Steve Kerr

Steve Kerr soaks in ‘extra special' Santa Cruz Warriors season-opener

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SAN FRANCISCO – Pride outweighed nerves for Warriors head coach Steve Kerr on Friday night in Santa Cruz as he sat in the stands at Kaiser Permanente Arena. There were admittedly a couple times Kerr let the referees know how he felt, like any good father would.

With the Warriors back home from a four-game road trip but without a game of their own Friday night, Kerr was able to make the trip to watch Golden State’s G League affiliate, the Santa Cruz Warriors, win their season opener, 125-114. The victory held a special place for Kerr, too. It was his son, Nicholas Kerr, who won his first game as Santa Cruz’s new head coach.

“It's always fun to go to Santa Cruz to see our team,” Kerr said Saturday at Chase Center during his pregame press conference. “It’s something I do periodically during the season every year. It's a great environment down there, but obviously a little extra special watching my son coach for the first time.

“It was a great moment for him, and as a dad I couldn’t be more proud.”

Nicholas Kerr received an deserved celebratory shower of water bottles being poured all over him in the locker room by his Santa Cruz players, and Steve was able to enjoy every second of an unforgettable night for father and son.

Outside of just the Kerr connection, the night was a successful one overall for the Warriors as a whole. Both of the Warriors’ rookies, Brandin Podziemski and Trayce Jackson-Davis, as well as newly-signed Gui Santos and two-way contract signee Lester Quinones, all had eye-opening performances in front of the big club’s head coach.

Jackson-Davis scored a game-high 28 points on 11-of-13 shooting, had 12 rebounds and was a plus-15 in plus/minus. Podziemski was a plus-14 with 24 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Santos dropped 19 points and Quinones was right behind him, scoring 18.

“We got a really good group,” Kerr said. “I’m so impressed with the job our young coaches have done here over the summer and all the hard work they put in day after day here at Chase. With our young players, you can see it paying off. I just think we have a really good group of young coaches who have brought some fresh ideas and new thoughts to things we’re doing.

“It’s really fun. It’s impressive to watch them work.”

Podziemski and Jackson-Davis have impressed in each NBA opportunity Kerr has given them thus far. What stood out from Podziemski’s G League debut was his shooting. The lefty was 10-of-18 shooting and 3 of 5 behind the 3-point line.

The Santa Clara product shot 48.3 percent from the field and 43.8 percent from deep last season as a sophomore. In four NBA games, Podziemski has made half of his eight 2-point attempts, but has missed the only two 3-pointers he has shot. Kerr isn’t worried one bit about Podziemski’s shot translating to the next level.

“I think he’s just doing what’s comfortable for him,” Kerr said. “His No. 1 asset really is the way he attacks defense, drives, close outs, great passer over the top of the defense – the ball really moves when he’s out there. [Warriors general manager] Mike Dunleavy told me the thing they felt would translate the best from college was the shooting, which is a great sign because it’s sort of been an afterthought.

“We know he can shoot. What you saw last night, we see that in practice. He’s a player who has a lot of skills and a lot of ways to beat you. I think right now he’s just trying to sort through it all, getting used to the speed of the game and the more reps he can get the better, which is why we had him in Santa Cruz yesterday.”

Santos is one of the Warriors’ more intriguing stories. Taken No. 55 overall last year, Santos is the lone player left from the Warriors’ 2022 draft class. And he has progressed enough in the G League, summer league and 2023 FIBA World Cup for his home country of Brazil to be signed Tuesday as the Warriors’ 14th player on the roster.

The 21-year-old forward is expected to play and practice frequently in Santa Cruz throughout the season, though Kerr certainly came away impressed by Santos Friday night.

“Gui is a player with good size and feel and skill,” Kerr said. “He’s got the ability to handle the ball as either a three or a four man, however you want to look at it. I think his shooting has improved and it’s something he’s going to continue to work on. But he’s a great cutter, a great feel guy.

“There’s just an awareness on the court, maybe it’s the soccer background, but an excellent passer and just sees the floor and understands the game well.”

Before the Warriors begin a six-game homestand, Kerr took in a night for the memory bank that was a success in every way possible.

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