Last month, Steve Kerr said that resting his players down the stretch would be more important than trying to break the Chicago Bulls’ record of 72 wins in a season. Now, with nine games left to play, he’s singing a different tune.
Kerr is now letting his players decide to rest or pursue the hallowed record. If the Warriors can win seven of their last nine games, they’ll claim it.
“Our team wants it,” Kerr said of the record, via Diamond Leung of the Contra Costa Times. “They’ve made it pretty clear, so what we’re doing is listening to them and trusting them that if they’re injured, they’re going to let us know. And if that’s the case, we’ll give them a rest. And if they’re not and they feel like they’re perfectly capable of getting out there and playing and that’s what they want to do, then that’s what we’ll do.”
Shooting guard Klay Thompson said before the All-Star break that the Warriors would be shooting for the record. Even now he continues to sing the same tune, even though there is a good chance Golden State (up by 4.5 games over the San Antonio Spurs) will wrap up the top seed in the Western Conference before the season comes to a close.
“I’m young and spry, so there’s no reason for me to sit out yet. It’s the mental fatigue you’ve got to battle. It’s not really the physical. I’ll be fine with that. But it’s just trying to keep focused and stay sharp mentally.”
It’s a tricky balance.
Staying fresh physically could lend itself to making a huge difference on the mental side of things. But at the same time, as much as sitting a couple games out to give one’s body a break could potentially mess with the all-important chemistry the Warriors have as a team.
The Warriors must weigh these two factors carefully. As impressive as winning 73 games would be, it would amount to nothing more than fool’s gold if this team is ousted in the playoffs and doesn’t get a chance to repeat as NBA champs.
Back to Kerr, though. He’s obviously been highly successful with his ability to relate to the players while implementing a rock-solid system that utilizes their talents to perfection. There is mutual respect that he’s cultivated the past couple of years, and he’s making the ultimate gesture of respect by letting his players choose to play or rest down the stretch.