OAKLAND, Calif. — Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr is hopeful that his team — after winning three of the past four NBA titles — is not about to dance its last dance.
“Last dance?” Kerr said with a smile after his team’s first practice Tuesday. “I hope not. I hope we keep dancing.”
“I think the difference is with Phil [Jackson] in ’98 we all were free agents and we all knew we were all going to be gone, including Phil,” Kerr said. “But we’re not in that same position. We do have plenty of free agents, but we’re not looking at this as the final dance. Like I said, we want to have some fun and enjoy what we have this year and move on from there.”
Kerr has repeatedly stated over the last year that his team should not be compared to the Michael Jordan-led Bulls dynasty of the 1990s that won six NBA championships. But those comparisons are inevitable given the recent success the Warriors have attained and the fact that they are attempting to go to the NBA Finals for the fifth consecutive season — something not even Jordan’s Bulls accomplished.
“I don’t think our motivation is history,” Kerr said. “We know how special it would be historically if we did it. Only a handful of teams have ever done it, but that’s not our focus. Our focus is to really enjoy it while it lasts. And nothing lasts forever, so we know that. We want to go out this year and enjoy every step of the way.”
Kerr’s sentiments after practice regarding the future were a little different from the feelings he shared during Monday’s media day. As he and his staff prepare for a new season, the former player acknowledged that he wanted his Warriors to enjoy their current run because nobody knows when it might be over as the impending free agency of Kevin Durant next summer, as well as possible extensions for Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, hangs over the organization.
“There’s no formula for this stuff,” Kerr said Monday. “You just try to feel it as a coach. I’m usually pretty frank with you guys, with the players. So I didn’t want to come in last year and sugarcoat it and say this is all going to be real easy. I knew exactly what they were facing, having gone through a similar experience as a player.”
Kerr called last season a “grind” but was proud of his players for finding a way to win a second straight title.
“We are playing with some house money,” he said. “We won three of the last four championships. Our place in the history of the league is pretty secure. I don’t think our guys should feel a ton of pressure. I think they should feel the importance of trying to do it again, because this may be the last time we have this current iteration of the Warriors, just given all the free agents and the money crunch and everything else. So we don’t know what’s going to happen. So why not just go all out and enjoy every step of the way?”
Green disagreed with Kerr’s notion that the Warriors were playing with “house money” just because of their recent success.
“I definitely don’t approach it like we’re playing with house money,” he said. “We do have three championships. They’re all in the past. It’s about approaching each year with that same goal and that same mentality. And the point you get to the point where ‘oh, man, we’re just playing house money, we already got it,’ you’re done.
“None of us are ready for this run to come to an end. So we’ve got to continue to approach it like we’ve got zero. And that’s cliche and impossible to do, but you want to try to get as close to that as you possibly can. And that’s my mindset always entering the season.”
Both Green and Thompson made it clear they want to stay long-term with the Warriors. If Durant re-signs next summer, it would appear to extend the group’s window to contend for a title for years to come.
Having been around the league his entire professional life, Kerr wants his group to try to just focus on what’s in front of it and continue to hope that better days are ahead.
“We want them here for the long haul,” Kerr said Tuesday, when asked about Green’s and Thompson’s optimism regarding their long-term futures with the team. “[Warriors GM] Bob [Myers] said it best in the offseason, in the summer, especially these days in the NBA: You just take it year by year. And that’s our focus is this year. This will probably be the last time that I say anything about free agency for next year. It’s a good question on the first day of practice because that’s going to be looming. But it will be looming for fans and media, it won’t be looming for us. We’re going to focus on this year. Have a great time, have some fun, go out and try to do it again and we’ll worry about all that other stuff later.”