SAN FRANCISCO — When Sacramento’s six-degree party wrapped up Saturday night at the Chase Center, where Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé made a surprise appearance in the Golden State-Memphis game that included the top two finalists for his head coach vacant position, his team still had no new coach. But that didn’t mean the surreal scene wasn’t fascinating to watch unfold.
Midway through the Warriors’ 142-112 Game 3 win, you had ESPN analyst and former Golden State coach Mark Jackson on the mic — as always — alongside Jeff Van Gundy. On the sidelines for the Warriors, associate head coach Mike Brown played the same pivotal role he has played for the past six years for this Steve Kerr-led program. And not far from the Grizzlies bench, Ranadivé enjoyed playing from the baseline with his daughter, Anjali.
The relationship with the Kings, present and past, didn’t end there either. Former Kings coach Luke Walton attended, as did Alvin Gentry, the coach who replaced him on an interim basis when he was fired in late November. Both men are former Warriors assistants and therefore part of the same Golden State tree that Ranadivé has been obsessed with since his days as a minority owner of the organization. (That chapter ended for Ranadivé when he became the Kings’ main owner in 2013.)
Sources say neither Jackson nor Brown knew Ranadive planned to attend, so it was unclear if there was any substantial significance to the visit. Additionally, sources say neither Brown nor Jackson were offered the job on Saturday night. As our Shams Charania reported on Friday, Jackson has already interviewed for the Lakers coaching job.
With the Kings’ decision between the two men expected soon, and with fellow runner-up Steve Clifford looking to be a distant third in the race at this point, perhaps Ranadivé’s appearance was a case of him wanting to observe Brown and Jackson up close. as he crystallizes his own vision of their respective candidacies. Or, of course, he may have been living vicariously while plotting for the day the playoffs return to Sacramento.
After all, it’s only been 16 years. And another training decision awaits.
Phoenix’s “Revenge Tour” Continues
Full disclosure, I’ve always been intrigued by the mental aspect of a possible championship.
Beyond the obvious desire to taste champagne at the end of it all, you find that players and coaches often have very unique motivations that compel them to keep pushing through the playoffs that can be so utterly exhausting. In the case of the Suns, the inspiration that unites them is rather obvious: their loss in the NBA Finals to Milwaukee last July.
It wasn’t just the fact that they fell to the Bucks. In case you forgot, they were leading 2-0 before being obliterated by Giannis Antetokounmpo and losing four games in a row. In terms of the emotional element of the Finals experience, the only thing worse – in this armchair psychologist’s opinion – would be losing in a Game 7.
From this perspective, the most memorable proof of this truth was there for all to see in the 2013 Finals. A quick review: San Antonio was leading 3-2 over Miami, only to see Ray Allen’s yellow tape 3 rip the heart of Spurs in Game 6 before the Heat won it all in Game 7. From then until Spurs avenged the loss to Miami in 2014, Gregg Popovich was brutally honest about how much pain had fed them.
But in my experience, players aren’t as willing to be honest about the pain they may have felt from failing. And who can blame them? Dwelling on all this, one can suppose, only reopens the wound.
So when Suns star Devin Booker called this season a “revenge tour” after Phoenix beat Dallas in Game 2 of their Western Conference Semifinals series, I was struck by the statement that the nerve of the 2021 finale, so to speak, was still raw.
“Yeah, I kind of let that slip by,” he said with a smile afterwards as we chatted in the hallway of the Footprint Center.
Booker, whose Suns dropped Game 3 in Dallas and will look to take a 3-1 lead in Game 4 on Sunday, shared some additional thoughts on his admission as he headed out.
“It’s the biggest injury in a lot of our careers, especially going up 2-0 and then dropping it,” Booker, who is averaging 23.3 points (48% total shooting, 50% from 3 points), five assists and 4.3 rebounds. against the Mavs, says Athleticism Wednesday. “So you channel it in the right way, and we understand it’s happening, (but) it’s the deepest injury of our careers. And now we have another chance.
“We feel this pain. It’s something you’ll never recover from. Even if the day comes when I have one, you’ll look back and say to yourself ‘I should have had two’, you know what I mean? This is one of those situations.
The next natural question came next: did you watch the video of the defeat in the final or did you avoid it altogether in order to avoid the miserable memory?
“Yeah, I watched it plenty of times,” he said. “I watched the highlights of this one more than the full series, but I watched it.”
A slice of Oracle at Chase
First, let’s be clear: Chase Center is not Oracle Arena. Not even close.
It’s an architectural marvel, and the crowd is very passionate about its warriors in a way that doesn’t require an ounce of shame. But nothing will ever match the unadulterated chaos and elation that so often bounced off the walls of this legendary Oakland, California building all those years before the move to San Francisco in 2019.
As Draymond Green recently clarified, the comparison just isn’t fair. Oracle was a unique place.
Still, for Warriors fans who yearn for something – anything – from the days of Oracle that can make it all a little more familiar now that their team has crossed the bay, there’s this: the delicious Curtis Jones, Steph Curry’s famous assistant for his legendary tunnel shot and longtime usher, is up to his old tricks again.
As Jones told me on the way out, he teams up with Curry again these days during the pre-game routine that has become basketball tradition. But instead of tunnel shooting, which isn’t possible in this landscape, Curry relies on the oldest Splash brother of them all to find him in a variety of places on and around the ground.
“(Saturday) Steph shot from one end (of the field) to the other, standing about 10 feet outside the end of the bleachers,” Jones said. “And he almost made it tonight. When he warms up at the other end, he comes back with the ball, throws it at me, gets into position; I get into position and give him a sneaky pass and then he goes from there.
“Earlier this season, he was shooting the ball over the glass in his back. So when he finished his warm-up, he ran towards the tunnel leading to the locker room, and he waved his hand, and I gave it to him. saw and I threw it at him. And then he went from there to the straights (near the deep corner of the field), and he pulled it from the straights area to the basket, and then now we’re going from one end to end.
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(Photo by Devin Booker, Monty Williams and Mikal Bridges: Kevin Jairaj/USA Today)