Warriors’ Steve Kerr Faces Physical and Emotional Test

Mar 11, 2017; San Antonio, TX, USA; Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr watches from the sidelines during the first half against the San Antonio Spurs at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 11, 2017; San Antonio, TX, USA; Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr watches from the sidelines during the first half against the San Antonio Spurs at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports /

The Golden State Warriors emphatically swept the Portland Trail Blazers in their first round playoff series, despite facing health concerns throughout the series involving head coach Steve Kerr and injuries to players such as Kevin Durant (left calf strain), Matt Barnes (right ankle/foot sprain), and Shaun Livingston (right index finger sprain and hand contusion).

Barnes missed the whole series against the Blazers, Livingston missed Games 2-4, and Durant missed Games 2 and 3. Durant’s calf injury was slightly more concerning than Barnes’ and Livingston’s injuries, because he just recently came back from a serious knee injury (left MCL sprain and bone bruise). The Warriors held Durant out of Game 3 mostly for precautionary reasons, and he looked healthy and back to normal in Game 4. He should have no restrictions heading into the next series. Then there’s Steve Kerr.

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When the head coach was initially ruled out of coaching Game 3, it seemed as if he was dealing with some type of illness. However, Kerr’s condition is actually more serious. Prior to Game 4, Kerr announced that he will be out indefinitely, as he’s been experiencing chronic pain, most likely relating to previous back issues.

Two years ago, Kerr underwent two back surgeries and missed 43 games at the beginning of last season while recovering. He experienced a spinal fluid leak as a result of one of the surgeries, and because of this, he has experienced other side effects such as migraines, nausea, and pain throughout his whole body.

Kerr and the Warriors are still figuring out exactly what the problem is, how it can be fixed, and how long Kerr might be out, but it was reported that Kerr on Wednesday was at Stanford Medical Center getting some tests done. Warriors general manager Bob Myers also confirmed on Wednesday that there is still no timetable for Kerr’s return.

Anthony Slater of the San Jose Mercury News spoke with Kerr prior to Game 4 against the Blazers about his health status:

"“You guys saw me at the end of Game 2, I was very uncomfortable,” Kerr said. “I was uncomfortable at practice the other day. With things getting worse, I decided I couldn’t coach. So as of now, I’m consulting with my doctors, hoping for some improvement and if I get improvement, I’ll get back on the sidelines. But I’m not going to do that until I know I can help the team.”…Kerr was then asked if there was a scenario where he wouldn’t coach the rest of the postseason.“Yeah,” Kerr said. “I just said that.”"

Although Kerr is now a head coach, he still has the mindset of an athlete. He is more frustrated than anyone about this situation and wants to get back as soon as possible.

Durant experienced similar frustration. The recovery from his knee injury was fairly smooth, but to have another injury come up soon after the last one was even more aggravating for him.

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News spoke with Durant about this:

"“Obviously I’ve played through injuries before. But I was out for a month and I came back and got injured again. So I don’t want that to happen.“If I do push it I don’t want to play one game and sit out another two weeks. I’m just trying to be smart about it, but also I’m still itching to get out there on the court. I feel good.”"

Durant took a mature, level-headed approach to his recovery, as he had to find a balance between wanting to get back on the court but also needing to make smart choices and not rush back too soon. He hopes Coach Kerr takes the time he needs to get better as well.

Athletes are arguably the most equipped to deal with serious injuries. They inherently have a mental toughness that they’ve gained through sports that allows them to persevere through tough times and obstacles, such as an injury.

On the other hand, injuries can also be the hardest for athletes, specifically, to deal with, because they’re generally so active and want to work hard and get better at their craft, so forcing them to rest and recover due to an injury can be an extremely tough mentally.

Injuries test both the body and the mind. There’s obviously the physical aspect of an injury and its recovery that is tiring, painful, and difficult. Even with the proper physical tools, healing from an injury is a long, painful process and the ultimate physical test, especially since people don’t often see immediate or striking results.

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Based on personal experiences though, the mind can be tested just as much (or possibly even more) than the body while recovering from an injury. A few months ago, I broke my right ankle, tore ligaments on every side of the ankle, and had several bone bruises. I experienced these injuries while playing basketball, which is something that I love to do and is a part of my everyday life.

I can personally attest to the fact that the mental and emotional side of an injury can often be overlooked as to how difficult it really is. Questions such as “am I ever going to be 100 percent again?” or “will this injury affect how I play the game or live my normal life?” entered my mind all the time.

People can experience physical limitations after an injury, but the emotional struggles that come with any injury can linger even after a person has fully healed or recovered.

Injuries test both the body and the mind.

An injury can affect a person’s mood, how they take care of their body, how they plan their day or week, how they go about their daily routine and certain tasks they have to complete, how they move or walk, how they get from one place to another, how they act at work, how they act in their personal life, etc. It’s a vicious cycle as well, because physical limitations can be emotionally frustrating, and a negative attitude during a recovery can cause physical progress to slow.

A positive mindset can be difficult to have during any injury, but that ultimately can have a significant part in a person’s overall recovery. Staying mentally strong throughout the process can be extremely difficult, but a day-by-day perspective, a reliable, consistent support system, and a diligent approach can help get a person through that difficult time.

Recovering from an injury or any type of health issue can be one of the hardest things a person can go through. We wish Coach Kerr the absolute best during this recovery process and hope that he can find the answers he needs to find peace, comfort, and a pain-free life.