PORTLAND -- After a full week of sheer agony, Steve Kerr walked out of Moda Center late Monday night with hardly a bounce in his step but at least a modicum of hope in his heart.
That’s the power of the Warriors coach feeling optimistic about his future health if not his present condition.
The Warriors had swept the Trail Blazers out of the postseason, yes, but Kerr’s immediate concerns are more about life than basketball. This is a man on a desperate mission to end his chronic misery.
In the 19 months since undergoing two back surgeries in the summer of 2015, Kerr has wondered if relief ever would come. It has not. And now, suddenly, he feels it might. Maybe.
Since Kerr announced his decision Sunday to step away from basketball to focus on his health, the calls and e-mails have come flooding in. People want to help. Some have remedies. Some speak of herbs that might alleviate some of his suffering.
Kerr is willing to listen. He has long reached the point where he feels he has nothing to lose by listening to anything reasonable and considering anything that might help.
He revealed to NBCSportsBayArea.com that in recent days he has spoken to several people who have experienced the debilitating effects of a cerebrospinal fluid leak and been able to overcome it. He says that because his symptoms have intensified over the past week, in an odd twist, that may make it easier for specialists to trace the precise source.
“That’s what the next few days are all about,” Kerr said, standing down the hallway from the visitor’s locker room. “They’re trying to find it. If they can find it, they can fix it.”
He’ll begin in the coming days by consulting with specialists at Stanford Medical Center, which has some of the more respected surgeons in the world.
Though Kerr requested that we not reveal certain elements of what’s ahead, he said he felt somewhat better than had a few days ago. Maybe part of that was hearing the comeback stories of others.
Kerr detailed the story of an NFL executive who experienced much the same painful and lingering after-effects as he did following his second surgery. This executive, who shall not be named, dealt with it for five months before the problem was detected and repaired.
“He’s 100 percent,” Kerr said. “So I’m hopeful. And he’s not the only one.”
Kerr reiterated that his lower back is fine. The surgery actually alleviated that pain, only to bring about something even worse. He conceded there have been moments when he felt there was no hope, that there would be no end to the suffering.
Last week was, in fact, such a period. That’s why he felt it necessary to step away from his coaching duties for an indefinite period, handing things over to assistant coach Mike Brown.
“I had no chance,” he said. “I had been trying everything.”
Kerr felt good enough to address the team after their victory. He was proud of everyone, he said, from coaches to players to staff members, any member of the traveling party.
It’s a start. Hearing Kerr talk of the past few days, as well as the many months before, it all makes sense that he chose to take some time for himself. He had reached a point where walking away from his job was necessary to save his sanity, if not his life.
How could he function and meet the demands of an NBA coach if he barely could function as a human being?
PORTLAND -- Four games, four quarters to each and the Warriors are on to the next round of the postseason.
Here are four things we learned about these Warriors in the wake of their four-game sweep of the Trail Blazers in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.
IT’S A TEAM THING: The Warriors lost All-Star forward Kevin Durant in Game 1, came back and won Game 2. They lost head coach Steve Kerr before Game 3, went out and fashioned one of the biggest comebacks in franchise postseason history. They are constructed in such a way that the collective is strong enough to overcome the loss of one man. They won this series in a walk despite being shorthanded for the last three games and without their head coach for the last two. This team and this staff are bigger than any individual.
JAVALE McGEE MATTERS: By last Sept. 16 the summer was all but gone and every coveted player NBA player had been accounted for. That’s when the Warriors signed McGee with the hope that he could provide some length and athleticism on the block, if only for a few minutes a night -- and, surely, some nights not at all. McGee was the last man to make the team, and here he was dominating a Trail Blazers team that, to be fair, lacked a healthy center. He was special in this series, and what he provides will be needed as the Warriors move forward.
DRAYMOND’S VALUE IS BEYOND MEASURE: There were so many examples during the regular season that illustrated Draymond Green’s significance to the Warriors. He topped them all in this series. He defended, at some point, every member of the Portland team. He rebounded. He made 3-pointers. He blocked 17 shots. The Blazers tried him early but quickly become discouraged at attacking whenever he was on the court. He disrupted their offense in more ways than they could have imagined. As a bonus, he avoided notable run-ins with officials.
SPLASHING NOT NEEDED: Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson were fabulous in the second half of Game 3 and Curry stood out in Game 4. But by the time the Splash Brothers found their offensive groove, the Warriors were up 2-0 in the series and rallying behind their defense en route to taking Game 3. The battle of the backcourts, logically deemed a critical factor in this series, was a virtual statistical standoff. Curry/Thompson combined for 192 points, while Damian Lillard 111 and CJ McCollum totaled 201. If it’s the numbers are that close, the Warriors will win every series, and probably sweep.