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Coach Steve Kerr makes season debut on Warriors bench

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Stein: 'It will be a lift' for Kerr to return (3:00)

ESPN senior NBA writer Marc Stein discusses the impact Steve Kerr will have when he returns to the bench Friday against the Pacers. (3:00)

Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, after missing more than half of the season, returned to the bench Friday night against the Indiana Pacers (10:30 ET, ESPN).

"I was thinking of doing like MJ did and send a fax out that just says, 'I'm back,'" Kerr said, "but I don't think faxes, do they even exist at this point? I don't know."

After posting a 67-15 record and winning the NBA title in his first season as Warriors coach, Kerr missed almost all of training camp and the first 43 games of the season for complications stemming from offseason back surgery. The first of two surgeries Kerr underwent over the summer caused a spinal fluid leak that left him suffering from painful headaches for months. While Kerr was confident he would return, he conceded it was much more difficult than he expected.

"I was confident all along that I'd be back," Kerr said. "Honestly, when I first stepped aside I was thinking a month or two. Turned into a long ordeal. It was tough.

"This is life. One minute, you're hoisting a trophy, and the next minute you're in the hospital," Kerr said. "Everybody, every human being, experiences that in their own existence, no matter what job you're doing. You have highs and lows, health issues, great joy and great pain and all that. It's part of life, and you gotta just fight through and get back to where you want to be. And that's the journey I've been on."

Stephen Curry said the team celebrated Kerr's return with "the coach Kerr championship, Chicago Bulls celebration" -- a play on a Kerr celebration from his time in Chicago.

"Throw your hands in the air," he said, putting his hands in the air and screeching. "Like everybody in unison. Welcome him back that way. Only fitting way I know how to welcome him back."

Kerr has been traveling with the team since the end of December in hopes of proving he is able to resume the day-to-day grind involved with NBA coaching. He informed his players Friday morning just before the shootaround began that he had decided to make his return against the Pacers.

"Just being on the road with the team, it really felt like I turned a corner on this road trip," Kerr said. "After this past week or 10 days or so, I just felt like, OK, this is finally turning in the right direction, and now's the time."

Curry said the news caught the team off-guard.

"Nobody really knew. We knew he'd been around for a week or so, getting back into the flow of things," Curry said. "He's looked good for a while so, [it's] nice to know he's making that commitment to get back and we're ready to go."

A victory over Indiana would give Golden State its 38th straight regular-season home victory, tying the Warriors with the 1985-86 Celtics for third place on the all-time list for such unbeaten streaks. The Warriors are 19-0 at home this season and haven't lost at Oracle Arena since a 113-111 overtime loss to the Chicago Bulls on Jan. 27, 2015.

The Pacers will be without George Hill (personal reasons), Ian Mahinmi (sprained ankle) and Rodney Stuckey (ankle sprain/bruise) for Friday's contest. Pacers coach Frank Vogel said Hill, who has also missed Indiana's past two games, will rejoin the team Saturday against the Sacramento Kings.

"He's got a lot of plays in his mental Rolodex that he can bring out," Curry said. "It'll be fun to get him back on the whiteboard."

Assistant coach Luke Walton posted a 39-4 record as Golden State's interim coach, but NBA rules dictate that all of those wins and losses go on Kerr's record. Walton won NBA Coach of the Month honors for November after the Warriors completed the season's first month with a 19-0 record en route to a 24-0 run, which eclipsed the previous NBA record for the best start to a season (15-0).

As for talk of Walton's potential eligibility to coach in the All-Star Game, Kerr said, "I heard they might send him, which I find amusing because they didn't give him any wins, and yet they're saying you're the coach of -- you're the new coach.

"So, I don't know what they're going to do with that, but I know that, if they do it by the normal rule, then Gregg Popovich will be going to Toronto, and I know how excited Pop is to coach another All-Star Game," he joked.

Kerr said Walton stepped in and "did an amazing job," along with the coaching staff.

"What can you say about Luke?" Kerr said. "I thought maybe he'd go 40-3, but 39-4 -- we'll have to settle for that."

Information from ESPN senior writer J.A. Adande and The Associated Press contributed to this report.