Kerr pushes Warriors to keep joy, chase repeat championship
Golden State Warriors' head coach Steve Kerr reacts during the basketball match of the 2017 NBA Global Games against Minnesota Timberwolves in Shenzhen, south China's Guangdong province, Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
By Janie McCauley, Associated Press
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Steve Kerr recently threw out a perplexing question to his star-studded Golden State roster: What should he tell a team that has won championships in two of the last three years and still reached the Finals in the other?
How might he spark improvement from a group that has won 67, 73 and 67 games the past three seasons?
“It’s got to be about what’s important to us,” Kerr said. “The joy of coming to practice every day is important for our guys to remember, the process.”
Kerr is already challenging his Warriors to find ways to get better. He is strategizing ways to make sure they don’t become complacent, maintaining the edge that has turned this franchise into a perennial contender with names such as Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green leading the charge after decades of futility.
“It’s been really smooth. There’s a chemistry and a certain expectation of how we’re going to play versus last year,” Curry said. “There were a couple unanswered questions going into camp and a feeling out process but Coach has challenged us to focus on the details in how we can get better from last year. He joked around: ’What do you tell a team that’s won 67 games or 65-plus the last three years, two championships, how do you tell a team like that to get better? Or what do you tell a team like that to get better? It’s basically about the details and the fine points of our offense, and cutting hard, setting screens for each other, the counters that we’re going to add to our offensive sets. All those little things are built on the foundation that we set last year and obviously Kevin’s a part of that. We all are. So it’s kind of good to put that in the right perspective.”
What the franchise has accomplished the past three seasons isn’t lost on Green.
“It’s a special thing,” he said. “And I think a lot of times in life we forget to live in the moment, especially in our day and age, social media — let me record this — miss everything I’m watching because I am looking at it through a phone. You forget to enjoy the moment. ... As much as I try to enjoy the moment, you’ll never fully understand it until it’s over.”
Here are some things to watch for with the Warriors:
INVITE WITHDRAWN: Curry made headlines on media day last month when he reiterated he didn’t want to visit the White House under President Donald Trump, who then withdrew his invite to the champs a day later via Twitter.
The Warriors have become a face for social advocacy in sports— specifically speaking up against racial injustice.
“That’s the genesis of our stance and if you watched us all last year we stood for the national anthem,” Curry said. “Certain teams locked arms or had different demonstrations and the NFL’s taken a different approach. But it’s about the message, it’s not about the act. For the life of me if that doesn’t just get across to everybody, it’s not a disrespect at anything about the flag or the anthem and we can hopefully move in the right direction.”
KERR’S HEALTH: Kerr missed 11 games during the postseason dealing with neck pain, nausea and other symptoms stemming from a 2015 back surgery.
He has made improvements but still feels discomfort at times. The 2016 NBA Coach of the Year is staying optimistic he will be on the bench all season.
“It’s been a long odyssey ... and not easy, but I’m lucky to have the support of not only the players but Bob [Myers] and Joe [Lacob],” Kerr said. “Everybody is constantly so supportive, and I’m looking forward to the season. I’m excited. I think it’s going to go smoothly. I think I’ll be fine. But who knows. As Vin Scully once said, we’re all day-to-day.”
ROSTER INTACT: With so many familiar faces back — 12 to be exact — there are only a handful of players being integrated for the first time.
“It’s a lot easier to pick up the system when you’re only one of two or three new guys instead of six or seven,” Kerr said. “Because all the other guys who have been here, they can help and everything flows more smoothly. So I think it’s a little easier job this year for the new guys to blend in because there are fewer of them.”
THREE CENTERS: Kerr can again use his three diverse centers in a deep rotation — beginning with Zaza Pachulia then going to alley-oop dunk man JaVale McGee or precision-passer David West.
Pachulia said it’s much different this season with everybody understanding what to expect from each other and having already developed a trust level.
“When something is working, let it work,” Pachulia said.
NEWBIES: Nick Young and Omri Casspi are two newcomers on an experienced roster, both capable shooters who will be counted upon to take pressure off the starting five when called upon for key minutes.