Draymond Green told reporters on Monday that the Warriors are preparing themselves as is Steve Kerr will not be returning to the bench this postseason.
Ron Adams was waxing poetic at the Golden State Warriors practice facility on Monday, the longtime assistant coach and resident defensive guru discussing this challenge of facing the Utah Jazz in the second round of the NBA playoffs without their leader, head coach Steve Kerr.
But just as his train of thought picked up steam, Adams – 69 years young with a bigger-than-basketball view that makes him so beloved in the Warriors’ world – was derailed.
“While we were talking, (Warriors center) Zaza (Pachulia) was at one end of the floor kicking soccer balls at me,” Adams said with a laugh in a phone interview with USA TODAY Sports. “No, it’s good. That kind of exemplifies our program.”
Of course the Warriors are worried about Kerr, who is out indefinitely for the second time in the last two seasons because of a back issue that was caused by an unsuccessful surgery two summers ago. Of course they wish former head coach Mike Brown had been allowed to stay in his role as lead assistant rather than fill in for Kerr like Luke Walton did for the first half of the 2015-16 regular season. And of course they realize that the timing doesn’t get any tougher, what with the postseason in full swing and so many top-tier teams still standing in their way.
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But if there’s one thing these Warriors might do even better than playing basketball, it’s realizing the power of positivity. It’s a healthy perspective that has everything to do with Kerr, the third-year coach whose impact on their culture has been profound since he came to town in May of 2014 and who continues to deal with headaches, nausea and pain stemming from the botched surgery in July of 2015. So whether it’s Pachulia kicking soccer balls at one of his coaches, or the toddlers of various players teaming up for playground-style fun after practices, the familial environment that has had so much to do with their success remains even if Kerr’s not always there.
“We have kind of a unique staff,” said Adams, who has been an assistant since 1992 and works alongside fellow assistants Jarron Collins, Bruce Fraser, Willie Green, and Chris DeMarco. “Everyone pitches in. Everyone contributes. Everyone gets along, so that’s kind of our model.
If anything, it’s a testament to what Kerr has helped build. And their shared hope is that Kerr returns to his familiar role sooner rather than later. But as Draymond Green said at practice on Monday, the Warriors players themselves are planning to be without Kerr for the entire preseason. They hope they’re wrong, of course, but that’s the chosen approach.
“I think the way we look at it is plan on (Kerr) not coming back,” Green said. “That’s the way we’re approaching this thing … Mike Brown is our coach, we have the rest of our staff, and that’s who we’re rolling with.”
Brown, who served as Cleveland Cavaliers head coach on two different occasions (2005 to 2010, including an NBA Finals appearance in 2006-07; 2013-14) and Los Angeles Lakers head coach from May 2011 to Nov. 2012 before joining the Warriors last summer, is the relative newcomer in the bunch.
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“Mike has been great at understanding all of this and trying to continue on in a similar vein as Steve has kind of outlined for us,” Adams continued. “That’s not simple. We’re all different, but he’s really been so thoughtful in dealing with the team and obviously listening to Steve, talking to Steve, trying to implement the things that Steven thinks are important going into a series.”
Kerr isn’t completely gone, of course. While he does still receive treatment and testing at Stanford University, he also takes part in the Warriors’ planning in a behind-the-scenes manner.
“Steve might be on his back a little bit at the moment, but he’s aware and watching tape and thinking,” Adams said. “He has time to do a lot of stuff, perhaps in a different manner than when you’re working in the herd. So we all listen to his take, and then certainly go from that point on.
“He’s very involved in the team. I’m sure he’s texting players, and doing all that sort of stuff. But just in the direction, and analyzing the series, what he thinks is important, rotation patterns and all this sort of thing, Steve is involved in on his end. I think our fans can rest assured that he’s awake, alert, and involved. That’s how it is… Now Mike has to certainly wear a different hat, but everyone steps it up a little. (But) from the leadership standpoint, the messaging standpoint, once someone has started that process and then he’s not here, we certainly feel that. Obviously Steve’s leadership in general is what we miss.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Sam Amick on Twitter @Sam_Amick.