Steve Kerr: The Difficulty of Three-Peating

It’s certainly no secret that Phil Jackson has led three separate groups of players to three consecutive NBA championships, albeit with crucial holdovers from his first Chicago Bulls stint to his second:

One common theme amongst Jackson’s two Bulls’ teams was that the third championship (1993 and 1998) was by far the toughest to come by, particularly in the long regular season.

The 1992-93 Bulls went 57-25 a season after going 67-15, and the 1997-98 Bulls went 62-20 after a 69-13 mark the previous campaign (and an NBA record 72-10 in 1996-97). The 2001-02 Lakers managed to win two more games (58) than the 2000-01 squad, but barely survived the Western Conference Finals against the Sacramento Kings (Robert Horry’s three) where as the 2000-01 squad went an NBA record 15-1 en route to a title.

TNT broadcaster Steve Kerr was last year known as the GM of the Phoenix Suns, and perhaps best known for his clutch shooting on the second of Jackson’s three-peating teams, hitting big shots from the passes of Michael Jordan or Scottie Pippen. His career shooting percentage from three-point territory is remarkable: 45.4 percent, the best in league history until Nets guard Anthony Morrow surpassed the mark this season, currently above Kerr by the closest of margins at 44.5 percent.

Over All-Star weekend in Los Angeles, we caught up with Kerr — who has been TNT’s color analyst in four games this season — to talk about the difficulty of three-peating and how it applies to Jackson and this year’s Lakers.

On the most difficult element of three-peating:
Kerr: The thing about trying to three-peat, and remember, the Lakers were in the Finals in 2008, so this is their fourth attempt at reaching the Finals, is that fatigue is a major factor. Both physical and emotional fatigue, and Phil understands that better than anybody.

On what he recalls from the 1998 Bulls three-peat:
Kerr: I know in Chicago in 1998 we ended up winning 62 games, but there were moments of that season where we were fractured, and we had bad losses, and people around us and in the media were panicking a little bit. That’s the way it goes in the NBA. You just keep fighting and getting off the mat, and you have to play your best in the spring. That’s what Phil knows, and what he tries to get out of his teams.

On if anything he saw from the Lakers prior to the All-Star break concerned him, or if it fell under the aforementioned “fatigue” factor:
Kerr: I watched them beat Boston, in Boston, 10 days ago. You can say, ‘Oh my gosh, (L.A. lost to) Cleveland,’ but Cleveland had been playing everybody tough for about two weeks prior to that and just beaten the Clippers. They were a little angry (from the 55-point loss in L.A.), it was the last game before the All-Star break, and sometimes guys check out mentally whether they know it or not before the break. I don’t put that much stock into it. To me, it’s always, in this league, about how you pick yourself up after situations like this, and I would expect the Lakers to bounce back and play well out of the All-Star break and into the playoffs.

On if he’d pick the Lakers to make it to a fourth straight Finals:
Kerr: Yes.