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Luhm: Jackson’s job as Golden State coach in jeopardy

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Steve Luhm

By Steve Luhm

Tribune Columnist

First published Apr 05 2014 01:30PM
Updated Apr 5, 2014 06:07PM

If you connect the dots, the Jazz will play coach Mark Jackson’s Warriors for the final time Sunday night.

Despite what appears to be another successful season — Golden State needs only three wins in its last six games to finish with 50 — Jackson’s future with the team is tenuous.

Problem?

The expectations of everyone in the Bay Area — especially owner Joe Lacob — shot through the rafters of Oracle Arena last spring after the Warriors won 47 regular-season games and upset Denver in the first round of the playoffs.

In the conference semifinals, Golden State took San Antonio to six games — one series after the Spurs swept the Lakers and one series before they swept Memphis.

The Warriors’ ability to reach the second round of the playoffs and be so competitive while doing so seemed to set the table for this season.

Except Golden State hasn’t broken through.

The Warriors, despite the presence of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Andrew Bogut, have not emerged as the elite team everyone expected.

All Golden State has done so far is keep its nose ahead of Dallas, Memphis and Phoenix in the race for a low-level playoff berth while futilely chasing the West’s Fab Four — San Antonio, Oklahoma City, the Los Angeles Clippers and Houston.

If the playoffs started today, Golden State’s No. 6 seed would put them on the same path to the conference finals as the Clippers and Thunder.

The Warriors would be sizable underdogs to win a first-round series against Chris Paul and L.A. They would be bigger ’dogs against Kevin Durant and Oklahoma City.

Unfortunately for Jackson, his future with Golden State will likely be determined by whether he can guide the Warriors through these most treacherous waters.

If not, Lacob will probably turn his ship over to someone like Steve Kerr.

Part of Jackson’s dilemma is his fault.

Part of it is not.

Lacob did not give his coach the contract extension he sought last summer and Jackson apparently tried to get involved with coaching searches by Brooklyn and the Clippers, although he denies it.

Assistant coach Brian Scalabrine was recently reassigned to the D-League. On Saturday, assistant coach Darren Erman was fired because of what the team called a violation of company policy. Both situations are signs of problems behind the Warriors’ closed doors.

Again, Jackson denied it.

On the court, Jackson put pressure on himself. He called Curry and Thompson the "best shooting backcourt in NBA history" and declared Bogut should be the Defensive Player of the Year.

The Warriors also acquired former All-Star Andre Iguodala and made a terrific midseason addition in veteran point guard Steve Blake.

Still, Golden State has not made the jump up the Western Conference standings that everyone expected.

With 11 days left in the regular season, Jackson’s position appears as stable as the San Andreas Fault.

It seems only a deep playoff run would save his job and it would have to come against teams which, at this point, are better equipped for the battle.

luhm@sltrib.com

Twitter: @sluhm

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