Ron Adams

Warriors experiencing defensive revival under Jarron Collins' guidance

Warriors experiencing defensive revival under Jarron Collins' guidance

SAN FRANCISCO -- About 30 minutes after Golden State's 116-104 win over the Houston Rockets Wednesday evening, Draymond Green sat on a makeshift stage tucked inside Chase Center and made clear assistant coach Jarron Collins' prominent role in the team's best defensive outing of the season. 

"You gotta give him a lot of credit for this win," he admitted. "His game plan was f-----g phenomenal.”

Such statements have been few and far between for this iteration of the Warriors. With Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala gone, Klay Thompson out for an extended time and Draymond Green hobbled, Golden State's team defense has plunged to near the bottom of league. However, the Dubs have bucked that trend in recent weeks under Collins' direction, offering a bright spot in an otherwise listless season. 

"We're not the best defenses in the league but we're also not among the worst," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Thursday afternoon. "We're sort of middle of the pack over the last few weeks. That's a victory for us. J.C. deserves a lot of credit for that."

Collins' latest triumph came Wednesday when Golden State held the Rockets to 37.0 percent shooting from the field and forced Russell Westbrook to miss 21 of his 32 shot attempts. Houston's troubles came as the Warriors employed a defense that prioritized getting the ball out of star guard James Harden's hands. 

Each time Harden crossed midcourt,  Collins' strategy deployed two defenders to trap the former MVP.  The plan often left Westbrook -- a career 30.5 percent 3-point shooter -- to attempt wide-open looks from beyond the arc. By the end of the night, he had missed all seven of his 3-point attempts, and Harden -- who averages a league-best 38.1 points per game -- finished with 24 in the contest. 

The performance coincided with a mini-revival of Golden State's defense. Though ranked 28th in defensive rating, opponents are shooting just 39.6 percent from the field against the team in its last three games -- all wins. The turnaround has come despite no on-court contributions from Thompson and Stephen Curry, and as key role players like Kevon Looney, Eric Paschall and Damion Lee have all missed time with injuries. 

"It's a pretty tough spot to come in, to give in to the circumstances where we were a couple months ago, where we are now," Kerr admitted. "Pretty dramatic improvement for our team and I think J.C. deserves a lot of credit."

Collins joined Golden State's staff in 2014 as a player development coach, earning a promotion to an assistant the following year. Back in May, he interviewed for the Memphis Grizzlies' head coaching vacancy. When he wasn't hired elsewhere, he was promoted to the Warriors' de-facto defensive coordinator as fellow assistant Ron Adams' role was adjusted. 

A peek into Collins' past hints at why he has been successful in his current role. A 10-year veteran, he was often tasked with guarding the other team's best big man. Any queries of his playing career will be answered with a detailed breakdown of his best opponents, from Shaquille O'Neal to Tim Duncan.

About three hours before each game, Collins sits along the baseline with a laptop in hand, attempting to impart some wisdom on the next generation of Warriors.  

"I think it's super beneficial for me as one of my player development coaches," forward Marquese Chriss said of Collins' contributions. "I feel like I have the same kind of mindset with guys like that, so it's been helpful for me and helpful for other players on the team."

[RELATED: Chriss praises Steph as 'extra coach' for young Warriors]

Even coming off three consecutive victories, the Warriors still rank among the worst defensive units in the league. But if they can continue executing the game plans Collins' comes up with, comments like Green's after the win over the Rockets will become a regular occurrence. 

"He's been very consistent with his efforts and his messaging with our team," Kerr said. "And we've built a stability about our defense."

Ron Adams pinpoints where Warriors need to improve most on defense

Ron Adams pinpoints where Warriors need to improve most on defense

Warriors assistant coach Ron Adams no longer sits on the bench during games, but he still has a very important job.

The 72-year-old is a defensive guru, so it must be painful for him to see Golden State ranked 25th in defensive rating.

"We gotta get much better defending the 3-point shot -- that's kind of been a sticking point," Adams told Warriors radio voice Tim Roye prior to the Dubs' loss to the Grizzlies on Monday night. "But we now have more players, which helps.

"But it's really tough when you're on the road with eight or nine guys."

Well, speaking of defending the arc and losing to Memphis -- the Grizzlies went 15-for-40 (37.5 percent) from deep Monday. They entered the game shooting 34.2 percent (24th in the NBA), averaging 10.8 makes per game (No. 22).

But it wasn't a surprise to see Memphis connect from 3-point territory because the Warriors entered the matchup with the worst 3-point defense in the NBA, allowing opponents to make just under 40 percent of their attempts.

That's really, really bad -- especially when you give up the second most makes per contest (13.8).

[RELATEDReport: 'No world' where Iguodala gets buyout from Grizz]

And it's not like the Dubs suffered bad luck against Memphis.

If they don't clean up this area of the game, the Warriors' rough season only will get uglier.

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How to keep Warriors' NBA lottery draft pick status in perspective

ask_kerith_toyota_web.jpg
Illustration by Tara Funk

How to keep Warriors' NBA lottery draft pick status in perspective

Editor’s note: Kerith Burke, NBC Sports Bay Area’s Warriors reporter, will take you inside the two-time defending NBA champions as only she can each Friday with the Ask Kerith Mailbag. Send her a question on Twitter using the hashtag #askkerith

Tip-Off

The Warriors wrap up a road trip tonight in Utah. I saw a game notes gem. The player with the active streak for most consecutive games played is the Jazz' Joe Ingles, with 317.

The Warriors’ ironman was Klay Thompson, who set a franchise record with 214 consecutive games played. Before his ACL surgery, Klay had appeared in 615 of a possible 640 regular-season games. 

I miss Klay. We have something special planned with Klay in an upcoming broadcast. Stay tuned. 

Game On!

@MrHeavyMetaI Is it bad that fans hope the team loses so that they can have a top-three pick in the draft? #askKerith

I understand this reaction. I don’t think it’s “bad,” but it is predictable. Fans are disappointed by losses. So is the team! A top-three pick can hopefully get someone who can make an impact right away next season. 

I would caution that the Warriors still have months to play and yelling “tank!” at the players feels crummy. Every night they have to put on the uniform and do their jobs, and they sincerely want to do it the best they can. Players are not thinking about the draft right now. There’s too much pride and competitiveness. 

Fans can hold whatever feelings they want, but don’t expect the players to be in the same headspace. Especially in November. 

@Danny_G49 Assuming the Warriors pick high in the lottery next draft, which do you think is more likely? A) Select player B) Trade pick for vet. Thanks! 

@HiiiPowerRevo What do you think the Warriors should do with their top pick? Do they need a forward/wing or a center? Also is their indication that the warriors will really focus hard on building their bench for a next year championship push given how injuries are so frequent with the team.

I think they’ll select a player. A top pick means they get younger. That’s always important. 

The Warriors have homegrown veterans in Steph Curry, Klay, Draymond Green, and Kevon Looney. My guess is the emphasis will be on finding the next young star who can rise alongside these vets while they’re in their primes to put a championship back in sight. 

However, I’m not sure what’s possible to predict. There’s so much of the season left, with too many unknowns. Are the Warriors open to trades? Will some of the players with long-term injuries need more time to heal? Less time? What do the Warriors have in mind for D’Angelo Russell? Will Looney’s neuropathy impact his season and beyond? Could Ky Bowman force his way into a deal? What free agents around the league are realistic for the Warriors this summer?

Let’s work backwards with some dates:

The 2020 NBA Draft is June 25th. 
The draft lottery is May 19th. 
The trade deadline is February 6th. 
All contracts are guaranteed after January 10th. 
10-day contracts can be signed starting January 5th. 

Today is Nov. 22. What I see, in this moment, is a depleted Warriors team playing eight or nine guys a night and the impact that’s having. There are some young players getting minutes they’d never ordinarily see. There are pluses and minuses to that. 

For the rookies, there’s a big difference between the demands of the college game and the NBA game. All of this takes a toll on the body and the mind. 

I want to say a prayer, cross my fingers, wish on every star and find a genie in a bottle to ask for no more injuries. 

The point is, what we think we know about situations now might not be the same come January, February or this summer.

@enchillada_3 Where is Alen smailagic???? Last I heard he rolled his ankle before pre season??

Via IG, @evenstrongerps4 Any update on Smiley’s injury? #askKerith

Based on the mailbag questions I get, no player is as intriguing as Alen Smailagic, the 19-year-old forward from Serbia. Fans got a glimpse of him in the G League last season, and his highlight-reel dunks in Summer League. 

The Warriors announced this week that Smailagic is cleared for on-court workouts as his rehab for a sprained ankle wraps up. He’s currently practicing in Santa Cruz, as is Looney. The Warriors will re-evaluate Jacob Evans’ left adductor strain in two weeks.

It’s exciting that Smailagic is moving better, but fans should be prepared for limited minutes from him this season outside of Santa Cruz, if any at all. He is young, raw and in the developmental stages of his NBA career. Even with the Warriors’ need for bodies, the team is going to be very careful with him. 

@rtaborn Why didn’t the Warriors try to sign Melo? 

The Blazers have been looking at Carmelo Anthony since 2017 when he was on his way out from the Knicks, and Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum talked publicly about their desire to play with him. This season, the Blazers are thin with Jusef Nurkic and Zach Collins hurt, plus Pau Gasol announcing he’s done for the season so he can focus on rehabbing his foot injury. 

Adding Melo made sense. The Blazers could also pay Melo. The Warriors don’t have the money. 

I didn’t hear anyone around Golden State talking about Melo to begin with and he’s a better fit elsewhere. 

Via IG, @skiptomyvu Why isn’t Ron Adams on the bench anymore? 

Ron Adams is a beloved member of the Warriors' coaching staff. He remains an assistant coach and he works with players, but the way I understand it, Adams got to carve out his own role this season. 

The Warriors haven’t said much about what that means, but an assistant as respected as Ron -- with decades of coaching experience -- gets some freedom to do what he wants. 

Adams turned 72 this week. You might not see him on the bench or on road trips as much, but he’s putting his knowledge to good use for the Warriors. I see him often at Chase Center. He’s involved!

@RimRunninRagged Can you or @loganmmurdock update us on the Warriors practice playlist this season? Has it been updated to suit the musical tastes of new players on the team? Guessing no Janet Jackson or Tupac in the rotation …

Khalid Robinson, Special Assistant to Steve Kerr, is the man in charge of the practice playlists. He takes requests from all the players. A sample of the artists on the playlist are Nipsey Hussle, Ari Lennox, Future, Biggie and Da Baby. 

High Five

A big thank you to Jim Barnett for coming on the Runnin’ Plays podcast! That’s the new name for the pod Logan and I are doing together. 

Jim was requested by fans, and they were blunt about what they wanted to know: Does Jim feel pushed out from TV? Is he happy in his new role doing radio? 

Those answers, plus his incredible stories from his playing days when the schedule was ridiculous, the money was nothing and some of the all-time greatest players were his teammates can be heard on the pod. As you know, Jim was a baller in his own right. It was great to get to know him even better. 

Listen to the podcast by clicking here, or search “Runnin’ Plays” on Apple, Spotify or wherever you like to listen. 

Follow Kerith on Twitter @KerithBurke and on Instagram @warriorskerith, and, of course, watch her on NBC Sports Bay Area’s Warriors coverage all season.