The Warriors just dismissed another playoff opponent four games to zero Monday night and everything seems to be going well for them. But one issue looms over the postseason.
Steve Kerr. He is the eight-hundred-pound gorilla in the room.
Or not in the room. He is out of the room. His issue is his absence. Kerr has missed the past six games due to complications from a back surgery he had in 2015, complications which also forced him to miss 43 games last season.
For the past two years, the Warriors have had one-and-a-half head coaches: the interim head coach (first Luke Walton, now Mike Brown) — and the head coach, Kerr, who fades in and out of the picture.
A championship team needs to have one coach, not one and a half. Not knowing who the coach is can be confusing and disruptive over the long haul. If Kerr’s condition doesn’t permanently improve soon, say by July, he should step down or the Warriors should permanently replace him.
That may sound harsh. Kerr is a nice man and a good coach and we pull for him to recover and return to the bench. But, the NBA is a business. And in this business, the team is more important than Kerr’s personal struggle. Kerr should understand this. The team should understand this as well.
I assume the Warriors already are thinking along these lines. Team owner Joe Lacob revealed as much Friday in an interview with Bloomberg Radio.
Lacob told the interviewer that Kerr had another procedure on Thursday to try to fix his spinal leak. “I’ve never really heard of many people having this problem for this long. We really feel bad for him, the players, everybody understands it. We just have to be in his court here and support whatever it takes for him to get back and I’m sure they will eventually solve it. Hopefully sooner rather than later and hopefully we’ll have him coaching on the court sooner rather than later.”
Key phrase: “Sooner rather than later.” Sure sounds like Lacob has lots of questions about Kerr’s prognosis.
During the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Warriors didn’t need a head coach to beat the Blazers and the Jazz. But the Warriors will need a head coach in the next round, the Western Conference finals. And they’ll need a head coach in the NBA Finals if they make it that far.
The Warriors’ championship window is open now. They have to maximize their window because you never know when it will slam shut. Look at the Giants. They thought their window wouldn’t shut this soon, but it did.
In the Warriors’ case, Stephen Curry could get injured again. Or Kevin Durant could get injured again. Or Curry could sign with another team this offseason — he will be a free agent. Or Durant could sign with another team this offseason — he has a player option in his contract he can exercise to become a free agent if he chooses. Nothing is guaranteed for the Warriors. The window could slam shut and it could happen fast.
I’m sure Lacob knows this. And it sounds like he already is planning for the future while setting a deadline for Kerr. Some people have criticized Lacob for voicing his concerns. Wrong. He’s the owner. He’s supposed to be concerned. If Kerr’s latest procedure doesn’t fix his spinal leak soon, the Warriors will have to move on without him, and the rest of the playoffs will become a tryout for the interim Mike Brown.