The Golden State Warriors are set to take on the Utah Jazz in the second round of the Western Conference playoffs.
It should be a physical, grinding series for both teams. The Jazz slow things down and lean on the defensive presence of Rudy Gobert, which means they'll do all they can to throw Golden State off their offensive game.
The Warriors are preparing to start the series without head coach Steve Kerr, making for a tougher strategic outing. Draymond Green offered an update on Kerr's status this postseason, and it's not sounding good for the Dubs.
Mike Brown has stepped in as acting head coach, but Brown isn't the whiz that Kerr is. Perhaps this is where the Warriors will feel the loss of Luke Walton to the Los Angeles Lakers the most, but they're preparing to win with or without Kerr.
“I think the way we look at it is plan on him (Kerr) not coming back. That’s the way we’re approaching this thing ... Mike Brown is our coach, we have the rest of our staff, and that’s who we’re rolling with," Draymond Green told reporters after shootaround Monday.
Kerr has been out since Game 3 of the Warriors' playoff-opening round against the Portland Trail Blazers. He's dealing with significant neck pain, nausea and headaches that are being linked to the two major back surgeries he underwent in 2015.
“We’re gonna hope and pray that Steve gets better and can get back. But at the end of the day, his health is more important than anything ... we know how bad he wanted to be here and how bad we would love for him to be here," Draymond said.
“And whether that’s this year or next year, then you know, we’re ready. But we’re gonna approach this entire thing as ‘Steve isn’t coming back.’ And that’s our approach for this entire playoffs until we hear otherwise.”
The Warriors have the talent and experience to overcome this obstacle, and they went on their NBA-record shattering winning streak while Kerr was out due to his back issues last season. Still, when it comes time to making important adjustments, his decision-making will certainly be missed.
Utah won't be a pushover, though the Warriors are coming off a sweep of Portland and have two of the top-five players in the NBA to lean on. They should still be favored, but the deeper they go the tougher Kerr's absence will be to mask.
Acting coach Brown has plenty of NBA experience, even coaching LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers to the 2007 NBA Finals. He'll have his work cut out for him with Utah, while the Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs and whoever comes out of the East on deck.