With Gentry gone, big shoes to fill for 'brilliant basketball mind' Walton


With Gentry gone, big shoes to fill for 'brilliant basketball mind' Walton

OAKLAND – Luke Walton knows basketball. He also knows basketball fans. So he realizes there might be at least a hint of skepticism surrounding his promotion to lead offensive assistant coach for the defending champion Warriors.

He is, after all, entering his second season as a coach on any level.

Walton has only slightest trepidation, mostly because he’s moving into a new role under head coach Steve Kerr.

“I’m comfortable with our staff and our players,” Walton told CSNBayArea.com over the weekend. “I didn’t know if Steve was going to offer me the position or not. I would have been fine either way. But when he did, it showed me that he had a lot of confidence in me. And that makes accepting the job a lot easier.”

Walton’s promotion is about Kerr trusting his gut. It’s reasonable to trust Kerr, based on his work last season. He took an NBA coaching job last summer despite an absence of experience. He then hired an entirely new staff before opening training camp and made a significant change to the starting lineup he had inherited.

[POOLE: Warriors issue warning to NBA: Offense will be even better]

The rookie coach played roulette and, by copping an NBA championship, was a resounding winner.

Kerr’s response this offseason was to play it safe – with one exception. Rather than bring in another experienced hand to replace veteran Alvin Gentry as the assistant responsible for coordinating offense, Kerr promoted Walton.

Walton was born in 1980, the same year Gentry, who left the Warriors to become head coach of the New Orleans Pelicans, took his first coaching job. Gentry accepted his first NBA coaching job in 1989 – around the time Walton finished third grade.

Insofar as the Warriors owned the most prolific offense in the league, this is not unlike handing a teenager the keys to the Ferrari.

“I have all the confidence in the world in Luke,” Kerr recently told CSNBayArea.com.

“He’s got a brilliant basketball mind,” general manager Bob Myers said of Walton.

Walton’s new role will be the only truly significant new wrinkle on display when the team gathers Tuesday for the first workout of training camp. In his first season on the bench, in the role of No. 3 assistant, Walton earned the trust of staffers and players with an approach that some folks neglect.

[RELATED: Don't get it twisted: Warriors still team to beat in 2015-16]

He practiced open, honest, explanatory communication, often with a dash of humor.

“Luke is fortunate enough to have played and coached under some great coaches,” Myers said. “And he’s got an innate ability to think the game, to learn the game and also to communicate the game.”

Walton grew in a hoops family. His father, Bill Walton, is one of the greatest collegians ever and was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame. Luke also played under legendary Lute Olson at the University of Arizona before spending nearly nine seasons as a player with the Lakers under coaches Phil Jackson and Rudy Tomjanovich, both of whom own multiple championship rings.

So Walton knows how this offense, which implements elements of the famed triangle offense, is supposed to work. And there were times early last season, when the Warriors were new to the system, during which he would bite his tongue.

“Did it frustrate me? Yes, 100 percent,” Walton said of the first month of last season. “I would keep telling myself, ‘Luke, you were a player. You know what this is like.’ This was all new stuff for these guys. We’re up in the office watching hours of film. We see it. We know what we want. But this is brand new to them.

“So I’d tell myself, ‘Remember when you first tried the learn the offense?’ It’s hard. It took (ex-teammate) Lamar (Odom) three years to figure out the triangle offense.”

Walton says his role will expand with a heavier workload, requiring more detail. He will, as Gentry did, focus on offense.

“I’ll probably spend more time watching every game,” he said. “One of the things I learned from Alvin is he would watch every game, whether it was his team to scout or not. He would watch all the offensive clips and see what was working for us, what we needed to do at practice, things we needed to clean up. And he’d have clips after all those games and we’d watch them as a staff. Or he’d show Steve and we’d show certain clips to the players. I plan on adding that into the things I do.”

Hmm. Sounds like a sound direction to take.

“He certainly could be an Alvin Gentry one day,” Myers said of Walton, “and be a head coach in the NBA.”

Warriors execs scout top 2020 NBA draft prospect James Wiseman up close


Warriors execs scout top 2020 NBA draft prospect James Wiseman up close

The Warriors likely will pick much higher than they've gotten used to in June's NBA draft. 

Golden State is a league-worst 2-9 this season, appearing like a lock to keep the top-20 protected 2020 first-round pick the Warriors sent to the Brooklyn Nets as part of the Kevin Durant sign-and-trade. The Warriors would have no shortage of options if they picked at -- or around -- the top of the draft, and their front office got an in-person glimpse at Memphis center James Wiseman on Tuesday night, according to The Athletic's John Hollinger. 

Wiseman, plagued by foul trouble early, finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds as Memphis lost to Oregon on Tuesday night.

Wiseman will be one of, if not the best player available in the draft. The 7-foot freshman center averaged 22.5 points, 10.0 rebounds and 4.0 blocks per game entering Tuesday's game, and the 18-year-old has the upside to develop into something the Warriors have not had in the Steve Kerr era: A truly dominant big man.

[RELATED: Warriors' injury report still growing through trying season]

How much more Wiseman will play this season remains to be seen. The NCAA ruled Wiseman ineligible for taking $11,500 from current Memphis coach Penny Hardaway in order to help Wiseman's family move when he transferred to play for Memphis East, the high school Hardaway was coaching at the time. A Shelby County, Tenn. judge placed an immediate temporary restraining order on the college athletics governing body shortly after the NCAA's ruling. Plus, as SB Nation's Ricky O'Donnell noted, Memphis has not ruled Wiseman ineligible and the Tigers plan to continue playing him. 

Myers' presence at the Phil Knight Invitational in Portland, as well as that of Harris and Dunleavy, suggests the Warriors are taking their new reality very seriously. Golden State will need the lottery balls to bounce its way, too, in order to select Wiseman, but the Warriors should have done their due diligence by then, at least. 

Warriors continue to ache from most detrimental injury list in NBA

Warriors continue to ache from most detrimental injury list in NBA

SAN FRANCISCO – The Warriors left for Los Angeles on Tuesday shortly after posting an injury report that is the longest and surely the most roster-altering in the NBA. It runs seven deep and includes three starters, two of them All-Stars in Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

Asked if he’d ever seen anything like it, coach Steve Kerr replied with a single word.

“No,” he said. “I’m not going to expound it either.”

Six weeks removed from training camp, only four players – Ky Bowman, Marquese Chriss, Jordan Poole and Glenn Robinson III – have escaped the trainer’s room.

With five games over an eight-day span beginning Wednesday against the Lakers in LA, here is an alphabetical status update on each player:

Steph Curry

The two-time MVP and franchise focal point for the past seven seasons sustained a broken left hand on Oct. 30 and underwent hand surgery on Nov. 1, after which the Warriors announced he will be re-evaluated in three months. When Curry addressed the media on Monday, he was wearing a heavy protective sleeve that runs from his left hand to his forearm. He also disclosed that he will undergo a second operation in December to remove pins inserted in the original procedure.

Curry also was firm in announcing his intention to return sometime this season.

Timeline for clearance: Undetermined. Obviously not before February.

Jacob Evans III 

The 6-foot-4 guard in his second season, who was expected to be in the team’s rotation, has missed the last eight games with a left adductor strain.

“Jacob, from what I heard (Monday) talking with him directly and our training staff, is still at least a couple weeks away,” Kerr said.

Timeline for clearance: Undetermined. It likely will be at least a month before he returns, so around mid-December.

Kevon Looney

The 6-foot-9 center-forward, scheduled to be at least a part-time starter, has not played since opening night, after which he was diagnosed with neuropathy, a condition related to the nervous system. It’s treatable but not necessarily curable. The effects of his condition might be permanent.

“He’s working out every day, getting some good work in,” Kerr said.

Timeline for clearance: Undetermined. The Warriors would be delighted if he returns next month. Looney might always have some level of restriction.

Damion Lee

The two-way guard, in his second season in that role with the Warriors, was diagnosed Tuesday with a non-displaced fracture of the fourth metacarpal in his right hand. He is one of four players that played in each of the team's first 10 games.

“We’re hoping it’s just a few weeks,” Kerr said Tuesday.

Timeline for clearance: Undetermined. Barring complications, the second week of December is a reasonable expectation.

Alen Smailagic 

The 19-year-old forward, drafted in the second round, sustained a right ankle sprain on the first day of training camp. He wore a boot for several weeks, but now is rehabbing.

“Smailagic told me he dunked today, which is a good sign,” Kerr said. “He was excited about that, so his ankle is improving.”

Timeline for clearance: He could be cleared for contact over the next 10 days and conceivably be available late during the Nov. 17-22 road trip.

Omari Spellman 

The versatile forward/center was playing well, particularly on offense, before spraining his left ankle last Saturday at Oklahoma City. He did not play Monday night and did not practice Tuesday. So, according to Kerr, Spellman is doubtful to play on Wednesday.

Timeline for clearance: Probably Friday against the Celtics. If not, he’ll go on the four-game road trip that begins Sunday at New Orleans.

[RELATED: Kerr explains Draymond's 'really bizarre' reality on Dubs]

Klay Thompson 

The five-time All-Star sustained a torn left ACL in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals and underwent surgery on July 1. He is rehabilitating and occasionally engaging in light one-on-one shooting sessions.

Timeline for clearance: He’s expected to miss at least another four months. There is optimism he could return in March. It’s typical for a player to sit out at least eight months – or as much as a year – after such surgery.