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OAKLAND

Now, Steve Kerr really has to coach.

The Warriors are in chaos heading into the playoffs. Their All-Stars are injured, and their two-time MVP, Stephen Curry, may be out with a sprained MCL until the second round of the playoffs, if the Warriors even make it that far.

Let’s see what Kerr can do.

Sure, he’s a good coach. But, he never had to do much the past three seasons.

Kerr inherited the motherlode of talent when the Warriors hired him in 2014. We’re talking Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Kerr simply installed his offensive system, sat back and watched arguably the most talented team of all time steamroll the rest of the league.

A lot of coaches could have won with the Warriors the past three years — not just Kerr. Both Luke Walton and Mike Brown were extremely successful coaching the Warriors when Kerr was out with back problems, because coaching the Warriors was easy. They basically coached themselves.

In fact, they did coach themselves earlier this season against the Phoenix Suns when Kerr turned over the coaching duties to his players. And they won.

Now, they need serious coaching with things approaching desperation level. What can Kerr do now?

Kerr’s scheme doesn’t work so well without Curry running around screens and making opponents panic on defense. Kerr has to remake his offense only three weeks before the playoffs. That’s a real challenge, would be for any coach.

If Kerr wins the championship this season, he’ll pull off his greatest achievement with the Warriors. And we’ll learn what makes him a good coach.

If Kerr doesn’t win the championship this season, we’ll learn his limitations, if he has any.

This past Thursday after practice, Kerr seemed to be building up his excuses, just in case the Warriors get eliminated during the playoffs. He didn’t exude his usual confidence.

This was the day before Curry returned from a sprained right ankle which had kept him off the floor the previous two weeks. This also was the day before Curry seriously sprained his left knee against the Atlanta Hawks, although no one knew it yet, of course.

Kerr was talking to the local reporters, who were reluctant to ask about Curry’s return and the extent of his recovery. This seemed strange. They were asking about Draymond Green’s pelvic injury and Kevin Durant’s rib injury and the “encouraging” progress those players were making.

And the reporters were asking about Klay Thompson, if it’s a good thing he broke his right thumb because he gets to practice shooting lefty now. I think that was a serious question. The general idea amounted to this: Do all these injuries have a silver lining?

No, I wanted to blurt out. These injuries don’t have a silver lining. There’s nothing silver or gold or platinum about them. They’re a potential disaster.

Finally, on the seventh question of the group interview, someone asked about Curry’s ankle. “With Steph the rest of the way, how focused will you be on how he’s responding to landing (on his foot)?”

Not the most direct question. Kerr could have given a non-answer and moved on to the next topic if he wanted.

Instead, he talked candidly about his star player’s injury — something professional coaches rarely do. Athletes see candid injury talk from coaches as a form of betrayal. Players’ bodies are their business. They want coaches to talk around their injuries. In fact, Curry seemed surprised when he learned Kerr had talked about his injury.

“(Warriors trainer) Chelsea (Lane) has basically told me there’s nothing more to be gained from keeping (Curry) out,” Kerr said. “So, that’s all I need to hear. If it made sense to give him another week, we would do that, but it doesn’t given the nature of his ankle.”

Such an oddly specific answer. And not an endorsement of Curry’s health. What was Kerr’s motive? Without much prompting, Kerr also said, “It makes sense to throw (Curry) out there again. There’s not another level to get to for him with the rehab, so it makes sense to put him out there.”

Kerr was telling the media Curry’s ankle wasn’t 100-percent healthy and won’t be the rest of the season. Whether he knew it or not, Kerr was creating an excuse he could use if the Warriors lose in the playoffs.

Reporters acted like they didn’t hear him. Someone asked if Curry would have a minutes restriction Friday night, then someone else changed the subject and asked about the Western Conference playoff picture. You would have thought “ankle” was a dirty word.

It felt like the local reporters, who like Kerr and get along very well with him, were doing him a favor. Giving him an out from talking about a sensitive subject. But, he didn’t want an out. He wanted to talk about the sensitive subject, Curry’s ankle.

So, I gave him a chance. “Steve, when you say there’s nothing more to be gained by keeping Steph out, do you mean his ankle basically is 100 percent, or it’s as close to 100-percent healthy as it can be?”

Kerr sat up straight and looked at me. “I think it’s as close to 100-percent healthy as can be. I wouldn’t say it’s 100 percent. I think a summer will ultimately do him some good. There probably are some things to be gained from a summer of some rest and specific rehab that we won’t be able to address now.”

In other words, Curry will need ankle rehabilitation and perhaps even surgery during the offseason. That’s what Kerr wanted to say the whole time. Kerr was trying to take the pressure off himself by saying his superstar wasn’t right and won’t be right.

After Curry sprained his knee Friday night, Kerr seemed more relaxed than he’d been all season. The next day, he said with a shrug, “It’s just a game. There are injuries.” From his tone, he might have been talking about the weather.

He acted like he was off the hook. Like it won’t be his fault if the Warriors lose in the playoffs, and he’ll be a genius if he wins the championship.

Kerr is not off the hook. Even if Curry can’t play, Kerr will have three All-Stars during the playoffs. No other NBA coach has more than three All-Stars. How many does Kerr need?

Make it work, Steve. Show us you what you’ve got.

Grant Cohn covers Bay Area sports for The Press Democrat and Pressdemocrat.com in Santa Rosa. You can reach him at grantcohn@gmail.com.

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