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As Warriors coach Mark Jackson gets Game 1 win against Clippers, friends at ESPN voice support

LOS ANGELES — Warriors coach Mark Jackson led the team to a win in Game 1 against the Clippers, and meanwhile, talk about his job security hasn’t subsided. In fact, it’s become a national talking point thanks in part to ESPN’s Jeff Van Gundy and Stephen A. Smith — two of Jackson’s friends in the media.

And it’s very noticeable.

“They were saying our coach is going to be gone,” the Warriors’ Andre Iguodala said of the media after the game Saturday. “Stephen A. Smith said it, right? Stephen A. said Coach is going to be gone, so we’re trying to save our coach. Every game is pressure for us.”

Van Gundy, who was once Jackson’s broadcasting partner, voiced his support during the telecast, in a story in the New York Post last month, and also Thursday in a conference call.

“If you’re a Warriors fan, management, owner, whatever, you can’t have that short a memory of where your organization has been,” Van Gundy said Thursday.

“I think anybody thinking that Mark Jackson hasn’t done a superior job there in transforming them from a poor team to a very, very good team, and from a sieve defensively to an elite defensive team just isn’t paying attention, and to think anyone could have done that with that team I think is making a mistake. I don’t buy it. I don’t think he is under any pressure to lose his job. I’d be shocked — I just can’t see it. I just can’t see management and ownership not recognizing what a great job he’s done.”

(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Smith, who before spoke of his understanding that Jackson is on the hot seat, last month launched into a defense on ESPN’s “First Take” of the coach he said was “my man, my homeboy from Queens, New York.”

“What’s going on as far as I’m concerned is he doesn’t have the support of the organization that he should have,” Smith said. “Now every time I’ve spoken to Mark Jackson on the few occasions that I’ve spoken to him this season, he’s done nothing but rave about the organization, rave about his job understanding that there’s an obligation to perform and produce. Last time I checked, that’s exactly what Mark Jackson is doing.

“This team is 17 games over .500. I’m just going to repeat myself. It’s 17 games over .500, and we’re having a conversation about this man’s job security? Who the hell do the Golden State Warriors or anybody associated with them think they are? Are you not paying attention? This doesn’t make sense to me. It makes absolutely no sense. You’re 17 games above .500 in a Western Conference. The same Western Conference that has San Antonio. The same Western Conference that has Oklahoma City, the Clippers, Memphis, Portland, Houston. You’ve got all of these teams up in here, and this dude is winning basketball games.

“Steph Curry and Klay Thompson and those boys can ball. You’ve got Jermaine O’Neal on the record saying that this is insane. There’s no reason on earth that Mark Jackson should even be considered to be somebody that’s on his way out the door.”

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Clippers coach Doc Rivers responds to Klay Thompson, muses Blake Griffin should ‘flop on’

PLAYA VISTA — Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers responded Friday to comments on the radio Warriors guard Klay Thompson made about the Clippers’ Blake Griffin flopping.

“That’s Klay’s opinion,” Rivers said Friday. “I don’t really care, honestly. I just keep looking at what Blake’s done, so if he’s flopping, keep doing it because those numbers look awful good to me. So flop on. That’s the way I look at it. Whatever he’s done this year, I want him to keep doing exactly that.

“I think what’s happening is Blake’s kicking a lot of people’s butt, and they need something to say about him.”

Here’s what Thompson told 95.7 The Game on Wednesday:

“He flops a little bit,” Thompson told 95.7 The Game. “He flails his arms around, so you might catch a random elbow or something, and that doesn’t rub off too well on guys, you know?

“He’s kind of like a bull in a china shop, kind of out of control sometimes. And then you just do see him flop sometimes. Like how can a guy that big and strong flop that much? So yeah, I can see how he can get under people’s skin and be frustrating to play against.”

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Game 82 rewind: Warriors coach Mark Jackson emphasizes that ‘it’s been an awesome year’

DENVER — Warriors coach Mark Jackson rattled off the team’s list of achievements after a win against Denver gave them 51 victories to finish the regular season.

The 51 wins tied for the third-most in franchise history.

The team finished 20 games over .500, doing so for the first time since the 1991-92 season.

The 24 road victories this season tied a franchise record.

“It’s an incredible group, and it’s been an awesome year,” Jackson said. “It’s been an awesome year. I’ll say it again, it’s been an awesome year.

“It’s an awesome accomplishment. Like we said, we’re not done. But we’re going to celebrate every step of the way.”

AP Photo/David Zalubowski

AP Photo/David Zalubowski

The road ahead appears difficult with the Warriors facing a No. 3-seeded Los Angeles Clippers team that presents a great challenge with no Andrew Bogut available due to injury.

But Jackson will cherish this team.

Even hours before the win at shootaround, he grew emotional in discussing how his players had gathered around him for a group hug after win No. 50.

“I love these guys. It means a lot, and it shows that we’re tied-together team,” Jackson said.

“It’s ministry to me to come here and impact guys, and for them to show that type of love and support means a lot. There’s still work to be done. I’m sure one day I’ll sit down and even when I’m home, you get emotional about it because it’s special. It’s special, and I don’t take it for granted.”

Jackson said such displays were unnecessary.

“They make a statement by the way they play. They make a statement by the way they defend, the way they’re unselfish, the way they’re professional, the way there’s no issues. That’s the loudest statement that they can make.”

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Game 81 rewind: Occasion of 50th win allows Warriors to make another strong statement for Mark Jackson

MarkJackson

Man … way, way too much to write about on this night. Andrew Bogut’s injury. Stephen Curry going off yet again with a 30-point, 14-assist game. Draymond Green delivering career highs in points and rebounds — 20 and 12, respectively — and how about this number? Plus-27. David Lee, looking almost like the old David Lee after a rough start, hitting 12 of 14 shots from the floor. Klay Thompson coming up with another marvelous two-way performance. And we’ll give a nod to the amazing Kevin Love, too, who scored 22 first-quarter points to shoot Minnesota out to a 19-point lead at one point and finishing with 40 in a losing cause.

But at the end of the day — and that phrasing is key here — it was all about Mark Jackson. At the final buzzer of Win No. 50, several of the heroes on this night made a beeline for the bench and swarmed their coach. They jumped up and down around him and made a point to demonstrate how much their sideline leader has been responsible for these 50 wins, and a second straight berth in the playoffs for the first time in 20 years.

Even Jackson seemed taken aback by the emotional demonstration as someone who, depending on who you want to believe, might be on his way out. Quite honestly, it’s tough to see that happening if Warriors management has any degree of sanity whatsoever. You’re going to alienate Curry right now? You’re going to upset the whole dynamic this team clearly has under Jackson, whose No. 1 strength these past two years has been making these guys believe they could be winners simply by showing unwavering faith in them.

But first, what was it like being in the middle of that celebration?

“I didn’t expect it,” Jackson said. “I saw them jumping up and down and I was like, `What are you guys up to?’ The next thing I knew, they were all around me and it got hot. Obviously, I love these guys to death. I appreciate everything they’ve done, the way they’ve conducted themselves, how they’ve fought and continue to fight. One thing I learned from my dad the last six months of his life is that you have to show emotion and appreciation. It’s all right for men to say `I love you,’ it’s all right to hug, it’s all right to embrace and it’s all right to cry. There’s no shame in my game. I’m going to celebrate every moment, and it’s going to make some people mad. But I wasn’t always like I am today, and I thank God for this group and this platform.”

For those who think all Jackson does is process corny cliches and over-effusive epithets, take another good read of those powerful words. That all came from the heart, and one can only imagine what types of words of inspiration he gives to his players in behind-closed-doors sessions. It’s no wonder he’s so beloved by the people who wear the uniforms, if not so much those who sit upstairs in the suits and ties. This is a man of character and substance. And he has molded a group of men who play and comport themselves with character and substance. It didn’t happen by accident.
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Game 80 rewind: Warriors feeling good after Stephen Curry goes for 47 in overtime loss at Portland

PORTLAND, Ore. – The Warriors have said that above all they were more concerned about playing well at the end of the season. That’s why there were positive vibes that came out of a 119-117 overtime loss at Portland.

The Warriors clawed back from an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit and got the game-tying shot from Draymond Green. They saw Stephen Curry get red hot and hang 47 points on the playoff-bound Trail Blazers. At this stage, Golden State will take that.

AP Photo/Steve Dykes

AP Photo/Steve Dykes

With a playoff series likely against the Los Angeles Clippers looming, the Warriors appear dangerous. Green, who is adjusting back to a bench role after David Lee regained his position in the starting lineup, embodied that with a big shot.

“He’s not afraid of the moment, a guy that’s always ready,” coach Mark Jackson said. “Played big for us, the numbers don’t do him justice, but made a big shot for us, and we expect that from him.”

Jackson beamed about Curry dishing off to Green and then Andre Iguodala for the 3-point attempt that rimmed out on the final possession in overtime. Curry had a chance for 50, but made the right decision, Jackson said.

Forty-seven points, of course, is still 47 points and tied for the second most Curry has scored in a single game in his career.

“I don’t know why people continue to be so amazed by it,” Green said of Curry’s performance, smiling. “I’m amazed when he doesn’t do that. I’m used to seeing it. Nonetheless, it’s still amazing.”

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Warriors’ Ognjen Kuzmic’s D-League dominance turns heads

EL SEGUNDO – Bosnian-born big man Ognjen Kuzmic concluded his postgame interview with some self-deprecating humor.

“Hopefully you understand something, guys,” Kuzmic said, knowing his English isn’t the greatest.

The Santa Cruz Warriors 7-footer had dominated on the court with a 23-point, 18-rebound performance to close out Los Angeles in a playoff series Saturday that any basketball observer could appreciate. He was 10 for 13 from the field, leaving Santa Cruz general manager Kirk Lacob tweeting about “#WiltKuzmic” and fans in the crowd “Kuz-ing.”

Golden State hasn’t offered much playing time for the 2012 second-round pick, but at Santa Cruz he is learning. Two days earlier in Game 1 of the series, he had 15 points and 10 rebounds.

“He’s one of those guys that kind of needs to experience it,” Santa Cruz coach Casey Hill said. “Like he catches the ball on the block and scores the first time, he’s going to be more aggressive because his confidence is up. He doesn’t, it’s going to be different.”

One Santa Cruz staffer paying close attention to Kuzmic is player development coach Brian Scalabrine, who was once an NBA big man on the end of the bench as well.

“It’s helped a lot because Brian, he was playing there (in the NBA) and he can understand, so he’s telling me what to do on defense and offense,” Kuzmic said.

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Warriors’ Nemanja Nedovic back in action for Santa Cruz after collision with Ognjen Kuzmic left him with concussion

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Nemanja Nedovic, the Warriors’ first-round pick, had to deal with yet another injury last week after Santa Cruz teammate Ognjen Kuzmic’s hip collided with his head and caused a concussion.

Nedovic returned to action Thursday and scored 10 points in Santa Cruz’s playoff win against Los Angeles, but not before enduring a week away from the game while dealing with a concussion for the first time.

“It was boring as hell because I couldn’t do anything,” Nedovic said Saturday before Santa Cruz played at Los Angeles. “I couldn’t watch TV. I couldn’t be on my phone, be on my laptop, nothing. Just laying down for five days.”

It hasn’t been an easy year for Nedovic, who has missed games due to a left hamstring strain and right foot inflammation this season. He also had strep throat. He could be recalled to the Warriors for the playoffs, but coach Mark Jackson indicated earlier this week he’d need to get back on the floor first.

“It was important for me to get some playing time,” Nedovic said. “This is the best chance for it, so I’m trying to use this as much as I can. I’ve had to deal with some injuries. It was really important for me to get back into game shape.”