OAKLAND, Calif. – Steve Kerr addressed the Golden State Warriors on Thursday as he normally does at the start of practice. But the Warriors are uncertain when their head coach will be around again as he has taken a leave of absence to focus on rehabilitation and recovery from two offseason back surgeries.
"It's tough," Warriors center Andrew Bogut told Yahoo Sports after Thursday’s practice. "He needs to address it now. You don't want that thing popping up in December or January again. It's much like if someone had a knee problem or someone was hurt right now, he is going to be watching practice and not doing anything.
"It's the same for Coach Kerr. We're thankful we know our [offensive] sets and have a good enough coaching staff that we can adapt on the fly. It gives us a bit of a different look."
Kerr underwent surgery in late July to repair a ruptured disc in his back and had a follow-up surgery in September. Warriors general manager Bob Myers said Thursday he was uncertain when Kerr would return to the bench, but added "hopefully soon." Second-year Warriors assistant coach Luke Walton will be the interim head coach during Kerr's absence.
"You can tell he is not himself," Bogut said about Kerr. "He has been here the past two days, but he wasn't moving around well and he was sitting down every five or 10 minutes."
Myers said Kerr could attend practices, but probably would not participate in coaching on the court until he fully returns. He added that most of Kerr's rehab would take place away from the Warriors. Myers also told Yahoo Sports he doesn't plan on hiring another assistant coach during Kerr's absence.
In Kerr's first year as coach last season, the Warriors won an NBA-best and franchise-record 67 games and their first championship since 1975. Kerr lives in San Diego during the offseason, but will continue his back rehab in the Bay Area.
"He knows himself. He knows what it takes to coach an entire NBA season," Myers said. "[The return] will be his decision. As an organization we support him and want him to get better. And we know he will. We're confident he will. It's just a matter of when."
Walton coached the Warriors' summer league team this year, but has never served as an NBA head coach. The 10-year NBA veteran played as recently as the 2012-13 season with the Cleveland Cavaliers. New Warriors consultant Steve Nash, who attended his first practice Thursday, could help out more during Kerr's absence.
Bogut said he wasn't concerned about Kerr's absence because they "have one of the best coaching staffs in the league." The Warriors, however, lost associate head coach Alvin Gentry, now the head coach of the New Orleans Pelicans, during the offseason.
"We got a team full of vets now," Walton said. "They know what we are trying to accomplish and they are trying to accomplish the same thing. It makes stepping into that role a lot easier. I have great relationships with everyone on our team. It's not like I'm going to try to do anything different than what Steve did."
Said Myers: "We're confident in Steve’s absence that [Walton] will step up and do a wonderful job for however long that may be."
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