Stephen Curry

Steve Kerr stays positive, keeps perspective with new Warriors' challenge

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USA TODAY

Steve Kerr stays positive, keeps perspective with new Warriors' challenge

Kevin Durant chose to leave for the Nets in free agency. Klay Thompson faced rehabilitation after tearing his left ACL during Game 6 of the NBA Finals.

Yes, Steve Kerr knew this Warriors season would be different.

But nobody knew that Steph Curry would break his left hand and be sidelined until likely after the All-Star break at the earliest. Nobody knew D’Angelo Russell, the Warriors’ prized offseason acquisition, would miss nine games with a sprained right thumb.

But just as he kept perspective and an even keel throughout the Warriors’ dynasty, which produced three championships and five straight trips to the NBA Finals, the ever-grounded Kerr is doing the same with a team that lugs a league-worst 4-19 mark into Friday’s meeting with the Bulls.

“I’m enjoying coaching the young guys and going through the details of what they need to learn and helping them develop,” Kerr said in an interview following Thursday’s practice at University of Illinois Chicago. “I basically survived my whole career. I was never really in a position where I felt like, ‘OK, I’ve made it.’ From year to year, it was just survival. So I can relate to a lot of these young guys and I can relate a lot of experiences to them. That’s a satisfying process when you see them do well.”

That said, Kerr is a competitor. There’s a broken clipboard and some bloody towels from last Wednesday’s home victory over the Bulls to prove it.

So the teaching element may be rewarding. The losing?

“It sucks. It sucks,” Kerr said, repeating himself for emphasis. “We’re 1-8 in close games. That’s part of having a young team, learning how to close games. That part of it is a struggle.

“You want your players to feel rewarded when they play well. We had a stretch of two weeks where we played well every night and we had one win to show for it. And that was Chicago. It’s frustrating to walk in the locker room and see guys with their heads down because you know how hard they’re working and how much they want it.”

Kerr experienced a dynasty as a player with the Bulls and as a coach with the Warriors. Invariably throughout last season, he’d remind anyone willing to listen to savor how special those times are.

Does he think people listened?

“No,” he said, laughing. “It’s human nature to think we’re going to win it again and we’re going to keep going forever. Life changes quickly.

“I talked not only to the media and our fans but to our team. Last year there were several times when I said, ‘This is going to be our best chance to win a championship.’ We’ve got an incredible opportunity that may never come up again. That’s something that’s important for everybody to realize---fans, management, players. It is lightning in a bottle. You can do everything perfectly and you still may not get to where you think you might be.”

The Warriors’ dynasty may be over. But with Curry, Thompson and Draymond Green still under contract, an attractive young piece in Russell and a huge trade exception from the Andre Iguodala deal, the Warriors are solidly positioned for the future.

And if this season produces a lottery pick, well, that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

Until then, Kerr keeps coaching and teaching. Thursday’s film session and practice stretched to the 2 1/2-hour mark.

“We’ve got a lot of young guys. Draymond has been fantastic, basically helping coach the team and talking guys through different situations. They’ve been thrown in the fire every day. It’s not easy. But they’re doing a good job,” Kerr said. “We have to figure it out as a staff: How much do you throw at them? Too much information sometimes can be a bad thing. And so we have to find the balance. We also can’t not give them the information that they need. It’s just maybe doing it sequentially and maybe finding the right order and plugging holes as you go.

“The NBA game is so different. These days, players come in at such a young age. There’s just an awful lot of fundamental stuff you have to break down on a daily basis as a young team. That’s the biggest difference for us as a staff between having a young team and having vets. It’s a different daily routine for sure.”

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NBA Power Rankings: MVP race heating up

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USA TODAY

NBA Power Rankings: MVP race heating up

We are almost 30 games into the 2018-19 NBA regular season and the true contenders have started to seperate themselves from the pack.

The Raptors, Bucks and Sixers have been locked into a three-way race as the likely candidates for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, with the Celtics and Pacers gaining on them.

Out West, the entire conference is jumbled together with improved contenders popping up left and right, but the Warriors juggernaut appears  to be back on track. Strong MVP candidates have shaped the league this season and chief among them is former unanimous MVP Steph Curry. He has only played in 16 of their 27 games but has been absolutely astonishing when he has played.

The Warriors are a great team without Curry and a transcendent one with him. He is averaging 29 PPG, 5 APG and 5 RPG while shooting a career-best 51 percent from the field. Curry turned in a 42-point masterpiece in their recent win over the Cavaliers, and 20 points and 8 assists in a big win over the Bucks in Milwaukee.


The Bucks followed up that loss to the World Champion Warriors with a 5-point win over the Raptors. In the win, Milwaukee’s MVP candidate--Giannis Antetokounmpo--racked up 19 points, 19 rebounds and 6 assists and helped hold Kawhi Leonard to 8-18 shooting.


Even with the loss, Toronto is still in the top spot in the Eastern Conference and the play of Leonard is the driving force behind their league-leading 21 wins. And the other teams closing in on their record that haven’t been mentioned all have legitimate MVP hopefuls, sans the Clippers and Pacers, who have relied on an offense-by committee.

LeBron James—for once in his career—will actually be a dark-horse for MVP should the Lakers continue to sit in the lower half of the playoff race, fighting for seeds No.5 through No. 8. But his season can’t be ignored. James is leading the Lakers in points (28), assists (6), rebounds (7), and steals (1) per game. While Tyson Chandler and Javale McGee have been the key to the Lakers great defense, James has almost single-handedly elevated the Lakers offense to 15th in the league in offensive efficiency.

The Lakers will be a dangerous playoff team should they qualify, and it would be another reminder of the transformative power that James can have on a franchise.

We have big NBA games this week--more so in the West--that will suss out the MVP race a bit more. The Trail Blazers go up against the Grizzlies in Memphis, the Jazz take on the Magic in Mexico City, Nuggets play the Thunder in Denver and there is also a Lakers-Rockets rematch that features two squads that got into a very heated battle the last time they faced off.

The No. 8 seed is 8 games back of 1st place in the East, and a mere 3.5 games back of 1st place in the West, signifying just how tightly contested the 2018-19 season has been. See how the parity-filled league hierarchy shakes out in our latest Power Rankings, right here.

Klay Thompson makes history against Bulls: The ball felt 'like it was going in every time'

Klay Thompson makes history against Bulls: The ball felt 'like it was going in every time'

Fred Hoiberg was asked during Monday morning’s shootaround at the Advocate Center where the Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant ranked among the all-time scoring duos in NBA history. Hoiberg’s answer? “Well this is a trio. You’ve got to throw (Klay) Thompson in the mix as well.”

It’s safe to assume no one will be forgetting to include Thompson anymore. The younger of the Splash Brothers took over the United Center on Monday night, setting an NBA record by making 14 3-pointers on his way to 52 points as the Warriors thumped the shorthanded Bulls, 149-125.

It was a night of records for the Warriors, setting franchise records for made 3-pointers (24), made 3-pointers in a half (17 before halftime) and points in a half (92 before halftime). But the night belonged to Thompson, who added another chapter to both his scoring legacy and to the Warriors’ absurd offensive run during their current dynasty.

“I just knew I was due for a big night,” Thompson said after the game.

It was apparent Thompson was in line for the night he felt he was due almost immediately. Though he entered Monday’s tilt against the Bulls mired in one of the worst slumps of his career – he was 5 of 36 (13.9%) from deep in seven games to begin the year – his teammates didn’t seem to notice. After a Kevin Durant midrange jumper got the scoring started Thompson took and made the next four shots he took, extending Golden State’s lead to double digits just 3:20 into the contest.

Thompson missed his next 3-point attempt out of a timeout but came back and made his next four 3-point attempts in a 2-minute span, giving him 22 points in the quarter on 8 of 9 shooting; his season-high entering the game had been 19 points, and the six 3-pointers he made in the first stanza topped his season total.

The Warriors had pushed their lead to 24 early in the second when Thompson subbed back in, and he needed all of 18 seconds to connect on his next shot, a 3-pointer that pushed Golden State’s lead to 61-34. Thompson made two more triples on feeds from Draymond Green midway through the period, and Steve Kerr drew up Thompson’s 10th triple out of a timeout that pushed Golden State over the 80-point mark with 2:50 left in the half. That triple tied Thompson with Chandler Parsons for the most 3-pointers in a half. He added two free throws for good measure before missing what would have been his 11th triple right before halftime.

As the Warriors entered the locker room with a 42-point lead, the largest halftime road lead in NBA history, they had one goal in mind: Get Thompson the record.

Steph Curry, who had 23 points on 7 of 9 shooting in the first half himself, told Thompson to “go get it,” the record that he held until tonight.

Added Kevin Durant: “Everybody was encouraging him to keep shooting.”

With that in mind, and the Warriors leading by 42 against a defenseless Bulls team, they set out to complete the mission. Thompson made a fadeaway midrange jumper to open the third quarter, then made his 11th triple right after Kevin Durant made his first of the evening. Thompson began to shot-hunt, taking and missing shots on the Warriors’ next two possessions. But then he hit his 12th triple from the top of the key, causing Fred Hoiberg to call timeout. That’s when head coach Steve Kerr really began understanding what was at stake.

“I didn’t even realize what was happening record-wise,” Kerr said. “I heard Klay say ‘two more, two more.’ And that’s when I realized. And I didn’t even know who had the record so I asked Steph. I said, ‘Do you have record?’ And he goes, ‘Yeah.’ I’m a little slow on the uptake of this stuff.”

Thompson missed his first triple out of the timeout but connected on his second, giving him 13 for the game to tie Curry’s record set two years ago.

That’s when Thompson said he really began thinking about breaking the record. It likely helped that the Warriors were up 45 points and there was still 20 minutes to go.

“I just wanted it so bad at that point,” he said. “I’ve been in this position before, I’ve had 10 or 11 threes. But never close to 14, so I’m just thankful I was in this position.”

But overthinking it may hurt him in the short-term. He went on a smidgen of a cold streak, missing four consecutive 3-pointers with a made floater sprinkled in to give him 49 points. The United Center began to stir and eventually began rooting for history, groaning with each miss. The Warriors admitted to shot-hunting for Thompson, who took 12 straight shots for the Warriors before he finally connected on the record-breaking shot on the right wing off a pass from Durant.

Thompson stayed in after Hoiberg called timeout again but subbed out less than a minute later, finishing with 52 points on 18 of 29 shooting and 14 of 24 3-pointers in just 26 minutes; he’s the first player in NBA history to score 50 points while playing 28 or fewer minutes.

“It’s one of the best feelings in basketball,” he said, “when you touch the ball and feel like it’s going in every time.”

As if the Warriors needed a reminder of just how spoiled they are, tonight was it. Thompson was mired in the worst slump of the dynasty years, and yet the Warriors were still 6-1. Curry was the Western Conference Player of the Week, scoring 51 points with 11 3-pointers against the Wizards. Durant had scored 41 against the Knicks in New York, including 25 in the final quarter. And on a night when Durant, the greatest scorer in the game, scored 14 points, the Warriors still tallied 149 in a blowout win.

Thompson’s historic shooting led them on this night, adding another chapter to what’s been a remarkable ride for Kerr and the defending champs.

“It feels like Year 5 of coaching the Golden State Warriors. This is what it’s been like. I can’t even tell you how lucky I am and how I feel every night just watching these guys and how unselfish they are, they basically take turns and encourage each other, they want each other to do well.

We have all this talent, but the key is these guys are committed to each other and they play hard for each other and they want each other to have success. That’s why it works.”