TOKYO — Last time Steve Kerr and Draymond Green were in Japan, their sole focus was basketball — and not necessarily by choice.
This time around, however, that won’t be the case.
Green and Kerr returned to Tokyo this week for a pair of preseason games between the Warriors and Wizards. Their arrival comes a year and some change after they helped the U.S. men’s basketball team win gold at the 2020 Summer Olympics that were postponed due to the pandemic.
“It’s great to be here for a second straight summer but this summer, things are open and we’re able to go out and eat and travel around the city — things we weren’t able to do last year because of COVID,” Kerr said Thursday before practice. “It’s really great to be back here in a more comfortable setting.”
Last year, Kerr and Green were confined to their hotel rooms for 19 days as part of the Summer Olympics’ COVID-19 protocols unable to interact much with the locals.
“We literally weren’t allowed to leave,” Kerr said Thursday before practice. “I may or may not have snuck out a couple of times for a walk but we couldn’t go to restaurants, we couldn’t go to a bar. It was shut down.”
The only time they were able to get out of their rooms was for practices and games.
“Last time we were here, the entire city was locked down,” Green recalled. “So just to have the opportunity to go to some different restaurants, do some shopping, get out and walk around, there’s some beautiful parks. I kind of enjoy nature so really excited about the opportunity that we’ll have some time to really explore the city and not just come [and] play two games and leave.”
Starting the preseason more than 5,000 miles from home isn’t an ideal schedule. The 10-hour plane ride and 16-hour time difference can disrupt sleep schedules and take a toll on the players before the grind of an 82-game regular season.
Still, Kerr views this as a golden opportunity to help build team chemistry, especially among the younger players.
“It’s an awesome experience,” Kerr said. “Japanese people are amazing, the sense of hospitality that you feel everywhere you go is just incredible. I think the fact it’s so early in camp is good for us. I’m looking at this as an extension to training camp and these are more practices than anything for us the next couple of days so it’s a good time to bond and come together as a team.”
The Warriors play their first preseason game Friday and another Sunday before returning home. They won’t play another preseason game for eight days after getting back to San Francisco, giving them ample time to readjust.