A Warriors Controversy Explainer

On Monday night the Warriors beat the 76ers by 43 points, yet the biggest story post-game centered on Andrew Bogut being angry at Mark Jackson, and Mark Jackson being angry at the press. The entire thing can be a bit confusing if you don’t understand the bizarre ways in which the Warriors, Mark Jackson and Andrew Bogut operate, so here’s an explanation. For the precise timeline of events full of transcripts, head over to Bay Area Sports Bay Area Sports Guy, but this is the tl;dr version:

  • During his pre-game media availability, Mark Jackson was asked about Andrew Bogut’s injured shoulder. He said many things, one of which was,“It may have been sleeping, and I say that in all seriousness.”
  • A few minutes later the group of media encountered Bogut. Somehow he had already found out what Jackson said, and told them: “…the sleeping comment is absolutely ridiculous. I don’t know where it came from. I don’t know if I should read between the lines with it.”
  • The Warriors went and beat the living crap out of the Philadelphia 76ers.
  • After the game Mark Jackson was asked about Marreese Speights, but instead chose to address the Bogut situation, and asked the assembled media: “Please don’t twist my words.” Ethan Sherwood Strauss and Steve Berman asked follow-up questions, and Jackson expanded upon his comments.

Before I address the litany of stupid things Jackson said, some background is in order.

As an organization, the Warriors have historically been extremely combative with the media. They restrict access, push back on journalists who write stories they don’t like, and sometimes go so far as to create fake anonymous accounts to comment on Warriors message boards. There is some evidence that this culture has changed—universally disliked team president Robert Rowell was fired, and unlike the previous owner Joe Lacob actually gives interviews—but from conversations I’ve had with those that cover the team, it’s still far from an ideal work environment.

Furthermore, the Warriors also have a history of outright lying to the media about injuries, including Andrew Bogut injuries. The Warriors traded for an injured Bogut in March of 2012, and in April he had surgery on his ankle that the team said was to clear out bone spurs. The team insisted he would only be out three months (ie, ready for the start of the season) because of the surgery. Bogut played four out of the first five games of the season, and was obviously still very injured, so the team shut him down but promised he would be back within a couple of weeks.

Bogut finally got fed up with the charade and it was he—not the Warriors GM, coach, trainer or PR staff—who revealed that his ankle surgery was actually the dreaded microfracture surgery and that he would be out a lot longer. Bogut eventually came back at the end of January, two months after the team said he would be back in practice, and six months after the team originally said he would be back after his surgery.

So the Warriors have a history of lying about Bogut’s injuries, and Bogut has a well-chronicled hatred of the “injury-prone” label. Of course he’s going to react strongly to the insinuation that he randomly hurt his shoulder while sleeping, when in fact (he contends) it happened during a game.

Finally, the pressure on Mark Jackson has been growing this season. The team is playing a bit below expectations, and it is especially surprising that an offense led by Steph Curry is merely league average. More in the realm of fact, the Warriors exercised the team option on the last two years of Jackson’s contract this summer, but pointedly did not negotiate an extension. Jackson is reportedly one of the lowest paid coaches in the league, and even after taking the eventual NBA Finalists Spurs to 6 games the front office didn’t see fit to give him an extension. It’s also important to note that Jackson was hired by then-GM Larry Riley, not current GM Bob Myers.

***

With all that background out of the way, onto Jackson’s multitude of dumb comments.

 “As far as I know, it was not on the court. It wasn’t in practice. It wasn’t in a game. I’m not really sure.”

Mark Jackson is the head coach, and his starting center is about to miss his third game in a row due to injury, so how does he still not know how it happened? Later on he talks about having such a strong locker room, but if his locker room is so strong why couldn’t he walk over to Bogut and ask how he got injured, or ask a trainer?

 “Before I get to Mo I just want to address something from earlier.” 

Jackson wasn’t asked about Bogut, he was asked about Marreese Speights’ career night. For all of his later ranting about the media, it’s really Jackson that spurned the opportunity to address the situation in due time, and created a mountain out of what maybe could have been a mole hill.

 “My statement said ‘legitimate.’ My statement said I had the same thing. My statement said that he was hurt. Please don’t twist my words.”

As far as I have been able to ascertain, no members of the media told Bogut about Jackson’s comments. Bogut somehow found out about them himself (From a team employee? From sitting in the back of the press conference? From this tweet?) and approached members of the media himself. Therefore, not only did the media not twist Jackson’s words, they didn’t even have the chance to repeat his words accurately. Jackson’s simply doesn’t know what happened.

 “Understand this also — you will never see a problem in my locker room. You will not see a problem in my locker room, with my group.”

First of all, there already is a problem in his locker room. Andrew Bogut stated—once again, unprompted—that what his coach said was “ridiculous” and that he would talk to him after the game.

The subtext of Jackson’s statement, however, is a concrete sign that he is aware that his job isn’t safe. If the Warriors aren’t as good as expected, Jackson’s strongest defense is the aura of togetherness, unity, and Christian brotherhood that he has created. It is effectively a warning shot across Joe Lacob’s bow: “if you fire me, this harmonious locker room will disintegrate into squabbling voices”.

“This is not the old culture. This is a new culture.”

Once again, Jackson is angling to keep his job by setting himself out as the reason the Warriors culture has changed. Ignoring for a minute my doubts about how much the culture actually has changed, the credit for that clearly goes to Joe Lacob first and foremost, and then probably Bob Myers and Steph Curry, before we get to Jackson.

Well, you can make it seem like I said something against Bogut. That he slept and got hurt.”

THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT MARK JACKSON DID SAY! Mark Jackson’s exact words, that Bogut found out about on his own: “It may have been sleeping, and I say that in all seriousness”

“So please put the whole thing in there, and not half the story.”

Once again, Bogut found out about Jackson’s comments on his own. It’s also pretty condescending to tell members of the media what they should write in their stories.

 “I was part of the media. I understand how you can make it much more appealing, and go for the home run.”

If I may address Mark Jackson directly: no, you weren’t. You were a broadcaster. You may have been a part of the broader “media”, but you certainly weren’t a journalist, you certainly didn’t do reporting. You didn’t cover a team for 82 games, or even 41 games, a year. You didn’t attend hundreds of practices and press conferences and ask players and coaches tough questions. You were not independent. You were paid by ABC to talk about the game (in a positive way) as it was happening. Your job was nothing like the jobs of the people you are talking to, and it’s insulting to claim that your experience was anything like theirs, or that what you did is anything like what they do.

“There’s nothing to sort out.”

Except for that part where Bogut said he was going to talk to Jackson post game. It probably isn’t the best idea to essentially tell your known-to-be sensitive starting center, “there is nothing to sort out because the angry feelings you have towards me aren’t a legitimate thing to talk about”.

 “I mean, we are 10 games over .500. Some of you guys haven’t seen that in a long, long time. So keep on acting like you have.”

And Jackson ends his series of rants with his worst comment yet, taking shots at the journalists in attendance because they had the temerity to cover the Warriors all those years when they were terrible. Jackson also shows again that while he may have been a member of “the media”, he sure as hell wasn’t a journalist. He doesn’t seem to understand that a sports journalist’s job is to thoroughly cover the team and ask tough questions, no matter whether they’re 82–0 or 0–82.

***

A tempest in a teapot? I don’t think so actually. There are a number of fault lines running throughout this Warriors team, and this affair exposed most of them. Andrew Bogut is a sensitive yet cantankerous character that has been jerked around by the Warriors at times, and his libertarian Australia-ness doesn’t quite mesh with the Warriors hyper-Christian locker room. He has already signed a long contract extension so he’s not going anywhere, but I’d venture that he’s not a big Jackson supporter.

It’s also undeniably true that Mark Jackson is on the hot seat, and try as he might to blame them for it, it’s not the media’s fault. He’s on the hot seat because Joe Lacob and Bob Myers neglected to give him a contract negotiation during the offseason, and because his team isn’t living up to its owner’s expectations. Just yesterday Lacob gave an interview to Tim Kawakami in which he stated”

“Maybe [Jackson] is feeling it a little and he should be feeling pressure. That’s a good thing. I feel the pressure for this team to perform. We’ve invested a lot of time, a lot of money, a lot of thinking, a lot of effort, and we’re going to continue to do so.”

and

“The way look at bottom line, net-net as we say, is that we are 31-21, and we have not played as well as we need to play. We’ve been very inconsistent at home. The road’s been fine. … The team wasn’t ready in those [home] games. I can’t explain it–why we don’t play so consistently at home as we should. We have a great home-court advantage, great fans, great atmosphere. It’s not clear.”

Lacob was also asked if he was happy with the job Jackson has done, and after offering some lukewarm praise he said, “But some things are a little disturbing–the lack of being up for some of these games at home, that’s a concern to me.”

***

As is frequently the case, the media is used as a scapegoat. Jackson has an owner who doesn’t have faith in him, but it’s obviously suicidal to lash out against that owner. His second best player is probably healthy enough to play but is choosing to sit out, so Jackson throws a small bit of shade his way. When that player reacts poorly, instead of owning his comments and moving on, Jackson settles on the easiest target to lash out at: the media.

On some level, Jackson’s ploy worked. Just read this piece from a Warriors fan site that apportions some of the blame to the media, the media I remind you that never even had a chance to twist Jackson’s words because Bogut approached them. But on a larger level, it only indicated what we already knew: Joe Lacob isn’t completely satisfied with the job he has done, and if this team doesn’t get to at least the Western Conference Finals, Jackson will probably find himself out of a job come July.

And he knows it.

About Kevin Draper

Kevin “Franklin Mieuli” Draper was born and raised in Oakland, California, and loves it more than you can possibly imagine. Follow him on Twitter @kevinmdraper
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One Response to A Warriors Controversy Explainer

  1. BayLife says:

    It really sounds like your the sensitive one by the tone of this article. Also if your going to try and explain the warrior contoversy or really a lack of one, you should also include the follow up radio interview that bogut gave the next day explaining the whole situation, how a miscommunication between himself, Jackson, and trainers happen and every thing is fine, he and coach are great, and the media blew it out of proportion. Pretty convieniant to leave that part out to bolster your controversy headline.
    I don’t know what it is that you guys have against Jackson, maybe different personal views on life, but why do you portray him as a mediocre coach who doesn’t know what’s he doing and should be replaced. Who’s done what he’s done in their first 2 1/2 years? I don’t think any other coach could have came in and turned things around the way he has. I would say its pretty impressive considering he’s never coached a lick of basketball, imagine how much more of a better coach he will be in a couple more years. Who are you going to bring in to coach that will solve every problem and win the title right away? Scott brooks has been coaching for awhile, has one of the best players in the league plus multiple all star caliber players and he hasn’t won a title, replace him?
    I could go on and on but hopefully you get the point. Mark Jackson is a great coach who will only get better. Love what he has done with the team and I think you would set the franchise back another 5-10 years and lose Curry when his contract is up. If you thought the boos you got for trading Ellis I can guarantee it will be much worse if he losses Curry.
    Warriors are going to fine, nobody wins or losses the title in the regular season so put your panic button away, enjoy the journey!

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