In his eight seasons as the Golden State Warriors’ head coach, Steve Kerr has overseen the winningest team in NBA history, a league-worst team, and a team with enough drama to pack a soap opera.
If Kerr has learned anything during his three-plus decades in and around the NBA, it’s that multi-millionaires handle a murky financial future differently. Some use it as motivation. Others let the stress of it all hurt their job performance. Perhaps the only certainty is that, for the Warriors to repeat as champions, they must prioritize what’s best for the team over their own contract situations.
This is much trickier than it sounds. The duration of an NBA player’s earning potential is limited. Gaudy stats during a contract year are often the difference between an athlete vaulting from rich to generationally wealthy. Regardless of what Poole, Wiggins, Green and even the mild-mannered Thompson say publicly in coming months, they figure to think — at least in the back of their minds — about what their performance might mean for their next contract.
It is only human, a fact that Kerr understands well. During the 1997-98 season, Kerr — then a reserve guard for the Chicago Bulls — witnessed firsthand how contract frustrations can affect an NBA locker room. Scottie Pippen, at $2.8 million, was making 12 times less than teammate Michael Jordan’s $33.1 million salary. Resentful and bitter, Pippen fumed through much of that season.