Settle down: Warriors have best record while still in experimental phase

Settle down: Warriors have best record while still in experimental phase

OAKLAND -- Waiting for the Warriors to achieve perfection is not easy. Not when the roster is so mesmerizing and the games are a nightly spectacle. Not when the there is a glaring mistake here, an inexplicable meltdown there.

And it’s certainly hard to remain calm when there is a glaring error there, an inexplicable meltdown here and suddenly the Twittersphere is abuzz, inciting widespread anxiety, if not sheer panic.

That’s all it took for clueless keyboard CEOs to call for the head of coach Steve Kerr after recent losses to the Cavaliers and the Grizzlies.

How about taking a breath and remembering that these Warriors were not assembled to impress throughout the regular season but to excel in the postseason? The addition of a superstar like Kevin Durant means there will be growing pains. It also means the only bar that matters can’t be cleared or even clearly visible until the NBA Finals.

Meanwhile, every game and every practice is a preparatory exercise toward that. The Warriors are using the first 50 or 60 or 70 games as their laboratory. That they are an NBA-best 33-6 means little except to hint maybe they are on schedule.

“We’re still experimenting, that’s the best thing about it,” Durant said late Tuesday night, after the win over Miami. “We’re still winning at a high rate and we’re still trying to figure ourselves out.”

Durant was referring specifically to rotation tweaks Kerr made Tuesday night in the absence of Klay Thompson but also as part of an ongoing quest to discover which groups are the strongest as a unit.

Each game brings a little something different. JaVale McGee always is the first big man off the bench, unless he’s not. Shaun Livingston and David West always enter and leave together, unless they don’t. Starters Stephen Curry and Durant always stagger their minutes in the second, third and fourth quarters. Unless, that is, Kerr decides to try something else.

What was consistent last season, that Draymond Green would share the floor with Curry 99 percent on the time, is less consistent this season. When a roster is turned over by a third, coaches and players need time to discern what works best and why.

This is never more evident than in the final minutes of a close game. That they don’t have many makes it exceedingly difficult to accelerate the process.

“You can simulate the game plan when it comes to just being confident in what sets you’re going to run, the timing and spacing,” Curry said. “You can’t simulate the adrenaline rush, the environment of the fourth quarter, down the stretch, until you get into it. Practice is the only time you get a chance to work on it. You make adjustments from game to game if you have to.

“Every basketball team in history has had to figure that out as you go along through the season and get ready for the playoffs.”

These Warriors don’t get a grace period, which sets them apart from every basketball team in history. They entered the season on a massive vessel of overheated hype as the greatest collection of talent ever assembled, All-Stars stacked atop All-Stars, hands extended for the fitting of rings.

But reality has a way of delivering reminders that the work is ongoing and can’t be cheated. There are no shortcuts. If you think there are the fourth quarter will set you straight.

“We’re figuring out what things to go to when we need to stop a run,” Green said. “What sets do we need to run in order to get a good shot? You can’t guarantee a bucket, but if you get a good shot that’s all you can ask for.

“And we’re starting to figure those things out as we continue to go, continue to play together. That’s good. Because there’s going to be times like that throughout the rest of this season and, of course, in the playoffs where a team goes on a run and we’ve got to go to something to stop that run.”

Musicians go into the studio until they are satisfied. Contractors demolish and clean out before digging and drilling and hammering until they are satisfied. The greatest chefs can’t serve a meal until they’ve had time to prepare it.

We won’t know what the Warriors will look like until the playoffs. Until then, they are unfinished and bound to make the occasional mess.

That’s OK, for as they approach the halfway point of the season at 33-6, they are not chasing the championship of the regular season. They won that “title” last April.

Quinn Cook states his case for spot on Warriors playoff roster

Quinn Cook states his case for spot on Warriors playoff roster

Because it’s only two games against two of the worst teams in the NBA, it’s prudent to resist the temptation to fall in love with Quinn Cook.

Putting up Stephen Curry numbers in consecutive games does not make one Stephen Curry.

It’s impossible, though, not to clearly understand why the Warriors have consistently expressed faith in Cook, the two-way point guard who has spent three years trying to make an NBA team.

Two fine games are enough, though, for the coaching staff to recommend adding him to the postseason roster. It’s wise to have a contingency in case Curry has to miss any of the games that matter most, and the Warriors are a smart bunch.

Cook on Saturday told reporters in Phoenix that the Warriors have not addressed the possibility of being on the postseason roster. That doesn’t mean they aren’t thinking about it.

“He’s proven that he can compete at this level,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters Saturday night in Phoenix. “The last couple games, you’re seeing what he can do. He’s a great shooter. We’ve known that."

Cook scored, on back-to-back nights, 25 and 28 points, shooting 70 percent (21-of-30) from the field, including 71.4 percent (10-of-14) from deep. That’s Curry-type quality when he’s on a roll. Cook also handled the ball well, recorded seven assists and was pesky enough on defense to nab five steals.

“Quinn is showing the world that he is an NBA player,” Draymond Green said.

Cook’s 10 3-pointers over the past two games are more than anybody not named Curry, Durant or Thompson have drained over a similar stretch -- and only Nick Young among the team’s reserves have made more over any single month.

The Warriors, it just so happens, are dead last in 3-pointers made by reserves, averaging 2.0 per game, with Young accounting for 1.5 per game.

Cook is showing he might be able to help with this.

Kerr loves 3-point shooters. General manager Bob Myers is fond of saying he can never have too many shooters.

The Warriors are discovering they can’t have too many capable point guards, particularly when Cook is proving that he, like Curry, also is comfortable playing off the ball. Pairing Cook with Shaun Livingston, the primary backup to Curry, is a nice option to have.

“I’ve said all along,” Green said. “I sit here and watch so many other teams play and I wonder, ‘How is Quinn Cook a two-way player?' And then you’ve got guys in the league that can’t dribble with their left hand, or can’t go left, can’t go right, but you’ve got a guy like that as a two-way player.

“So I’m happy for him. I pray that he gets rewarded and gets what he deserves.”

Cook had brief trial runs with the Pelicans, as a rookie, and the Mavericks last season. He played a total of 14 games with the two teams. He has played 21 with the Warriors, seven as a starter, but only in the last two has he looked entirely comfortable in his role and with these teammates.

With Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Curry out, the Warriors need Cook to score. He knows he needs to score. He is scoring. And doing a few other things, too.

“Playing in the NBA is something that I’ve dreamed of my whole life,” Cook said after his 28-point performance in a win over the Suns. “I can’t really put it into words, just being able to put on an NBA jersey night in and night out, practice with an NBA team every day, has been my goal since I can remember. I’m just trying to get better every day and live in the moment. I’m just trying to win games. I’m trying to help out as much as possible, whether it’s getting guys shots, playing defense, shooting the ball.

“Lately the ball’s been going in a little bit. But with three All-Stars out, I’ve got to step up. I’m just taking it game by game and competing night in and night out.”

Sometime early next month, if not late this month, the Warriors expect to have their starting backcourt. Curry and Thompson will have returned before the playoffs begin April 14-15, and both will need to be available if for reasonable chance to repeat as champs.

But Cook is making his case for inclusion. He’ll get another test Monday night in San Antonio, where Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is sure to throw at Cook a few wrinkles he may not have seen, but the Warriors have seen enough to know he can help.

“He’s a good fit for us, too,” Kerr said. “It’s not just his ability. It’s his maturity. He’s very professional, does whatever is asked, the guys love him. They want to go to war with him.

“He’s a guy. He’s an NBA guy. We’re lucky to have him.”

That’s not an demand, or even a preference. To add Cook to the roster, the Warriors would have to shed one of their 15 players currently on a standard NBA contract.

But somewhere among Kerr’s words, I believe I see an endorsement.

Warriors need vets to bounce back against young Suns


Warriors need vets to bounce back against young Suns

The Warriors have lost three of their last four games, their roster is in shambles and, still, they look like pure gold in contrast to the Suns team they’re facing Saturday night in Phoenix.

Coverage on NBC Sports Bay Area begins at 6 o’clock, with tipoff scheduled for 7:05.

Reeling from the absences of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, the Warriors (52-17) showed plenty of the scrap in losing to the Kings on Friday in Oakland but couldn’t get much offense from their veterans.

The Suns (19-51) are having the worst season since 1968-69, their inaugural season. They’ve lost seven in a row, 16 of their last 17 and 21 of their last 23.


Warriors by 3


Quinn Cook vs. Elfrid Payton: Payton bolted to a 16-point first quarter and scored 29 the last time he faced the Warriors. Quinn is coming off a career-high 25-point game. With teams relying on diminished rosters, whichever of the two young PGs can set a tone gives his team an advantage.


Warriors: G Omri Casspi (R ankle sprain), G Stephen Curry (R ankle tweak), F Kevin Durant (R rib soreness), G Pat McCaw (L wrist fracture) and G Klay Thompson (R thumb fracture) are listed as out.

Suns: G Devin Booker (R hand sprain) and F Alan Williams (R meniscus tear) are listed as questionable. G Brandon Knight (L ACL tear) is listed as out.


Warriors: 7-3.

Suns: 1-9.


Tony Brothers (crew chief), Jacyn Goble, James Williams


The Warriors won the first of four meetings this season, 129-83 on Feb. 12 at Oracle Arena. They swept all four games last season and are 12-1 against the Suns in the Steve Kerr era.


MOTIVATED VETS: Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Zaza Pachulia, David West and Nick Young, expected to generate offense, combined to shoot 19-of-59 (32.2 percent) in a five-point loss Friday. They must be better; they can’t be much worse. Phoenix leads the NBA in points allowed.

THE BIG MEN: JaVale McGee started nine straight games at center, but Pachulia started the last two. The Suns are long up front, so McGee could be in line for a start or more minutes. In addition, Damian Jones, the team’s other 7-footer, also could get playing time.

STREAKING WITH THREES: The Suns own the longest active streak of games with at least one 3-point make (1,128). The Warriors are No. 2 (1,121). Both streaks are endangered. Curry, Thompson and Durant are out for the Warriors. Booker will either sit out or play with a splint on his shooting hand.