Lowell Cohn: Shooting the breeze with Warriors coach Steve Kerr
OAKLAND — The pressure is on Steve Kerr and he knows it.
He stands at the foul line at the Warriors gym. To tie Stephen Curry in their free-throw contest, with the coaches and players and reporters watching, he has to nail this shot. Swish and the game will continue. Hit the rim, he is a loser. Miss entirely — well he doesn’t even consider that. The rules are simple — two points for swish, one point if the ball hits iron and goes in, nothing for a miss. Kerr needs to swish.
He stares at the hoop. He grips the ball. He lifts his arms.
Let’s break away from this dramatic moment and explain what led up to it. The Warriors had completed their Thursday workout, preparing for tonight’s home game against San Antonio. Kerr had spoken to the media at large. And now he was talking to me in the folding chairs at courtside.
“Are you still a good shooter?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said. He said “yes” before I’d even finished the question. That’s how sure he was.
“Once you’re a great shooter, you’re always a great shooter,” he said. “Because it’s so ingrained. Because you practice it over and over. I’m proud of the work I put in to get there. And now it’s like riding a bike. I can go out here after two weeks without even touching a ball and I can make 20 shots in a row. It’s just the way it is. I hardly ever shoot.
“I’m going to shoot against Steph today in a little free-throw thing we do every once in a while. I just like the competition. So, every once in a while, we have a contest against each other.”
“When you were a player, did you identify yourself as a shooter?”
“As a shooter first?”
“That’s what I was. That was my main value to every team I was on. If I couldn’t shoot, I wouldn’t have had any shot to make it. I took pride in my shooting and my decision-making, taking care of the ball, being a good passer, getting our teams into our offense and keeping the ball moving.”
Kerr leaned back in his chair, watched his players taking shots. He was a man at ease.
“What shooting work did you do as a player?” I asked.
“I did a lot of shooting every day. A lot of thinking, too. You can’t just go out and launch shots. There has to be a plan. I developed a routine. That’s what all the great shooters do. Steph has this beautiful routine he does every day that he’s refined over the years.”
Kerr glanced at Curry, who would be his opponent in a few minutes.
“Klay (Thompson), too,” Kerr said. “You see him down there. He’s got his own routine. Ray Allen, Larry Bird, Steve Nash, Reggie Miller, they all had these very personal routines. You take great pride in that.”
“What was your routine?”
“I had a warm-up routine before games and a post-practice routine. It was only about 200 shots, but very game-oriented shots. I never believed in the 1,000-shot thing. You just wear yourself out. I took 200 shots from spots I would get in the game.”