(AP) – Steve Kerr knows the Golden State Warriors will have tougher days ahead this season, that there are higher hurdles to clear and bigger goals to reach.
That doesn’t mean he won’t enjoy the present.
”We’re 34-6. How can you not love that?” a smiling Kerr said after Thursday’s practice.
The Warriors are off to the best start in franchise history, have the NBA’s best record and are winning at such a blistering pace that Kerr and his staff already have secured their spots to coach the talented Western Conference in next month’s All-Star game at Madison Square Garden.
The Warriors will hit the official midpoint of their season when they host the Sacramento Kings on Friday night, and Kerr has little to complain about.
The Warriors lead the league in shooting (48.7 percent), opponents’ shooting (42.1), points per game (110.7), assists per game (27.1), 3-point shooting (39.0) and point differential (plus-11.7).
That’s the largest margin of victory since Kerr’s days playing with Michael Jordan on the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, who outscored the opposition by 12.3 points en route to an NBA-record 72 wins.
The Warriors, on pace for 70 wins, have a long way to go before being compared to that club or any of the other ones that lifted the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
What Kerr is trying to impart on his players from his experience on that team is to strive for greatness each game, stay focused for 48 minutes and don’t worry about their standing or their opponents’ record. That’s the difference between the teams people remember, he said, and the ones they don’t.
”It’s the same challenge for everybody: 82 games. You get worn down. You get tired mentally and physically. So it’s important for any team to fight through that,” Kerr said. ”It’s easier, I think, when you’re winning. It’s fun. Every day is fun. The focus and the concentration should be something we get better with as the season goes because we’re building more and more momentum all the time.”
Keeping players fresh will be the other challenge.
Kerr has talked about resting players more often, as he did last week when he gave center Andrew Bogut and forward Andre Iguodala the night off at Oklahoma City – the Warriors’ only loss in their last 12 games.
The Warriors will benefit from a deeper bench – anchored by former All-Stars David Lee and Iguodala – than during any of their past two playoff runs, when injuries and heavy minutes wore them down. They’ll also lean on the improved play of MVP candidate Stephen Curry, who passed LeBron James as the overall leading vote-getter for the All-Star game, and backcourt teammate Klay Thompson, who could make his first All-Star team.
”We just want to keep that momentum going throughout the course of the season,” Curry said. ”And that will put us in pretty good position when it comes time to compare ourselves to the rest of the league and the rest of the Western Conference.”
This already is the latest in the year that the Warriors have had the best record in the league since going a franchise-best 59-23 in 1975-76 – a year after winning their only NBA title since moving West.
And while a championship remains the goal, players admit setting a few marks along the way would be pretty sweet.
”We still got to get there, but if we do break it, it will definitely mean something,” Thompson said. ”There’s been some dark times with the Warriors before this little resurrection. So it’s gonna feel great.”
The Kings (16-26) are going through some dark times as they’re on pace for a ninth straight losing season. They dropped their fifth in a row Wednesday, 103-100 at home to Brooklyn, and have lost the last six meetings with Golden State.
”This is right up there with all the losses that we’ve had,” guard Darren Collison said Wednesday after the Kings nearly came back from 17 down in the fourth quarter. ”It’s just so frustrating because it seems like we are playing hard, but not getting the results that we want.”