Blazers vs. Warriors: Who's going to deliver a message?
One of the questions about Wednesday's 7:30 p.m. matchup between the Golden State Warriors and Portland Trail Blazers at Moda Center is this: Who will hold the clipboard in timeouts for the Warriors?
And, what will Terry Stotts do?
Golden State coach Steve Kerr spread around the task of delivering a message during timeouts in Monday's 129-83 undressing of the Suns at Phoenix, turning the duty over to veterans Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and David West. Iguodala also "pretty much" ran the game-day shootaround.
"I told them (Saturday) we were going to do it this way," Kerr told ESPN's Chris Haynes after the dousing of the Suns. "It's their team. That's one of the first things you have to consider as a coach. It's not my team, it's not (general manager) Bob Myers' team, it's not (owner) Joe Lacob's team — although I'm not going to tell Joe that.
"It's the players' team, and they have to take ownership of it. As coaches, our job is to nudge them in the right direction, to guide them, but we don't control them. They determine their own fate. I don't feel like we focused well at all the last month, and it just seemed like the right thing to do. They communicated really well together and drew up some nice plays. It was a good night for the guys."
One Suns player, Jared Dudley, thought it showed a lack of respect for the Suns. Kerr searched out Phoenix coach Jay Triano on the court afterward to explain it wasn't meant that way.
"I told Jay it had nothing to do with being disrespectful," Kerr said. "It had to do with me reaching my team. They're tired of my voice. I'm tired of my voice. It's been a long haul these last few years, and I wasn't reaching them. We just figured it was probably a good night to pull a trick out of the hat and do something different."
Phoenix guard Devin Booker may have had the best read on the subject.
"Steve is an easy-going coach who has that relationship with his guys," Booker said. "But if he didn't have four All-Stars, I don't think he'd be doing that."
Phoenix is 18-40, tied with Dallas for the worst record in the NBA Western Conference, so Kerr could afford to experiment. Would he do it again Wednesday when the 43-14 Warriors visit the 31-26 Trail Blazers?
It might depend on how the game goes.
Damian Lillard said he would welcome such an opportunity with the Blazers.
"I'm always thinking situations and what I would do or what play I would call," said Lillard, the Blazers' captain. "Coach Stotts lets me call a lot of plays throughout the game, anyway. I'm always trying to figure out coverages and what we should do to take advantage of the other team. My mind is already working that way. I think it's pretty cool for coaches to challenge players mentally like that."
But Lillard admits him delivering a message instead of Stotts could be redundant.
"Usually I say everything I need to say in the huddle before he gets there, so when he comes, he can have the stage," the three-time All-Star said. "My teammates will tell you, when we get to the huddle, we sit down and I get everybody's attention and I say what I need to say based off what I see on the floor. I say all my stuff, and then I let him do his job."
Does Stotts consider what Kerr did against Phoenix disrespectful?
"No," he said. "I think (Kerr) is coaching his team, regardless of who's on the other side. Coaches do different things with their teams. It's that time of year. If you've gone to three straight (NBA) Finals and you're searching for something to do, why not?"
The Warriors (44-13) had lost three of four before regaining their mojo in a 3-0 homestand in which they shot .553 from the field and .451 from the 3-point line while averaging 124 points. They lead the NBA in scoring (115.8 points per game), field goal percentage (.511), 3-point percentage (.393), free throw percentage (.809), assists per game (44.4) and blocks per game (7.95).
Golden State has won its last seven meetings with Portland, including the first of three this regular season. Guard Klay Thompson needs 22 points to become the 10th player in franchise history to score 10,000 points.
The Blazers (31-26) would love to pull off the upset after ending a nine-game home win streak with a 115-96 loss to Utah on Monday night.
"It's a big game for our team," Lillard said. "It would be great to go into the (All-Star) break with a win against the defending champs, especially with how the standings are shaking out right now. It's a game we need to win. It's going to be exciting, it's going to be loud, and it's going to be really competitive."
Are the Warriors as good as they were a year ago?
"Their record says they're the same team," Lillard said. "I think they're just as good. The one thing that remains is how explosive they are. You could be up 12 (points) and three minutes later, you could be down 10 with the firepower they have and them being an elite team. We have to have that healthy respect for them, but also understand that anybody could be beaten."
"You can play great defense and they're still going to make shots — they're that good. You have to be able to put points up. You have to score with them. You have to have some resistance, and you have to make them work for everything they get. You have to attack them back — use your offense as defense."
The Blazers are listing center Jusuf Nurkic (calf, back, oblique) as questionable, but he practiced Tuesday and seems likely to be in the lineup against the Warriors. Portland could use him to play, and play well. It's the one spot in the starting lineup where the local quintet might have a decided advantage.