PHOENIX — Former University of Arizona star Steve Kerr always enjoys coming back to Arizona, including Phoenix where the Suns made him a draft choice in 1988 and he spent three years as the team’s general manager a few years ago.
It’s his first trip back in two years having missed last year with back problems.
It’s even better to come back with one of the best teams in the NBA with the Golden State Warriors, two seasons ago the NBA champion and a shot or two away from being repeat champions. It’s always good to leave with a win, too, as Golden State beat Phoenix 106-100 in game three of what will be a long season.
What will year three bring to Kerr, who looks thinner and healthy after last season’s back problems?
“Its a different kind of stress,” said Kerr of year three as he works with a seven new faces on the roster but with the same lofty expectations.
“I feel like I have a better feel for what the job is about and the rhythm of the job. The difference is that we were flying under the radar two years ago. People thought we might be good but nobody thought we’d win a championship. So it was all kind of easier in terms of going about our business. People didn’t care much about us until the second half of the season when we had a good record and people took notice.
“Now we’re under the microscope.”
Now comes the focus from that microscope.
“We’re a work in progress,” said former UA player Bruce Fraser, who is a Warriors assistant in player development.
That work in progress showed on Sunday afternoon as the Warriors looked out of sorts many times, struggling early in the first half but eventually finding what it takes to win in the second half. It could be a microcosm of what to expect all season …. struggle, struggle, struggle early and then find footing.
“You guys can all see it,” Kerr said, “this is not coming easily. We have a new team and it’s a different mix.”
So, I had to ask. Steve, are you a patient man?
“I am extremely patient,” he said, not wanting to crack a sarcastic smile. “The great, late Arthur Ashe once said, ‘be wary of the fury of a patient man.” … Actually I think his wife said that about him (everyone laughed). I have some fury in me but I’ve got a lot of patience.
“There is no reason to be upset with our team. I’m still getting a feel for this roster. Our coaching staff is going through all the possibilities. We’re going to have to do it together.”
Every game will be analyzed and scrutinized. Figure the season opener when the Warriors, at home, took a major-league beating from San Antonio. Who would have thought that, especially with the addition of Kevin Durant. Durant by the way had a game-high 37 points on Sunday. Stephen Curry added 28.
“Well, we have not been good defensively, a lot of miscommunication and some confusion,” Kerr said. “I think some of that is to be expected with half the team being new and some of the terminology being new. We can probably do a better job as a coaching staff of simplifying some things. I’m not worried about it, it’s going to come, but it’s a good reminder that stuff takes time.”
The pressure to succeed, however, is always there. Still, none more than last year or the year before.
“It’s different and every year is,” said Fraser. “Everyone said last year there was a ton of pressure on us and yet we won a lot of games (NBA record 73 in the regular season). We didn’t do what we wanted to but we were right there. Our team doesn’t seem to feel the pressure. It’s just different.”
Former UA standout Andre Iguodala said the same thing in as much as it’s all about enjoying the process and that at times there will be valleys that go with the peaks. As for pressure, well, they can deal with it.
“For me it’s just continue and understand how hard it is (to do what they’ve done the last couple of seasons),” he said.
“There’s supposed to be some type of pain but most people don’t look at it like that. It’s supposed to be hard. That’s the beauty of it once you reach that success. I know there are supposed to be some tough times and I look forward to them to see how we react and learn from them and how we grow.”
This early part of the season will be that for the Warriors or so it appears.
“Everyone is making adjustments to find their flow,” he said. “It takes some sacrifices here and there. At the end of the day, we have solid people and we enjoy playing the game.”