Ask Kerith: How will Warriors' rotation look when Klay returns?

Klay Thompson, Steph Curry
  • Editor’s note: Kerith Burke, NBC Sports Bay Area’s Warriors reporter, takes you inside the team as only she can throughout the season with the Ask Kerith Mailbag. Send her a question on Twitter and Instagram, @KerithBurke.

With Jordan Poole and Andrew Wiggins in the health and safety protocols, Warriors fans are curious about who the team might sign under the new hardship rules. 

According to this report, teams can sign someone once two players enter the protocols. If a third player enters the protocol, they can sign a second player. 

The Warriors can look in the G League and the free agent pool for additions, and I bet minutes after I publish this mailbag, they’ll announce a signing. 

Fan favorite Marquese Chriss was scooped up by Dallas on Monday.

Here’s the information I have:

Mandatory testing on game days begins in the league on Dec. 26. 

Currently, testing does not happen every day in the league. The Warriors learned they had positive COVID cases because they had to test to get in and out of Canada for the Raptors game. 

Now that the Warriors have positive cases, they’ll be tested a few times a week to see if more cases arise. 

A player leaves the health and safety protocols following two negative tests, 24 hours apart. 

Mandatory tests beginning on Dec. 26th indicates the NBA wants to do everything possible to go forward with the games on Christmas Day with as many stars available as possible. 

The Warriors' most recent road trip was five games, with two back-to-backs. The trip did not include three games in four nights. There was a two-day break in between the back-to-back sets, but I get your point. It was a tough span on the schedule. 


Because every team has lengthy road trips, and every team has back-to-backs, there’s not a lot of sympathy out there for the Warriors. 

Five games is a long trip, but it’s not terrible. Remember in 2017 when the Warriors played eight games over 13 days, with three back-to-backs? That was the occasion for Steve Kerr to sound off about the schedule. He said it was “the most insane schedule I’ve ever seen in all my years in the NBA.” 

As for whether the Dubs wanted to send a message to the league when they played shorthanded against Toronto? No. Here’s a review of who was out versus the Raptors:

Steph Curry was the only one who officially got a rest night. And that was needed. I talked to coach Bruce Fraser about finding down time for Steph. Fraser told me “Steph’s kryptonite is a lack of rest.” He explained Steph gets worn down during the year with games, his business demands, and his family obligations. 

“It’s vital” Steph gets some down time, Fraser said. Getting that rest on a back-to-back made sense. 

Other players had bumps and bruises at the 30-game mark in the season. Understandable. Also understandable is not dragging everyone to Canada where the COVID protocols are different. With cases rising in the league, if a player had tested positive in Toronto, they would have been stranded there for 14 days. Better to send the group on the injury report home than to risk it. 

That was solid team decision-making, not a larger statement to the NBA. 

Look to January for Klay Thompson’s return. The most recent reports named Jan. 9 or the Jan. 18 as potential dates. 

Back in October, in the first Ask Kerith mailbag of the season, I guessed January 18th would be his return date. It’s the start of a four-game homestand and I like the idea of Klay settling in for several games in familiar surroundings, then taking the show on the road. 

Coach Steve Kerr has avoided sharing his plans for the rotation until Klay comes back. He says he hasn’t thought about it, which is coach speak for “stop asking.” It’s not in Kerr’s interest to share his thinking weeks before Klay’s debut is a reality. 

If Poole becomes the sixth man, Kerr will have that conversation privately with Poole before he makes an announcement publicly. 

My read is Klay resumes his starting role the moment he’s ready to play. After so much rehabilitation and waiting, let Klay return to the situation he knows. Let him absorb the roar of the crowd. Let his heart race ahead of tip-off. Let it all feel like what he once knew. 


I would read Klay coming off the bench as a mixed message. Is he ready to play or not? A minutes restriction I get, but do that as a starter. Put him back on the floor alongside Steph and Draymond, the guys he’s always played with. Make things feel as normal as possible for Klay so he can be himself. 

Interesting bench questions!

While I don’t believe Steph would consider anything beneath him, I don’t forsee a time when he’s in the twilight of his career and coming off the bench. I think Steph would hang up his shoes before that, going out on a high, on his own terms. 

Andre Iguodala’s situation was different. When he first made the switch from starter to sixth man, it was a team need, a special ask that Kerr outlined for him based on specific needs in the second unit. 

And now that Andre has reunited with the Warriors, there’s an understanding about what’s left in his legs at his age and what his veteran presence brings to the locker room.

I would guess Steph’s wind-down as a player is not a gradual one, but decisive and triumphant declaration “I’m done” when he’s ready. As soon as Steph feels like he cannot play to the level he wants, he’ll make the call. 

Good thing for us Steph looks as strong as ever as an MVP candidate. 

There’s food everywhere for players! Before they depart for a road trip, there’s a big banquet of healthy food set up at the private airport. They have an assortment of proteins, veggies, and carbs to fill their plates. 

Depending on the time of day, there’s breakfast. Big omelets with salmon and veg! When I traveled, I used to order waffles. Smoothies abound. 

I love this question!

Juan Toscano-Anderson said he wants milk patties from See’s candies and Louis Vuitton Millionaire sunglasses.

Gary Payton II said, “more wins.” 

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

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