The Golden State Warriors will pay tribute to late assistant coach Dejan Milojevic before undertaking the unenviable task of playing in an NBA game against the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night in San Francisco.
Milojevic suffered a heart attack at a team dinner with fellow Golden State coaches, players and staff in Salt Lake City last Tuesday night. He died at the hospital early the next morning, prompting the NBA to postpone the Warriors’ next two games.
Clearly shaken by the 46-year-old’s unexpected passing, Golden State took six days off, even making a scheduled Monday practice voluntary when some players informed coach Steve Kerr that they weren’t ready to return quite yet. The team was able to hold a full workout Tuesday, ending a week of mostly inactivity since a 116-107 loss at Memphis on Jan. 15.
“We needed (time to mourn). I want to thank the NBA, Adam Silver, for postponing those two games,” Kerr said Monday. “There’s no way any of us could have walked out onto a court and played a basketball game either (last) Wednesday or Friday.”
The Hawks-Warriors game will follow a video tribute to Milojevic, who was in his third season with Golden State after having started his NBA coaching career with the Hawks’ summer-league team in 2016. The longtime head coach in Europe also was on the San Antonio Spurs’ and Houston Rockets’ summer-league staffs before hooking up with Kerr.
Warriors center Kevon Looney, who worked closely with Milojevic, admitted that he is prepared for a return to the normalcy of the busy NBA schedule.
“Basketball is the fun part of our lives, getting on the court and competing. That’s what we’re all here as a family to do,” he said. “I’m looking forward to just being able to get to the game and be able to play. … I just want to get back on the court and try to get lost in my love for the game.”
The Hawks have had four games since the Warriors’ loss in Memphis, beating the Orlando Magic and Miami Heat before losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Kings. Monday’s 122-107 setback at Sacramento began a two-game California swing.
The game against Orlando came on the same day as the news broke of Milojevic’s passing. Hawks guard and fellow Serbian Bogdan Bogdanovic — noting he never played for Milojevic but went against him when he was a player in Europe — considered asking out of the Magic game.
“I was thinking about not showing up (last Wednesday) when I couldn’t sleep and I was out of my routine,” he said. “But then I was like, ‘He would not want me to do that.'”
Hawks star Trae Young is expected to miss his second straight game after suffering a concussion on Saturday against the Cavaliers. Backcourt mate Dejounte Murray, the subject of much trade speculation in recent days, picked up the slack with a game-high 35 points on Monday against the Kings.
Warriors fans should get the opportunity to see Draymond Green at home for the first time since he was suspended on Dec. 14 for hitting Phoenix’s Jusuf Nurkic in the face in a game against the Suns two days earlier.
After watching his team go 7-5 during his suspension, but then just 1-3 while he was working his way back into shape, Green had seven points, seven rebounds and four assists in 24 minutes off the bench in the loss at Memphis.
–Field Level Media
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