Here is an early link to my Monday column about Game 4 between the Warriors and Rockets. The full text runs below:
The dateline for this article says Houston but it really should say Oakland.
This conversation took place in the interval between the Warriors’ playoff series against New Orleans and Memphis. I lingered at the Warriors’ gym with assistant coach Ron Adams, responsible for the Warriors’ defense. I held onto this interview for today, for the possible closeout game of Houston, not knowing when this day would come — or if it would come. I talked to Adams about hoops and life. He talks to the Warriors players about the same stuff — hoops and life.
The life part is big in how Adams thinks, big in how Steve Kerr thinks. I make a leap of faith. I say the life part Adams, Kerr and the other coaches preach to the players helps make the Warriors an elite team. I believe it.
So, here is hoops and the wisdom of life narrated by Adams as the Warriors try to sweep the Rockets in Game 4. When Adams speaks of teams in general, think Rockets.
“These are all good teams,” Adams told me of the playoff teams. “The longer you’re in this league you know how sophisticated some of these teams are. You know how hard some of these individuals work to get to the level they are. Every man in this league is good. They’re here for a reason.
“By being in the league, even by being on the bench, I’m respectful of anyone. I’ve seen people come off a bench who don’t play much, but when they get the chance, they play well because everyone is good. If you don’t respect that, you’re going to have problems whether you’re a coach, a player, whoever.
“Now, do teams let down when you have a huge lead? Yes. Perhaps you’re playing someone and some of their best players aren’t playing. Yes, that happens. I don’t like when it happens.
“From my standpoint and from the standpoint of anyone that really understands this league every coach is capable. No one is stupid. No one does not have a plan. Sometimes, the plan works better than other times. That’s how you have to approach it.
“It’s like respecting the people you meet. You don’t know who they are. You stumble across someone, not the most impressive-looking person, maybe a bit disheveled. Paint whatever picture you want. You know nothing about that person. You’re meeting them for the first time. You have no idea who they are. You have no idea what their background is.
“What do you do if you’re a person who’s comfortable in your skin and you have a decent understanding of the world? You treat them with respect. You treat them humbly and you find out what their story is. That’s exactly what you’ve got to do at this level. It’s actually necessary on the part of the players on our team. It’s a sign of maturity if you can do that. It’s a sign of respect.
“You acknowledge, ‘I’m playing against somebody who’s capable. I may have a bigger name. I may have bigger stats, but they are capable.’ And I know, if they are physically talented and they have a good mind, they can affect my play individually and they can affect my team’s play.
“You’re talking about honoring the game,” I said, “but also honoring your opponent.”
“Without question,” Adams said. “Let’s say we’re playing a lesser opponent — this is a phrase I don’t like to use. The best way to honor your opponent is to outwork your opponent, to put the effort into the game to show them, ‘You matter even though you may be lesser, even though you may be injured. We respect you. We respect you by outworking you.’ Nothing is greater than that in my mind.”
“Do you speak to your players about these concepts?” I asked.
“We do. We tell them respect your opponent by outworking them.”
“So, it’s a concept the players have been exposed to,” I said.
“Does everyone get it?” Adams said. “I don’t know. I think most people get it. It’s the respect you’d give another good writer. It’s the respect you give someone because you’ve been in their arena. You know what you have to go through to do your job well. You can empathize with the other person who’s doing the same thing you’re doing. You may not like them. You respect them.
“I feel strong about that. We have to be respectful in our lives of a lot of different people, of situations we don’t agree with and don’t fully understand. It’s a process through which our players have grown. It’s what our guys do. I think they do respect their opponents.
“That’s what makes this league really interesting to people who understand it and who find it difficult to follow college basketball or other such stuff once they get involved at the pro level. You have these magnificent athletes who can be foiled by good play from other people. That’s the team concept.”
Adams finished talking. It was time for both of us to leave. I think now about what he said — magnificent athletes being foiled by a team. It describes what the Warriors did to James Harden Saturday night.
And I think about Adams’ tribute to respect, of trying hard to beat a vulnerable team with humility and honor and effort — bedrock concepts. And I know that’s how the Warriors feel about Game 4 in Houston.
The Warriors respect the Rockets more than ever.
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.