Steve Kerr has won five NBA championships. He’s played with Tim Duncan. He’s played with Michael Jordan. And Sunday night, the Golden State Warriors’ coach will become the first rookie to coach in an All-Star Game since Larry Bird did it in 1992.
“I am the luckiest man on Earth, for sure,” Kerr said with a laugh Friday after a reporter ticked off his accomplishments. “I’ve had an incredibly fortunate career.”
To hear Kerr tell it, he is the NBA’s Forrest Gump, a role player who just happened to be part of some of the greatest moments in NBA history during the past 25 years. But luck and timing can’t explain everything that has gone right for Kerr since he turned down Phil Jackson’s offer to coach the Knicks in favor of the Golden State job nine months ago.
Kerr has taken a talented team that won 51 games last season, performed a few important tweaks and turned it into a fun-to-watch powerhouse.
Golden State’s so-called Splash Brothers – Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson – both earned All-Star berths by averaging just fewer than 46 points per game between them.
“They’re the only reason that I’m here,” Kerr said. “I’ve got great players with the Warriors. Those guys are having a fantastic season. And that’s how I ended up here.”
Yet a big reason they are having a fantastic season is that Kerr, as Jackson did with his teams in Los Angeles and Chicago, has taken great pains to get to know each of his players and figure out what makes them tick.
Early on, he played golf with Curry and his father at Pebble Beach, flew to Australia to meet with center Andrew Bogut and held get-to-know-you lunches for almost everyone on his roster. He has shown them he can relate on their level – he ends most practices with a free-throw shooting contest with Curry – but at the same time, he demands their respect.
Of course, there’s nothing more fun than winning, which is probably why Kerr said Friday that he rarely gets bogged down in “what-ifs,” thinking about what would have happened if he had taken the job with the Knicks.
Kerr joked a few days ago that his goal is to “someday be Phil Jackson and complain about having to coach the All-Star Game.” It’s clear that he remains close to his former mentor.
“I trusted Phil and everything he was doing,” Kerr said. “I still do.”
James elected VP
Cavaliers superstar LeBron James has been elected first vice president of the National Basketball Players Association, giving the game’s top player a leadership role in the union.
James was elected unanimously on Friday during the union’s annual meeting as part of All-Star weekend. A person familiar with James’ election said Clippers All-Star guard Chris Paul, the union’s president, had urged the four-time MVP to take an active role within the union.
Durant takes high road
Free agency isn’t on the mind of Kevin Durant and neither is playing for the Knicks or Nets.
“I don’t really think about them teams,” Durant said Friday during All-Star Media Day.
Durant will be a free agent in the summer of 2016, and both New York teams - and many others around the league - will position themselves to pay top dollar for the NBA’s reigning MVP. But Durant’s sole focus right now is on staying healthy and getting the Oklahoma City Thunder in the playoffs.
“Being honest, I’m not trying to think about that right now,” Durant said. “We’re in a tough grind-out season and we’re in the second half of the season and I don’t want to (make) any distraction for my brothers in OKC.
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