If Doc Rivers had any advice for Steve Kerr, it would probably be to forget about Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry at the All-Star Game.
Worry about making Russell Westbrook happy, instead.
Rivers said his strategy when he coached the midseason game was to make sure the guys who could beat him later weren’t mad at him, even at the expense of playing time for his own players.
“I made sure they loved me, the other ones,” Rivers said. “I knew my guys liked me. That was not my concern.”
Kerr will coach the Western Conference in Sunday’s game in New Orleans, and his team includes four of his own Golden State players and Westbrook. Judging by the way Durant and Westbrook barked at each other Saturday when the Warriors played in Oklahoma City for the first time since Durant switched teams over the summer, it’s clear some icy feelings remain.
Rivers coached the East in 2008 and 2011 while with Boston, and he didn’t bother asking his Celtics who they wanted to play with, or how much they wanted to play.
“Like, I would bench them,” Rivers said. “But I didn’t want some guy trying to score 50 on us when we played them, so I was really good at that and I went to each guy, ‘How much do you want to play? Do you want to play?’”
Kerr led the West to victory in 2015 as a rookie coach. He remembers congratulating the players selected and poking fun at them with a light-hearted video — which may not work again with Westbrook’s intensity — and recalls doing little coaching until the end.
“I remember handing the ball to Chris Paul seven straight times and turning to the assistants and saying, ‘You know, what a phenomenal coaching job that was, giving the ball to Chris like that,’” he joked. “Nobody else could have thought of that.”
ELSEWHERE THIS WEEK
NO LOVE ON VALENTINE’S DAY: Kevin Love will sit out Cleveland’s game against Minnesota on Tuesday because of a sore left knee that will require treatment during the week and may put his ability to play in the All-Star Game in jeopardy.
OTHER ALL-STAR INJURIES? Besides Love, a couple players with All-Star weekend plans are battling injuries. Orlando’s Aaron Gordon, back in the dunk contest after losing a thriller to Zach LaVine last year, is battling a bone bruise in his right foot. Philadelphia rookie Joel Embiid, set for the Rising Stars Challenge and the Skills Challenge, has missed nine straight games with an injured left knee.
KLAY’S OK: Klay Thompson will defend his 3-point title after outdueling teammate Stephen Curry last year in Toronto. Curry is not entered but three other All-Stars are in the field: Kyle Lowry (Raptors), Kyrie Irving (Cleveland) and Kemba Walker (Charlotte).
BIG CHALLENGE: For the second straight year, big men will compete in the Skills Challenge, the timed obstacle course featuring dribbling, passing and shooting. Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Embiid and Kristaps Porzingis will try to make it 2 for 2 after Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns won last year. The guards entered are Isaiah Thomas, John Wall and Devin Booker, along with small forward Gordon Hayward.
NORTHERN CALIFORNIA RIVALRY: Golden State and Sacramento meet again Wednesday for the first time since the Kings knocked off the Warriors in overtime on Feb. 4 in their last meeting.
STAT LINE OF THE WEEK
Draymond Green, Warriors: four points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists and 10 steals in Golden State’s 122-107 victory over Memphis on Friday. The All-Star forward became the first player in league history to have a triple-double with fewer than 10 points.