Kerr mentions Tom Chambers when describing how “everybody wants results right away” — only he can do that
The Warriors didn’t practice yesterday, their second off-day in a row, because of only having two games in a span of nine days, so it gave me the opportunity to delve into Steve Kerr’s 13-minute pregame media availability before the LA Clippers tipoff at Crypto. It was quite an enjoyable exchange with reporters.
And that’s the thing with Kerr: he’s cool to hang out with, with all his anecdotes and vast history with various NBA greats, his candor, openness and honesty. This time, Tom Chambers was brought up seemingly out of the blue, which then led to a quip about how much he made at the veteran’s minimum back then, which then led to Rachel Nichols joking that the $75,000 at the time was probably acceptable because of what he made — cue duffel bag visual from the movie “Blue Chips” — under Lute Olson at Arizona, which led to his response: “You obviously didn’t know Lute Olson.”
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But wait, there’s more!
That led to a quip about how he theoretically would have had a NIL deal and Steve, self-effacing as ever, said, “I think I paid them to take me.”
It made me think, despite what you hear on Xitter (that’s my new name for X/Twitter, coined by the great Dean “of Positivity” Chambers, my sometimes co-host on the ManningCast livestreams) with all the “Fire Kerr” xits, er, tweets, I haven’t seen any credentialed media member who has access to the pressers write or xit anything remotely close to that.
Why is that? Well, I’m not a psychologist, but I’m pretty sure there’s a human dynamic involved — I don’t have the time to sit down with an actual psychologist and write a brilliant post about that. I’m just here to transfer information from my brain to yours (full transcript is below).
Anyways, Steve is good enough for me. There are valid nitpicks out there. I myself am not satisfied with Jonathan Kuminga’s development, in hindsight it would’ve been better to have Kuminga on the floor rather than James Harden taking turns beating Stephen Curry or Brandin Podziemski off the dribble — more insider info on this in the next post — in the last two minutes, but I do realize there are a million other things on the table and you can’t dissect every single criticism in a vacuum. (OKC head coach Mark Daigneault literally just used the “vacuum” metaphor right now, in regards to Josh Giddey’s inefficiency at Thunder practice.)
People don’t realize, Oracle Performance Center has Kerr’s aura all over it. I don’t have any information to back this up, and maybe a beatwriter can interview Joe Lacob about it at some point, but my gut feel is that Steve basically built the practice facility. This culture that you feel when you observe post-practice routines, the music obviously, the guys going up and talking shop with each other, the various stations where certain guys do their workouts, which I have filmed a lot of on the YouTube channel, that’s all Steve Kerr.
And so for Lacob or Mike Dunleavy, Jr. to fire him, it would be a lot. Granted, the Warriors could screw this season up and it is within the realm of possibility that Steve is not the coach next year, but let me put it this way: if and when Lacob gets somebody new someday, a whole lot of Kerr’s ecosystem will still remain.
And so for me, Steve just has to get to the WCF and lose in 6 or 7 games, minimum. That means you got the team good enough to legitimately be a champion. And to get there, there are many ways to skin a cat. Sure, Mike Brown would probably have us at 12-8 or something, just by his sheer will — maybe he would’ve yelled at Curry to stop throwing the ball to the other team, whatever, there are many nitpicky what-ifs, of course.
It doesn’t matter, though, because once we’re in the playoffs, we’ve seen it, Kerr and crew have a way of advancing and usually figuring out a team. I thought they’d figured out the Kings by Game 5 but then they, meaning Steph and Draymond Green primarily, reverted to bad habits and we had to have Curry go nuclear for Game 7. I won’t delve into the Lakers series, but other than a mad gamble on JK off the bench cold that never happened, I don’t know if we had a better squad and, well, we still got it to 6 games and Lakers fans outside Crypto that morning were convinced the Warriors would advance if it went to 7.
So I think Kerr is good enough to get us into the WCF and from there it’s kind of up to the players not to get bounced in 5 games, barring injuries. In saying that, you also want a guy you can laugh with, be serious with, and everything else in between on a day-to-day basis.
Not to name names, but I’ve seen so many other coaches on the podium never make a joke about anything and while they’re good coaches and probably have some semblance of a culture that encourages two-way communication behind closed doors, I wonder what it’s like with the day-by-day grind of the season.
And yeah, that coach could probably coach these Warriors to a Top-4 seed and 6-7 games into the WCS at a minimum, just with a fresh voice the way the Boston Celtics seem to have come to grips with. But Steve hasn’t lost his mojo completely or become stale to a point where the ceiling of this team has actually come down.
And isn’t that what fans should want? Do you want to sit on your throne like Joaquin Phoenix in “The Gladiator” all day and just give thumbs up or down? How boring is that? Isn’t it a more enriching experience to be a fly on the wall in the dungeon where Russell Crowe is getting psyched up to beat his next opponent?
That’s what I’m trying to do, make you feel like you’re the 19th man on the Warriors, but in doing so, you’ve got to embody their environment, their ethos. First of all, you’ve got to want to actually root for the team, to be curious and not outraged, to understand and not judge. Throwing guys under the bus demanding they be traded or benched or fired, that’s not what the 19th man on the squad does.
This applies to anything in non-basketball life, too. Life is all a lesson and peeling away what you think is reality to uncover the real reality. So come join us, swipe out of that emo Xitter app that’s keeping you down and uninspired, and really experience the whole process of an 82-game season with us, during every game on our YouTube channel.
Without further ado here’s the awesome interview, packed with relevant info for right now (i.e., Warriors’ basketball team issues) as well. I’ll probably do an analysis of the two Clippers games by tomorrow. The following video of Kerr’s pregame also includes behind-the-scenes footage from Crypto.com Arena:
0:00 Steve Kerr pregame at Clippers on Andrew Wiggins’ finger: “Yeah, he's gonna warm up … Yeah. (Slamming the car door on his finger) couldn’t have felt good.”
0:14 on if the key to winning the first game against the Clippers was more focused efforts on defense: “Just I think we did a better job of defending without fouling; weakside was better. Cory Joseph is great, his minutes when he's out there, he's just so locked into the game plan, weakside help, tagging, hitting offensive rebounders. He's really good. Brandin was great, understanding coverages and making guys have to think a little bit before they attacked. So our reserves did a great job; JK was his best game defensively, really was focused. And so again, watching the tape, the bench was huge for us. 1:10 on if the team is better offensively getting to the FT line than last year: “It's a good question. I mean, we've never really been a high free-throw-attempt team, more of a jump-shooting team. I don't really have a good answer for you. We're offensive rebounding much better, where maybe we're getting some free throw attempts out of that. Personnel is a little bit different. We've got some changes there that Dario can post up and get to the rim and draw fouls, but I don't have a great answer for you.”
2:00 on what the signal is for him that they're on a rhythm and playing well: “Well, it's always about two-way basketball, can you get stops? And can you find a way to score? And what made the group good the other night was they defended well, and then the ball moved and having Klay with them, I think he scored 10 straight points in the fourth quarter. So they did a good job of getting him the ball coming. JK had a really good dribble-handoff with him. Brandin found him a couple times, Moses made a great play, diving on the floor and getting a long rebound and finding Klay. So hustle plays, and then being able to play both ends. That's what we're looking for.”
2:45 on how Draymond is organizing everything: “I mean, I've said it before, we don't have a single championship without Draymond, that's just the truth. He just ties us together, he makes us a team that doesn't just have skill, but has grit and an edge and he's the guy who generally gets us organized. Defensively, he's behind the play, kind of our middle linebacker and talking to everybody. Communication goes way up on the defensive end. And then he allows Steph to play off the ball a little bit more. And he's been our leading assists guy for many years. Chris is, obviously this year, but Draymond sort of does does everything for us.”
3:39 on where he is with the Draymond-Looney combo and how playable it is: “Well, the first unit that we've talked about, that's been so good the last couple of years that we're really looking for that group to make sense and to solidify and the only way it really works is if our guards are playing well, offensively. The way you make up for the lack of spacing with that group is perimeter scoring. And that really enhances all the screen-setting and ball-handling that Draymond and Loon take care of. So it really is an ensemble. And if all five guys aren't in sync, then we have to go away from it. And that's why we're really focused on trying to get to that point where that five-man group can get back to last year's level and that sort of clarifies everything for our team.”
4:49 on the early sub the other night to get Saric, get a spacer out there: “I think every matchup’s a little different. And so the way that game was going and the way the Clippers were playing us, it felt like we needed to get spacing right away with Dario. And that's why we made that move the game before, Looney, we need Loon out there to guard Sabonis. And so every matchup’s gonna be a little different, and we just have to be be flexible.”
5:22 on Tyronn Lue integrating high-level personalities: “Yeah, I mean, working with Ty this past summer, I got a really close look at how he handles players and their relationship with him and his tone in film sessions, his ability to demand effort, but also to be able to connect with the guys through humor and just really good communication. So I think Ty's a great, great coach. And he's really fun to work with. And we're really looking forward to next summer. I mean, I knew he was a great coach; we've had so many battles over the years. And so I knew that schematically he was really, really good at what he does, but it's always fun to get an inside look at a guy leading a film session; watching both Ty and Spo do their thing with our group was fun to watch. And it just showed why they're such good coaches.”
6:37 on Lue mentioning to Rachel Nichols a picture of Lue and Kerr playing against each other and Lue coming out the winner: “…he played for like 15 different teams. So it could have been there were probably lots of matchups. Of course, I played for 14.”
6:57 on what he has seen in Moses Moody’s growth: I think we're seeing a typical third-year jump for a young player. Moses would be a senior in college right now if he stayed in school. So he's still very, very young. But now he's got two-and-a-half years of understanding of the league. Fundamental work every single day in practice, awareness of our personnel and how Steph plays and how Draymond plays. And he's just getting more and more comfortable. Biggest thing with Moses is that he reminds me of Looney a lot. He's unbelievably professional; every day he’s got the same temperament, the same approach, never gets too high or too low, just goes out and does his job day after day, but he's just getting better and better with the experience.”
7:58 on Russell Westbrook coming off the bench, given he’s seen guys come off the bench on his team: “It's hard for me to ever comment on other teams’ inner workings. So I don't know what I can say other than just Russ is such an explosive player. And he changes the game as soon as he's on the floor just with his power and his speed. But I can't really comment on their lineup combinations and all that stuff.”
8:37 on how he has seen the sacrifice element play out with his teams: “I think every team has to have someone set a tone for us. Eight years ago, it was Andre Iguodala. He'd never come off the bench his entire career, and he agreed to do it. And eight months later, he’s Finals MVP and it felt like the basketball gods were shining down on him. Steph has sacrificed many times over the years, coming off an injury where we've brought him off the bench, Draymond, too. So you just need tone-setters, you need leaders within the team. And we've been fortunate to have that.”
9:27 on managing the expectations when having a lot of top-tier talent and the expectation of championships, with such a results-driven league, and that things take time, and there's a process to a lot of these things: “That’s kind of the nature of the game today. I think when I entered the league in 1988, the salary cap was $8 million, and I remember Tom Chambers signed a free-agent contract for 2 million a year and everybody was just blown away, like, ‘Oh my God, he's making $2 million a year, that was a quarter of the cap.’ But franchises were worth $20 million, $30 million at that time. It's a completely different era, it's a billion-dollar industry, everybody wants results right away, you see it across the league, everybody's gone for it. Everybody who has a reasonable shot at winning a title is gone for selling all their assets. And so it puts everybody into a position where they're expected to perform, expected to succeed. And no matter how you slice it, the math means that a lot of people are going to fail. So you just walk into it with your eyes wide open, and you embrace it, and you do the best you can. And you just remember, this is an industry where you're lucky to stick around for as long as I have for sure. And a lot of it is good fortune and timing. And if you're lucky to be with a great organization with great management and great talent, you can probably extend it for a while, but most teams are in flux all the time. It's a really tough business.”
11:15 on if he remembers what the minimum was: “I do because I made it. $75,000. I thought I was rich, too. I mean, I was compared to what I had been.”
11:30 on Rachel Nichols joking that he took a pay cut from Arizona: “What's that? Oh, wow. Wow. You obviously didn't know Lute Olson very well.”
11:40 on if NIL would’ve benefited him at Arizona: “Definitely not. Yeah, I think I paid them to take me.”
11:54 on how tough it is to figure out when to play the younger guys: “I think every team is different. I think (with) this year's team, there are some really difficult choices because I think we're very deep. I'm actually excited about playing guys when they get an opportunity, Brandin Podziemski is going to be really good. He's already really good. Two games ago, he wasn't in our rotation, because we were healthy. And what we have to determine this year as a coaching staff is some clarity in our roster. And we won a championship, it's only a year-and-a-half ago. And so we know the guys who led us to that title. And we think we can get that group functioning at a really high level. And we're gonna give them every opportunity to do so. But we also have some good young players who are ready to step in, if there's an injury or if we don't get the performance that we need. At some point in the season, you have to make that judgment as a coach, if you're going to make any changes, but I believe in our guys. I think we can play at a really high level. I know people are kind of throwing dirt on us right now. But I like this team a lot. Great vibe, great spirit. And if we can get things kind of lined up, and we can make some improvement in certain areas, I think we can have a great team. Thanks again.”
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