimately there comes a point where, enough of the talking, go out and do it.”
Ten different coaches have managed just one Warriors playoff berth since the start of the 1994-95 season. That came in 2007, when Don Nelson’s No. 8 seeded team upset Dallas in the first round before losing to Utah in the West semis. Golden State had missed the playoffs for 12 years till then, and is up to five years in its current drought.
If that ends next April – and Kawakami thinks it might – Jackson isn’t saying. Not like he did then.
Maybe now that the playoffs are actually realistic for this beefed-up roster, Jackson understands he can eliminate much of the bombast.
And maybe Jackson also realizes that in Year 2, he’s being judged by results and reality, not rhetoric.
To that point, he was careful to point out that health issues and the strength of the Western Conference could hinder the Warriors’ immediate rise.
But given the additions of Andrew Bogut, Harrison Barnes, Jarrett Jack and others, shouldn’t the Warriors be playoff-worthy this season?
“I certainly hope so,” Jackson said. “Certainly hope so.”
Humbler? Hmm. How ’bout we go with wiser. A year ago, Jackson arrived in Oakland with a stellar resume as a player – former Rookie of the Year, one-time All-Star, No. 3 on the career assists list – but a blank sheet of paper as a coach. He had worked in TV, stubbornly declining opportunities to serve as an assistant or run a team at another level, as if an NBA head gig was a birthright.
He came in strong and got smacked hard as the Warriors lost 11 of their first 16 games. Injuries to forward David Lee and guard Stephen Curry knocked Golden State on its butt, too. And when it traded Jackson’s top offensive option, Monta Ellis, to Milwaukee in March, he got back another hurt player, Bogut, who never logged a minute.
The Warriors wound up 23-43 (.348), 13th in the Western Conference, 13 games out of a playoff spot and worse off than the 36-46 (.439) that got Keith Smart fired in 2011.
Now, with better health, the assistance of newcomers and the potential slide of a few other clubs (Phoenix, Houston, Portland), the Warriors might have a shot to push toward .500 at least. They can worry about the postseason after that in the wicked West.
So check out Kawakami’s report. Jackson might not be chastened from his mis-prognostication but he does seem to have a better perspective. He displayed great insight, too, when Curry’s contract situation as if it were some sort of negative.
Curry and the Warriors are facing an Oct. 30 deadline for a long-term extension, but Jackson giggled when asked if he was worried Curry might get distracted.
“I laugh because the dude is going to be filthy rich,” Jackson said. “There’s no pressure. Don’t let it get in your head? What? That I’m going to be paid?
“To me, it’s hilarious. Hopefully, it’s going to be us and I expect it to be us. But one way or another, Steph Curry is going to be paid and paid very well for a long time.”
Jackson, giggling? That’s a better start already.