More than anyone, probably, Steve Kerr knows that the greatest sporting dynasties are bound to disappear. Partner of Michael Jordan at the Chicago Bulls, the former shooter experienced the end of the great Illinois team, after the 1998 title – the sixth in eight years. Having become the coach of the Golden State Warriors in 2014, at the head of which he revolutionized the game, the technician sees his franchise getting closer to the end of the track. “We’re not at the end, but we’re probably at the 15th or 16th hole,” Kerr estimated Saturday on the eve of the end of the NBA regular season, borrowing the metaphor of a golf circuit.

The final elimination of the Warriors on Tuesday, April 16, in the play-offs for the playoffs – the final stages – will perhaps make those who also coach Team USA, expected at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, revise their judgment.

Tenth in the regular season, star Stephen Curry’s teammates aspired to use this “play-in” format, introduced in 2021, to launch a new epic in the final stages. But beaten by the Sacramento Kings (118-94) in the Californian capital, they saw their desire shattered. End of a pitiful season, marked by the death of assistant coach Dejan Milojevic and the decline of its stars, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, this defeat questions the future of the San Francisco Bay franchise.

Opposed to the vengeful Kings, after their elimination by the Warriors in the first round of the playoffs last year (4-3), the 2022 NBA champions were unable to hide their limitations. Their aging hero, Curry (36), was held to 22 points. His counterpart from the “Splash Brothers”, Klay Thompson, had a catastrophic evening (0 points, 0/10 on shots), in line with a 2023-2024 season well below his peak years, where he was the best shooter in the major North American basketball league. In the opposing camp, De’Aaron Fox (24 points) and Domantas Sabonis (16 points, 12 rebounds) were there, perfectly supported by winger Keegan Murray, inducted “Splash Killer”, with his 32 points ( 8/13 three points).

“We are no longer the team we used to be,” Stephen Curry conceded at the end of the regular season. It’s difficult to compare with past years when we learned after a match that we had secured first place. But at least we’re playing for something. » With an awkward and hesitant collective, far from its four titles over the last ten years (2015, 2017, 2018 and 2022).

“It’s too early to talk about the future.”

Assistant to Steve Kerr for six years (2016 to 2022), Mike Brown experienced the great years of the Curry-Thompson-Green trio. But the man who has coached the Kings for two years and put the Sacramento franchise back in the spotlight has not been emotional. “These three guys are special, and I was a member of a multi-champion team, and have many wonderful memories with them. But what they decide for the future is their choice. And the truth is that it does not concern me, and is not my problem at all,” insisted the technician after the victory of his troops on Tuesday. To validate their ticket for the final stages, the Kings will have to win in the second round of play-offs, Friday on the New Orleans Pelicans field.

The Louisiana team lost on Tuesday to the Los Angeles Lakers of LeBron James who continues to defy time (110-106). At 39, the “King” qualified for his 17th playoffs in 21 NBA seasons, and will face the defending champions, the Denver Nuggets, in the first round of the finals on Saturday. Author of 23 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists, the best scorer in the history of the big league struggled, like his partners, to clip the wings of the valiant Pelicans, led by an untenable Zion Williamson. But the injury to the powerful power forward from New Orleans (40 points and 11 rebounds) at the end of the game sealed the outcome.

Is this the end of Golden State’s dynasty? Klay Thompson is at the end of his contract, Draymond Green and Stephen Curry are still signed for two years. Eliminated before the start of the playoffs, the team needs to renew itself. But for Steve Kerr the time has not yet come to sound the death knell for “his” Warriors. “It’s too early to talk about the future. We have won several titles with incredible players, we are on the other side, we do not stay at the top forever. What should happen this summer we will think about later,” concluded the coach, who should take Stephen Curry among the American squad aiming for Olympic gold in Paris.

On Wednesday, it is the turn of the Eastern Conference to deliver the last teams qualified for the NBA playoffs, with the play-offs between the Philadelphia Sixers of Frenchman Nicolas Batum and the Miami Heat, on the one hand, and the opposition between the Chicago Bulls and the Atlanta Hawks.