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.
Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Bulls games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.