June 7, 2023

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Steve Kerr opens up about Draymond Green’s future to the Warriors’ punch

SAN FRANCISCO — Late in Steve Kerr’s 30 Minutes interview on Tuesday afternoon, it was brought to his attention that he referenced Draymond Green’s preseason punch to Jordan Paul three times.

“To be fair, you guys asked about the accident, too,” Kerr said. “I didn’t just talk about it.”

Partly true. Kerr was at least initially pushed in that direction, and was first asked about the Warriors’ diminishing chemistry during this now-defunct season. But he did not direct the subject down an ambiguous path. He directly threw the punch.

“Some of (the chemistry) was definitely lost this year,” Kerr said. “There’s no hiding from it. The Draymond and Jordan incident at the beginning of the year played a part in that. It’s hard for it not to affect the team… any time some confidence is lost, it makes the process more difficult and some confidence is lost. That’s about as honest as I can get.” .

Kerr remained candid throughout his press conference, addressing a variety of the Warriors’ biggest issues and improper improper questions from an honest lens. Let’s run through several of them, but start with Green and the fallout of the punch.

Obviously, an outsider would wonder if Green’s cold hour was disastrous enough to end the Warriors’ 11-year career. He has a player option worth $27.6 million for next season and the ability to scout an open market of suitors. The Warriors will also have ways to get his contract out even if he chooses the option.

But neither side seems interested in a split. Green continues to insist he wants to return and the Warriors intend (we’ve reported) to discuss a multi-year extension with him.

“Look, if Draymond doesn’t come back, we’re not championship contenders,” Kerr said. “We know that. He’s important to win and to our identity. I definitely want him back. He’s a competitor. He’s an incredible defensive player.”

But the punch and its aftermath…

“He and I built a really special relationship that has run the gamut over the years,” Kerr said. “We’ve had our share of skirmishes. But we’ve been through a lot. We really care about each other and work well together. He knows he had a great season this year, from a basketball perspective. But he knows that he also messed things up because of what happened in October.

“So part of it coming back next year has to be about rebuilding some of that trust and respect that he’s earned here for such a long period of time. One of the things I love about Draymond is that he’s always brutally honest, and he can take that kind of criticism because he knows it’s the truth. I want it back. I think we all want him back. We hope that’s exactly what happens.”

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This automatically forwards the conversation to Poole and his future with the Warriors. The $123 million extension kicks four years into the next season, pushing the Warriors’ salary plus tax bill beyond the $400 million threshold that Joe Lakob previously said he wouldn’t touch.

Poole, because of his playoff struggles and difficult internal dynamics with Green, is considered the clearest candidate for a transfer, either for a schedule adjustment (if Lacob lights a high bill) or a salary dump (if that’s a condition of the ownership). But this is not Kerr’s oath. If Paul comes back, he must train him. If he is training him, then he should support him.

“I called him one of the six co-founders at the end of last year,” Kerr said. “I still think so. It’s important to remember that Jordan did some really good things this year. He had a difficult tiebreaker stretch, but averaged 20 points a game. It’s hard to get an average of 20 points in the NBA. He helped us win many matches. He helped us win a championship a year ago. He will be the first to admit that it has not been his best season. But that’s how it goes. That’s the way jobs go.”

In the coming year, Kerr’s future will come into greater focus. He only has one season left on his deal. This usually occurs when qualified coaches are looking for an extension, providing a level of professional stability gained through success. But there have been no extension talks between Kiir and the Warriors.

“Our organization has a lot to sort through this summer,” Kerr said. “My contract situation is not at the top of the list, and it shouldn’t be. Right now, Bob (Myers) contract status is number one because that influences a lot of player decisions to make, contracts, draft and free agency. We’ll get to my stuff whenever that happens and I’m in no rush for that.”

Kerr will travel to San Diego for summer decompression, but will return to training in August, preparing Team USA for the World Championships in the Philippines. That tournament continues in early September. Upon returning, he’ll jump right into training camp with the Warriors.

“I love training,” Kerr said. “I love coaching these guys. I love coaching the Warriors. I love living in the Bay. But I’m also in the NBA and all you have to do is look at your phone every day and watch the next Hall of Fame coach get fired. It’s crazy. I’ve never seen a league like it.” This before.

Mike Bodenholzer, Nick Nurse, Monty Williams and Doc Rivers were separated during this course.

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“I have no illusions that I have a lifelong job here or something,” Kerr said. “But I love what I do, and I hope to train here for a long time. But you never know how it goes. So we’ll see.”

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While performing an autopsy on exactly where it went wrong this season, Kerr brought up a specific case that was clearly a behind-the-scenes conversation in recent days.

“We can’t be No. 1 in speed and No. 29 in shift efficiency,” Kerr said. “This is not working. It must be emphasized.”

Kerr blamed shot selection and a penchant for wild transitions as factors in this terrible transition efficiency. Then bring the dirt.

“You look at the Lakers series,” Kerr said. “In the two games we won, we did a good job of defending without mistakes. In the four games we lost, we made crazy mistakes. It’s there. There are some things we can improve on.” But that’s me as the head coach to get our crew and all the guys locked in right away next year on X, Y, and Z. This is where we’re going to improve. We must put our practices and businesses into practice to make the specific improvements we need to make.”

Jonathan Cuminga had extended periods of cheerleader basketball during his sophomore season. After the All-Star break, he averaged 13.2 points and showed some encouraging defensive ability on the ball, guarding several star scorers and becoming a versatile option in the switch scheme. He shot 37 percent from 3 and squeezed an edge that wouldn’t otherwise exist on a smaller roster lacking the sport’s elite.

But Kuminga disappeared from the preliminary round and was frustrated when he rotted on the bench. Why did Kerr walk away from him?

“The bigger thing was with (Andrew Wiggins) and Gary (Payton II) in place again, it reduced the need for the power of GK now, which is defending on the ball,” Kerr said. “The best way for Jonathan – and I said this to him – the best way for him to get more playing time is to become a more versatile player.”

Kerr has likened Kuminga’s passing ability to Shawn Marion before, believing that the quickest way for Kuminga to make a big impact is as a slanting, all-positional defender who rebounds at a high rate.

“I look at every group we put out there as a puzzle,” Kerr said. “The puzzle has to be appropriate. The more things you can do, the easier it is to fit into a five-man lineup.” Recoiling is a huge thing for JK. If he’s going to be a great player in this league, he’s got to rebound. Four guys with that kind of size and athleticism, that’s the next step, continuing to work on all the things he’s already working on, shooting, handling and seeing the pitch, understanding what’s happening on the ground. Everything will get better because he is so young and willing to work.”

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Season 3 is often a jump-off season for promising young players. This was Paul’s big breakthrough. Does Kerr think she’s from Kuminga?

Yes. Kerr said. “I think, of course, people will focus on the playoffs because that’s the most important time of the year. But if you look at Jonathan’s regular season, he’s done some great things. I tell him all the time, he has 15 years ahead of him. He has such a long career ahead of him. He has a lot of ability and is just in the process of learning the NBA game.”

The Warriors stumbled to a 3-7 start and sat 15-18 through 33 games. Several factors led to this conflict. But one of the common grumblings in the first six weeks is Klay Thompson’s diminished form at the start of the season.

He didn’t play basketball last summer, entered camp out of shape, didn’t make his debut until the final preseason game, and shot badly in December. Thompson eventually found a rhythm and had the best scoring two months of his career, lighting up enough to finish leading the NBA in regular season in 3s.

But the Warriors clearly want and expect Thompson to come into camp next season in better shape to ensure they don’t face them in the first month. Green said he, Thompson, and Stephen Curry had that delicate discussion about the flight back from Los Angeles. Kerr noted that when asked about Thompson on Tuesday.

“The most important thing for Clay is that he has a great season,” Kerr said. “At 34 and 33, I think, with two major injuries behind him, this is when he has to be more prepared than ever for the first day of training camp, not just dealing with injuries physically and strength and conditioning part of it all, But you also have to realize that as you get older you have to improve and the areas you can improve on. You can’t count on the same things you can count on at 28 or 27.”

(Photo by Draymond Green and Steve Kerr: Harry How/Getty Images)

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