Bulls

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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Jim Boylen standing firm at moment of reckoning in Bulls season

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USA Today

Jim Boylen standing firm at moment of reckoning in Bulls season

It’s no secret that the Bulls’ season hangs in the balance. At 17-30, the team is at once three games out of a playoff spot and slated ninth in the current lottery standings. 

To hear head coach Jim Boylen and co. tell it, a playoff berth remains the more desirable of those two timelines. But according to Basketball Reference, the Bulls have the third most difficult remaining strength of schedule in the East. And worse, they’ll have to face the (immediate) future without Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr., Otto Porter Jr. and Daniel Gafford.

The loss of Markkanen — the most recent of that group to go down — has tipping point potential. In the Bulls’ first game without him, they mustered just 81 points at home against a swooning Sacramento Kings squad, shooting 8-for-37 from 3-point range in the process. The team’s need for secondary scoring outside of Zach LaVine glared

But, as Boylen has maintained all season, the Bulls are not going to change the way they play. They just need to play better.

“We gotta play faster, we gotta move the ball. I thought we had a couple possessions where the ball stuck. The ball can’t stick. We gotta move it, we gotta drive it,” Boylen said of the loss to the Kings before the Bulls’ Saturday night matchup with the Cavaliers in Cleveland. “I also think we missed some opportunities that we need to make.

“Our margin for error is not great. We have to make the plays we can make and make the shots we can make.”

For now, at least, the starting lineup won’t change (sorry #StartCoby crowd) — though Boylen said he’ll keep his rotation fluid. As for outside reinforcements being brought in?

“We have not talked about that. Doesn’t mean we won’t,” Boylen said when asked if the Bulls could actually pivot to ‘buying’ at the trade deadline, given their relative proximity to a playoff spot. “We’re in the middle of a really tough stretch of games, and a lot of games, so my focus has been on that.

“I love the guys we have,” he added. “And we’re gonna keep coaching and teaching the guys we have. I’ve got a good group, a coachable group.”

Absent from those adjectives was ‘interchangeable’ but that word has been ever-present in Boylen’s vocabulary through the ups and downs of this season. In his first full year at the helm, his primary goal remains clear.

“Because we’re establishing this system,” Boylen said when asked why, through thick and thin, the team’s playing style hasn’t changed, as it did last season after Boylen was hired. “Last year, we were tearing it down and then establishing it. Now we’re gonna keep establishing it.”

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Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Reaction to Lauri Markkanen’s injury and loss to Kings

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Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Reaction to Lauri Markkanen’s injury and loss to Kings

On this edition of the Bulls Outsiders podcast, Matt Peck, David Watson, and John Sabine react to the Bulls 98-81 loss to the Kings.

1:00 - Reaction to the loss and LaVine getting double-teamed

2:50 - On Jim Boylen saying don’t expect system changes with Markkanen hurt

4:25 - Sabine’s list of things that have happened since the last time the Kings made the playoffs in 2006

5:35 - Viewer comment on LaVine and Coby

6:40 - Viewer comment on Denzel Valentine

8:00 - On the importance of 1st vs 3rd quarter

9:00 - Viewer comment on possible trades

11:00 - Viewer comment on seeing Bulls without Markkanen

14:30 - On Lauri Markkanen’s hip injury and missing 4-6 weeks

18:40 - Viewer comment asking if Bulls should shut down Markkanen

19:50 - Hey Matt Peck, did you see what DRose did tonight?

21:15 - Viewer comment on what to expect from Lauri when he returns

23:40 - Viewer asking the greatest moment the Outsiders have witnessed

24:55 - On NBA naming the All-Star starters

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below: