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Steve Kerr clarifies comments on leading last year’s Warriors compared to ’18-19 Finals team with Kevin Durant

The 2018-19 Golden State Warriors made no secret of the frustration surrounding their title defense. The pressure of winning a third consecutive championship wore on them. The entire world knew that Kevin Durant was leaving in free agency after the season, and Draymond Green even called him out for it. The season ultimately ended in a Finals loss to the Toronto Raptors, and the Warriors, beset by injuries, moved into a retooling period. They finished with the NBA’s worst record during the 2019-20 season. 

And that didn’t bother Warriors coach Steve Kerr all that much. “I enjoyed last season, when we had the worst record in the league, more than I enjoyed that last season when we went to the Finals,” Kerr said on The Ringer NBA Show. “Last year we had young guys who were trying every day, working hard and we had a great energy, great spirit and great camaraderie.”

Warriors Outsiders co-host Drew Shiller tweeted out another similar quote from the interview. “That last year was tough,” Kerr said.” There was a lot going on — some that you know about and some that you don’t. That was very difficult.” This quote caught the attention of Durant. When he saw it on Twitter, he replied, simply “This is hilarious.”

Durant is among the most active players in the NBA on Twitter, particularly when it comes to defending himself against criticism. Kerr never directly named Durant as the cause of 2019’s frustration, but considering his departure and the fact that fellow core Warriors Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green remain, Durant is justified in assuming that the implication was that he had a hand in the frustration to come out of that season. Durant has also criticized Kerr’s motion offense as one that becomes less effective in the postseason. 

During his media availability on Monday, Kerr expressed his displeasure at the context through which the quote has been read and shared. 

“I did a podcast a few nights ago with Logan Murdock and I mentioned during the podcast that last season, in which we had the worst record in the league, was more enjoyable from a coaching standpoint than the previous season when we lost in the Finals. The context was, basically, that after the five-year run that we were on, that fifth year was just an absolute bear. It was the stress level, two season-ending injuries during the Finals, DeMarcus also had a serious injury that took him out of the playoffs for six weeks. We had all kinds of stress. 

The whole point of the conversation was the stress of the five-year run compared to coaching a team of young guys that doesn’t win many games but is eager to learn. I made the comment, sort of offhanded, that last year was more enjoyable than that previous season. That was it, that was my comment. Drew Shiller decided to tweet today that Steve Kerr said he enjoyed last season more than Kevin Durant’s last year with the Warriors. 

OK, so I want to make this extremely clear. If you want to actually get the story accurate, I encourage you to listen to the podcast before we sort of take this story into offshoots and use that as my quote because that is the furthest thing from the truth. It was a terribly unfair shot. Completely taking something out of context to the point where people are going to read it and think that that was my quote. You guys have all been very fair to me over the years and I rarely have any complaints. I know that I am fair game for criticism anytime we play a game. I’m going to make bad decisions that you can criticize. I’m going to do plenty of things that you can criticize and I deserve it. 

But to take that comment and put it into a tweet and send it into the universe was so irresponsible and damaging and I’m angry. And I know what’s going to happen. I know this is going to be taken out into the morning shows and people are going to be talking about it and they’re going to use what they think is a quote that is actually that is something that’s completely made up. I’m not happy. I think it’s wrong. Again, I try to be candid. I try to share everything so that our fans know what our team is going through. What I’m going through. We like to share our story. It’s a big part of promoting our team. So, this is really concerning for me. It’s part of modern media maybe but it’s dead wrong and I’m upset about it.”

Regardless of Durant’s part in what happened that season, it should be noted that Kerr has won eight NBA championships. Some may view the pursuit of titles as the only worthy goal in basketball, but once someone has won as many as Kerr has, the idea that chasing more might become less inherently satisfying is somewhat understandable. Rebuilds come with significantly less pressure and smaller egos. On a day-to-day basis, it might have been more fun even if the end result wasn’t as satisfying. 

Ultimately, enjoyment is subjective. Durant is pursuing another ring in Brooklyn. Kerr is making the most of an injury-riddled season and hoping to re-enter the title mix next season. Considering the comments both have made, it seems like it’s for the best that they are pursuing their goals separately. 

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