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Warriors’ season reminds Steve Kerr of Bulls’ ‘slog’ to last title of Jordan era

The 1997-98 season was a "slog" for the champion Bulls, according to Steve Kerr. The former guard and current Warriors coach is experiencing a similar season now. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Twenty years.

Believe it or not, that’s how long it has been since the Bulls’ last championship season. It’s like we blinked and a whole lot of basketball — much of it pitiably bad — just flew by.

Yep, 20 years. That would make Warriors coach Steve Kerr, in town with his team Wednesday to face the Bulls — for whom he played in 1993-98 — 52. In other words, as old as the hills.

‘‘It is a long time ago, and it does seem like a long time ago,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s a different life altogether. But it was one of the great periods of my life, my family’s life, not just winning championships but, for my wife and me, having kids here and raising babies, winning titles. That’s a pretty exciting time of life.’’

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But one of the things Kerr remembers most about that 1997-98 season was how grueling it was. The Bulls, who had averaged 70½ victories and won back-to-back titles the previous two seasons, staggered out of the starting gate at 8-7. They finished 62-20 but on many nights had to search for emotion that just wasn’t there.

A seven-game Eastern Conference finals against the Pacers was frustrating and tiring. The championship round against the Jazz stretched the Bulls to their physical and emotional limits, Kerr said.

‘‘That season just felt like it was a slog,’’ he said.


The Warriors are having a similar experience this season, Kerr said. It doesn’t come as a surprise after they sandwiched a pair of championship seasons around their record-setting 2015-16 team, which went 73-9 but lost in seven games to the Cavaliers in the Finals.

So it turns out Kerr has been thinking about that 1997-98 season a lot lately. Which is fitting, considering how often he’s asked to compare the Warriors of Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant to the Bulls of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.

You know where this is going: Which group was better?

‘‘I think I would probably shut down Curry pretty well if I would’ve been matched up with him,’’ Kerr joked. ‘‘I know his game so well as a coach now that it would’ve been easy for me to just lock him up with my speed and lightning quickness.’’

Not much of an answer. Funny, though.

Follow me on Twitter @SLGreenberg.

Email: sgreenberg@suntimes.com