Rewind: Two positives from Warriors' win over Kings; Camp Kerr on deck

Rewind: Two positives from Warriors' win over Kings; Camp Kerr on deck

SAN JOSE – If you’re looking for positive takeaways from the Warriors’ 105-96 win over the Sacramento Kings on Thursday night, there are two.

One: Kevin Durant is looking more and more like the Kevin Durant we’ve seen for most of his nine-year career, as he shot well, defended adroitly and continues to ease into the team’s style of play.

[POOLE: Durant becoming more aggressive as he acclimates to Warriors]

Two: The Warriors bench, even though under reconstruction, has better goods than the players coming off the Sacramento bench. Led by Ian Clark and rookie Patrick McCaw, they rallied from a 96-91 deficit with 3:18 left to overtake the Kings with 14-0 closing run.

Other than that, the largely tedious exercise at SAP Center best served the Warriors as a natural reintroduction to Camp Kerr, which enters Phase II on Saturday, after the team takes a breather on Friday.

Coach Steve Kerr, whose biggest pet peeve is turnovers, now has plenty of ammo. The Warriors committed 24, 15 of which came in the first half during which the starters accounted for 111 of the 120 total minutes.

“Sloppy, sloppy,” Kerr said of the first 24 minutes. “That’s what we talked about before the game was execution. I knew there wouldn’t be great energy tonight. We expended a lot of energy the other night against the Clippers in a home game on national TV. This was kind of a natural letdown game and preseason, all that. I was really trying to implore our guys before the game to take care of the ball and execute. Unfortunately, we didn’t do it.”

The first-half turnovers were a team effort, with Draymond Green, Stephen Curry, Zaza Pachulia and Durant combining for nine, while Andre Iguodala came off the bench to commit three in 12 minutes. The miscues surely contributed to the Warriors being down five (55-50) at the half.

“A lot of turnovers,” was Green’s description of the half. “We came out the gate and didn’t get stops. You’ve got to give them some credit but we’ve got to be better on the defensive end. They shot 18 more shots than us in the first half. It’s hard to have a great half when that’s the case.”

The Warriors, in three preseason games, have committed 65 turnovers. Because there is so much change – two new starters (Zaza Pachulia and Durant) and a new key reserve (David West) – there is a feeling-out process that at times can result in some downright hideous moments.

Which is where Camp Kerr comes in. The Warriors will get in at least five practices before their next game, Oct. 14 at Denver. Kerr will dedicate most of that time to intensify the education of the new players.

“It’s all new and it’s all going to take some time,” Durant said. “We just have to be patient.”

Though Kerr is bothered by the turnovers, neither he nor his players consider them a threat to sabotage the goals of the team.

“It’s preseason and these guys are vets,” he said. “They know the long grind ahead and they know they have to clean some things up and I’m confident that they’ll do so.”

With Rockets healthy and dominant, this will no doubt be Warriors' hardest championship


With Rockets healthy and dominant, this will no doubt be Warriors' hardest championship

This has been a trying season for the Golden State Warriors – I mean, trying being a relative term here – but especially for those Warriors who were here in 2014-15 and watching the Houston Rockets have that very season.
Fortunately for them, they are channeling most of their energies in escaping the injury list, but the fact remains the same. Houston is playing better, may well BE better, and is showing no signs of slowing to enjoy the view in the rear-view mirror.
This isn’t just the way they beat Portland in Portland Tuesday night, but they way they have gone 30-3 – which is 29 more versions of the way they beat Portland Tuesday. They are not a direct comp with that Warriors team except at the macro level, which is that they are the ones whose players know how they fit with each other, and they are the ones who have one more effective player than everyone else.
And they’re the ones fielding the full team when everyone else is dented and belching blue smoke.
The Warriors won their two championships for many reasons, but one that bears repeating is the fact they finished fourth from the bottom in man-games lost to injury – in other words, they were healthy when all those around them are not.
Now they look like tired and creaky and spare-part-y, and as much as people have tried to hitch their wagons to the secret stopgap of the week – this week’s winner, Quinn Cook – they are getting karma’d the hard way this year. The player who has played the most games is Nick Young, who was hailed as an excellent 10th man when he was signed, and their top four players (Harrison Barnes being the pre-Kevin Durant) have gone from missing 10 games in 2015 to 21 to 33 to 46.
This may seem normal given that this has been a worse year for injuries in the NBA than last year, but timing matters too. James Harden’s last missed game was March 11 (before that January 15), Chris Paul’s was December 28, and Clint Capela has missed one game since December 29. Houston’s run began on January 8.
Coincidence? No. The reason Houston is better? Also no. There are plenty of other metrics that show that pretty clearly, including those pesky standings. The best team has the best record, as it did in the last three seasons (exempting, of course, that troublesome June in 2016), so live with it. 
Can this change? Yes. It’s March 21, and lots of things can happen to any team, most of them bad. But the difference is this – Houston needs as few of those things to happen as possible, and the Warriors need several of them. That hasn’t been true before. One-seeds have won eight of the last 10 titles for a reason, and the Warriors have been inspirational frontrunners.
But now they have to punch uphill, and they can’t even start punching until their injury list shortens to a manageable – oh, let’s say five; don’t want to peak too soon.
And then let’s see how long it takes for them to get up to speed, both physically and as a unit. It is not inconceivable that they could run out of time before they run out of problems.
The point is, Houston is showing just how hard this is going to be for the Warriors, and if Golden State does win anyway, it will be their best championship because it will be the hardest. Not their most fun, mind you, but legacies are built on degree of difficulty.
Anyway, they no longer have a choice. They’re coming off the pace, or they’re not arriving at all.

Four things we learned while Steph Curry dealt with fourth ankle injury

Four things we learned while Steph Curry dealt with fourth ankle injury

UPDATE (2:40pm PT on Tuessday): Steph Curry has been cleared for full team practices with the goal of playing this week, the Warriors announced.


The Warriors’ usual late-spring sprint toward the postseason, already slowed to a limp, deteriorated into a forlorn crawl Monday night in San Antonio as they were losing for the fourth time in six games.

Draymond Green, the only “healthy” member of the team’s All-Star quartet, left the game in the second quarter with a pelvic contusion and did not return.

Though Green said after this 89-75 loss to the Spurs that he doesn’t consider this a serious injury, it’s abundantly clear reinforcements can’t arrive soon enough.

Stephen Curry, a profoundly superior reinforcement, may return as soon as Friday.

Curry’s tender right ankle is scheduled to be reevaluated Tuesday, after which the Warriors will establish a timeline for his return. He could, according to team and league sources, be back in the lineup Friday night when the Atlanta Hawks visit Oracle Arena.

That would provide a massive injection of talent for the Warriors, who lost of three games during a four-day stretch in which they were forced to rely heavily on reserves and role players.

“We’re already shorthanded and then we lose another All-Star, the glue to our team, Draymond, at halftime,” said Quinn Cook, who in scoring 73 points over the past three games did an admirable job of trying of producing Curry-like numbers.

As good as Cook was on Monday, scoring 20 points, it’s a bit much to ask Cook to lead the Warriors past a San Antonio team fighting to extend its 20-year streak of consecutive playoff appearances.

The Warriors are built around their four All-Stars -- Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Curry and Green. They usually can withstand the loss of one, and they can often are OK missing two. But when it’s three, and possibly four, the defending champs are a home without a foundation.

As the Warriors were losing four of six games, and two of the last three, we have learned four things:

1) Cook is an NBA keeper.

The point guard from Duke, who turns 25 on Friday, has proved not only that he belongs in the league but also that he can survive in the rotation of a championship contender. He’s considerably more effective than Pat McCaw. Even if everybody were healthy, it would be hard, maybe foolish, to deny Cook minutes.

2) Kevon Looney continues to smooth the rough edges of his game.

The Warriors opened the season uncertain what they could expect from a forward that has undergone surgery on both hips. Month after month, though, he has done most everything they could have asked. He operates well in their switching defense, is effective in traffic and now he’s blocking shots and raining jumpers. At this rate, the Warriors would be delighted to have him back next season.

3) David West and Jordan Bell are in search of rhythm.

West was reliably excellent, at both ends, prior to missing five games with a cyst on his right arm. Since returning last Friday, there have been visible signs of rust. He’ll be OK in time, but at 37 likely needs another game or two to rediscover his touch.

Bell missed 14 games with a left ankle sprain, returned briefly, sustained a sprain of his right ankle and missed three more games. In the three games since his return, he has yet to look comfortable. It’s not just rust; it’s also the team around him. He’s at his best when supporting the stars. It may take him a while before he shines again.

4) Postseason minutes may be scarce for Nick Young

The Warriors hired Young to score while not embarrassing himself on defense and he has had good moments on both ends. But his inconsistency -- partly attributed to unspectacular conditioning -- grates on coaches and sometimes teammates. As much as he wants to enjoy the postseason, he’s playing his way toward an insignificant role unless injuries dictate otherwise.