Warriors

Steve Kerr reminiscing about Warriors' dynastic run amid coronavirus halt

Steve Kerr reminiscing about Warriors' dynastic run amid coronavirus halt

Programming note: Watch the re-air of the Warriors' Game 1 win in the 2015 NBA Finals over the Cleveland Cavaliers tonight at 8 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area.

It was Steph Curry on the fast break throwing a blind, over-the-shoulder pass to Kevin Durant for the easy dunk.

It was Andre Iguodala stripping Damian Lillard or LeBron James and igniting transition offense.

It was Klay Thompson running through a maze of screens before getting the perfect pass from Shaun Livingston and firing one through the net.

We’re 24 days into this cycle of sports nostalgia -- it’s all we have in the absence of live events -- and rarely does a day pass without images of recent Warriors supremacy flashing across TV/computer screens. Fans are allowing themselves to reminisce. So, too, is the coach.

“That was pretty special era, with special teams,” Steve Kerr told NBC Sports Bay Area this week. “The one thing that has always stood out to me, whether I was a part of a special team as a player or coach, or a fan of a special team, is that It’s not just wins and losses. It’s the style, and the connection with fans.”

The Warriors entered 2019-20 coming off the most impressive five-year run in NBA history, compiling a 322-88 record, for a .785 winning percentage. The three championships and five consecutive trips to The Finals are well-chronicled.

But the level of mastery on display is, in retrospect, nothing less than startling.

“There’s been this incredible momentum and connection with our fans over the last five or six years, and it’s tough to match that,” Kerr said. “Some of that is due to the incredibly high level of play. People come ... that’s what they want to see. Whether it’s like seeing a rock band at the height of their powers or an artist, it’s the same concept. They just want to see something beautiful and experience something beautiful. That’s the connection.”

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It was Draymond Green squaring up to defend James Harden and stripping him for the steal.

It was Durant, staring down LeBron and then walking into a top-of-the-key 3-point kill shot.

It was Andrew Bogut slyly slipping an exquisitely timed pass to Curry and diving toward the rim.

“I always thought Bogut was one of the most underappreciated parts of our team,” Kerr recalls. “Those first two years, his passing, his dribble-handoff game, his defense, his working with Draymond on that end ... Bogut was incredible. Just an incredible basketball player, and he complemented that group perfectly.

“And then the team kind of morphs, different guys coming and going, and it’s still really about Steph and Klay and Draymond and Andre. But you see these key figures come in. Like David West, playing 15 minutes a night and picking people apart. It was beautiful to watch.”

The Warriors posted successive seasons with 39-2 records at Oracle Arena. Regular-season records piled up: 73 wins, 54 straight home victories, 34 road wins and 24-0 to open a season.

The shooting was superb, the ball movement wizardly, the defense ravenous. Above all, there was a visible synergy that often resulted in sequences that appeared choreographed.

It was Kevon Looney switching out on DeMar DeRozan and giving up nothing. It was JaVale McGee catching lobs, maintaining a presence in the paint and resuscitating his career. It was Zaza Pachulia setting a perfect screen or dropping a bounce pass backward between his legs.

It was Curry single-handedly destroying a defense, Green single-handedly stifling an offense.

“Even within that five-year run, the core was the same, but there were different guys who provided different things, different dynamics to our team,” Kerr says. “That was the apex. I don’t know that we ever reached a higher level as a group than we reached 2016, when we won 73, but the ’17 team was the best because of Kevin. Just the unstoppable nature of having the ability to always go to him anytime we needed to. That team was just devastating.”

Perhaps no accomplishment was more impressive than opening the 2017 postseason with 15 consecutive wins and becoming the first team to hang a 16-1 record on its challengers. They won closeout games by an average of 18.5 points.

One game, however, sends Kerr practically into a dreamlike state.

[RELATED: Why Steph-KD Warriors are Bay Area's best dynasty]

After coaching Games 1 and 2 of the first-round series against the Portland Trail Blazers, Kerr stepped away to cope with unrelenting physical discomfort. Lead assistant Mike Brown took over, and the Warriors posted a tight (119-113) win in Game 3. Win Game 4 and the sweep is completed.

“Our first quarter was almost unfair,” Kerr recalls. “I think we scored 40 points.”

Make it 45. The Warriors rolled to leads of 14-0, 22-3 and 35-9 before closing the quarter with a 45-22 lead and eventually coasting to a 128-103 rout.

“It’s like we had everything going,” Kerr says. “JaVale was getting dunks because (the Blazers) were so worried about all the shooting on the perimeter. We defended like crazy. That game just felt unfair.”

Indeed, it did, as did many others over a five-year span that might be better appreciated in hindsight and will be exceedingly difficult to equal, much less surpass.

How Warriors are affected by EuroLeague canceling rest of 2019-20 season

How Warriors are affected by EuroLeague canceling rest of 2019-20 season

While the NBA is inching closer to resuming the 2019-20 season, Europe's top basketball league decided not to pursue the same avenue.

The EuroLeague announced Monday that it was canceling the remainder of its 2019-20 season.

Each EuroLeague team had played 28 of their 34 regular-season games.

Ordinarily, the EuroLeague ending its season wouldn't be news for the Warriors and their fans. But 2020 has been a completely different year for the Warriors. Mired in a 15-50 season, Golden State will have a top-five pick in this year's NBA draft.

That means 19-year-old Israeli prospect Deni Avdija, who plays for Maccabi Tel-Aviv, is on the Warriors' radar. NBC Sports Bay Area's Monte Poole reported at the end of April that the Warriors have traveled to Europe to take a look at Avdija, who could be a top-five draft pick.

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With the Warriors missing the playoffs this season, the team was going to use the unexpected free time in May to go scout prospects in Europe. Coach Steve Kerr reportedly was supposed to go watch Killian Hayes and Théo Maledon, while Kent Lacob, director of team development, was going to scout Avdija. But the coronavirus pandemic forced the Warriors to cancel those travel plans.

Due to travel restrictions, the Warriors likely wouldn't have been able to send anyone to watch Avdija play in the final six EuroLeague games had they been held, but they could have at least gotten more film on him. Now, they will have to form their opinion of Avdija with the in-person scouting they've already done and the film they have on hand.

In 21 games this season against Israel Basketball Super League competition, Avdija averaged 12.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 26.6 minutes.

[RELATED: 2020 NBA Mock Draft 7.0]

Avdija hasn't seen as much playing time in the EuroLeague, so his numbers aren't great. In 26 games against better competition, he's averaging 4.0 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.2 assists in 14.2 minutes.

We don't know when the NBA will hold the 2020 draft, but if the Warriors select Avdija, we'll know they saw enough of him before the coronavirus put a stop to basketball around the world.

Michael Jordan-Steph Curry 'The Match' pairing posed by Colin Cowherd

Michael Jordan-Steph Curry 'The Match' pairing posed by Colin Cowherd

Sunday’s “The Match,” featuring a showdown between NFL stars Peyton Manning and Tom Brady along with PGA icons Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods was a smashing success. The event raised $20 million for coronavirus relief in the United States, and was the highest-rated golf event in cable television history.

The access and humorous trash talk throughout has led many to speculate as to which duo from sports could be part of the next iteration of the event. Fox Sports’ Colin Cowherd discussed this on Monday and posed some interesting potential pairings.

"Michael has always let it be known that he's pretty good at golf," Cowherd said. "Steph is easily the best current NBA golfer, that I would pay to see."

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Steph Curry tweeted Sunday that he’d like to be included next time around, and sure enough Cowherd first mentioned a duel between the Warriors star and another NBA icon with North Carolina roots in Michael Jordan. MJ was shown to play golf frequently throughout his NBA career during ESPN’s “The Last Dance,” and continues to be a fan of the sport.

Curry is an avid golf fan and was glued to his television Sunday during “The Match.” He’s played in some professional golf events in the past, and always is among the best current athletes at the celebrity-laden American Century Championship each summer in Lake Tahoe.

Given MJ’s propensity to trash talk during his historic NBA career, it’s hard to imagine he wouldn’t be trading barbs constantly with Curry. Steph’s confidence never has been in question and he likely would have plenty of fun going back and forth with Jordan.

[RELATED: Who Warriors fans think Steph Curry should team up with in 'The Match']

Throwing a couple PGA pros in, especially two who are avid NBA fans could make for some great conversation. As we saw throughout Sunday’s foursome, Mickelson and Woods were more than willing to engage and dish out some one-liners.

MJ likely wouldn’t be thrilled about being mic’d up for an entire round with no editorial control. But if both parties would be willing, this would be the most highly-anticipated event in the history of golf.

Plus we finally could settle that pesky debate of which team was more dominant between Curry’s 2016-17 Warriors and Jordan’s 1995-96 Bulls.