The Golden State Warriors are coming off their first NBA championship in 40 years and will return pretty much all of their players from last season.

There’s just one problem: While their players are back and healthy, their coach is not. Steve Kerr, who has undergone multiple back procedures this offseason, took a leave of absence from the Warriors on Oct. 2 to speed his recovery. He hopes to rejoin the team soon.

“He was having terrible back pains last year, and he had a back operation, which alleviated the pain,” NBA legend and Warriors consultant Jerry West said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “But as he was getting through this, he had some leakage from his operation. It was something that (was causing) severe migraine headaches, and he’s resting. He’s trying to do everything the doctors tell him. We certainly need him back. He did an unbelievable job for us and it’s just an unfortunate thing. But the doctors think he’s going to be fine. It’s just fluid leaking out of his spinal cord that has created this problem. And I talked to him a couple times and I said, ‘Look you need to get away. It’s more important to have you when the season starts than during the exhibition season.’”

The Warriors’ roster is full of young, talented, self-motivated players, so energy certainly shouldn’t be an issue. But what about the dreaded championship hangover? The Warriors, for whatever it’s worth, are 2-3 in the preseason and haven’t looked especially crisp. That figures to change on opening night against New Orleans on Oct. 27, but will the Warriors be ready to roll in full force once the season begins?

“Well, we’re hopeful we can,” West said. “We have not played well in the exhibition season, and I think we’re trying to assess some of our younger players and people who will not make our team, and we want to make sure that all the players on our roster get an opportunity to show if they can play in the NBA at this point in time. But I think the last two games that we play in our exhibition schedule, I think you’ll see a much better effort than we’ve had so far – because our effort has been very spotty, at best. If you win a championship, you have everyone telling you how great you are, but at the end of the day, the most competitive people play the most competitive games.”

Playing in a stacked Western Conference, the Warriors will need to be just as competitive as they were last year. In fact, they may need to be even better, as several teams improved this past offseason – at least on paper.

“There’s five really good teams out (West),” West said. “Oklahoma City will have all their players back healthy, the Clippers are very good, San Antonio is very good – they’ve added a very good player in LaMarcus Aldridge. Houston is a really very talented team, and I think New Orleans is a team that is on the up-and-up with a great young player in Anthony Davis. So the West is loaded. I think in the East obviously (everyone is picking) Cleveland, but if they were in the West, it might be interesting (to see) if people would pick them.”


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