Why Warriors want to win — but not too much

As the Golden State Warriors embark on what is, at the very least, the most hyped season in the NBA since the beginning of the Miami Heat’s Big Three era, there is an irony to this campaign: It’s the drum roll for a team that won’t really try to live up to the hype.

“It’s obviously a very serious, important issue,” said Lakers first-year head coach Luke Walton. “I think something needs to be done. This country is too great to have happen what keeps happening. What that is, we’ll decide as a group and continue to talk about what we can do.

“But I think, most importantly, it’s what we get behind as an organization, individually and as a team. I know a lot of the media runs with what happens during the national anthem, which is a very big subject, because it’s touchy from both sides. But to me, it’s about what kind of change can we make. And that comes from getting with organizations that are in action within the community and giving out time, money and whatever else we can to help this problem get fixed.”

Lakers forward Larry Nance Jr. said players discussed possibly locking arms and that the team’s coaching staff and front office said they’ll support the players’ decision.

“Obviously, something needs to be done about this in the United States today,” Nance said. “But as far as my stance, we as a team are currently in discussions of what we’re going to do as a group, as a whole. That’s something that I think the brand of the Lakers can really make an impact on.”

As forward Julius Randle added, “I think definitely there’s a way for us to all get together and making an impact on what’s going on. Guys need to say something, and something needs to be said.”

Oh, the team with two former MVPs — Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant — will certainly compete. The Warriors will also seek to play well on a nightly basis. What they will not do, however, is try for another wins record, after an NBA-record 73 victories last season. So, 74 wins isn’t the goal this season, even if it’s somehow plausible with this unprecedented collection of talent.

Could the Warriors have had a dominating postseason if they’d relinquished a dominating regular season? We will never know. Some choices only look like choices in retrospect. For much of the season, the San Antonio Spurs were right there, challenging for the top seed. And when the Spurs finally fell back, history was so tantalizingly attainable. At that point, going for 73 wins was less a decision than a calling.

In any event, the Warriors never looked quite as good as they did in the first half of last season. So the goal this season is to perhaps reverse that process, to build strength as opposed to eroding it. There’s also the more obvious, basic goal — the one head coach Steve Kerr kept insisting was all that mattered to him last season.

As Green put it, “Obviously our goal every year is to come out and get the No. 1 seed. And the most important goal is to win a championship. I think there definitely may be bumps in the road; it’s not going to be all great like a lot of people think it is. And some people think it isn’t. I know it’s going to take some time for us to adjust. I’m looking forward to that. A lot of people think if we even start 19-6, the world is coming to an end.”

Kerr has been making similar statements, as have others in the Golden State organization. It’s a quixotic bid to manage expectations, surely doomed to fail. The Warriors won’t be expected to win 73 again, but a losing streak won’t exactly be forgiven. With Durant in tow, they have more firepower than possibly any team ever. Excuses for losing won’t be forthcoming.

Isaiah Thomas on Hall-of-Famer Allen Iverson: ‘I definitely want to be just like him’

Boston Celtics 5-foot-9 point guard Isaiah Thomas has repeatedly professed his admiration for Allen Iverson and, on the morning of Iverson’s induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame, Thomas again gushed about the inspiration that the generously-listed-as-6-foot Iverson provided for him.

“You know how much D-Will loves to dress up,” Devin Harris said, recalling the Halloween party Williams hosted last year, when the point guard went with a “Macho Man” Randy Savage outfit.

There was nothing macho about the uniforms Williams and several Mavs teammates wore Saturday. He named their team GWA (Grannies With Attitude), going with mumus and gray wigs for uniforms.

Williams even convinced Rick Carlisle to wear the uniform while “coaching” from the bench.

The event benefited Williams’ Point of Hope Foundation, which supports autism awareness, education, and research, a cause close to his heart as he is the father of a son with autism.

“If you follow the way [Kaepernick] talks and the message he’s trying to send with his act, from his mouth, he’s not disrespecting veterans. He’s not disrespecting military. That’s not his intention,” Curry said. “He’s obviously continued the act to create a conversation for more social justice and things of that nature. So, I’ve been a part of certain conversations off the grid, and finding different ways to make our community better, especially for African-Americans. And so, that’s not the way that I would do it, but I support him in his attempt to start a conversation or continue the conversation.”

What’s a bit surreal is that nearly a year before their chance encounter, McNulty posted a photo of Thomas muscling his way through traffic during a Celtics game with the caption, “The GOAT.”

During a taped appearance from the Celtics’ practice facility on GMA, Thomas told McNulty, “Thanks for letting me shoot hoops for you the other day” and invited McNulty to be his guest at a game this season.

A stunned McNulty asked, “Are you serious?” Which is what all of his friends have been asking him since last week.

Rookie T.J. Rivera rescues Mets in first start since Aug. 23

WASHINGTON — It took back surgery that ended Neil Walker’s season and a neck injury to Wilmer Flores for T.J. Rivera to get into the lineup Tuesday at second base. The rookie then rescued the New York Mets from what would have been a crushing defeat.

Rivera capped a three-hit, three-RBI night with a solo homer in the top of the 10th against Mark Melancon as the Mets salvaged a 4-3 win over the Washington Nationals.

Rivera was starting a major league game for the first time since Aug. 23. He had won the Pacific Coast League batting title in early September before returning upon the completion of Triple-A Las Vegas’ season.

Farrell had 217 million reasons to configure the rotation so that Price is lined up to start the final game of the season if the Red Sox need a win to clinch a playoff berth or the division title. But principal owner John Henry and president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski have empowered Farrell since spring training to eschew salaries and contracts as a guide for making personnel decisions, and they aren’t about to change that policy now.

So Price had to earn his way into a Game 162 start — or, if the American League East-leading Red Sox have their druthers, Game 1 of the division series. And after three largely miserable months in which he pitched as poorly as he ever has, endured a proportional amount of criticism, brooded after his worst starts and tried to buoy his spirits by tweeting the sort of uplifting quotes that appear in fortune cookies, the $217 million man finally is pitching like the guy the Sox paid so handsomely to get this past offseason.

The reference, of course, was to a June 8 start in which Price muted the San Francisco Giants for seven innings before giving up a solo homer to little-known rookie Mac Williamson. And that’s how it went for Price through the first half of the season. He gave up five or more runs in five of his first 16 starts, and when he did pitch well, somebody named Mac Williamson was there to ruin everything.

It all began to turn for Price on July 28 in Anaheim. He blanked the Los Angeles Angels for eight innings of what turned out to be an excrutiating 2-1 loss on Hanley Ramirez’s throwing error in the ninth inning. And although he melted down in the seventh inning five nights later in Seattle and gave up six runs (three earned) in only five innings on Aug. 7 against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Price seemed to be gaining confidence.

Reflecting on Tim Tebow’s farcical, ill-fated season with the Jets

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — The Tim Tebow memories came flooding back Thursday morning upon hearing the news that he’s signing a minor-league contract with the New York Mets. My first thought: Sal Paolantonio will be doing a stand-up any minute now.

Amid the negativity and resistance to Tebow’s being handed a uniform and given an opportunity to take his shot, the natural question is: Why?

Why is it such an affront to the baseball community for a team to take a flier on a 29-year-old mega-athlete who can run a 60-yard dash in 6.7 seconds and hit a baseball 450 feet (albeit in batting practice)?

And what’s so abhorrent about that pursuit generating interest in the game and selling some extra tickets in spring training or Tebow’s first minor league stop? Is Tebow fatigue so rampant and ingrained in the sporting consciousness that we’re not the least bit curious in seeing how this story plays out?

I get it: The chances of Tebow ever making it to the majors are roughly equivalent to that of Jose Bautista and Rougned Odor becoming Facebook friends.

Tebow hasn’t played organized ball since 2005, so he’s 6,000 at-bats and hundreds of hours of backfield development time behind the curve. During his two-hour audition in Los Angeles last week, Tebow looked rigid and mechanical in the outfield and displayed a throwing arm that was surprisingly weak by former Heisman Trophy quarterback standards.

Tebow looks imposing in a form-fitting T-shirt, but that 6-foot-3, 255-pound frame (with 7.3 percent body fat) isn’t doing him any favors. He’s not busting through the line anymore in pursuit of the goal line, so he might want to pare back on the weightlifting.

Jon Lester dazzles as Cubs reach 40 games over .500

CHICAGO — Jon Lester has been there before, more than anyone, in fact. Thirteen times he has taken a no-hitter through at least five innings, most among active players. And every time it happens, he’s thinking the same thing as everybody else.

“You go through the first inning, you think no-hitter,” Lester said. “Anybody that tells you different is lying to you. Every time you go out there, you know when you haven’t given up a hit.”

Save for one errant pitch to San Francisco’s Hunter Pence in the seventh, Lester dominated the Giants on Friday, working quickly and efficiently all through a complete-game three-hitter, a 2-1 victory that pushed the Chicago Cubs 40 games over .500 for the first time since the end of the 1945 season.

Lester had retired 18 straight and allowed only a first-inning walk when he faced Pence with two out in the seventh. Pence reached out and hooked a ball into the second row of the bleachers near the left-field foul pole.

“It was terrible,” Lester said of the mistake pitch to Pence, making you think that despite the mostly terrific 101 other pitches he threw, that was the only one he was thinking about.

That killed the no-hit bid, but Lester wasn’t done riding out a low pitch count. He pitched around the Brandon Crawford double that followed, Trevor Brown’s one-out two-bagger in the eighth and Pence’s two-out walk in the ninth. Lester got Crawford looking to end the game. Easy.

But as good as Lester was Friday, he was quick as usual to point out the missed brushstrokes on what everybody else sees as a masterpiece.

“I think the big thing is them being aggressive,” Lester said. “I wasn’t able to throw the ball where I wanted to at the beginning, as much as later in the game. Them being aggressive kind of helped me out a little bit. I was able to keep the ball down and keep the defense active today, so that was good.”

It was Lester’s 14th career complete game, and he needed just 102 pitches to do it, the fewest yet. And while he didn’t end up with his second career no-hitter, he did become a 15-game winner for the seventh time in his career. He allowed one run or fewer for the 17th time this season, the most in baseball. And in doing so, he joins teammates Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks in what is shaping up to be a wild chase for this season’s Cy Young award.

Lester has been especially dominant of late. Over his past seven starts, the 32-year-old is 5-0 with a 1.38 ERA. Only Hendricks has a lower ERA during that span. His 2.61 season ERA ranks fourth in baseball, joining Hendricks (first) and Arrieta (sixth) among MLB leaders.

“This is Jon Lester, the guy I known since I’ve been catching him,” said David Ross, who caught Lester for the 84th time Friday. “This is typical Jon. He’s going to go out and keep you within striking distance. He’s going to go out to the mound, and he expects perfection out of himself. And expect perfection when I’m catching him. He’s having a phenomenal year.”

“The cool thing for me is that when you’ve got this kind of lead this late in the season, guys are still not giving away [at-bats] late in the game,” Ross said. “Or you get down like the other night and still find ways to come back. That’s a sign of guys just focused on what’s going on, on the field. Nothing else.”

Forgetting individual accomplishments, there are strategic reasons for starting Lester in the playoff opener. The St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Dodgers and these Giants are all in the bottom half of the league against left-handed pitching. Even the Washington Nationals rank just seventh against lefties. Starting Lester in up to two games in a best-of-five scenario makes all the sense in the world considering not much separates him and the righty starters on the team anyway. Cubs manager Joe Maddon was asked if he saw the strength in Lester facing their potential playoff opponents.

“Against those teams, absolutely,” he said. “He’s been really solid pretty much all season.”

And he has the experience of being a Game 1 starter. That’s not to say Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks can’t be good, but why put that kind of pressure on Hendricks and why not use a lefty weapon against weaker opponents as much as possible? Plus, most observers would agree Lester has been more consistent than Arrieta and deserves two starts in a series if it’s needed.

“You can’t prepare for the playoffs,” Lester said. “It’s a whole other season. I’m not looking past the next one.”

Lester is thinking of the next one because he desperately wants to reach 200 innings. That’s the statistic in which pitchers take the most pride. He has thrown 169 innings so far this season after his masterpiece against the Giants. And there is a level of trust there this season that might have been missing a year ago. It’s hard to argue with 15-4 and a 2.61 ERA.