Warriors

Warriors

Steve Kerr doesn't have many worries when it comes to Stephen Curry's on-court performance. But he did have serious concerns about his guard's health recently.

Shortly after returning a broken hand, Curry had turned up ill, causing panic in the organization. The Warriors coach had seen his guard a day prior in Oakland, just before a march along East 14th street to celebrate the drop in gun violence in the East Bay city. Upon hearing the news, Kerr assumed the worst. 

"We all were very concerned that maybe he had the coronavirus," Kerr told NBC Sports Bay Area during a phone conversation on Saturday. "And that's why our team doctors were very, very much on the case."

"I felt guilty because he had played in the Toronto game," Kerr added. "And then the next day we went to open for that march. Some meetings, and I ... So when he was sick the next day I thought, "Oh, man." You know, I needed to send Steph home. He hadn't been sick the day before, but it was a big day, with him coming back and expending all that energy and emotion in the game. And I felt ... When he came down, I felt somewhat responsible because I invited him to take part in the Oakland festivities, but he assured me that it had nothing to do with that."

It turned out, Curry only had the common seasonal flu, forcing him to miss two games, and he was expected to play Thursday against the Brooklyn Nets.

 

On Saturday, though, Kerr was supposed to be in Milwaukee, pouring over last-minute adjustments before a road contest against the Bucks. 

Instead, he's more than 2,000 miles west, self-quarantined in his Bay Area home, analyzing a show on his couch as he passes the time. 

"I watched The Crown," Kerr said. "And I finished up The Crown, which was great. It's really, really well done. It's about Queen Elizabeth.

"It's good. There are three seasons, and I only had a couple more episodes left, so I'll finish those up. And my wife and I started watching something called The Stranger on Netflix." 

Kerr's current circumstance matches the reality of his peers. As of Wednesday evening, the league Kerr inhabits is under suspension as the world tries to get a handle on the coronavirus pandemic. At the moment, the NBA plans to give more clarity to teams on Monday as the league trudges through its hiatus.

But, from his couch, Kerr fears the wait could be longer than anticipated. 

"I mean," Kerr says before pausing. "It's pretty obvious nothing's going to happen anytime soon, this effort to shift the momentum on this thing. Nationwide, worldwide - feels like we'll need to shut things down for several weeks at a minimum. So we will not be holding any practices, but we'll wait to hear what the NBA has to say, and we'll make sure we're taking care of our players and making sure we're following all the guidelines that the experts are layout for us."

The coronavirus was first identified in Wuhan, China in December before spreading throughout the world. In the last few weeks, the virus -- which attacks the immune system -- has caused widespread panic. Earlier this month, officials in Italy quarantined the entire country. In the Bay Area, school districts have closed and many employees have been advised to work from home. As of Saturday, 150,000 people around the world have tested positive for the virus, including more than 80,000 in China. 

Leaguewide response to the virus was slow. Initially, teams opted to play in front of crowds, as the Warriors did against the Clippers on Tuesday evening. But as more cases popped up, teams barred the media from locker rooms. When more cases mounted, the Warriors decided to play in arenas without fans starting Thursday against the Nets, which would've made Kerr adjust accordingly. 

"We were going to have a shootaround [Thursday] morning. That was the plan," Kerr said. "And so I was going to talk about it, but how do you prepare for that? I know I would have been pretty self-conscious about yelling at the refs. I know that the crowd noise wouldn't cover-up. I would've been a little more self-conscious about what I was yelling to the players and how I was yelling to players. You would have been ... It would've been really weird. It would have felt like a scrimmage."

 

But those plans were shelved Wednesday when Utah Jazz big man Rudy Gobert was diagnosed with the coronavirus just before a road game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. In the wake, the NBA suspended the rest of the season, prompting other sports leagues to follow suit. 

"That was a tipping point," Kerr said. "And I think the tipping point for the portion of the country that is sports-obsessed and that bases a lot of their time on watching highlights or watching a game. That moment was when everything changed who was ... And it went from, "Wow, what's going on?" to "This is it. This is real." And I think it was important for the league to go ahead and take that step and to have other leagues follow suit, and for everybody out there to start understanding why we needed to practice this social distancing." 

As for protecting his own health, Kerr has taken his own precautions. Of his few outdoor odysseys, he's gone to the grocery store for supplies during his self-quarantine. A public figure, he's resorted to elbow bumps when fans reach for handshakes.

"I think the biggest thing now is to share as much information with each other as possible and do everything we can," Kerr said. "Because there really is a responsibility that each one of us has to fulfill as best we can. And so everybody needs to be educated about social distancing and hygiene and, you know, coughing into your arm instead of your hands and not shaking hands. And everything that we're learning, we need to share that, because we're ... everybody is sort of learning this on the fly, and, as we saw from the concert the other night, there are still people who aren't understanding the severity of this."

"The number one goal is to allow our doctors and healthcare workers the space they need and to keep the numbers of patients down so that they can take care of people. Because, obviously, the more overwhelmed their system gets, the fewer beds there are, the fewer nurses, the fewer ventilators. That's when disaster strikes. And so we all play a role in that, whether it's protecting ourselves or protecting our family, protecting people we don't even know, that we've never meet. It all matters."

As he coaches from afar, the NBA season is feels even further away. But, in a meeting last week, he left his team with a directive: Stay ready. 
"I told them almost treat it like a break where, even though you're off and you're unsupervised, you got to play a game sometimes," Kerr said "And so I think guys are going to make sure they get exercise in, get some conditioning in. And if, somehow, we crank up the season, then I'm sure the league will give us some practice time, and we'll find a way to be ready for it."

 

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Until then, he'll be in his home watching TV, thinking about the future of the league and even the future plots of his favorite shows.
 
"Oh, that's the other thing," Kerr said. "I've been watching Curb Your Enthusiasm, and I'm thinking this whole thing is going to definitely spawn a new Curb Your Enthusiasm season with Larry David. Probably at home struggling to himself, thinking 'Well, I'm going to use this for a whole season.'"