Steve Kerr Claps Back at ‘Small Ball’ Critics After Team USA Debacle

Steve Kerr, Team USA, Warriors

Getty Golden State Warriors Head coach Steve Kerr of the United States calls for a play review in overtime during the FIBA Basketball World Cup 3rd Place game against Canada.

Four-time NBA champion coach Steve Kerr tried his Golden State‘s small ball way with Team USA but ultimately fell short.

He clapped back at his critics after Team USA failed to win a medal for the second straight time with Kerr, an assistant coach in 2019 and the head coach this year.

“I think it’s a worthwhile point of discussion, but the discussion has to go to, ‘OK, then who is that?” Kerr said over the weekend, per The Athletic. “You can’t just say, we’re going to have size for size’s sake. You have to have players who are going to help you win, and you have to determine who those guys are. It’s not just the size, it’s the way the game is played.”

“I think for this team, our commitment has been there and the character is unquestioned,” Kerr added. “We’re all so committed to the cause, but our defense wasn’t good enough. But I don’t think it’s as simple as saying it’s just size. I think you have to examine who you’re talking about if you go down that path.”

Kerr only had the 22-year-old Walker Kessler as a true center on this year’s World Cup roster. He played Jaren Jackson Jr., a natural power forward, as his starting center, with Paolo Banchero as his backup.

On Sunday’s bronze medal game, Kerr was forced to push the small ball to the extreme as Jackson and Banchero joined Brandon Ingram at sick bay, playing the 6-foot-4 Josh Hart and 6-foot-6 Mikal Bridges as centers down the stretch in their 127-118 loss to Canada.

“I just made the decision to get those five guys on the floor,” Kerr said after the game. “We were down by that time when Josh picked up his fifth [foul. I thought if we got Mikal in there, we could spread the floor and get to the rim.  Unfortunately, we just didn’t get a good enough combination of scores and stops to cut into the lead there. I thought their 6-0 run to start overtime was crucial, and they were able to control it from there.”

USA’s talent depth at center is shallow since overseas talents led by two-time MVPs Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo have ruled the NBA.

Anthony Davis, Bam Adebayo and reigning MVP Joel Embiid, if he elects to play with Team USA rather than France, could play at next year’s Paris Olympics.

Warriors’ Small Ball with Chris Paul

The Warriors are expected to continue playing small ball with Draymond Green as their center with the addition of Chris Paul, who will likely start alongside Stephen Curry in their backcourt.

“I do expect him to start. And I think it’s like five-minute spurts,” ESPN/Andscape’s senior writer Marcus Spears said on the September 7 episode of the Yahoo Sports Ball Don’t Lie’s Good Word with Goodwill podcast. “I don’t know that they really want his minutes to be high, but I think they’re gonna try it. I could be wrong, but that’s the gist I’m getting. This isn’t an opinion that he’s expected to start. It’s what I’m hearing. He’s never not started in his career.”

Starting Curry and Paul — neither player stands above 6’2″ — together at the backcourt will further shrink the Warriors’ size, pushing their small-ball scheme to the extreme.

Stephen Curry Believes They Can All Figure out

Curry, who claimed he’s the best point guard ever, is keeping an open mind that there’s room for two lead guards in their team.

“We obviously have a lot of questions to answer in terms of who’s starting, who’s finishing and that’ll play itself out,” Curry said on the Gil’s Arena podcast. “But at the end of the day, we all, I think, are motivated to win. I’m sure nobody more than [Paul] and for us to know exactly where we feel like we belong as a team.”

“So, there’s a lot going for us in that respect to try to put all our energy towards that,” Curry continued. “There’s going to be a lot of narrative and conversation again around sacrifice and what that looks like when it comes to — there’s only five guys on the court in the town, but I think we can all figure that out.”

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