Steve Kerr has an impressive championship pedigree. He won a trio of titles during the Chicago Bulls’ second three-peat, a pair of rings as a sharpshooter for the San Antonio Spurs, and a championship as the head coach of the Golden State Warriors.
Kerr’s Warriors won a record-setting 73 games (eclipsing his 1995-96 Bulls’ 72 wins), but failed in their repeat bid. Golden’s off-season misery didn’t last long, because they added Kevin Durant, a consensus top five player in the league, to their stacked team.
As anticipated, Golden State coasted to the top record in the NBA, but now their championship hopes could be in jeopardy.
Kerr is suffering from spinal fluid leakage, a condition that causes incessant pain and discomfort. Kerr has valiantly battled through the agony, but he appears to have reached his threshold.
From a Yahoo Sports report:
Even from afar, friends watch Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr and agonize for him. When touching base with his vast network of NBA confidants, Kerr has been largely unwilling to grumble over his private suffering, but those who know him well constantly ask the Warriors’ staff: How bad is it?
The discomfort has never truly left Kerr in the past two years, but the symptoms did become grudgingly tolerable – until now. Kerr will forever regret undergoing that failed back surgery in 2015, regret it for the toll the spinal fluid leakage has caused him with ongoing headaches and nausea.
Kerr missed the first 43 games of the 2015-16 season, and, now, Kerr fears he could miss the rest of these playoffs, too. Unless the agony dissipates, Kerr is prepared to let assistant coach Mike Brown coach game nights on the Warriors’ championship chase.
“I don’t know if he can do this very much longer,” one NBA associate close to Kerr told The Vertical on Sunday. “He hasn’t enjoyed this one bit. Even if we haven’t talked in a bit, I can see the pain on his face.”
The Warriors are stacked, and assistant coach Mike Brown has deep playoff experience (he coached LeBron James during his first Cleveland stint). However, each micro-decision is magnified by the intensity of the playoffs.
Despite having the best roster in the league, the Warriors lost last year’s NBA Finals to LeBron’s Cavaliers, despite holding a 3-1 lead. The series changed when the volatile Draymond Green got suspended for a game due to a flagrant foul (he got tangled up with LeBron and hit him below the belt).
Instead of having their emotional and defensive leader for the potential close-out game 5 at home, the Draymond-less Warriors lost due to a compromised defensive interior. The Cavaliers extended the series, won game 6 at home, then stole game 7 in the waning moments.
A silly cheap shot by Green likely cost Golden State a title. That’s how thin the margins are in playoff basketball.
Green is an irascible personality that requires a deft touch. Can Mike Brown, a coach in his first year with the team, control Green?
Brown has always been a defense-first coach known for running slow, boring offenses. The Warriors are the exact opposite offensively. Can Brown make on-the-fly adjustments that suit his players’ skill sets?
Even if Kerr returns, will he be as effective?
These are the questions the Warriors must answer. Unfortunately for them, they’ll have to answer them at the most inconvenient and high-stakes time imaginable.