Warriors’ Steve Kerr working to build relationships with players: ‘It’s about connecting with people’

LAS VEGAS — Steve Kerr smiled as he sidestepped a question about whether or not he expected the Warriors to soon complete a trade.

Kerr said the Thursday evening deadline for the Warriors to use their $9.8 million traded player exception was something to worry about for general manager Bob Myers.

“I’m coaching here, and if Bob calls me and tells me we’re doing something, great,” Kerr said Wednesday at Sierra Vista High School, where the Warriors’ summer league team held its second day of practices.

Kerr didn’t necessarily have to coach the summer squad after being hired in May to replace Mark Jackson, but decided to wear a whistle around his neck and go to work with the team’s first game coming Friday against Charlotte.

Warriors big men Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli after practice praised the former TNT broadcaster’s communication skills, which were also put to the test in recent weeks as the rookie coach went out of his way to meet in person with players.

Kerr was on a house-hunting trip when he had lunch in Berkeley with Stephen Curry, who had been out with his wife. Since then, the coach and star guard have played more than one round of golf together.

To meet with Andrew Bogut, Kerr and his wife, Margot, made the long flight to the center’s native Australia. Kerr said Margot connected with Bogut’s girlfriend. At one point over lunch, Kerr pulled out a tablet and showed Bogut clips on how the big man might be used in a new system that emphasizes ball movement and includes triangle concepts.

“To me, that’s my job,” Kerr said. “Coaching is about relationships. It’s about connecting with people. It’s not about me sitting in the facility drawing up plays. It’s about getting to know these guys.

“I want to meet the families and get to know everybody. It’s all part of it. The stronger all these bonds are, the better job I can do, and the more I’ll understand them and vice versa.”

Barnes, who along with his agent had met with Kerr in Miami, said of his new coach on the practice court: “He knows how to get his point across.”

Kerr prepared for that as well. After getting the job, he reached out to Barnes’ college coach, North Carolina’s Roy Williams, who was a spectator at practice Wednesday. Kerr said in fact he had spoken with many of his players’ former coaches and teammates while trying to figure out what made his guys tick and how to reach them.

Kerr’s message summer league team was a simple one.

“He told us he was going to do his best, and we should do ours pretty much,” Ezeli said. “Everybody here has been very receptive of him.”


Festus Ezeli wants to play, but Steve Kerr highly doubts Warriors will risk it

LAS VEGAS — Festus Ezeli pressed his finger on his right shin and said the inflammation was no longer there for the most part.

“I want to play,” Ezeli said Wednesday. “That’s why I’m here.”

But after a physical revealed the inflammation, his return to the court after missing all of last season recovering from right knee surgery isn’t expected to come in the NBA Summer League.

“I highly doubt it,” coach Steve Kerr said, noting the team was trying to be smart with the injury-plagued Ezeli by holding him out for precautionary reasons.

Ezeli said the discomfort in the shin was unrelated to the knee itself and likely caused by pushing himself too much after having been cleared to work out without restrictions. He said he had been doing a lot of running and getting his explosiveness back.

“It’s related to recovering from the fact that my body’s not used to taking that much beating,” Ezeli said. “Ever since they cut me loose and let me start going full speed again, I’ve been going crazy pretty much, so my body was telling me to slow down.

“It’s all about being patient, and my time will come.”


Warriors’ Steve Kerr: Harrison Barnes, Andre Iguodala in the mix for starting job

LAS VEGAS — Warriors forward Harrison Barnes struggled last season to adjust to a bench role following the signing of Andre Iguodala, and he doesn’t deny that the whole situation bothered him.

“I got caught up in that last year,” Barnes said Wednesday after voluntarily practicing with the Warriors’ summer league team even though he isn’t on the roster. “I’m not really worried about that this year.”

New Warriors coach Steve Kerr appears to be wiping the slate clean, saying that the 22-year-old Barnes “absolutely” has a chance to earn a starting job in training camp after getting in the lineup in only 24 games last season.

“Andre was the starter last year, and he very well may be this year,” Kerr said of Iguodala, who made the NBA All-Defensive first team while his numbers on offense were down. “It all depends on combinations and who’s coming off the bench. I would say Andre is more of a ball-handler and a playmaker than Harrison. Harrison’s probably a little more of a scoring-minded player, so you have to factor all those things in when you decide who’s going to start and who’s going to come off the bench.”

Kerr noted that Barnes was at his best as a rookie playing power forward before the role changed. The shooting percentage subsequently fell.

“I think the biggest difference with Harrison from Year 1 to Year 2 with Harrison was that he was not starting and not playing with Steph (Curry) and Klay (Thompson) and (Andrew) Bogut,” Kerr said. “He kind of anchored the second unit last year, so I think there was more on his plate offensively.

“It was a necessary (adjustment) because of Andre’s arrival. It changed the chessboard for Harrison, and it was hard. It was hard for him, and we’ve talked about it. He had to take a lot of tough shots. The game’s a lot easier when you play with your starters.”


Warriors’ Festus Ezeli to miss NBA Summer League with shin inflammation team believes is ‘nothing serious’

Warriors center Festus Ezeli will most likely not play in NBA Summer League games due to right shin inflammation, the team announced Monday on the eve of its first workout in Las Vegas.

Ezeli after missing all of last season recovering from right knee surgery will have his return delayed because of precautionary reasons, according to the Warriors, who believe the latest injury is “nothing serious.”

Ezeli, a Warriors first-round draft pick in 2012, said last month he had been cleared for five-on-five action and seeing his explosiveness improve while playing in pickup games. The Warriors are counting on his return as one way to improve the roster from last season.

“I think we are already better than a year ago as Festus returns–nobody mentioning that!” co-owner Joe Lacob wrote in an email to Mercury News columnist Tim Kawakami last week.

Ezeli averaged 2.4 points and 4 rebounds while playing in 78 games as a rookie before undergoing surgery to reinforce both the MCL and PCL in his sprained knee.


Warriors hire assistant coaches of player development Jarron Collins, Bruce Fraser

The Warriors’ coaching staff under Steve Kerr will include assistant coaches of player development Jarron Collins and Bruce Fraser.

Collins was a Stanford star alongside twin brother Jason Collins and later played 10 years in the NBA, including one season with Phoenix while Kerr was the Suns’ general manager.

Fraser played with Kerr at the University of Arizona and later worked for Kerr as a Suns scout.

The Warriors also officially announced the hiring of associate head coach Alvin Gentry and assistant coaches Ron Adams and Luke Walton.


Warrior-to-be Shaun Livingston shows his Golden State pride

Free agent guard Shaun Livingston reached agreement Tuesday on a contract to join the Warriors, and he celebrated by posting a photo on Instagram of himself and his sister, Sarah, wearing Golden State and USC hats.

“Cali movement!!,” Livingston wrote. “Congrads lil sis!! Letswork!

Livingston shared his joy with family, telling columnist Marcus Thompson II that Sarah is going to be relatively close by as she’s headed to USC to play volleyball after playing basketball at Illinois last season.

“The opportunity for her to do pursue her passion, and for me to sign with the Warriors, everything is kind of settling down,” he said. “To see how far both of us have come, it’s amazing.”

Sarah recalled in an interview with the Daily Illini in February how difficult it was to see her brother suffer a serious knee injury in 2007 while playing for the Los Angeles Clippers that put his career in jeopardy.

“It was really scary,” Sarah told the paper. “They were on western time, and I fell asleep with the TV muted watching his game in my room. I was sleeping, but I had a really bad nightmare and I woke up, sweating. I looked at the TV and, like, instantly after I looked at it, he went up for his layup and I saw the whole the thing. It was wild, just the weirdest thing to wake up to.”

“We didn’t know what was going to happen, his knee was completely destroyed,” Sarah said. “I remember ‘amputation’ was being tossed around. I was really scared.”

Now the 28-year-old Livingston after the most complete year of his career with Brooklyn will be paid handsomely by the Warriors after taking the long road back to California.

“Thank you Brooklyn for embracing me….Golden State, excited to be part of the movement!!!” Livingston tweeted.


Warriors to sign free agent guard Shaun Livingston

The Warriors reached agreement with free agent guard Shaun Livingston on Tuesday, filling a need with a backup point guard on a contract reportedly worth $16 million over three years.

Livingston, 28, averaged 8.3 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists in 76 games, including 54 starts for Brooklyn last season.

“We intend to enter into a player contract with Shaun Livingston once the moratorium period ends,” Warriors general manager Bob Myers said.

USA Today reported the Warriors will use their full midlevel exception and partially guarantee the third season for the 6-foot-7 Livingston, who cannot officially sign until the league’s moratorium ends on the evening of July 9.

Livingston was the fourth overall pick in the 2004 draft. He suffered a serious left knee injury in 2007 and missed the following season with the Los Angeles Clippers.

“Long time coming,” Livingston told TNT’s David Aldridge of the multi-year agreement after playing for eight NBA teams in nine seasons.

The Warriors struggled to get help for Stephen Curry and replace Jarrett Jack at point guard last season, trading Toney Douglas for Jordan Crawford and later acquiring Steve Blake.