Why Steve Kerr deserves a lot more credit than he has been given

Why Steve Kerr deserves a lot more credit than he has been given

Editor's note: Grant Liffmann (@grantliffmann) is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders, which airs on NBC Sports Bay Area 90 minutes before each home game and 60 minutes after every game. Each week, Grant will drop his Outsider Observation on the state of the Dubs.

So far this postseason, the Warriors storylines have read that the team has won on the backs of Kevin Durant's early explosion, Steph Curry and Draymond Green's brilliance when Durant went down, the defensive masterpieces of Andre Iguodala and Klay Thompson, and the unexpected rise of a much-maligned bench. But now it is time to give Steve Kerr some credit. 

You could argue that this postseason has been Kerr's most impressive coaching job yet. After dealing with his most dramatic and tumultuous regular season since taking over the team, Kerr was forced to rethink the Warriors strategy after they were dealt a blow very early in the playoffs with the loss of DeMarcus Cousins. Turning back the clock to what made the Warriors so successful before Cousins arrived was not overly challenging, but dealing with the loss of Durant amidst a series against one of the toughest opponents the Warriors have faced in Houston could have been catastrophic.  The bench had been under-performing throughout the playoffs and had to rely upon all of the sudden. This is exactly where Kerr's coaching shined. 

Often the biggest criticism of Kerr's coaching style is his insistence on getting the ball into the hands of every player on the roster, sometimes at the expense of production from the stars. He had been a role-player for most of his career, knowing full well how important it is for all players to feel involved and important. The insistence paid off in a time of need. The depth of the team was comfortable and ready when called upon. Throughout the season they had been used in stressful situations, much to the chagrin of couch coaches. Kerr pushed all the right buttons, leading the team to a six-game winning streak since Durant went down. 

Just the other day, Paul Pierce on ESPN was saying that he considered Kerr a top-five coach of all-time. While I do believe it is too early to make such a declaration, considering this is only Kerr's fifth season as a head coach, I do think it is reasonable to say he is on the path to that recognition. The big picture look at Kerr's career is historically impressive.

The Warriors have made the finals in five consecutive seasons since Kerr became the Head Coach. That in itself can tell the whole story. But now add in that the Warriors have a 78.5 winning percentage in the regular season under Kerr, and even more incredibly, a 75.7 percentage in the postseason. The team has lost one playoff series in five years under Kerr (albeit a pretty big one). The push back that Pierce received, and many others give, when deciding Kerr's greatness in history seems to always point to the notion that he inherited a team with Hall of Fame talent, and that any good coach could make them champions. This notion is simply naive.

When Kerr took over the Warriors, they were on the path to being a great team. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson had become household names, but nowhere near their current star power. Andre Iguodala was no longer the star he once was in his Sixers years, and David Lee, alongside Andrew Bogut and a young Harrison Barnes were the other most notable Warriors. The team had made some noise in the playoffs but were not ready to be a real contender. Once Kerr became head coach, it all changed. Curry and Thompson had their skills fully realized under Kerr's strategy and leadership, and Draymond Green emerged as a force to be reckoned with.

The Warriors immediately jumped from a good team to a historic team, revolutionizing the game to what the NBA looks like today across the league. Sure, Steve Kerr inherited the parts, but he assembled the pieces into something invaluable. Let's also not forget that Phil Jackson, Pat Riley, Greg Popovich and other all-time great coaches inherited and developed talent like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, etc. 

Since taking over, Kerr's system has become ingrained into the way Curry, Klay, Draymond, and Iguodala play the game. When Luke Walton and Mike Brown manned the ship during the stints in which Kerr dealt with a debilitating back injury, the team rolled along through Kerr's already adopted strategy and infrastructure. It is not a detractor against Kerr that his assistant coaches were able to maintain the incredible success of the team while he was out, in fact, it should further his great reputation. The best leader creates a system that can survive and run seamlessly through the subjects he or she enables, with or without constant guidance.

And he did exactly that.  

[RELATED: Curry named All-NBA First Team, KD makes Second Team]

Bringing in Durant to the Warriors was not only a credit to the character of the team's top stars and their unselfish motivations but also the welcoming and fun environment created by Steve Kerr and the front office. Players wanted to come to Oakland to win and to truly enjoy themselves while doing it. The Warriors did not have that same glow before Kerr. While the Warriors stars are well-known for their unselfishness, it would be ignorant to assume that Kerr has not had to manage ego's and confrontational, fiery personalities. And he has managed them to three, possibly four titles.

It is yet to be seen how the Warriors will fare in the Finals and what the team will look like next season. But with Steve Kerr in command, they are in historically good hands.

Kevin Durant 'smiles,' roasts troll on four-year Warriors anniversary

Kevin Durant 'smiles,' roasts troll on four-year Warriors anniversary

Kevin Durant announced he would join the Warriors four years ago Saturday, and he commemorated the anniversary just about how you'd expect.

Durant fired off some tweets.

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The 31-year-old let an emoji and an image, respectfully, speak for himself in a pair of posts Saturday. Durant was all smiles in the first, responding to Bleacher Report's video commemorating the anniversary of Durant writing in The Players Tribune that he'd join the Warriors for his "next chapter."

Durant won two NBA championships in four seasons with Golden State, but his short time in the Bay Area is a stretch many basketball fans would like to forget. For the better part of four years, Durant has heard -- directly and indirectly -- that he ruined the league by joining a team that went 73-9 without him in 2015-16. Durant didn't have any time for a troll profanely suggesting he eat a cupcake this time around, and the Brooklyn Nets star trolled right back.

Warning: One of the below tweets contains NSFW language.

I know Durant is him, does him and chills, but I definitely didn't expect that to entail that meme.

[RELATED: How KD earned legendary status in Bay Area with Warriors]

Durant is no stranger to feeding the trolls, and it's probably fairer to say he dines with them, too. It's not uncommon to see Durant engaging with fans, and even more common to see him converse with critics.

While Durant's responses aren't normally as simple as an emoji or a meme, that's all he needed to tweet this July 4.

Kevin Durant's Warriors tenure earned himself title as Bay Area legend

Kevin Durant's Warriors tenure earned himself title as Bay Area legend

Editor's note: This article originally was published on April 21.

Kevin Durant has had a complicated relationship with acceptance since he descended to the Bay Area. 

Though he won two titles, accomplishing a goal he summoned would end all criticisms of his game, he ultimately never fulfilled his inner purpose of being a part of the Golden State family.

"I’ll never be one of those guys," Durant told the Wall Street Journal last fall. "I didn’t get drafted there. Steph Curry, obviously drafted there. Andre Iguodala, won the first Finals, first championship. Klay Thompson, drafted there. Draymond Green, drafted there. And the rest of the guys kind of rehabilitated their careers there."

Durant's disposition was evident throughout his Warriors tenure, causing the forward to go through unique measures. Nonetheless, his place in Warriors lore is unquestioned, even if he sometimes doesn't feel the sentiment. 

Durant's arrival to Golden State in July 2016 came under controversial circumstances. Just over a month prior, his Oklahoma City Thunder were eliminated by his new employer after leading the series, three-game-to-one.

Criticism of Durant's decision were rampant. How could Durant, a top-three player in the league who built a franchise from the ground, leave and join the team that beat him to form the biggest Goliath at the peak of their run? How could he take the easy route, joining the best offense of the modern era?

It wasn't supposed to be this way, NBA observers thought. A player of Durant's caliber wasn't supposed to jump ship to a superior team, teaming up with two generational shooters and a team on the brink of a title. Never mind that LeBron James had built a superteam in Miami with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade six years prior. Or the Celtics had acquired All-Stars Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in 2008, teaming the duo with All-Star small forward Paul Pierce.

The league is built on talent, but the Warriors had too much of it. 

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Durant and the Warriors flexed that talent in the first year, winning 67 games and posting a 15-1 record in the playoffs. In the NBA Finals, Durant outplayed James, averaging 35.2 points, 8.2 rebounds and 5.4 assists. A year later, he dominated again, helping the Warriors sweep the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2018 Finals. 

Along the way, Durant's disposition continued to appear. In his book "Victory Machine," Ethan Strauss reported that Durant frequently direct messaged fans, complaining that fans preferred Curry over him. He also was known to send direct messages to beat writers and radio hosts if he didn't agree with their coverage of him.

But his uncertainty blinded the pursuit of a goal he was already achieving: Being accepted as a Warriors legend. 

Durant earned the distinction by helping the Warriors beat the Cavs in two straight Finals. He earned it by helping the Warriors beat Houston in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals, scoring 21 of his team-high 34 points in the second half, helping the Warriors overcome a 15-point deficit. And it was stamped following his departure to Brooklyn when Warriors chairman Joe Lacob stated that no other player will don his number 35. 

[RELATED: Draymond sounds off about how KD handled his free agency]

Even as he rehabs and preps for his Brooklyn debut, he acknowledges his importance to the Bay, signaling recognition of his status in Warriors history. 

"I really felt like I stamped myself as a legend in the Bay. You look at -- I'm not comparing myself to these guys, but guys that won in the Bay like Jerry Rice and Joe Montana," he said on Showtime's "All the Smoke Podcast." "Won back-to-back in the Bay ... it's like s--t, that's forever.

"So I'm really proud of that."