Programming note: Warriors-Blazers Game 4 coverage starts tonight at 6:30pm with Warriors Pregame Live on NBC Sports Bay Area, and streaming live right here.
Steve Kerr’s physical absence from the stage in the NBA Playoffs means a lot of things. It all depends on what you want from this development.
If you think the Warriors should win anyway, you will decide it will mean something but not a lot. If you think they should lose, it is a catastrophe, and when layered with Kevin Durant’s injury, it is a three-story catastrophe with a massive entry hall, a huge spiral staircase, a vast backyard with an Olympic pool and a shooting range.
But here are two things it means for sure.
One, nobody will be able to say they were lucky if they win, which for some reason still bothers people around here, as though luck is some sort of shame-inducing insult to be avoided.
And two, they will not accept your pity if they lose, least of all Kerr. Kerr is much better at showing anger than he is acknowledging pity, and you saw plenty of the former at his presser Sunday.
In an attempt to both granularize and overthink what has been pretty boilerplate playoff series so far, many folks have gone to Mike Brown, Kerr’s new Luke Walton, to declare an Achilles heel.
Except that (a) players determine success in the NBA, and only the very worst coaches impede talent from achieving its true level. Mike Brown is not among those coaches, and those who think he is are fools.
Except that (b) Kerr will be around for planning sessions, and there will be the rest of the coaching staff at Brown’s side so that continuity will not be an issue unless Brown’s voice is so alien that a group of veteran players who have won one title and nearly won a second will somehow lose their way.
The danger here is that we might be minimizing his absence, when in fact we don’t have the slightest idea how it will affect the Warriors. Even with the 43 games Walton coached in Kerr’s absence after this first back reaction, when people feared the team would fall off the earth, the Warriors played more than half those games against non-playoff teams, while playoff games are almost by necessity are high-leverage situations piled atop each other in a gigantic heap.
It’s not comparing cats and dogs, but it is comparing terriers and rottweilers. In short, this could be a lot tougher than we think it is. We have no idea, because there is no real metric for this, only a lot of half-educated guesswork.
You know, what we do best.
Even Five-Thirty-Eight.com, The Place Where Twos And Fours Go To Find Love, took the Warriors’ two wins last week, factored in Kerr’s absence and decided that the Warriors are now 67 percent favorites to win the title, up from 63 percent.
But if the Warriors cannot navigate the postseason without Kerr, then they’ll have failed, pure and simple. Context is all well and good, and we believe in context with all our might, but one of the contexts of this Warrior team is that no excuses will be accepted. It is the price they pay for being a 2-to-1 favorite from the second they signed Durant. After all, life is as windy as it is lonely at the top.
Kerr will return when he can, and it is hoped that he won’t do it until he knows he can, rather than thinks he can or hopes he can. But as it affects the Warriors . . . well, the nation has spoken.
No alibis. No luck. Until there is new evidence, they do, or they do not. Period.