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Here is a link to my Thursday column about Mark Jackson. The full text runs below:

Put aside the euphoria of the Warriors’ excellent season. Put aside they’re in the playoffs the second straight year. Put aside all of that for a moment. Admittedly, it’s a lot to put aside.

In a sense, these playoffs are all about coach Mark Jackson’s future. From everything we’ve read, from everything we’ve heard, from the Bat Signal beaming bright over Oakland, we understand — think we understand — the playoffs are Jackson’s big test. To coach or not to coach. Do or die.

Translated, that means Jackson wants a contract extension — he has one year left on his contract. The Warriors have dallied over his extension. If he doesn’t get one after this season, he’s either a lame duck — very bad — or, more likely, he’s out.

Warriors’ owner Joe Lacob has complained publicly about the team’s lack of game readiness and about crummy home losses to crummy road teams. From these complaints we reach two conclusions: 1) Lacob is a very hard grader. 2) Jackson needs to get past the first round of the playoffs or he’s dead meat. Maybe he needs to get past the second round to avoid qualifying for the dead-meat category.

Jackson’s quest for a contract extension has a high degree of difficulty. Key players are injured.

Andre Iguodala is in and out of the lineup with knee tendinitis. The Warriors need Iguodala healthy for veteran leadership, smart passing and great defense. On offense, he’s a bust.

David Lee is suffering with a nerve problem in his leg but should be available for the playoffs. The Warriors need Lee for smart, efficient, productive offense and for powerful rebounding. He is not a good one-on-one defender, but he works hard on defense and functions well within a team concept of defense. Chris Mullin operated the same way.

Andrew Bogut has busted ribs. This could be the killer injury for the Warriors. We know he won’t play in the first round. His participation in later rounds — if there are later rounds — is strictly TBA, as in iffy.

And, yes, Bogut gets hurt a lot. Not because he’s soft. He is a banger — the banger the Warriors need — and bangers bust their body parts. The Warriors will miss his banging in the playoffs.

Think of the team this way. The Warriors have an offensive focus and a defensive focus. Stephen Curry clearly is the offensive focus. He is the best jump shooter I ever saw. Name someone better.

And Bogut is the defensive focus. With Bogut on the floor, teams drive to the hoop at their own peril. He is a shot blocker and a shot changer. He is a shot murderer. He rebounds like crazy and he plays with a snarl on his face which says, “Don’t dare enter my zone.”

Jackson always says the Warriors are a defensive team. Bogut is the reason for that along with Iguodala, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Curry does not make this list. Without Bogut, the Warriors aren’t nearly as good on defense. They are vulnerable to opponents driving the lane, making easy buckets, getting offensive rebounds. They aren’t as tough.

These injuries, especially Bogut’s, have major implications for Jackson’s future. If Bogut were around and if Lee and Iguodala were healthy and if the Warriors were to lose in the first round, you might say, “Jackson could not win with this team that is supposedly superior to last season’s team. And that is bad.”

You might question Jackson’s feel for substitutions in a game, for bringing the right guys in at the right time, for the rhythm of the whole thing. And you might conclude Jackson is a certain kind of coach, the kind who can improve a team, change its culture, but he’s not the kind who can bring a team to the elite level. You might think the Warriors need someone else to make the Warriors elite. New coach as closer.

And these would be reasonable conclusions.

They are not reasonable conclusions if the Warriors lose with Bogut on the bench. Despite your doubts about Jackson — we’re really talking about Lacob’s doubts — everyone wants this to be a fair fight. It’s hardly fair to judge Jackson if the Warriors make a quick exit from the playoffs when 60 percent of the starting lineup is hurt or missing in action. I am not saying they will make a quick exit. I merely am examining a possible case.

Of course, fairness hardly matters in the NBA. George Karl was Coach of the Year last season. After his Nuggets lost to the Warriors in the first round of the playoffs, Denver fired Karl. Fairness is a quaint concept.

Lacob can do whatever he wants. The Warriors are his fiefdom. Maybe he doesn’t like Jackson because of the turmoil on the coaching staff or because of the team’s up-and-down play or because he just doesn’t like him. Or maybe Lacob secretly loves Jackson.

But if Lacob does not extend Jackson after our theoretical first-round exit, it hardly seems evenhanded or equitable. There would be no way to judge Jackson, the case would be muddy and ambiguous. If Red Auerbach lost Bill Russell to broken ribs, you would assume his Celtics would have been diminished.

A while back, I asked Lacob if we could discuss Jackson. “There’s no percentage in it for me,” he said.

Figuring percentages is Lacob’s privilege. So is not talking to the media.

I have just one question: If the injured, incomplete Warriors get bounced in the first round, what’s the percentage for Jackson?

For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at lowell.cohn@pressdemocrat.com.

 

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Comments

8 Comments

  1. Ben

    I read all of the Warriors blogs and all season there’s been a huge anti-Jackson contingent commenting away.

    On the one hand I understand many of their gripes — all the things you said, from game readiness to lack of an offensive “system” to the way he handles timeouts.

    On the other hand… are you Warriors fans freaking crazy? Haven’t you been paying attention all these years? Now they make the playoffs two straight years, have 51 wins this season… they’re obviously playing together and like playing for their coach.

    If I were the owner I’d sign him to an extension in a heartbeat, and fly down to San Antonio with a bag of gold to try and steal a Popovich-trained X and O assistant.

    April 17th, 2014 7:44 am

  2. Dennis

    There are two other areas of this I wish you would have touched on. I agree with everything you said, but what about the impact it would have on the players if they don’t resign Jackson. The players seem to really like him.

    The other aspect to consider is, who do you bring in to replace him. The window for the Warriors is open right now. It won’t last forever. Who is there out there that could come in and do better?

    April 17th, 2014 8:15 am

  3. Mark M

    This strikes me as accurate analysis. I think the Warriors season is over, so the question becomes…has Jackson done enough to keep his job and get an extension?

    Bogut was key against a rough team like the Clips. We have no interior defense and diminished rebounding. Lee, a decent rebounder at least, doesn’t look right to me either. The Clips are big and tough inside, have the best point guard in the league and a battle ready mindset head coach who knows how to prep his team to win in the playoffs. Really bad matchup as it has played out.

    But I’ll say Jackson has indeed done enough already. Perhaps my standards are just low with decades of horrible Warrior teams, but two playoff seasons in a row is big. For me, he stays. He needs to sort out his staff better and coach up Barnes so he can start excelling with his talent, but every coach has his challenges.

    I’ve read rumors that Jerry West is not on Jackson’s side, which seems a VERY bad sign. Can anyone out there substantiate this? Lowell?

    April 17th, 2014 10:37 am

  4. Stan

    Bogut is a potent shot blocker when he wants to be. That’s lost. But,like the 49ers without Aldon Smith,the Warriors have won without Bogut. I think the whole team looks at him as just part timer now even when healthy. So they keep the right attitude.
    They can take the Clippers…Griffin even with a chip,doesn’t seem able back up his words. The Warriors seem to get to him every time. Fast starts by him fade away.
    The politics of Lacob and Jackson also seems to tilt in favor of Jackson. I can only guess why those two are frigid friends. The obvious is,only one runs the team.

    April 17th, 2014 2:35 pm

  5. Dr. Feelgood

    Reason to keep Jackson:
    51 wins.
    Reason to dump Jackson:
    Should have been 56-57.

    Reason to keep:
    Dubs make playoffs two years in a row.
    Reason to dump:
    Should have been a 3-4 seed.

    Reason to keep:
    Warriors play DEFENSE ?!?!?!
    Reason to Dump:
    Unimaginative offense

    Reason to keep: A surprise would be if the Dubs can take this series to seven games. That would qualify as an achievement.
    Reason to dump:
    Clippers sweep, or 4-1

    BEST reason to keep: Team improved again, with a soft bench. The young core will only improve. This team PLAYS for Jackson.
    BEST reasons to dump: 1.) Is there a good one? 2.) because Lacob says so.

    April 17th, 2014 5:58 pm

  6. Stan

    I think what Jackson needs to stop Lacob,is to not lose badly to the Clippers. If the Warriors should lose the series,it would have to be hard fought and close games. Losses where the team is blown out is whats going to give Lacob the opening to make a change. The “he shoulda dun this” coaching is what might ruin a great season in a bad playoff appearance.
    I say the Warriors take the Clipboards…

    April 18th, 2014 3:30 pm

  7. rick

    its a whole team effort not just the coach to get into the playoffs. dont be greedy,any team that reaches 500 is a pretty good team. playoffs and beyond is a bonus. just win baby just win!

    April 19th, 2014 8:35 am

  8. Dennis

    On a different note, it was great to see they are bringing back Jim Barnett.

    April 19th, 2014 4:13 pm

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