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Steve Kerr has unique perspective on Warriors current plight

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USA TODAY

Steve Kerr has unique perspective on Warriors current plight

Steve Kerr knows a thing or two about NBA dynasties.

Kerr was an important part of the Bulls’ second three-peat team, hitting the shot in Game 6 against the Jazz in the 1997 Finals that clinched championship No. 5. He also set the NBA record for best three-point percentage in a single season, hitting an amazing 52.4 percent of his attempts in 1994-95. 

After the breakup of the Bulls’ dynasty following the 1997-98 season, Kerr moved on to San Antonio in a sign-and-trade deal. He contributed to the rise of a new dynasty in the West, winning two rings with the Spurs as a reserve for Gregg Popovich in 1999 and 2003. 

Kerr spent time as an award-winning broadcaster for NBA games on TNT and then a front office executive for the Suns before getting into coaching. Wisely, he turned down an offer from his former coach, Phil Jackson, to coach the Knicks, choosing instead to replace Mark Jackson with another rising power out west.

Under Kerr’s direction, the Warriors made it to five straight Finals between 2015 and 2019, winning three championships along the way. But the 2019 Finals brought a sudden and painful end to the Warriors’ dynasty with Kevin Durant suffering a ruptured Achilles’ tendon in Game 5 against the Raptors and Klay Thompson tearing an ACL in Game 6. 

Durant left the Warriors in free agency last summer, while Thompson faces a lengthy rehab from his surgery. Key reserve Andre Iguodala was traded to the Grizzlies to free up cap space and Shaun Livingston retired.

The Warriors knew they would have a target on their backs this season, with teams looking to get some payback for all the lopsided defeats they took at the hands of Golden State over the last five seasons. And we all know the Warriors weren’t shy about rubbing it in with their over-the-top on-court celebrations. 

Still, the Warriors figured to be competitive. The front office acquired All-Star guard D’Angelo Russell from the Nets in a sign-and-trade deal to facilitate Durant’s free agent move. With two-time MVP Steph Curry and versatile two-way forward Draymond Green still on board, Golden State looked like a playoff team.

But then the roof caved in. Underrated center Kevon Looney went out with an injury, and Curry suffered a broken hand in the fourth game of the season. Green and Russell have also been hurt, forcing Kerr to play a lineup loaded with untested young players.

As a result, the Warriors have taken their lumps, currently owning the worst record in the NBA at 4-19. Kerr talked with NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson on Thursday about the challenges he faces coaching such an inexperienced, young squad.

But unlike the Bulls’ post-dynasty roster, all is not lost for the Warriors. Curry will be back sometime in the spring and Thompson might also return to play some games when his rehab is done, although it’s looking more likely he’ll be held out until next season. 

The “Splash Brothers” are still young enough to be a part of another contending team in the Bay Area. The Warriors will decide whether Russell is a good fit to play alongside Curry and Thompson, and if not, he’ll be a valuable trade piece. 

Plus, the franchise could wind up with the best odds to earn the No. 1 pick in the 2020 draft. Remember what happened in San Antonio when David Robinson suffered a season-ending injury in 1996 and the Spurs finished with a 20-62 record? That one year dip into the lottery resulted in the No. 1 pick that turned out to be Tim Duncan, and the Spurs’ dynasty was born. 

There doesn’t appear to a Duncan-type talent in next year’s draft, but a shot-blocking, athletic big man like Memphis center James Wiseman would fit perfectly next to Curry, Thompson and Green. The Warriors also have a brand new arena in downtown San Francisco and an aggressive ownership group that will help attract veteran free agents to sign minimum contracts for a possible shot at a championship. 

So, Steve Kerr will bide his time, and try to develop young players Jordan Poole, Eric Paschall, Omari Spellman and others. Sure, this season will be brutal, but don’t be surprised if the Warriors are back as a top 4 team in the West in 2020-21. 

You can bet Kerr will get a warm ovation from Bulls fans Friday night at the United Center and he’ll continue to say all the right things about the satisfaction that comes from teaching a young team about life in the NBA. But deep down, Kerr’s competitive fire still burns and he’s looking forward to making a run at championship ring No. 9, maybe as soon as next season. 

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Bulls Talk Podcast: Jim Boylen is out as Bulls head coach

Bulls Talk Podcast: Jim Boylen is out as Bulls head coach

Once the regular season ended, the official start of the offseason began and the Bulls' first move was to let Jim Boylen go. In an emergency edition of the Bulls Talk Podcast, host Jason Goff is joined by Bulls insider K.C. Johnson and Bulls beat writer Rob Schaefer as they discuss the decision.

(1:30) - What led Arturas Karnisovas to the decision to let go, Jim Boylen

(6:00) - Arturas Karnisovas on having full power to make decisions

(16:30) - Potential candidates to replace Jim Boylen

(25:20) - How can a coach get the best out of the current Bulls roster

Listen here or via the embedded player below:

Bulls Talk Podcast

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Bulls firing Jim Boylen proves Arturas Karnisovas has autonomy — and a vision

Bulls firing Jim Boylen proves Arturas Karnisovas has autonomy — and a vision

Maybe it’s time to take Michael Reinsdorf and Arturas Karnisovas at their word. 

When Reinsdorf introduced Karnisovas as executive vice president of basketball operations in April, the Bulls’ president and chief operating officer emphasized that Karnisovas had full autonomy on all basketball-related matters.

When Karnisovas held an end-of-season conference call with reporters in June, he talked about the critical nature of getting the coaching situation right and how he planned to take his time evaluating Jim Boylen.

The longer Boylen stayed employed, people speculated that Reinsdorf valued money over movement. Many questioned Karnisovas’ autonomy — and sanity — during his evaluation process.

Karnisovas fired Boylen Friday. Just like he fired longtime general manager Gar Forman in April and replaced him with Marc Eversley. A new era is upon the franchise. 

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“I respectfully acknowledge the hard work and dedication of all of those in this organization who have come before me,” Karnisovas said on a conference call with reporters. “But I’m dedicated and committed to cultivating a culture that creates winning and has its sights set on championships.” 

Former Brooklyn Nets coach Kenny Atkinson, Milwaukee Bucks assistant Darvin Ham, Denver Nuggets assistant Wes Unseld Jr., Dallas Mavericks assistant Stephen Silas and Philadelphia 76ers assistant Ime Udoka are five of the names on Karnisovas’ list of likely interviews, sources said.

RELATED: Here are 5 initial candidates to replace Jim Boylen as coach 

Three things stand out about the process: Karnisovas is a thoughtful, deliberate decision-maker, not swayed by public pressure and choosing to work by his own process. The perception of the Bulls needed to change, particularly with them projecting to be players in the 2021 free-agent market. And the common characteristic of the initial interview targets is people strong on player relationships and player development.

Just watch the Nuggets as they compete in bubble ball during the NBA restart on the Disney World campus. That roster, which Karnisovas had a large hand in shaping, screams player development. It’s filled with intriguing young, athletic talent and two-way players. 

That’s the vision for the Bulls. And now it will include a new coach.

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So why now?

Karnisovas cited an unprecedented regular season ending today and next week’s draft lottery intensifying draft preparation as reasons. But there’s also progress being made on the NBA and NBPA agreeing to allow group workouts at respective team facilities in September for the right teams not part of the Disney World restart. 

While Karnisovas said there’s no timeline or deadline to have a new coach in place, those workouts would be a good guess.

“In terms of what we’re going to be looking for, we’re going to continue focusing on player development and an emphasis on player development, someone who puts relationships with players first and is a good communicator,” Karnisovas said. “There are a lot of factors going on in terms of criteria that we’re looking for in a coach, but again, those are the main ones. We will start the search immediately.” 

Karnisovas thanked the Reinsdorfs for giving him the autonomy to make a decision based on basketball reasons, not financial ones. You know, just like they said they would.

“The signal is that we’re changing things. It signals that we’re looking forward to what comes next,” Karnisovas said. “We just felt this program needed a change and needed a change now. And I can’t wait to find the next coach for this group.”