Steve Kerr is spending the offseason, the long, extended offseason, re-evaluating the Warriors' program.
After five straight trips to the NBA Finals, the Warriors sunk to the bottom of the NBA with Steph Curry playing only five games and Klay Thompson missing the entire season. But both stars will be healthy and rested next season when the Warriors hope to begin another dynastic run. The gap year has allowed Kerr to take a step back and plan for the future.
As a member of the "The Last Dance" Chicago Bulls, Kerr didn't have the ability to sit back and take the 1000-foot view of the Bulls' accomplishments before starting the next phase. It just ended. But he does believe his time with that team helped him navigate the perils the Warriors have faced.
“There’s a reason it was called ‘The Last Dance’ before the season, and not after,” Kerr told The Athletic's David Aldridge on the "Hoops, Adjacent" podcast. “… And, to be honest -- and I think Phil (Jackson) said this in the documentary -- it felt over. In retrospect, it’s easy to look back and say, ‘Man, why didn’t they keep it going?’ But at the time, it felt like everybody was exhausted, and the team had already, management had already decided what they were going to do. So we didn’t spend any time looking forward to what might have been. I think everybody just kind of went their separate ways.
“But I think that experience really did help me, coaching our own group in Golden State over the last few years. ‘Cause I was really able to think about the fatigue, the emotional and the spiritual fatigue, that sets in when you’re trying to do something year after year like we did in Chicago, and again in Golden State. So that experience really came in handy for me as a coach.”
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By the time the 2018-19 season rolled around, it was clear the Warriors were running slow, the exhaustion of four straight Finals trips weighing heavy on their minds and bodies. The constant questions surrounding the future of Kevin Durant only exacerbated the exhaustion.
In the moment, it felt like that was the final hurrah for that group, win or lose. There's no doubt a healthy Warriors team likely would have completed the threepeat. But Steph Curry and Draymond Green, the two stars left standing in final moments of that iteration of the dynasty, emptied the tank as champions do, throwing everything they had at the Toronto Raptors to force a decisive Game 7. But it wasn't to be.
The Last Dance Bulls ended as champions, with Michael Jordan's game-winning shot in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals being the lasting memory of that run. They finished as champions, but ones who never got to defend their title.
The Curry-Durant Warriors were defeated not by management hubris, petty differences or cheap ownership, but by injuries and exhaustion. While Jordan and the Bulls are left to wonder if a seventh title could have been theirs, the Warriors were left with no haunting what-ifs. They achieved everything they set out to accomplish, and only the weight on continued excellence, injuries and exhaustion toppled their dynasty.
Kerr, Curry, Thompson and Green now get the chance to reinvent themselves again, and start a new dynasty in the remaining years of their prime.
Kerr and the Warriors have been able to soak in and fully appreciate the greatness of their run during the down year. Now, the work begins again for the Warriors' championship core.