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ESPN’s Ethan Sherwood-Strauss stops by GSOM, comments on Warriors’ non-basketball problems

“While it’s true that we often make too much of what leaks out, jumping to conclusions and the like, it’s false to then assume that means it’s copacetic behind the scenes.” -ESS

NBA: Boston Celtics at Golden State Warriors Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN’s Ethan Sherwood-Strauss made headlines a couple days ago after speculating on the True Hoop podcast that there may be deepening chasms forming between Green and coach Steve Kerr. The most powerful sound bite was from an unnamed source, saying that the Warriors “have problems, and it ain’t basketball.”

Whew boy.

Amidst the Warriors struggles, many have wondered if there is something off with the chemistry, something beyond just shots not falling. In the conversation that followed, Sleepy Freud voiced the response of a lot of Warriors fans: this story is being made out to be more than it is.

Thanks to the wonders of the internet, Sherwood-Strauss himself appeared in the GSOM comments. The exchange that followed is worth re-hashing here:

Sleepy Freud:

Thanks for stopping by. I gotta say, it is super-cool that you do this occasionally. One of us!

Naturally, I don’t have any "proof." I think I’m going mostly by your famous piece on Draymond early in season, which I kinda felt pieced together a bunch of disparate anecdotes in an attempt to build an "emotional narrative" or "emotional truth."

There is, in truth, a note of resignation in how team officials discuss Green these days

Obviously, you’re around the team more than anyone on this site, so can observe stuff we can’t. At the same time: given the complexity and variability of human emotions and relationships, I’m always a little wary of drawing overly pat conclusions about them, and using words like "truth" to describe them. Have you ever said or felt something "true" about one of your friends, acquaintances or colleagues, and later reconsidered?

I guess I’ll close with a question (if you’re still here): do you think the concerns you raised in that article were at all overblown? Or still there? Or even more concerning (from the Warriors’ perspective) than you thought back then?

Obviously, we fans get naturally defensive when it comes to stories about our players; skeptical of anything that casts them in a bad light. But Sleepy closes with the most germane question - forget everything else, just “how much does this all matter?”

Sherwood-Strauss then replies with a pretty profound 488 word breakdown of not just the specific situation, but some of the broader themes affecting the life of NBA players and the fans.

Ethan Sherwood-Strauss

Here’s what I’d say.

The only regret I have about that particular article is how a quote that wasn’t pertinent to its themes caught fire. If I could go back, I’d elide that quote, as it turned into a needless mini circus. I don’t think the article was overblown (though I’m biased), in part because I held back on some things I had and things that weren’t nailed down enough to run in print. Also, no current or former player on the team cited anything false in that article. Only Steph spoke up in (vague) defense of DG.

Think about that. I got a lot of push back from readers on how no player would ever talk to me ever again. It seemed based on this weird premise that they’d be mad at me on DG’s behalf. I get why they’d assume this, as DG is an incredibly charismatic presence and a joy to watch, but if it were actually so, players would have first leapt to their teammate’s defense. Only Steph did, which is illustrative. Further more, I don’t see how events have invalidated that article. For example, how many times has DG complimented Kerr this season? Used to happen a lot in Year 1. That dynamic remains that dynamic. The caveat of course is that teams can certainly win while persevering through such dynamics.

I’ll also say this. No matter what NBA team we’re talking about, the reality is likely far messier than what many assume is happening. This is because teams have a vested interest in presenting a united front, marketing the idea of unity. It’s also helped by the optics. These guys are wearing the same jersey and high fiving after great plays. It’s easy to assume they’re the best of friends. The reality of the NBA is a bit more grim than that, thanks to a hyper competitive environment, brutal schedule, and the fact that multi million dollar salaries are public. Imagine if that was so at your work place. Imagine if a worse co worker earned millions more than you, and you didn’t particularly like him. Now also imagine that dynamic with your boss and it gets even weirder.

Many fans think that words get taken out of context, that there’s a hunger for drama that’ll turn a relatively innocuous quote into banner news. From this, they understandably believe that The Media stirs up more controversy than what exists. Hell, I feel that way whenever something I say on a podcast accidentally goes viral. While it’s true that we often make too much of what leaks out, jumping to conclusions and the like, it’s false to then assume that means it’s copacetic behind the scenes. As Paul Silas once said, "NBA ain’t no bowl of roses." That’s my way of saying that it’s easy for a writer to be wrong, but hard for a writer to depict a bleaker reality than reality.

So, there you go.

There’s definitely SOMETHING here, and he ends with a great reminder for us as fans (and creators of internet content) that yeah, some things go viral that we may think are hot takes, but in general, these stories are based in reality. As much as we may prefer otherwise.

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