Jamaal Wilkes, one of two rookies (with the late Phil Smith) who started on the Warriors’ 1975 championship team, won three rings with the Lakers and grew up in Southern California. Asked whether he thinks of himself as a Warrior or Laker, he hedged.
“It’s easy to say Warriors right now because it would be appropriate for them to win the series on the 40th anniversary,” he said, smiling. “And it’s been a great series so far. I have to take my hat off to LeBron.”
Wilkes, who also played briefly for the Clippers during Donald Sterling’s early reign of terror, sees similarities between his original team and the current Golden State squad.
“They have Steph Curry like we had Rick Barry,” he said of his fellow Hall of Famer, “and they have a multitude of players who can hurt you. I was playing power forward opposite Rick. And coach Al Attles and Steve Kerr have similar philosophies. We played fast, really fast.
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“The biggest difference is that we weren’t as careless with the ball as this group. We didn’t have as much margin for error, and we knew that. And with Rick out there, he was a great passer in addition to a great scorer.”
Barry, attending his first Finals game of the series, said he picked the Warriors in “four or five games” before the best-of-seven matchup began. But unlike the soft-spoken Wilkes, who wore a suit and tie and spent time promoting his new book, Barry was dressed in casual blue-and-yellow Warriors gear, topped off by a baseball cap.
Officiating details – Rod Thorn, who is retiring from his second tour of duty as the league’s supervisor of officials, said the block/charge remains the most difficult call for the referees.
“Some goaltends are hard,” said Thorn, as he strolled the court before tipoff, “but there are so many more block/charges. The athletes are faster, quicker. The refs are looking. Did he get there in time? So it’s not easy.”
Kiki Vandeweghe will succeed Thorn, though no announcement has been made.
Family affair – Cleveland coach David Blatt made his name as a coach outside of the United States. He was the Euroleague Coach of the Year in 2014 and is a four-time Israeli League Coach of the Year.
But he’s a rookie in the NBA and enjoying his family’s presence at the Finals.
“(They’ve) blown up my credit card,” Blatt said with a laugh. “Lot of parents in here, so they understand that, right? It’s great having them here, and it’s great that they all have the experience.”
Blatt, an Israeli-American, can take a broader view when discussing a team being referred to as world champion, thanks partly to his years coaching overseas.
Blatt might not have felt that way a year ago, but a new employer will change things. So consider the winner of this series the best in the world.
“You ever here that song ‘Love the One You’re With’?” Blatt said. “Well, this is who I’m with right now.”
Dare to tell the truth – Warriors coach Steve Kerr had plenty of fun at the media’s expense over his admitted lying about benching Andrew Bogut before Game 4.
Before Game 5, Kerr was asked if he felt guilty about anything.
“Nothing,” Kerr said.
Kerr then was asked if he had a “clear conscience.”
“Very clear,” Kerr said laughing. “Thanks for asking.”
Kerr kept the starting lineup he used in Game 4: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green.