On Saturday night, the defending Western Conference champion and Golden State Warriors took a commanding 3-0 series lead over their first-round opponent the Portland Trail Blazers with a 119-113 victory. They won despite not having All-Star forward Kevin Durant, who was sidelined for the second straight game because of a calf strain. The team was also without forward Matt Barnes, due to a sprained right ankle and foot sprain and backup guard Shaun Livingston, because of sprained right index finger. The 2015 NBA champions were also without another important part of their team. Their head coach.
Steve Kerr, stayed behind at the team’s hotel 48 hours ago as the Warriors overcame a 17-point deficit in the first-half in to win Game 3, due to complications from back surgery back in July 2015.
The reigning NBA Coach of the Year will also be out for Game 4 on Monday night at the Moda Center in Portland, OR, where the Warriors could sweep the Trail Blazers with a victory on Monday night. Mike Brown, former head coach of the Cavs and Los Angeles Lakers will be the action head coach for the second straight game.
Kerr despite not having missed a game on the sidelines prior to Game 3 continues to experience lingering symptoms from two back surgeries after the team’s run to the 2015 title over the current defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers in six games.
Kerr was on the shelf the first 43 games of last season as he dealt with those symptoms rom headaches, nausea, and an aching neck.
“This is something that I’ve been dealing with, but doing OK. Ups and downs, but consistently coaching. This past week for whatever reason, things got worse. My symptoms got worse,” the Warriors head coach, told reporters on Sunday.
Kerr also stated that his status for the remainder of the postseason is still up in the air as he is in continuous discussions with his doctors.
He went into further detail about whether he would coach for the rest of this postseason by saying, “This is not going to be a case where I’m coaching one night and not coaching the next. I’m not going to do that to our team or our staff. We’re hoping that over the next week or two, whatever it is, I can sort of make a definitive realization or deduction, or just feel it that I’m going to do this or I’m not.”
It is hard to fathom that Kerr, who has turned the Warriors from a very talented team into a three-point juggernaut that has made to The Finals in back-to-back seasons and has won 207 games the last three years, an NBA record for a three-year span could be gone just like that.
The hope is that coach Kerr can get over this hurdle and get back on the sidelines to lead the Warriors back to the promise land in June.
To put into perspective what Kerr has done in the two-plus years as the Warriors leader on the sidelines, the Warriors lost in the opening round the year prior in seven games to the Los Angeles Clippers, who they have beaten like a drum since then. The team came close to trading away one-half of the “Splash Brothers” duo in Klay Thompson. Kerr has turned the Warriors into a dynamic three-point shooting, prolific passing, lockdown defensive super-star team that has won 67, 73 and 67 games. He made Draymond Green from a high-energy second-round draft pick into the NBA’s ultimate swiss army knife as well as the emotional leader of the Warriors that is a leading candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. He seamlessly integrated Kevin Durant and made JaVale McGee from a talented player who would make one bone-headed play at the drop of a hat with other organizations into a dynamic lob dunking solid player. More than anything else, he has been a major advocate and asset to the National Basketball Association off the court speaking out against injustices in our society, even when it may not be well received at that moment. Being able to speak for those who are unable to speak up for themselves.
That is what the Warriors missed on the sidelines on Saturday night and why Curry, who scored 13 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter in the Game 3 win took the game ball and passed it Warriors’ General Manager Bob Meyers to give to Kerr and was very emotional in his postgame interview with ESPN’s J.A. Adande.
“He’s obviously going through a lot physically and that’s first and foremost for him to take care of himself, make sure he’s on the road to recovery and feeling like himself,” Curry said. “We’ve got his back, we’ve had certain situations all year, previous years, where players are down you’ve got the ‘next man up’ philosophy, same with Coach Kerr.”
The good news for the Warriors is as mentioned earlier, they have a more than capable lieutenant in Kerr’s stead to fly the plane in Brown, who’s in his first season with the team.
In his first two stints with the Cavs, he led them to their first-ever Finals appearance in 2007. He himself was named the league’s Coach of the Year in 2009 when the Cavaliers won 66 games that season.
Kerr though knows his team inside and out. What to say and when to say it. What adjustments that need to be made from game to game; quarter to quarter and half to half.
How is that knowledge and ability to read your team possible, it comes from a long career on the court from his days playing for the legendary Lou Olsen; a 15-year NBA career where he won five titles with the Chicago Bulls and San Antonio Spurs, where he played alongside Hall of Famer Michael Jordan and future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan and great head coaches in Hall of Famer Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich. Four seasons as a color analyst for the NBA on TNT, working alongside legendary commentator Marv Albert, and three seasons as the GM for the Phoenix Suns.
Adversity has been nothing new for the Warriors these past three seasons, especially this season. They have been able to win in the regular season, and the first three games of this series with the Trail Blazers, with a chance to close them out on Monday night. The hope is that Kerr will be back on the sidelines coaching the Warriors when the reach the West Semifinals. That would be good for the team and for the NBA.
Information and quotations are courtesy of 4/23/17 www.nba.com, article “Ailing Steve Kerr Won’t Coach Golden State Warriors in Game 4,” by Anne M. Peterson; 4/24/17 5:30 p.m. ESPN news crawl during “Pardon the Interruption,” presented by Crown Royal Regal Apple with Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon and http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Kerr and http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Golden_State_Warriors_seasons.