The formality has taken place, and the NBA’s two best teams will send their respective coaches to the benches for the 2015 NBA All-Star game in New York City, this February.
Funny thing about it: Mike Budenholzer, of the 35-8 Atlanta Hawks, wasn’t even a head coach two years ago this time. Neither was first-year Golden State Warriors man Steve Kerr, who’s led his team to a franchise-best 34-6 start.
Change happens fast in the contemporary, parity-driven NBA, and these two men might as well be the faces of it. Both coaches have improved their teams mightily by getting them to play their most selfless ball possible, trusting each other and some firm principles on defense, and moving the ball around fluidly to a vast array of deep-shooting talent on offense.
At time of publication, The Warriors and Hawks are No. 1 and No. 2 in 3-point field goal percentage, respectively.
Budenholzer and Kerr also share the common ground of a history with renowned San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. Budenholzer was an assistant under Pop for the majority of his stint in San Antonio, while Kerr played for the Spurs toward the end of his career, winning two titles with the team.
While the All-Star game is all about hijinks, levity and celebrity, this coaching showdown could very well prove to augur more serious stuff — the Hawks and Warriors are on a collision course in the NBA Finals. It’s just January, so there’s plenty of time for that to change; but there’s a fair chance we’ll look back on this event as the beginning of an epic NBA rivalry.
For now, the All-Star game can wait, but you certainly shouldn’t miss basketball’s two best teams as they finally square off two weeks from today in Atlanta.
— John Wilmes