SAN FRANCISCO – Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo’s comments earlier this week on how success and failure are viewed in professional sports — and how everything’s not always so black and white — were right on the money.
Asked in a postgame interview Wednesday following the top-seeded Bucks’ first-round series loss to the eighth-seeded Miami Heat whether he viewed his team’s season as a failure, Antetokounmpo snapped back and asked, “Do you get a promotion every year, in your job? No. So every year you work is a failure? Yes or no?”
The Bucks, who finished the season with the NBA’s best record at 58-24, lost the series to the Heat four games to one. Milwaukee won the NBA championship in 2020-2021 and went 51-31 the following season, only to lose in the second round of the playoffs.
“Every year you work, you work towards something, towards a goal, which is to get a promotion, to be able to take care of your family, provide a house for them, or take care of your parents,” Antetokounmpo said Wednesday after the Bucks were eliminated. “You work towards a goal — it’s not a failure. It’s steps to success.”
“He’s so right,” Kerr said Friday before the Warriors played the Sacramento Kings in Game 6 of their first-round playoff series. “You know, are there really 29 failures every year in the league and only one (successful) team? It just can’t be a zero-sum game.”
Milwaukee has averaged roughly 54 wins a season over the last five years and has made the playoffs every year since 2016-17. Still, the Bucks faced some criticism for not having more playoff success while in their championship window with a superstar like Antetokounmpo on their roster.
Kerr knows all about big expectations. The Warriors won four world titles in eight seasons from 2014-22 and made the NBA Finals in two other years. Still, Kerr and company faced questions after missing the postseason in 2020 and 2021.
“I watch our guys every day, and I know this goes on around the league. But these guys work so hard, and they put so much into it, and so when you hear terms like embarrassment or ashamed, like, why should anybody on Milwaukee be embarrassed or ashamed that they lost in the playoffs?” Kerr said. “Nobody should be embarrassed. As long as they put in the work and put in the effort — which you know they did — this is sports at the highest level.”
Kerr thanked Antetokounmpo for offering some perspective and context to what it’s like to be a player or coach in the NBA.
“Miami’s a hell of a team. Jimmy Butler’s one of the greatest players in the league. Erik Spoelstra is one of the great coaches in the league,” Kerr said. “You can say all that stuff, upset and (number) one versus eight, these are the greatest players on Earth. They’re competing against each other, and somebody’s going to win and somebody’s going to lose.”
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Kerr said he saw a story on ESPN that said a Cleveland Cavaliers team official noted that coach J.B. Bickerstaff’s job was still safe despite losing in the first round to the New York Knicks.
“I’m like, ‘Oh, really?’ Like, this guy turned the franchise around. You think about where Cleveland was two years ago,” Kerr said of the Cavs, who have improved from 22-50 to 51-31 in three years under Bickerstaff.
“J.B. is one of the best coaches in the league, a phenomenal addition and has done a phenomenal job. So when you read stuff like that, it’s sort of mind-boggling. But it is the world we live in and we all know what we’re signing up for. But it’s great when you have representatives like Giannis to try to talk sense into everybody.”
NOTE: Draymond Green came off the bench for the third consecutive game Friday, as the Warriors went with a starting lineup of Steph Curry, Jordan Poole, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, and Kevon Looney.
Green, who was suspended for Game 3, averaged 16.5 points, seven rebounds and seven assists on games 4 and 5 when he came off the bench and averaged just over 31 minutes per game.
Green mentioned recently that coming off the bench has allowed him to watch the game develop before he enters.
“He’s seeing the openings that are there against their defense,” Kerr said of Green. “He did a great job of attacking the basket and seeing the lanes to the hoop, putting it on the floor and getting to the rim and scoring.”