Steve Kerr says Warriors were at their best in 2017: ‘No question’

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Over the next few weeks, NBC Sports Bay Area and 95.7 The Game (KGMZ-FM) will be re-airing several classic Warriors games on nights they were scheduled to play before the NBA suspending its season indefinitely amid the coronavirus pandemic. Warriors head coach Steve Kerr spoke with Bay Area News Group about his memories from those games.


Before returning to the bench for Game 2 of the 2017 NBA Finals, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr joked, with a deadpan delivery, that the team had clearly been “falling apart at the seams” in his absence.

A few days later, the Warriors would complete a 16-1 run through the playoffs by beating the Cleveland Cavaliers, 129-120, in Game 5. It would mark Kerr’s second championship as head coach and the first ring for Kevin Durant, in his first season in Golden State.

Because of painful complications related to back surgery he had in 2015, Kerr had stepped away from coaching the team after the Warriors won the first two games of their first-round series against the Portland Trail Blazers. Though Kerr was still involved behind the scenes, he left his game-day duties to lead assistant Mike Brown. Under Brown, the Warriors won all 11 of their games, including the opening game of the NBA Finals. Kerr returned for Game 2, which the Warriors won, 132-113.

Kerr believes that 2017 Warriors team to be among the greatest in NBA history. Ahead of NBCBA’s re-airing of Game 5 (Sunday, 8 p.m. Pacific), Kerr spoke with the Bay Area News Group by phone about that NBA Finals series.


Q: The first game they showed was Game 2 of the 2017 NBA Finals, the game you came back from your back procedure. What do you remember about the lead up to that game and that night?

A: “I just remember going out after Game 2 of the Portland series in the first round, so I had sat out the next two rounds and it was rough. I mean, it was not something I would wish on anybody, to have to miss out on an opportunity like that. That’s not why we coach, but it’s what we all want to accomplish when we coach, is to get to the Finals and win a championship.

“So it was tough to start that (Finals) series and not feel ready to go for Game 1, but it felt well enough in Game 2. I was just sort of not wanting to be a distraction, but also wanting to get back out there so I tried to just come back with as little fanfare as possible, and didn’t make a big deal out of it and just went out and showed up just before the game started.”

Q: What stands out about that Finals series to you?

A: “I think that was the highest level of basketball I’ve ever seen in my life. I just thought that was Cleveland’s best team of the four years that we faced them. I thought they were much better that year than they were the previous year when they beat us in seven. Obviously, we were a lot better as well, adding Kevin Durant to the mix and being fully healthy and motivated and ready to go. So the level of play was just astounding. Particularly at the offensive end.

“You know, that was, to me, when everything sort of came to a head in terms of where the game had been heading from a spacing standpoint and a position-less standpoint. We got to a point in that series where LeBron was basically playing the five — playing up like a point center, and he’s the biggest guy on the floor for them. And they had four shooters around him, and he would just penetrate and they had such great spacing that you had to honor everybody, and he could just get right to the rim.

“So it was terrifying trying to defend them. It was terrifying for them to try to defend us too.”

Q: When you say that was the best of LeBron’s Cavs teams, was it because of what you were just talking about, or was there something else?

A: “I think there’s always another level for a championship team to reach the following season because there’s a new, deeper sense of confidence that didn’t exist. Once you win your first title, there’s such a deep level of confidence that it takes you to a new level. So just like us in ’16 after winning the title in ’15, we were way better in ’16. Even though we didn’t end up winning the championship, we were a much better team than we were in ’15. I thought the same thing was true for Cleveland. They had broken through and they were playing with that kind of championship swagger. They believed they could do it, they were fully healthy and they were a great, great team. But we had the ultimate weapon in Kevin, and nobody had an answer for him.”

Q: You’ve been part of back-to-back championships a few different times, but how does the feeling of winning that second championship with the Warriors compare to winning the first, having that loss in the Finals in between?

A: “I think the first championship just kind of came out of nowhere. Deep down, I think we weren’t really sure in 2015 that we could win it. We were trying to convince ourselves that we could, but we didn’t really know. And whereas in ’17 we knew we were the best team in the world, and we knew we were going to win the championship. We had the champion’s confidence for winning in ’15 and then we had Kevin Durant. So it’s like a totally different level of belief.”

Q: You’ve called that 2017 Warriors team one of the best in NBA history. What was it about that team that made it so special?

A: “The combination of talent, two-way abilities with having so many players capable of playing both ends of the floor and the motivation that came with losing in the Finals the year before and the motivation for Kevin to win his first championship — it was all in the mix. It was brand new for him and so, as a group, we were so fresh and excited to be there. There were no distractions. It was just us playing basketball.”

Q: Maybe this is obvious, but would you consider that the best Warriors team you coached?

A: “Yeah. No question.”


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