OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Even though he hasn’t been in his usual spot on the bench, ailing coach Steve Kerr has contributed plenty to Golden State’s record start.
On Tuesday night, his defending champion Warriors routed the Los Angeles Lakers 111-77 to become the first team in NBA history to begin a season 16-0. Hours earlier, Kerr offered his thoughts — then spent the game behind the scenes still recovering from a pair of back operations as interim coach Luke Walton led the squad to its latest win.
It hasn’t been easy to be away as he heals. Kerr’s message focused on Golden State’s core values:
Joy. Mindfulness. Compassion. Competition.
“He just reminded everybody, he put them up on the white board before we started shootaround and he reminded the guys what those values were,” Walton said. “He emphasized to them how proud he was watching them, because we’re hitting all four of those values. The first one and the most important one is probably joy. He wants us having fun. It’s a long season, this game’s meant to be fun.
“When we hit those four things we’re not only very tough to beat, but we’re very fun to watch, we’re very fun to coach, we’re very fun to be around, and he just told the guys how happy he was that they’re continuing to do those things.”
And there’s no doubt these Dubs are the league’s most entertaining team, having plenty of fun as they chase far more than this sizzling start in November.
Kerr challenged this group to take it to another level this season and not settle for being the champs, acknowledging the Warriors will get everybody’s best shot in every city and at home.
Golden State took that to heart, determined to show that last season was no fluke for a championship-starved franchise that captured its first NBA crown in 40 years.
“It’s boggling my mind what this whole team does,” said former Warriors star Jason Richardson, who happened to be honored on the record-setting evening. “You always wanted for this organization to be in this position.”
For Kerr, mindfulness means not relying on just talent to outdo an opponent or focusing on individual marks. Compassion is for each other and the game of basketball.
“Coach has been great, even behind the scenes. You can tell Luke is kind of an extension from him,” guard Klay Thompson said. “It’s great to hear from him again just to reiterate what we’re all about. That’s what’s carried us over the top and we want to continue to do those four things.”
The next team with a chance to beat Golden State will be the Suns on Friday in Phoenix. After that, the Warriors return home to host Sacramento on Saturday. They are 19-4 in the second game of back-to-backs dating to last season, including 4-0 this season.
“So far we’ve been unblemished and done everything we need to do to get 16 wins. Hope to make that 17 on Friday,” said NBA MVP Stephen Curry, who rested the entire fourth quarter and still had 24 points and nine assists. “There most likely will come a time we take a loss and have to deal with the emotions of that, just like we have in years past.”
The Warriors surpassed the 15-0 starts by the 1948-49 Washington Capitols and 1993-94 Houston Rockets. Golden State was already the first defending champion to start this well.
“Yeah, it’s going real well, keep my fingers crossed,” Warriors ambassador Al Attles said of this special team, gesturing by crossing his fingers on both hands. “I do the best thing: sitting up here watching them. Keep fingers crossed nobody gets hurt and just keep on going.”
Kobe Bryant was limited to four points on 1-for-14 shooting to match the worst-shooting performance of his career in a game when he had at least one basket. He figures Golden State might need something to happen to keep things going at some point.
“You’ve got to have some kind of internal conflict thing, keeps the team on edge,” Bryant said. “Because if not it becomes so easy you just kind of coast, you kind of fall into a malaise.”
That hasn’t been a problem so far.
The Warriors want to show they’re here to stay and poised to push well beyond that 67-win season of a year ago that ended with the franchise’s first title since 1975.
A sellout crowd of 19,596 that was really closer to 20,000 with standing-room-only ticket sales loved every minute of the latest milestone.
What might be next — a record 33-game winning streak or 72 total wins?
“Anything’s possible,” Walton said. “Eventually we will lose.”
No celebration, not yet. No tattoos to commemorate this accomplishment.
“Absolutely not ’cause if we get 16-0 tattooed in there and we don’t win an NBA championship, who cares about them 16 games?” forward Draymond Green said. “At the end of the day it’s 16 wins in the month of November.”
But everybody involved knows full well that Kerr’s fingerprints are all over this record.
“Everywhere it can possibly be,” Green said. “What he’s done, with this organization, he’s kind of helped set a standard.”
Walton echoed that sentiment.
“Everything we do,” he said, “Steve has his hands on.”