SAN FRANCISCO — There are a handful of reasons why Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr didn’t think his team was a championship team this season.
Their 11-30 road record, for one. The fact that they led the league in pace but were second-to-last in transition efficiency was another. Their inability to defend without fouling is why he thinks they lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Semifinals.
But for Kerr, the biggest reason of all was a lack of trust.
“Anytime some trust is lost, then it makes the process much more difficult, and there was some trust lost,” Kerr said at his exit interview on Tuesday. “That’s as blunt as I can be. We have to get back to what has made us really successful, which is a really trusting environment and a group that relies on one another and makes each other better.”
The moment the Warriors lost trust in each other dates all the way back to training camp, when Draymond Green punched Jordan Poole. Green spent a week away from the team, something that was said to be a mutual decision between Green and the organization, but he was back by opening night. The Warriors insisted the incident was behind them, but it was evident it wasn’t.
The culture, joy and chemistry that had been the ethos of the Warriors’ dynasty weren’t there.
“There’s no hiding from it — the incident with Draymond and Jordan at the beginning of the year played a role in that,” Kerr said. “It’s hard for that not to impact a team.”
Kerr said he doesn’t believe all of the trust and chemistry was gone, saying the team relied heavily on both to make it to the second round of the playoffs. But by the time the Lakers had them on the brink of elimination, it was clear they didn’t have an identity to fall back on.
Kerr said rebuilding that culture is one of the Warriors’ top priorities this summer, but that he isn’t exactly sure how they’ll do it. And it isn’t just about the relationship between Green and Poole.
As the Warriors try to navigate their “two-timeline” plan, relying on their core of Green, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, while bringing along the new era of Poole, Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody, they have to figure out how to bridge the gap between the two generations.
“I think those relationships within the organization have to be forged, and it doesn’t happen overnight,” Kerr said. “It’s like any other human relationship; it just takes time. We have to continue to allow these relationships to grow, but we need to purposely forge them, too, through not only the experience of what we’re going through but through communicating what everybody is feeling.”
But that does start with Green.
Green has a $27.6 million player option for the 2023-24 season. Following the Warriors’ Game 6 loss to the Lakers, Green told Andscape’s Marc Spears that he hasn’t made a decision on the option and is going to take his time after deliberating with agent Rich Paul.
If he declines, he will become an unrestricted free agent.
“Look, if Draymond is not back, we’re not a championship contender,” Kerr said. “We know that. He’s that important to winning and to who we are. I absolutely want him back.”
But Kerr made it clear: “He knows that he also compromised things by what happened back in October. So part of him coming back next year has to be about rebuilding some of that trust and respect that he’s earned here for a long period of time.”
Green and Kerr haven’t spoken since Golden State’s season ended, but Kerr said he expects them to talk soon. He said he is confident Green wants to return.
What Green decides to do with his contract is one of the biggest questions the Warriors face this off-season. But according to Kerr, the even bigger one is general manager Bob Myers’ future, whose contract expires at the end of June.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Myers will spend the next few weeks deliberating whether he wants to return to the franchise he has been with since 2011.
“Bob is such an important part of our organization,” Kerr said. “I absolutely hope he comes back, but it’s also a case where I want what’s best for Bob, and if he decides that he’s going to leave, of course, I’m going to support him 100 percent. … I would miss him, but I support him regardless of what he does.”
What Myers decides to do could create a ripple effect. According to Spears, Green is “very concerned” about Myers’ future and said it can play a role in his decision on his player option.
“Our organization has a lot to sort through this summer,” Kerr said. “I expect them back, but who the hell knows?”