Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images
Photo: Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

Ahead of the first NBA Sundays game of the season between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Golden State Warriors, head coach of the Warriors, Steve Kerr spoke on the new stadium, how the loss of Klay Thompson will affect the team defensively, the role of Steph Curry and Draymond Green both on and off the court and more.

On the Warriors this season:

Is there a certain excitement this season? Is there a certain challenge that maybe hasn’t been there for the last couple of years? Just on a personal level from a coaching standpoint, how are you approaching this year?

SK: “Well, I’m excited about it. It’s different. It’s a very different season. Every year is a different challenge, and the circumstances are unique. This is such a dramatic change from where we’ve been over the last four years that I think it allows for more change, more internal evaluation, what can we do better? You know, the new building is almost a metaphor for how we can approach the season. We’ve got a chance to reset some things, anything we feel like could improve our team. It’s a great opportunity to start fresh on some things. And yet, as I was saying to Mark, we’ll rely heavily on our veteran players, Steph and Draymond and Looney, Klay, to kind of pave the way for the younger players. We want to maintain the culture that we’ve built, but we want to make sure our players are put in the best position to succeed, and the last four years we pretty much knew exactly what that meant. We don’t really know what it means this year. So that’s why we have a lot of work ahead, but it’s exciting. I’m looking forward to it.”

You said last year throughout the time, sometimes during the regular season you guys couldn’t find the competitive juice just with the malaise of the season. How do you feel this team will have that considering that maybe the end result isn’t as promised?

SK: “It’s a completely different set of circumstances. The last four years have been so different, we knew what we had, and most dynamics we were working towards the playoffs. We were working to be ready for the playoffs and be healthy and peaking during the playoffs. This is an entirely new group, and so we’re trying to figure out who we are, what we are, and I will for sure monitor Steph and Draymond and Looney, the guys who played heavy minutes last year, so I’m not going to overwork them. On the other hand, we have a lot of work to do with the group itself, as I’ve mentioned several times. So there should be plenty of intensity, plenty of motivation. We’ve got jobs on the line. We’ve got playing time at stake. We’ve got so much up in the air and there’s great opportunity for a lot of players to grab it, and you can only do that by competing.”

So much of this team’s success has been built on defense in recent years. How different just given the losses you’ve had will you be defensively, and how good are you going to be defensively this season?

SK: “Well, we have to figure out exactly what we’re going to do. Again, I’ve said this many times — when I arrived four years, five years ago, this team, the defense was already built. It was already a top five defense in the league. We tweaked a few things, but mainly kept the same style, and then Draymond emerged, and we started doing more switching. This team, we could just plug and play. This is different. When you look at the number of wing defenders we’ve lost, between Klay, Andre, Kevin, Shaun, it’s most of our wing defensive core. It’s just a dramatically different roster. So we have to take that into account, and my guess is we’re going to experiment with a lot of different coverages and schemes, and that it will look different. I don’t think we can just play the way we’ve played because we don’t have the personnel to do so. So that means we’ve got to be imaginative and we can’t be afraid to try some new things, but how good can we be? We’ll see. It’s impossible to say before we’ve had a single practice.”

On replacing Klay Thompson:

How tough is it to replace Klay defensively?

SK: “I think that’s the challenge for the team this year, our defensive performance. Not just Klay, it’s the rest of the guys we lost. We basically lost our entire wing fleet of long-arm, long-limb defenders, so we have to develop a new identity defensively. The good news is that Klay will be back and when he’s back, we’ll be that much better. But in the meantime, we’re trying to develop a young team and help them grow, and they’re doing a great job. Our young guys — where they are now compared to three weeks ago, it’s a dramatic improvement. They’re coming in here every day working before practice, staying after practice, and our older guys are doing a great job leading. Draymond and Steph are doing more teaching than they’ve ever done before in practice. So it’s a really healthy process and I think our fans our going to enjoy watching these young guys and watching our team develop over the course of the year. It will be a totally different situation this season than it has been in the past, but I think our fans will embrace it because they’ll see the progress these guys are making.”

On Draymond Green and Steph Curry:

Do you need Draymond to score more for you this year?

SK: “Not necessarily. Draymond just has to be himself. We’ve got guys who can score. He doesn’t need to try to be somebody he’s not. He just needs to play his own game. But it will be different for him and for everybody because of the changes on the roster. So he’s just got to feel his teammates and the circumstances and see where he’s got his opportunities. But he’s one of the smartest players I’ve ever been around, so he’ll figure it out.”

Given the talent and experience Steph and Draymond have together, what do you expect they can do to help transition everything both on the court and behind the scenes this year?

SK: “Well, we’ll rely on those guys along with Looney and Klay at some point, just to try to teach everybody, all the new people here what we’re about. Not only plays and schemes and that kind of stuff, but just our culture and our feel. So those two, in particular, Steph and Draymond, will play a huge role early on in the season as we’re trying to establish kind of a sense of who we are.”

On playing at European Primetime this weekend:

You guys play the first primetime game in Europe on Sunday. How important do you think it is for the game to continue to grow in Europe and globally?

SK: “Well it’s a big part of the NBA brand. It’s a big part of FIBA. We want the game to be played all over the world and we want fans to be interested. So I think it’s a good idea to have some games that are shown primetime there. I think it’s great.”

NBA Sundays presented by NBA2K20 on Sky Sports – part of a record 48 Primetime games live on Sky Sports starting from 8.00pm every weekend. This week on 27 October the Oklahoma City Thunder host the Golden State Warriors on Sky Sports Arena from 7.30pm.