Steve Kerr

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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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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Fred Hoiberg enjoying family life with an eye on a return to basketball

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USA TODAY

Fred Hoiberg enjoying family life with an eye on a return to basketball

 

Ames Tribune sports editor Travis Hines wrote a story this week detailing what Fred Hoiberg has been up to since being let go by the Bulls in early December. And from the picture painted in Hines' piece, Hoiberg has been adjusting quite well to life after basketball but still has his mind on an NBA job, whether it be in the front office or on the sidelines.

Hoiberg has been linked to many different coaching jobs since his exit from the Bulls, including UCLA and the Minnesota Timberwolves of the NBA. And while past reports have indicated that he would only be interested in coaching jobs, Hoiberg stated the exact opposite in his interview with Hines, saying "If the right front office opportunity did come around, I would potentially look at that" and further elaborating that the idea of returning to the front office crossed his mind as soon as he was let go by the Bulls.

When breaking down how non-basketball things are going, it seems that Hoiberg is enjoying being in the day-to-day groove of family life.

These days you can catch Hoiberg taking his kids to and from events, watching and discussing the Real Housewives reality TV series with his wife and her friends and occasionally dabbling in some yoga. So while a return to basketball seems likely, Hoiberg is certainly in no rush.

In recent weeks, Hoiberg has been active on the basketball scene, reflecting on his career while learning the methods of others along the way. He was welcomed back to Iowa State by new head coach Steve Prohm and spoke to the Cyclones on Monday, then attended their game against Baylor on Tuesday. This specifically was an awesome experience for "The Mayor", who said that the last time he watched an Iowa State game as a fan before Tuesday was "probably when I was being recruited by Iowa State", in the late 80s.

Outside of his time in Ames, Hoiberg has spent time with the Golden State Warriors coaching staff and with Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo. This is all a part of Hoiberg taking his "opportunity to grow as a coach".

Throughout his first extended break from basketball, Hoiberg has gotten to do things that were hard to make time for, such as take multiple trips to see his son Jack at Michigan State or taking his wife on (what would normally be) a midseason vacation. So despite the disappointment of things not working out in Chicago, Hoiberg is optimistic about the future.

We only have a short amount of time before the NCAA basketball tournament/NBA Draft cycle is in full swing, and if all these reports are any indication, we could be seeing Fred Hoiberg back in the mix, making important decisions for an organization very soon. But there is no need for anyone to worry about Hoiberg for now, "I’ve never really had this time, especially this time of year to be able to spend quality time and be able to watch the boys play all their games.....it’s been nice spending quality time with the family.”