Steve Kerr Responds to Kevin Durant Criticism About Warriors' System in Playoffs

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistSeptember 23, 2019

Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant, left, helps escort coach Steve Kerr after Kerr was ejected during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers in Portland, Ore., Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019. The Blazers won 129-107. (AP Photo/Steve Dykes)
Steve Dykes/Associated Press

Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr wasn't offended when Kevin Durant suggested his system needs individual stars to make it work in the later rounds of the playoffs.

"I wasn't at all offended what Kevin said because it's basically the truth," Kerr said, per Anthony Slater of The Athletic. "You look at any system, I mean, I played the triangle with Michael Jordan. The offense ran a lot smoother all regular season and the first couple rounds of the playoffs than it did in the conference finals and Finals. It just did."

Durant's comments came in an extensive interview with J.R. Moehringer of the Wall Street Journal (h/t Dalton Johnson of NBC Sports).

"The motion offense we run in Golden State, it only works to a certain point. We can totally rely on our system for maybe the first two rounds. Then the next two rounds we're going to have to mix in individual play. We've got to throw teams off, because they're smarter in that round of playoffs. 

"So now I have to dive into my bag, deep, to create stuff on my own, off the dribble, isos, pick-and-rolls, more so than let the offense create points for me."

It may read as a criticism, but Kerr has a deep enough understanding of NBA history from his own experience to know stars make the difference with the Larry O'Brien Trophy hanging in the balance.

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"That's why guys like Michael Jordan and Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant are who they are. They can transcend any defense. But defenses in the playoffs, deep in the playoffs, combined with the physicality of the game—where refs can't possibly call a foul every time—means that superstars have to take over. No system is just going to dice a Finals defense up. You have to rely on individual play. I didn't look at (his comment) as offensive. I look at that as fact."

While Durant has a point, as Kerr acknowledged, the future Hall of Famer can also take one look at his own resume to see the Warriors' system does make a difference.

He was largely the same dominant offensive weapon who was nearly impossible to stop in isolation scenarios when he was on the Oklahoma City Thunder but never reached the pinnacle of his sport. 

Durant averaged 19.1 shots per game during his nine seasons on the Seattle SuperSonics/Thunder and 17.5 in his three seasons on the Warriors, but it was with Golden State that he won his two rings. He may have left the Warriors with three rings in three years if he and Klay Thompson hadn't suffered injuries during the 2019 NBA Finals loss to the Toronto Raptors.

The 2016 Thunder had Durant and Russell Westbrook as two of the league's best isolation players, but even they couldn't defeat Kerr's Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. It should be noted that series fits the bill of a late playoff round that Durant described when suggesting there is a limit to Kerr's system.

Stephen Curry also responded to Durant's comments during an interview with ESPN's Rachel Nichols and pointed to those championships (h/t John Schrock of NBC Sports):

"Well, I don't care what plays we ran. We won two championships. And at the end of the day, we had a lotta talent and there was an expectation of us figuring out how to balance all that. And we talked a lot about it throughout the three-year run. It wasn't always perfect, but I think in terms of, you know, the results and what we were able to do on the floor, that kinda speaks for itself.

"We all wanna play iso-ball at the end of the day in some way, shape or form. But I'd rather have some championships, too."

Ultimately, winning an NBA championship requires both stars and an efficient system, which is one reason the Warriors have been so dominant of late. Even before Durant arrived, they won a championship with Curry, Thompson and Draymond Green running Kerr's offense nearly to perfection.

Perhaps Durant's Brooklyn Nets can eventually get a shot at the Warriors in the NBA Finals, where these comments would serve as an enticing backdrop.

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