BY JANIE MCCAULEY
AP SPORTS WRITER
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — David West has undergone four surgeries in his long NBA career: left knee, right elbow and right foot twice to fix a couple of toes.
“I don’t even like saying all that,” he said.
So, yes, just like his coach who tried medicinal marijuana to get some relief, West knows real pain. Draymond Green has never needed an operation – he knocks on a table not once but twice as to not jinx himself – yet he considers that the option of using marijuana “makes a lot of sense.”
“I’m always struck every time I’m home on the couch watching a sporting event, some drug commercial comes on, they show these happy people jumping in a lake, rowing a boat, then you just wait for the qualifier,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said a day after revealing he tried marijuana for severe back pain . “Side effects include suicidal thoughts and possible death. And you’re like, this is insane. Insane.”
Kerr’s players believe his voice can go far in starting a serious, thoughtful dialogue in professional sports regarding pot use for pain relief.
“You look at something that comes from the Earth. Any vegetable that comes from the Earth, they encourage you to eat it,” Green said at shootaround Saturday. “It does make a little sense as opposed to giving someone a manufactured pill. If something takes your pain away like some of these pills do, it can’t be all good for you. … He talked about Vicodin. Toradal, you can be completely hurting and then take a Toradal shot and go through a game and feel nothing. Is that really good for you over the course of time? I doubt it.”
The reigning NBA Coach of the Year acknowledged he tried marijuana twice in the past 18 months while dealing with debilitating back pain that still affects him this season.
“First, I’m disappointed it didn’t work. I really wanted some relief and I didn’t get it. Having done the research it was well worth a try,” Kerr said Saturday.
“You can see it with our country, our country is starting to wisen up on the medicinal marijuana side. I hope we can wisen up on the prescription drug side. That’s scary stuff and it’s really not talked about often enough.”
Kerr told Comcast SportsNet Bay Area’s Warriors Insider Podcast with Monte Poole on Friday that he used medicinal marijuana but it didn’t help – and painkillers have often been worse.
On Saturday, Kerr said he was surprised how a serious conversation about pain relief “turns into the headline ‘Kerr smokes pot.'”
“I’m actually kind of glad it became an issue because I think it’s a very important issue to talk about, having gone through a tough spell over the last year with my own recovery back surgery, a lot of pain, chronic pain,” he said. “… The issue that’s really important is how do we do what’s best for the players? But I understand that it’s a perception issue around the country and the NFL, NBA, it’s a business, so you don’t want your customers thinking, ‘These guys are a bunch of pot heads.’ That’s what it is. But to me it’s only a matter of time before medicinal marijuana is allowed in sports leagues because the education will overwhelm the perception.”
Green said he hasn’t needed painkillers nor has he tried marijuana, never having a serious injury or requiring surgery. Guard Klay Thompson would support drugs for medicinal use only – this after he was arrested on charges of misdemeanor marijuana possession in early March 2011, in Pullman, Washington, during college at Washington State. He was suspended for a game.
“Steve’s open-minded, and obviously with the way the world’s going, if there’s anything you can do that’s medicinal, people are all for it, especially when there’s stuff like Crohn’s disease out there, glaucoma, a bunch of stuff, cancer,” Thompson said. “But not recreationally, that should not be of its use ever. There’s a medicinal side to it that people are finding out have benefits, especially people with really high pain.”
California was the first state to embrace legal, medicinal marijuana two decades ago. Twenty-eight states and Washington, D.C., now allow marijuana for medical or recreational purposes.
The 51-year-old Kerr missed the first 43 games last season and the team’s record 24-0 start while on a leave of absence following complications from two back surgeries. A spinal fluid leak led to terrible headaches, nausea and neck pain among other symptoms that left him feeling frustrated and down.
Kerr noted, “athletes everywhere are prescribed Vicodin like it’s vitamin C, like it’s no big deal.”
“I think the league should look into medicinal marijuana for pain relief … that’s what should be in the CBA,” Kerr said.
Green and West believe change can happen, that over time people might become more open-minded when the person speaking up is someone like Kerr, who was selected the Western Conference Coach of the Month for November.
“He’s a public figure with some notoriety making a statement,” West said. “It brings more attention to a cause for something that people feel like there needs to be a shift in the way we monitor it and change things. Obviously somebody of his stature can give a little weight to the argument.”