OAKLAND, Calif. — Steve Kerr played golf with Stephen Curry, traveled to Australia to meet with Andrew Bogut and spoke with every other player on the Golden State Warriors in some form or fashion this summer.
Now he hopes to carry those relationships onto the court.
With the Warriors set to open training camp Tuesday, Kerr is counting on his work this offseason to pay off in practice. He has traveled the globe since being hired to replace coach Mark Jackson in May, believing all along that building personal relationships with players would wash away any uneasiness some had because of his popular predecessor’s firing.
“My whole goal over the summer was to get to know guys,” the former Arizona Wildcat standout said during an informal news conference with reporters Thursday. “I didn’t want to walk into training camp and say, ‘Hi, I’m Steve.’”
Getting off to a quick start could be key for Kerr this year.
The Warriors are coming off a 51-win season and back-to-back playoff appearances, and owner Joe Lacob’s decision to dismiss Jackson puts immediate pressure on the new coach to keep the momentum going.
Of course, the opportunity to coach a talented team is why Kerr spurned the New York Knicks — and mentor Phil Jackson — to sign a five-year deal worth about $25 million with Golden State.
Most players have been working out at the training facility for the last month, and Kerr is as anxious as anybody to get started. His office is filled with notes and diagrams of plays, and he has gone through video of the team’s games ad nauseam.
As with his travels this summer, though, Kerr believes the bonding between players and coaches is as crucial as anything he calls in camp.
“It’s about relationships, going through experiences together and making sure you’re creating some of those experiences,” Kerr said. “You can’t just stand there and call a play every day. You have to go out and get to know these guys, and vice versa. I think as a coach you have to create that environment where there’s a lot of interaction and a lot of conversation.”
What the Warriors will look like under Kerr is still somewhat of a mystery.
Kerr, a former guard who spent the past few years as a TNT broadcaster, said his system will have principles of the Triangle Offense that won Phil Jackson an NBA-record 11 titles as coach of the Bulls and Lakers. But he said the design will be tailored to suit Curry’s pick-and-roll abilities.
That means adding some of the off-the-ball movement the Spurs do so well, getting Bogut involved more in the offense and incorporating the up-tempo pace Phoenix played with under Alvin Gentry, who is now Kerr’s lead assistant.
The rotation also is still to be determined, though it’s a safe bet that Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, David Lee and Bogut will remain starters. Kerr said Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes also could start, and both are expected to be used more to stretch the floor as power forwards than they were last season.
Kerr still wants to continue the team’s defense-first mentality and, considering the Warriors’ rapid rise, he sees no reason to mess with what has worked.
“We’re not trying to change everything,” Kerr said. “We’re coming in here and saying, ‘This is already a really good team and we have a chance to build on that.’”
• The 76ers acquired guard Keith Bogans and a 2018 second-round draft pick from Cleveland in exchange for their 2015 second-round pick. The Cavaliers will receive a trade exception of approximately $5.3 million without taking up a roster spot. The 76ers’ pick is protected.
• All-Stars LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving were on the court together for the first time as the Cavaliers opened training camp in Independence, Ohio, on Saturday. It also was the initial NBA practice for Cavaliers coach David Blatt, who spent the past two decades working overseas.