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Friday, May 10, 2013
Warriors winning Mark Jackson's way

By J.A. Adande
ESPN.com

Mark Jackson
Embracing their leader, Mark Jackson, the Golden State Warriors have been the story of the playoffs.

It's not what Mark Jackson is doing during these NBA playoffs, it's what he isn't doing.

Sure, the actual accomplishments are impressive. He ousted the 2012-13 NBA Coach of the Year, George Karl, from the playoffs before Karl even had a chance to pick up his award. And Jackson's Golden State Warriors have led or been tied with the San Antonio Spurs of Gregg Popovich, the 2011-12 NBA Coach of the Year, for all but five minutes and 40 seconds in the first two games of the second round (their West semifinal series is tied 1-1).

Just take note of the way Jackson has gone about it. He doesn't call timeouts at the first hint of trouble. He doesn't berate the officials. He doesn't chastise the media members who continually pick against his team.

Jackson's self-restraint allows the Warriors players to be unrestrained. The players' personalities come through on the court, and their faces tell the story of what's happening here: a team defying NBA convention and having a good time in the process. Outside-shooting teams aren't supposed to succeed in the playoffs, yet here are the Warriors, hitting a league-high 40 percent of their 3-pointers in the postseason and as close to making the NBA Finals as anyone else at the moment.

"He doesn't have to tap us on the shoulder or reaffirm what he believes in," Warriors guard Jarrett Jack said. "We already know. We've been through many situations over the course of the season that have kind of, hopefully, built us to this point. I think not calling a timeout allows us to grow up in a sense, or see what happens when we're faced with adversity.

"When you look into a person's eyes, you know if they believe in you or not. I've known, personally since day one, that was never a question."

If anything, Jackson was guilty of believing too much when he got the job in 2011 and declared the Warriors would make the playoffs in his first season. That was a bold proclamation for a team coming off a 36-46 record, and the Warriors actually took a step backward, finishing 20 games under .500 during the lockout-shortened season as additional lottery combinations became a more realistic result than a playoff spot. It didn't help that Stephen Curry's ankle problems limited him to 26 games last season.

This season, Curry played in 78 games, and the influx of smart picks in the past two drafts -- Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green -- has propelled the Warriors not just into the playoffs, but into the second round. Jackson doesn't use his team's success to seek revenge on the doubters. He actually offers an out for anyone who underestimates his team, saying it comes from ignorance, not malice.

"The reasons why they're saying that is they haven't watched us," Jackson said. "Adversity is not new to us. This is a battle-tested team."

He spares the officials from vitriol, as well. It was interesting to see the contrast between him and Popovich in Game 1; not long after Popovich yelled in the face of Zach Zarba, Jackson calmly pointed out to Tony Brothers that Tim Duncan was setting illegal screens, in the coach's opinion, and then concluded the conversation with, "That is all."

Jackson takes the same matter-of-fact approach to offense. He believes in riding the hot hand, or repeatedly going at a disadvantaged defender (in the case of this series, it's Tony Parker).

"I'm a big believer in, if there's a matchup out there that you can take advantage of, that's as good an offense as you can find," Jackson said.

It's the New York City guard in him, still present all these years later. The rest of the Warrior Way isn't so conventional. Their best player, Curry, is 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds, and he's dominating a sport that favors big men. They're relying on five players with no prior playoff experience at a time of year that's normally ruled by veterans. They have suffered their setbacks -- most notably the blown 16-point lead in the fourth quarter of Game 1 -- but haven't been debilitated, bouncing back every time. The Warriors came out and built another big lead early in Game 2, and at halftime Jackson told them to develop amnesia about their previous collapse. The deeper the Warriors get into the playoffs, the less they seem overwhelmed by the moment

"We're a loose group," center Andrew Bogut said after the final game against the Nuggets. "I think we enjoy being around each other, first and foremost. Coach Jackson, you guys know, he's a pastor, he preaches. He's a very well-spoken individual. The pep talks before the games are sensational. He gets us riled up the right way. He's very close with all the players. I've never had a head coach sit down at a lunch table after practice and sit there for hours talking to different guys.

"It's unbelievable."

Not to Jackson. Everything is unfolding exactly the way he expected it to.

"I believe in my guys," Jackson said. "And they've been through a whole lot. They can handle adversity. They can handle tough stretches."