Warriors

Kerr admits Curry's injuries forced 'a few adjustments' in Finals

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Kerr admits Curry's injuries forced 'a few adjustments' in Finals

Editor's Note: The above video is from June 20, 2016.

After sustaining a knee injury in Game 1 of the 2016 playoffs, Steph Curry spent the next two months dodging questions about his health, pronouncing himself fit each time he put on his Warriors jersey.

His coach, Steve Kerr, whistled precisely the same tune all the way through losing the NBA Finals.

Clearly, though, Curry was neither as nimble nor as explosive as he was in the regular season, when he became the first unanimous winner of the MVP award.

Kerr now concedes that Curry’s condition – he later sustained an ankle injury and an elbow contusion – resulted in a few strategic limitations.

“We made a few adjustments in terms of play-calling and actions that we tried to run,” Kerr told CSNBayArea.com in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. “But there’s only so much of that you can do.

“It’s still about flow and rhythm and pace. We tried a few different things – and let’s not forget, he was phenomenal in a few games.”

Curry had several spectacular moments, most notably his 40-point outburst – including 17 in overtime – in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals at Portland. But his shooting percentage tumbled from 50.4 in the regular season to 43.8 in the playoffs. His 3-point marksmanship dropped from 45.4 percent to 40.4.

His lack of agility and balance was visible. After routinely torturing big men on defensive switches in the regular season, Curry couldn’t shake lumbering Cavaliers big man Kevin Love in the NBA Finals.

“Steph didn’t play his best against Cleveland for some of the series, but he had huge games in other parts of the playoffs, which got us to that point,” Kerr said. “That’s all a part of it. And if we had won the last game, nobody would’ve cared about Steph or his struggles.”

The Warriors fell when Kyrie Irving, once again exploiting a diminished Curry, drained a 3-pointer over Curry inside the final minute of Game 7 at Oracle Arena.

“I didn’t do enough to help my team win,” Curry said afterward. “It will haunt me for a while.”

Though Curry didn’t mention his assorted aches and pains after Game 7, this was two weeks after he withdrew from consideration for the Rio Olympics, citing a desire to fully heal in hopes of better preparing for next season with the Warriors.

As recently as 17 days ago – a full month after The Finals – Curry during a golf tournament at Lake Tahoe acknowledged his body was still recovering.

Yet neither Curry nor Kerr would, given the stakes, do anything differently.

“We didn’t hide anything,” Kerr said. “If there had been a diagnosis, we would have told you. We don’t hide stuff like that. He was banged up. But that’s not an excuse. It’s not an injury; it’s just that the reality of the season and it kind of hit him at the wrong time, given that everything started in the playoffs and carried through.

“We wouldn’t have sat him out. We wouldn’t have said anything different than what we said. It’s just the reality of sports. It always takes a little bit of luck to win a title. We always say that, and it’s the truth. You’ve got to get a break here and there.

“Maybe this wasn’t the year for us. We made a hell of a run. We were right there, seconds away. That’s how hard it is. You’ve got to go for it, and whatever happens, happens. And then you move on, and that’s what we’ve done.”

Michael Jordan secretly practiced with Warriors, targeted Latrell Sprewell

Michael Jordan secretly practiced with Warriors, targeted Latrell Sprewell

Editor’s note: Sports Uncovered, the newest podcast from NBC Sports, will shine a fresh light on the most unforgettable moments in sports. The first episode, “I’m Back,” tells never-before-heard stories about the two-word fax from Michael Jordan that changed the course of NBA history.

It was only two days in the Bay. A couple practices with the Warriors that, really, materialized from the thin air in the stratosphere of Michael Jordan’s aura.

There was some golf. Some catching up with friends. Some laughs. No, a lot of laughs.

There was a purpose, too. MJ had ulterior motives. When did he not? This was 1994 and he had been away from the NBA for nearly two years, devoting most of that time to playing minor-league baseball. He wondered if at age 31 he could recover the supernatural skills that had allowed him to conquer every challenge the league had to offer.

Jordan had connections with the Warriors. He was close with Rod Higgins, a former Bulls teammate who in 1994 was an assistant coach under Don Nelson. Jordan also was friends with Chris Mullin, a teammate on the Dream Team in 1992.

Jordan did not know the Warriors’ newest baller, 24 years old but already an All-Star. That made him a target. MJ figured the first onramp of his journey back to the NBA should be Latrell Sprewell.

“One morning when Michael was visiting, he calls me,” Higgins recalls. “I was on my way to practice, and he called and said, ‘Do you think it’s alright if I practice with you guys?’  And I said, ‘I don’t think so, but let me call Nellie.’”

Higgins phoned Nelson, who has a rich appreciation of history and a richer fondness for greatness. Nellie’s response: “Hell, yeah.”

Eric Housen, then the Warriors’ equipment manager and now director of team operations, outfitted Jordan with a jersey, shorts and wristbands. MJ borrowed shoes from Mullin. After everyone was dressed, the Warriors and their temporary teammate took the floor for a closed-door scrimmage at Oracle Arena, near the Oakland Coliseum Arena.

[SPORTS UNCOVERED: Listen to the latest episode]

“We had Tim Hardaway and Latrell Sprewell at that point in time and they might have been popping off a little bit,” Mullin recalls.

Hardaway, a point guard with hubris beyond measure, was 28 and a three-time All-Star. At 6-5 and wiry strong, Sprewell had a Jordanesque physique and nearly as much athleticism. As a shooting guard, he was the matchup, if you will, for Jordan.

“MJ really wanted to play against Hardaway and Sprewell because Sprewell was kind of like the new ‘it’ so to speak in terms of the ‘2’ guards,” Higgins says.

Among Jordan’s teammates were center Rony Seikaly and Mullin, who was rehabbing a knee injury sustained in the preseason.  The others were reserves.

“And then Sprewell and Hardaway played with other players, which I don’t know how those groups fared out,” Higgins says. “But once Michael got warmed up, you could tell his objective was to basically kick Spree and Tim’s behind and talk trash to them.”

“He just took over our practice,” Hardaway says.

Jordan is a challenge hound. Always has been. If he sees an obstacle, real or imagined, clearing it becomes an obsession. He wanted to see what young Sprewell had. MJ also wanted to know where he stood in comparison to the greatness displayed 16 months earlier, as an eight-time member of the All-NBA first team.

“What I remember is him walking on the court after not playing, probably played 36 holes of golf the day before, and dominated,” Mullin says.

“How graceful he was  ... shooting step-back jump shots, faking, dunking on people,” Hardaway recalls. “He made that team, that wasn’t playing a lot, show the coach that they should be playing.

“So, we knew he was coming back. I knew, at that particular time, he was coming back.”

Jordan’s team won. Of course. As an assistant coach, Higgins hoped Hardaway and Sprewell, with friction diminishing their fabulous talent, would learn the importance of cohesion and commitment to the team.
It didn’t quite work out that way. After a 7-1 start, the Warriors went into an epic tailspin, losing 22 of their next 25 games. In early February, a couple months after Jordan’s cameo, Nelson resigned. The Warriors finished at 26-56.

[RELATED: Is Warriors landing Giannis worth losing Klay Thompson?]

In February 1996, Hardaway was traded to Miami. Sprewell made two more All-Star teams but was suspended after attacking coach P.J. Carlesimo in 1997 and traded in January 1999.

As for Jordan, we know what he did a few months after working out with the Warriors.

He announced his return by fax: “I’m back.” And he led the Bulls to championships in 1996, ’97 and ’98.

Stephen Jackson reveals Baron Davis gave him best compliment of life

Stephen Jackson reveals Baron Davis gave him best compliment of life

Programming note: Watch all four of the "We Believe" Warriors' wins over the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday, May 30, beginning at 2 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area.

In Game 6 of the "We Believe" Warriors' series-clinching victory over the Dallas Mavericks in 2007, Stephen Jackson scored a playoff career-high 33 points.

"I remember BD (Baron Davis) coming to me before the game and telling me, 'Jack, I ain't got it. I ain't got it, Jack. My legs, my knees, my back. I just ain't got it,'" Jackson recently told Warriors broadcaster Bob Fitzgerald. "I'm like, 'Cool. I'll do what I gotta do.' I was locked in to play well."

Perhaps Davis just was trying to motivate his teammate, because BD recorded 20 points, 10 rebounds and six assists that night. He clearly had some left in the tank.

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

But that's beside the point. You're reading this because of something else Jackson revealed to Fitzgerald.

"Two days later, I'm watching the game and I'm seeing the TV feed. They're interviewing BD after the game on the court, and she (the sideline reporter) asked him something about my play," the 2003 NBA champion explained. "And BD said -- this probably is the best compliment I've ever got from a brother and also a basketball player in my life -- I'm getting kind of emotional saying it ... BD said, 'A lot of people say a lot of stuff about Stephen Jackson, but they'll never admit he's a great basketball player.'

"That meant the world to me. That moment, I felt like everything had completely lifted off my shoulders."

[RELATED: Barnes reveals 'We Believe' Warriors documentary in works]

Remember, Jackson's image had been tarnished because of his role in the brawl that took place a couple years prior between the Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons -- aka the "Malice at the Palace."

And while some NBA fans forever will think of that unfortunate fight first when Jackson's name is mentioned, that won't be the case for the majority of Warriors fans because Dub Nation immediately will point to Jackson's contributions in upsetting the No. 1 seed Mavs.

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