During Mychal Thompson's final conversation with the late Flip Saunders in April, they talked about their past as college teammates, their hopes for the future, and, of course, family — Mychal's son, Klay, was on the path toward a championship and there was obviously plenty to discuss there.
It wasn't merely an analyst speaking to an opposing team's coach, but two college friends catching up as their paths crossed during the hectic course of life, which all too often refuses to make allowances for our longing for happy endings and neat goodbyes.
As Thompson described that final conversation with Chris Hassel on SportsCenter while reacting to Saunders' untimely death yesterday, there was a sense that he found that final conversation to be a fitting way to close a relationship with someone who everyone seems to talk about as a human being first and basketball figure second.
"Everything you're going to hear about Flip Saunders is the truth: he was just a genuine human being, cared about everybody, cared about his players, treated everybody with respect and love, and was one of you'll ever have the chance to befriend and meet...It just does not feel right seeing a great guy like Flip — who had so much more to give, not only to the NBA, but to society, to young people — to see him taken away like this is just a major loss to America."
And for anyone familiar with how protective a father can become of his sons when it comes to who's coaching them, he might have paid Saunders the ultimate compliment with a brief yet measured line in the middle of his comments: "Let me put it this way: He's the kind of coach that I would've loved my sons to play for."
Of course, there was a distinct possibility that Klay might have played for Saunders after an offseason full of rumors about a trade between the Warriors and Minnesota Timberwolves last summer that Mychal's college teammate was at the center of — perhaps now it's even more clear about why the elder Thompson had so much to say about the inner workings of that deal.
I don't bring up this news that is, at best, only tangentially Warriors-related here as a cheap way to get CLIKZ, but far moreso to underscore what Thompson, Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor and countless others have already said from a more personal place elsewhere: there comes a point when this league we celebrate and criticize from afar is more about the people than whatever it is they produce on the court.
My thoughts and prayers go out to Flip Saunders family. Would not be where I'm at today w/o his influence.— Shaun Livingston (@ShaunLivingston) October 25, 2015
RIP to @Flip_Saunders ... Had the pleasure to play for him and get to know him. Great coach and Person!!! My heart goes out to his family— Baron Davis (@Baron_Davis) October 25, 2015
It's sometimes easy to forget that the NBA's players and coaches are real human beings susceptible to real human vulnerabilities. I certainly don't know enough about Flip Saunders to say whether he epitomizes the human side of this business, but he certainly exemplifies it if you believe everything written in the last day or so.
Other news links from around the basketball world
- On the more hopeful end of the spectrum of illness and recovery is the story of Craig Sager, who will make his first appearance of the 2015-16 season this week while covering the Warriors' games against the New Orleans Pelicans and Charlotte Hornets for TNT as summarized well by SI's Richard Deitsch.
- Rob Croichick of the S.F. Chronicle reported that Andrew Bogut made his return to the practice court on Saturday and is expected to start for the Warriors in their regular season opener tomorrow against the Pelicans. Jason Leskiw of SFBay.ca not only described Bogut's health currently, but also his long-term plans to manage a nose that has now been broken four times in his NBA career.
- Australia's News.com.au also had a story about Bogut's health, focusing on his new diet that he identified as "the catalyst" for his improved shape coming into this season: "Sugar is in absolutely everything. I have a couple of friends that are label readers. I used to give them so much crap, telling them, ‘Man, just eat it. Stop reading the label.' And now I'm one of those guys."
- Roy Ward of the Sydney Morning Herald also did an extended feature on Bogut as part of a preview of the 2015-16 NBA season in which the Warriors' center described why he doesn't feel pressure from being the team with the target on its back this season: " 'We don't see the pressure on us, we've won our ring...We feel like we have a free roll but we aren't going to take it for granted – I think we are going to play a bit more stress-free and do what we do.' After the Warriors made a strong start to last season teams quickly aimed to take them down so Bogut believes his side has already experienced being a targeted team."
- Marc J. Spears of Yahoo reported that Ian Clark has made the Warriors' 15-man roster after they made their final cuts on Friday. However, it's worth noting that it was not automatic that Clark made the team once they made those cuts: as a player with a non-guaranteed contract, the Warriors technically had until opening night to make a final decision and could've just carried 14 players into the season. The key was Spears' follow-up tweet that a source has confirmed Clark on the roster.
Thank The Man.— Ian Clark (@IanClark) October 24, 2015
- Nate Duncan of Nylon Calculus put together an in-depth look at the pros and cons of the Warriors extending Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli, concluding that, "2017 free agency is the true opportunity cost of these extensions for the Warriors...If Barnes is willing to take a four-year, $68 million extension (perhaps with some "unlikely" incentives to push it higher) that dips in 2017-18, the Warriors would do it...For Ezeli, the right number seems to be in the $10-$11 million a year range, again with a dip in 2017-18." Really solid article there for you to spend some time with as the Warriors make these decisions.
- Kevin Pelton of ESPN reminded us of a point that everyone around here is hopefully aware of in the face of a poor preseason performance from the Warriors: "Sorting by over/under totals reveals the most important of these: Preseason records don't have any correlation whatsoever with regular-season results for teams projected to win at least 50.5 games...With an over/under of 50.5 wins, last year's Golden State team was right on the borderline of where preseason results matter. Coming off a title, this season's Warriors -- pegged for 60.5 wins by the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook -- had far less urgency." (Insider article)
- Just a fun fact from Sam Amick of USA Today as the regular season approaches: "Consider this: By winning his first championship when he was 27 years, 3 months old, Curry beat great Michael Jordan to that feat by 13 months (Jordan was 28 years, 4 months when the Chicago Bulls won in 1991). And much like the Bulls then, the Warriors look fully capable of contending for many years to come."
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