Warriors’ Kerr offers high praise for Celtics

Steve Kerr and the Warriors square off with the Celtics on Thursday.

Steve Kerr has been an NBA coach for three seasons, and each season, his team has made it to the Finals. Twice, his Golden State Warriors have won the title.

So it’s safe to say Kerr knows how to identify a winner.

Kerr and the Warriors visit Kyrie Irving and the Boston Celtics on Thursday, a game in which Irving said has him “looking forward to all that hoopla.”

The Warriors are again the favorites; the Celtics have won 13 straight.

“It sure looks like Boston is the team of the future in the East, with the assets that they still have and their young talent and their coaching, and Kyrie is amazing,” Kerr told reporters. “That looks like a team that is going to be at the top of the East for a long time to come. Whether their time is now or the future, that’s to be determined, but they sure look like they want it to be right now.”

Kerr respects how the Celtics have gotten it done — with just four starters returning from last season’s team.

Along with Irving, rookie Jayson Tatum, second-year man Jaylen Brown and veteran center Al Horford, the Celtics have formed a winning nucleus under proven coach Brad Stevens.

And to think the Celtics lost standout small forward Gordon Hayward for the season just five minutes into the first game.

“They’re really sound, and they’re motivated,” Kerr said. “It’s a team that’s been on the rise the last couple of years. They lost in the conference finals. They want to win a championship, and it looks like it. Even without Gordon Hayward and that awful injury, Boston is just crushing people. So, it’s going to be really fun to go against them on Thursday. We know how tough it’s going to be.”

As for Irving, Kerr knows him all too well. After all, it was Irving who hit the biggest 3-pointer of the Finals in 2016, lifting the Cleveland Cavaliers over the Warriors in Game 7.

But Irving requested a trade over the summer and wound up in Boston, leaving behind LeBron James and a team that made three straight Finals appearances in the process. Still, early returns have been extremely positive.

“I just think it’s his team,” Kerr said of Irving. “In Cleveland, he was such a dominant force, but it was always going to be LeBron’s team. It just looks like Kyrie knows it’s his group and he’s thriving with that group of players around him. It just seems like the next stage in his development. He knew what he was doing when he decided to leave. I admire Kyrie. Obviously, he’s been a thorn in our side for years, and now he just happens to wear green.”