There can be no question that the Golden State Warriors’ offense took a gigantic leap forward when Steve Kerr became the head coach. The Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich disciple instantly implemented an offense that relied on passing and movement, a stark contrast to what Mark Jackson opted for.
But it wasn’t always easy. Crafting an elite offense for the modern NBA is no simple task, and getting players to buy into it after replacing a coach most of them loved, is even harder.
Thanks to Baxter Holmes of ESPN, we can now see the roots of Golden State’s offense. Holmes’ piece is a brilliantly-written tale of not only how the offense was created, but how Kerr and his coaching staff got the players to commit to it.
The story reveals that Kerr and assistant Bruce Fraser crafted a chunk of the offense at a wine bar in the Oakland airport. Hilariously, a diehard Warriors’ fan working at the bar asked about Kerr’s offensive schemes, and Kerr, always whimsical and friendly, gave a demonstration on the charcuterie board.
And then, as Fraser looks on, Kerr swipes clear the wooden board, casting the handle in the role of a basket. He positions the board's dried cranberries and marcona almonds into two five-on-five teams in a half-court setting, with the cranberries relegated to defense. Suddenly, almond Stephen Curry, hovering near the top of the key, swings an imaginary ball to almond Klay Thompson on the wing, then cuts to the near corner while Thompson dumps it down to almond Andrew Bogut. Thompson and Curry set picks for each other along the perimeter, while Bogut weighs his options: find open almonds or back down his helpless cranberry.
These, Kerr explains, are aspects of the triangle offense, which he played in during the Bulls' 1990s heyday. But then Kerr pulls back, giving the noshes a breather. He notes that the Warriors would be foolish to run the triangle exclusively; it wouldn't best use their dangerous gunners. No, Kerr says. They'll run a hybrid.
The description is hilarious and yet . . . it makes perfect sense. That is the essence of Kerr.
In the article, Kerr’s disdain for one-on-one basketball is revealed. His beliefs of what is hard to guard in the NBA make it no surprise that the Warriors reportedly find Russell Westbrook easy to defend.
To him, guarding movement is far more challenging than guarding isolation -- a "nightmare," he calls it -- and he envisions a similar nightmare for defenses guarding Curry and Thompson. It's also a matter of taste. "Iso basketball, where one guy is going one-on-one and everybody is standing around, I don't like that," Kerr says. "I don't like that at all."
The article is a strong reminder that, while Kerr and the Warriors have made it look easy, it hasn’t been. This team wasn’t supposed to be elite, and their offense wasn’t supposed to alter the NBA forever.
But it was, and it has. It’s been a remarkable story, and from the looks of it, it may just be getting started.