Why Warriors' Steve Kerr intentionally got ejected in preseason loss to Phoenix

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OAKLAND – The tension kept rising. So Warriors coach Steve Kerr uttered the thoughts that nearly everybody holds regarding a meaningless NBA preseason game.

“I don’t want to be here,” Kerr said.

Kerr said those words only moments into the second half after storming the court to share his displeasure with officials for calling an offensive foul on Warriors guard Stephen Curry after Suns forward Trevor Ariza hooked him. After Curry drew a technical, Kerr and Warriors forward Kevin Durant quickly followed suit.

Within seconds, official Ben Taylor ejected Kerr. The Warriors coach then said, “I don’t want to be here anyway,” Kerr said before waiving goodbye and exiting the court early in the third quarter. He then watched the remainder of the Warriors’ 117-109 pre-season loss to the Phoenix Suns on Monday at Oracle Arena in the locker room.

“We had a good post-game spread,” Kerr joked afterwards. “It’s usually out there by the late third quarter. I wanted to be the first one at the buffet.”

The comment drew laughs, and who could blame him? A post-game spread seemed more enticing than coaching a pre-season game without two All-Stars (Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala) and two established veterans (Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston). It also did not help that Kerr became irritated with the Warriors being called for offensive fouls, including three on Curry.

“I was trying to make a point and back up my guys,” Kerr said. “We had all of these offensive fouls one after another. I finally had enough.”

The play that drew Kerr’s ire? After Warriors forward Kevin Durant passed the ball to forward Kevon Looney at the top of the key, Curry cut toward the perimeter to set on Ariza while Durant cut backdoor. Both Ariza and Phoenix guard Shaquille Harrison wrapped their arms around Curry. Yet, officials charged Curry with the offensive foul.

With the Warriors trailing, 61-57, with 11:51 left in the third quarter, Curry immediately protested the call. After he was called for a technical, Kerr walked toward the middle of the call and shared his displeasure. Kerr then yelled to Taylor, “I don’t want to be here.” Taylor then tossed Kerr promptly. Durant argued more and clapped mockingly at the officials, but he was spared a technical.

“I love it. We got a good vibe going on about what we’re doing,” Curry said. “Obviously it’s never too early to get that fire going and see how we sustain that throughout the year. When a blatant call is supposed to go one way and it goes the other, he’s going to have a reaction to it, no matter if it’s preseason, regular season or the playoffs. It’s nice for him to have that fire.”

The Warriors have often had that fire.

They collected 52 technicals and 10 ejections throughout the 2017-18 season. Green (15) and Durant (14) compiled the most. Kerr trailed with seven. So before the NBA All-Star break, Warriors general manager Bob Myers spoke with the team about the need for the team to “protect” its reputation. As part of the league’s initiatives to improve player-official relations, the Warriors also met with former NBA official Monty McCutchen and game officials to discuss ways to defuse the tension that has led to a high volume of technicals and ejections in the NBA.

“I was frustrated and was in the wrong, obviously,” Kerr said about his latest ejection. “I got what I deserved.”

The Suns then went on a 9-0 run. Yet, the Warriors strongly dismissed they already are showing early signs of their inability to control their anger.

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“Would you have controlled your emotions out there after you saw what happened?” Durant asked a reporter.
The reported said no. “Okay, then,” Durant responded.

Instead, the Warriors saw the long-term benefits.

“We’re all in this together. We have to have each other’s backs,” Curry said. “That’s one of our core principles. He has opportunities to try to influence things with outbursts if he needs to and stuff he says in the locker room. Whatever the case is, knowing we’re out there giving everything we got throughout the year, coach has your back. He’s not pinching his wallet when he has the opportunity. When he speaks his mind, it means a lot.”

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