The series hasn’t even started yet, but Alvin Gentry and Steve Kerr have already delivered a few good-natured barbs at each other. New Orleans’ third-year head coach joked Saturday after wrapping up a Round 1 sweep over Portland that his only focus in facing Golden State is “I just want to outcoach Steve Kerr. That’s all.” Meanwhile, the Warriors’ head coach joked of a West semifinal series with the Pelicans that “fortunately, Alvin Gentry doesn’t really know what he’s doing.”
Golden State’s lead assistant coach under Kerr during that franchise’s run to an NBA championship in 2015, Gentry does know the Warriors and many of their players very well, but he downplayed that factor after Wednesday's practice. Asked how much it could help that he’s so familiar with the Warriors – he even gets frequent texts from Golden State forward Draymond Green – Gentry described it as an overplayed factor. He used an example from the NFL, where New England’s Bill Belichick has several former assistants who’ve taken over other teams, but they still don’t often fare well against the Patriots.
“I don’t think you gain anything from that,” Gentry said of his unique perspective on Golden State and its key players. “I know tendencies and things like that – so does Ian (Clark, a Warriors reserve the previous two seasons) – but at the end of the day, it’s about execution.”
Another major potential factor in the Round 2 matchup is the status of two-time MVP Stephen Curry, who has only played in one game since March 9. Golden State is expected to evaluate Curry’s status Friday and give an update on when the guard may be able to return to action. Kerr said on the weekend in San Antonio that Curry is “not going to play anytime soon,” as reported by Mercury News writer Mark Medina.
As a result, New Orleans is trying to prepare for both possible versions of the Warriors, including the one they beat at Oracle Arena on April 7. Curry was sidelined for that game, but Kevin Durant poured in 41 points, going 16/26 from the field. The Pelicans won 126-120 partly because their offense received 25 points or more from Jrue Holiday, Anthony Davis and Nikola Mirotic, a trio that has played at an elite level throughout an active nine-game winning streak.
“A lot of it is personnel, knowing tendencies,” Holiday said of getting ready to face Golden State. “If Steph comes back, you have to be a lot more aggressive on him (in terms of preventing deep three-point shots). If not, with Andre (Iguodala) you have to be aggressive as well, just not in the same way (against a forward who does more attacking and slashing to the basket). The schemes will stay pretty much the same.
“We’ll assume (Curry is playing) and go from that. If Steph is going to play, we have ways to defend that. If he doesn’t, we have way to defend that lineup.”
New Orleans built several big leads against Golden in regular season head-to-head matchups, but was unable to hold them, going just 1-3. The most significant improvement the Pelicans made in their late-season road win on the Warriors’ home floor came in reducing turnovers. NOLA averaged 18.3 turnovers in the three defeats vs. Golden State, but only had eight miscues in the victory.
“I would say turnovers,” Holiday said of the most critical category for the Pelicans while facing the Warriors. “They’re probably top-three in transition points, (making them) especially (dangerous) with the way they shoot, attack the basket and defend.”