OAKLAND, Calif. — Steve Kerr “benched” himself for Game 2 of the NBA Finals against the Cavaliers on Sunday night. That is to say the Warriors’ head coach returned to the bench after a 46-day absence caused by back pain that flared up in the second game of Golden State’s first-round series.
Kerr was well enough to attend the Warriors’ past five playoff games and stay in the locker room while assistant Mike Brown ran the team on the floor. The third-year head coach made the decision to return yesterday morning because he felt his back condition matched what it was in the regular season, when he coached all 82 games.
“The intention is to coach tonight and for the rest of the series,” Kerr said in a news conference before his team’s 132-113 victory in Game 2. “The last couple weeks have been good in terms of running practice, film sessions, coaches’ meetings. I wanted to string together a few good days. I did that, and I’m feeling well enough to coach.
“Nothing really changes for our players. We’re doing the same stuff, and strategy remains the same. We’ll keep it rolling, and hopefully we’ll keep playing well.”
Kerr praised the job done by Brown, who was 11-0 in his absence as the Warriors became the first team in NBA history to start the playoffs 13-0 (now they’re 14-0).
“Mike is perfect,” Kerr said. “He’s perfect as my right-hand man. The way he’s handled this whole thing is incredible, just the humility and yet the confidence with which he took the reins. He’s an amazing guy, and I’m lucky to have him.”
Kerr missed 43 games last season with back problems, and assistant Luke Walton went 39-4 in his absence as the Warriors set an NBA regular-season record with 73 wins. Joking about what he was going to tell the players before the game, Kerr said he might get “teary-eyed” and pull out the “Win one for the Gipper” speech, imploring the players to win for him.
Asked if his absence had been a distraction, Kerr said, “We have not lost, so that’s a good indication it was not a distraction. What’s our record without me? Like 812-6?”
Told the remarkable record, Kerr smiled and said, “Those guys are not easily distracted.”