NBA AM: Pressure On Steve Kerr, Warriors

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Golden State hires Steve Kerr, Championship Expectations Begin

The Golden State Warriors have hired Steve Kerr as their new head coach, filling the void of Mark Jackson who was relieved earlier this month. Kerr, who was also reportedly being aggressively pursued by the New York Knicks, agreed to a five-year pact with the Warriors in part because the team is closer to his family and the roster is positioned to win immediately.

“It just felt like the right move on many levels,” Kerr told David Aldridge of TNT on Wednesday. “They have a good young team. The location is ideal. My daughter goes to Cal and plays volleyball. My oldest son is in college in San Diego and our youngest is a junior in high school. It’s just a short flight for them.”

Kerr played 15 seasons in the league, winning five titles during his playing career. He was currently serving as an analyst for TNT before taking the Golden State position. The league veteran also previously served as president of basketball operations for the Phoenix Suns from 2007-2010.

Kerr readily admits the prospect of joining newly crown basketball czar Phil Jackson in New York was tempting but at the end of the day felt the Warriors is where he belongs at this point of his career.

“It was so tantalizing on many levels,” Kerr said. “Number one, Phil Jackson. Number two, the Knicks are a flagship franchise, one of the great franchises in the league. The last two weeks have been agonizing, in talking with Phil and (general manager) Steve Mills. They’ve got really good people there and I do think they’re going to get it turned around there. The Knicks could not have been better in giving me the space to make a decision, especially when I had a game to do every other night.

“Ultimately, it was agonizing to say no to Phil because of what I think of him and what he’s done for my career. When Phil Jackson asks you to coach the Knicks, how do you say no? I think they’re going to turn it around, but going to be a big undertaking and it’s going to take time. The idea of doing that 3,000 miles from home, it just didn’t feel right.”

But now the task begins of attempting to bring a championship to the bay area. The dismissed Jackson compiled a 121-109 record in three seasons at the helm and led the team to consecutive playoffs berth for the first time in over 20 years.

However, reports of internal problems were prevalent toward the end of Jackson’s tenure with the organization and the club opted to pursue another sideline general.

The Warriors were eliminated in the first round of this year’s playoffs by the Los Angeles Clippers in seven games. Golden State played the entire series without starting center Andrew Bogut, but still managed to almost pull off the upset.

NBA Statement on Los Angeles Clippers, Oklahoma City Thunder Game Five

Much has been made of the officiating at the end of game five during the Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder series. At the core of the controversy was a pivotal possession call with just under 12 seconds remaining in regulation. Thunder guard Reggie Jackson drove the lane but was apparently fouled by Clippers forward Matt Barnes. There was no foul call and the ball sailed out of bounds. Many believed the ball to have last been touched by Jackson but there is no question Barnes’ swipe of it played a part of it ricocheting out of bounds.

After an instant replay review, the officials granted possession to Oklahoma City. The Clippers, who were up two points at the time, would ultimately lose the contest and let their frustrations about the perceived blown call known during their postgame interviews.

On Wednesday, NBA president of basketball operations Rod Thorn issued a statement regarding the incident. The league believes the officiating crew was correct in their handling of the situation.

“With 11.3 seconds left in the game, the basketball went out of bounds on the baseline and the referees ruled the ball belonged to the Thunder.   The referees then used instant replay to review the play.   In order to reverse the call made on the court, there has to be ‘clear and conclusive’ evidence.   Since no replay provided such evidence, the play correctly stood as called with the Thunder retaining possession.”

Game six of the series is set for Thursday night in Los Angeles.

Here is video of the play in question

Free agency awaits Paul Pierce, shrugs off retirement talk

The Brooklyn Nets were eliminated from the playoffs on Wednesday night, falling in just five contests to the two-time defending champion Miami HEAT. The second round exit falls far short of the title contention expectations associated with a roster with over a $180 million payroll expenses (includes luxury taxes).

The Nets acquired aging future Hall of Fame forwards Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce via trade last summer from Boston and seemingly went all-in for a championship in 2014. The team got off to a slow start but ultimately finished with 44 wins.

Now as the offseason awaits difficult decisions must be made in the front office.

Pierce, who made $15.3 million this season, is headed to unrestricted free agency. Point guard Shaun Livingston is also headed to the open market this summer.

But the biggest question is how the team will handle Pierce. At 36, Pierce is clearly past his prime but at the same time he is still highly effective.

Pierce confirmed at the Nets’ loss that he wasn’t thinking of retirement and feels he has a couple more years left in the tank.

“I haven’t really put much thought into it,” Pierce said according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. “I put my whole focus into this season, it’s my last year of the contract. I will sit back and talk to the family and see where my options are from there and go from there.

“I think I still have something in the tank I can give a team. Maybe one or two (years) at the most.”

Brooklyn does possess Pierce’s Bird rights so the franchise can technically offer the veteran more money than any other team this summer. However, Pierce may be leaning toward finishing his career in Brooklyn.

“Unfortunately, we wish we had put together a better record,” Pierce said. “But it’s a brand new team, a lot of new players, got off to a slow start, a lot of injuries but we figured it out. Not where we want it to end today. Obviously the goal is to win a championship. But I am happy to go to war with the guys in here and the resolve they showed all year long.”

Pierce averaged a career-low 13.5 points per game in 75 contests.