Steve Kerr

Kerr humbly admits he needs to rediscover his A-game next season

NBC Universal, Inc.

SAN FRANCISCO – As the Warriors ricocheted through a season of wild fluctuations and emotional challenges, criticism of Steve Kerr was louder than at any time during his 10 years as coach. And not just from the keyboard brigade firing shots on social media.

At least some of the complaints were valid. Over an 83-game season that ended with the Warriors missing the playoffs for the third time in five years, there were too many instances in which Kerr failed to meet his standard.

He knows. Despite his ongoing social media boycott, he knows.

Moreover, he agrees – certainly about the failures of the offense. Though, it’s built around Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, there are times when it lapses into chaos. Or goes stagnant.

“We're still going to do a lot of the things that we've done; we can't go away from what has helped make us successful,” Kerr said Thursday. “But I need to teach it better. I need to simplify some things. I need to give our guys maybe a little better template for how we're going to accomplish it.

“When you connect the game and you can make better decisions offensively, it translates to the defensive end, and you become a better team. So, I've got to do a better job of that.”

Golden State’s 116.9 offensive rating ranked ninth in the NBA and fifth in the Western Conference. The Warriors’ 2.4 net rating ranked 13th in the league and seventh in the West.

The Warriors posted the league’s highest offensive ratings in three of Kerr’s first five seasons as coach, finishing second and third in the other two seasons.

Not once over the past five seasons have the Warriors finished among the top 10, much less the top five. Their 16th-place offense in their 2022 championship season was offset by a No. 2 finish on defense.

“The offense can help the defense,” Kerr said. “The game has always been connected. I think we've had a unique style for 10 years here that's mainly based on the off-ball movement of Steph and Klay, and the unique nature of Draymond's being a point center. We have unique players, so we've played a unique style. Some of it planned, some of it simply morphing into a way that, a way that we've done things, a way that we've played. We've been turnover-prone for a long time, partly because we freelance quite a bit.

“I feel like the last couple years our team hasn't been built to withstand some of the mistakes and the turnovers. But it also hasn't been built in a way to support some of that freelancing. So, I have to take it on myself to help the players be put in better positions to make better decisions, if that makes sense.”

There was reasonable criticism about lineups, particularly Kerr’s affinity for playing four guards. Fair criticism about rotations, some of which seemed ill-conceived and were ineffective. Fair criticism about the distribution of minutes.

There also was the matter of Green being subjected to multiple suspensions, which had a tangible effect on the progress – but was something all parties believe Kerr handled exceptionally well.

Still, considering Kerr in February received a two-year extension worth a reported $35 million – making him the highest-paid individual whose title is limited to coaching – self-reflection is a natural response after missing the playoffs.

After trading Jordan Poole for 12-time All-Star Chris Paul last summer, first-year general manager Mike Dunleavy and CEO Joe Lacob imagined the Warriors would need a month or two to develop timing and rhythm. The second half of the season, they figured, would be a runway to the playoffs.

Once there, Kerr would have four accomplished veterans at his disposal. A team the coach could trust. The Warriors were equipped to use their postseason experience against teams still seeking to learn what the playoffs are about.

That did not materialize. The season ended Tuesday in Sacramento, where the Warriors were blown out by the Kings in the play-in tournament.

“Disappointed in our year,” Dunleavy said Thursday. “Even though we finished with more wins than last year, I thought overall we came up way short in terms of what we thought talent-wise, experience-wise, all those things that an ownership group, a front office, coaches, players, all signed off on the roster to start the season. We just got ourselves too far behind the 8-ball, frankly, as the season went along.”

The biggest issues were Golden State’s inability to effectively build a homecourt advantage and its inability to finish reeling opponents, which became especially difficult to do at Chase Center.

“I can tell you three or four games that we should have won,” Kerr said. “And then I take some blame. We all take some blame for it. We can't get too out of sorts and say, ‘Oh, my God, this is a disaster, we've got to revamp everything.’ But we also have to be honest. Why did we blow those games? What was keeping us from winning a lot of those close games?”

The number of games the Warriors lost after building a double-digit lead finished at 14, stretching from November through the penultimate regular-season game against the New Orleans Pelicans. Seven of the last eight such games were at Chase Center.

To put this in sharper contrast, once the calendar flipped to 2024, Golden State lost every home game in which there was a double-digit lead or a double-digit deficit.

“For me, my own accountability,” Kerr said, “that's where I get back to simplifying the offense, teaching it better, making sure I can put our players in a better position to make those decisions that matter at the end of the games.”

The Warriors, no matter the amount of roster moves and financial maneuvering, need Kerr to rediscover his “A-Game" next season. The competition has improved. The Warriors’ core is aging. If he’s better, they’ll be better.

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