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NBA's Warriors Maintain Their Golden Streak

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And now it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: How hot are the Golden State Warriors? Steph Curry and the Warriors are hotter than Adele, hotter than pad thai, the Gobi Desert in July, hotter than Trinidad scorpion peppers. Golden State beat the Boston Celtics in double-overtime last night. They're now 24 and zero. I mean, zero, zippo, nada losses on the season. NPR's Tom Goldman joins us. How are you, Tom?

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Scorpion peppers - what the heck?

SIMON: I had to look that up. In any event (laughter) - well, that's only fair these days. This one was tense. The Warriors were down with just a couple minutes left.

GOLDMAN: Playing a very good, young Boston team and without two injured starting players - Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes. But despite a horrid shooting night, percentage-wise, from Steph Curry, he still had 38 points. His teammates...

SIMON: Oh, 38 points, oh, the guy's in the tank, oh, only 38 points, yeah.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, washed up, right. His teammates made huge plays at the end. Team effort as always; you don't get to 24 and zero without being a great team despite all the attention Curry gets.

SIMON: So what makes them the hottest item in sports now?

GOLDMAN: Great offense, great defense, great team chemistry and a great big chip on the shoulder. You know how athletes love to use perceived slights as motivation. The Warriors have a list of slights after winning the title and having one of the best seasons in NBA history. Golden State was listed by some preseason prognosticators as a team with the fourth best chance to win this year's title. And like Clippers head coach Doc Rivers implied, the Warriors were lucky by winning the Western Conference last season without having to face his team or San Antonio. And then this week, consensus best coach in basketball, the Spurs' Gregg Popovich, reiterated that he hated the three-point shot, called it a circus sort of thing. Of course the Warriors are the best three-point shooting team in the NBA. So plenty to make these happy, freewheeling dudes from the Bay Area angry. Even tonight they're supposed to lose to Milwaukee because they're exhausted at the end of a long road trip...

SIMON: Yeah, tired from scoring 38 points, that Steph Curry, yeah.

GOLDMAN: (Laughter) Right, just what the Warriors want people to think.

SIMON: Switching gears certainly - this week, Dr. Bennet Omalu has an op-ed in The New York Times where he says youngsters under 18 shouldn't play tackle football. Dr. Omalu is the pathologist who discovered CTE. He's the doctor played by Will Smith in the upcoming movie "Concussion." But his colleague, Julian Bailes, disagrees and held a teleconference to expound a bit on that. What's his position? What's the disagreement?

GOLDMAN: Yeah, Bailes is played by Alec Baldwin in the movie, by the way. He says the science is inconclusive, that the youth brain is more vulnerable to injury than an adult brain. So he doesn't think there's a great deal of meaningful or damaging exposure in youth football. And he's being vilified in some corners because of those comments.

SIMON: You've read everything you can find on this and have been doing stories on this. Do you believe youngsters are more susceptible to head injuries?

GOLDMAN: Well, I spoke with Dr. Gerry Gioia from the Children's National Health System. He's been studying and treating concussions in kids for nearly 30 years. And he says Bailes basically is right. There's not the evidence of a link between CTE and football playing kids at this moment like Dr. Omalu says. Gioia says there's a great need to search for that evidence through longitudinal studies. Those studies don't exist right now because of lack of funding and priorities. CTE is the priority right now and because of that focus, Gioia worries that kids are getting lost in the discussion.

SIMON: All right, NPR's Tom Goldman, thanks very much for being with us.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.