Here is a link to my Saturday Warriors column. The full text runs below:
NEW ORLEANS — Allow me to introduce Ron Adams. He is an assistant coach for the Warriors, the coach in charge of defense. In football he would be defensive coordinator.
He is older than other coaches on Steve Kerr’s staff. He is an elder statesman of coaches — emphasis on the statesman. He is the wise older man Kerr needs. He is deeply respected throughout the NBA, perceived as a defensive savant. Call him a coach’s coach.
He is a teacher and an explainer and, when I want to understand a game or a play or a trend in basketball, I go to him. He puts the technical concepts into a lay person’s words. He translates basketball into sentences I understand. And on Friday morning, I asked him to explain the Warriors’ comeback Thursday night, one of the most extraordinary sports events I ever covered.
He talked to me at midcourt before an early afternoon practice. He showed no excitement. The comeback had come and gone, and Game 3 was history. His tone was neutral. Diagnostic. Here is our dialogue.
Me: At the start of the fourth quarter, the Warriors down 20, what were you thinking?
Adams: Well, in a game like that in which they had really punched us early and we didn’t respond well, you’re just trying to maintain. Keep reminding people to be positive. Keep reminding people of getting back to our base defensively. That’s what coaches try to do offensively, also. Just stay with the things we know work and then, also, try to point out what’s happening in a game, who’s hot and so on.
We let (Ryan) Anderson get going early. He was hard to shut off. At the end of the game, we actually played him pretty well. When things are unraveling, you have to work through the chaos and still stay organized. And who knows what happens — just like Thursday night.
Me: In a situation like that when you remind people, are you doing it in a conversational voice or are you agitated and raising your voice?
Adams: No, it’s conversational. It’s informative. This group is interesting in that, occasionally, they’ll respond to that (shouting). Actually, the person who does that well for us is Draymond (Green) in the huddles at some points.
Me: Draymond raises the emotional level?
Adams: Yeah. I tried to do that earlier in the year and I felt there was some benefit, but we have a very cohesive group. The thing I would say about them is that — and this is basically all you want from a player — when we don’t do something well, they know it. So, it’s not about impressing upon them that we did something wrong. It’s addressing what we did wrong and how we’re going to do it better, encouraging us to do it better. That kind of thing (shouting) with this group is not helping.
Me: At the beginning of the fourth quarter when you and the other coaches had addressed the players in conversational tones, did you feel, ‘We can beat the Pelicans?’ Or was it just a matter of, ‘We’ll take it one possession at a time, one play at a time, one defense at a time.’
Adams: Definitely one possession at a time. In a game like that, you’re just looking for progress. You’re looking to get back into the game. You’re looking to solidify yourself as a team from a defensive standpoint, certainly, and looking to the future.
Me: Meaning the future in that game?
Adams: The next game. Because you don’t want to leave this game completely disheveled, and we didn’t. That game was a bit like many of our games during the season in that we had a bad defensive quarter and, mixed in, we had a couple of really good defensive quarters. We would like better starts, more thrust defensively. At the same time, we have this collective will that allows us to get back and reverse that in given quarters and really get back in the game. And that happened Thursday night. But it also happened because we made some tremendous shots.
Me: In the fourth quarter, you guys came back very fast. My impression is two things: The Warriors come back fast because they shoot so quickly and so well. But, also, you guys finally began to stop the Pelicans. I’m saying it’s all predicated on defense.
Adams: Well, I think it is, but I will say this. When we roll offensively, when we’re efficient offensively, when we have fluidity offensively, it really facilitates our defense.
Me: Tell me how.
Adams: With many teams, that’s the only time they play defense — if they’re feeling good offensively, they’ll go back and play defense. We’re not that kind of team. Our defense has carried us at times when our offense isn’t doing well. Our offense has carried us at times when our defense is not where we want it. But at the core when those two things are working hand in glove, we have great momentum on both sides of the ball. Maybe that’s a trite comment to make. Maybe that could be said of most teams. But I think we need offensive fluidity to be at top level defensively.
Draymond was really good emotionally on the bench (Adams began laughing), just saying, ‘Look how great this is going to be when we get this done.’ That’s good emotional stuff. That’s how it should be. At the core, yes, it’s a playoff game. Yes, there’s a lot at stake. But, basically, the young men on our team are playing the young men on that other team. And it all boils down to the game and all the wonderful things that attracted us just to the game. And our players felt that.
Me: Finally, why are the Warriors so good at eliminating big leads so dramatically and so quickly?
Adams: Stephen (Curry) and Klay (Thompson), in particular, are extremely clever and quick shooters. And gifted shooters. That’s part of it. The 3-point ball plays into it and all the residuals that come from being a 3-point shooting team. All of the mistakes people will make inside our perimeter because these two guys are putting a lot of pressure on them. We have guys who take advantage of that. Steph and Klay take advantage by passing. I just think there’s a belief we’re a dynamic offensive team so, at any time, we can get back in the game.
We have really good offensive players who can put the ball in the hole and are not affected by the score. They have supreme confidence in who they are. They know they can get their team back into this game offensively and they’ll believe it until the last second on that clock. When you have that, you have the makings of a team that can do what our team did.
I thanked Ron for his time. I said I always learn from him. And I had learned. Conventional wisdom says defense sparks a team’s offense. Adams said, in Thursday’s game, offense had sparked defense. He was talking about reciprocity. When a team understands the unbreakable link between offense and defense, it becomes the Warriors.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.