The Golden State Warriors are currently amidst an unprecedented situation — but not for the reason many would think.
Head Coach Steve Kerr continues to battle the affects of a back surgery from two years ago. He was forced to miss Game 3 of the playoff series versus Portland due to headaches and nausea. It’s also probable that Kerr will be unavailable for Game 4. As such, longtime NBA coach Mike Brown has assumed the role as the replacement for the time being.
During Game 2 of the current series, Kerr was seen wincing on the sideline — presumably due to back pain. He even removed his suit jacket as a means to garner more mobility and comfort. This is technically a dress-code violation for NBA coaches — as they are asked to wear a suit jacket/sports coat at all times.
Kerr underwent back surgery mere weeks after the Warriors had won the 2015 NBA Championship. He had been bothered by pain throughout the playoffs that year, yet was able to endure the physical hardship. Complications arose the following year in the form of headaches, nausea, and persistent back pain. It all stemmed from a leakage of spinal fluid — which was attempted to be squelched with a second spinal surgery the following September.
Alas, Kerr is still dealing with the aftermath.
While it might be an issue outwardly affecting the team, it’s something surely on the minds of each and every player. Kerr most certainly will still have his imprints on the game plan. He’ll be with the team during film sessions, and will also be involved in meetings. With that said, Kerr won’t be in charge of substitution patterns — or most importantly, the in-game decision-making.
With Golden State charging towards perhaps its second championship in three years, this is certainly a distraction none within the organization want impacting the proverbial title chances.
Per the San Francisco Chronicle, Kerr echoed this sentiment:
“I will say this…this is not going to be a case where I’m coaching one night and not coaching the next. I’m not going to do that to our team, our staff. We’re hoping that over the next week or two, whatever it is, that I can sort of make a definitive realization, or deduction, or just feel it, that I’m going to do this or I’m not.”
This period of ambiguity surrounding Kerr’s status won’t only affect this current season, but also the future beyond. The core of Golden State’s team (Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green) are all in the midst of their respective primes. The Warriors could be the next dynastic beast set to dominate the NBA for years to come.
Kerr’s hands-off and offensively-inclined approach has worked immensely well with this group. Should Kerr have to step away from the game, this job will understandably become a very hot commodity.
The recovery from Kerr’s second surgery took months. Luke Walton — now the coach of the Los Angeles Lakers — filled in during Kerr’s absence. During his interim status with Kerr recovering, Walton led the Warriors to a 39-4 record.
Walton’s laid-back approach — coupled with his developmental skills — were often lauded by both the players and the Warriors’ brass. While he’s taken “his dream job” with the Lakers, it would be fascinating to see whether Golden State would consider kicking the tires on their former assistant.
This is all conjecture at this point. While it appeared as if this juggernaut was headed for another title completely interrupted, the current situation involving its beloved coach may ultimately make things much more difficult than anyone would’ve imagined.
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