Warriors

How Willie Cauley-Stein trade changes Warriors' frontcourt this season

How Willie Cauley-Stein trade changes Warriors' frontcourt this season

SAN FRANCISCO -- Willie Cauley-Stein crept into the Warriors' locker room about an hour after his soon-to-be former team's 129-118 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Friday, armed with a round of goodbyes. 

Walking near each stall at Chase Center, he said farewell to any staffer within an eyeshot, finishing with teammates Omari Spellman and Jordan Poole. As he towered over his former domain, his teammates were forced to reconcile a basketball life without the seven-footer around 12 hours before Golden State officially traded Cauley-Stein to the Dallas Mavericks. 

"It sucks," Warriors big man Marquese Chriss said. "It's hard when you're with somebody every day and you're playing games with them, and they're gone in a snap of a finger. I wish the best for him." 

Before Chriss and others bid adieu, the two-way center started for just the fourth time this season. Chriss scored 13 points, but he grabbed just three rebounds while Pacers big man Domantas Sabonis finished with 16 points and 10 boards. Along the way, Indiana outscored Golden State 56-28 in the paint, shedding light on the Warriors' frontcourt struggles.

Once Cauley-Stein officially is traded, Chriss and Omari Spellman are the only healthy big men on the Warriors' roster. While serviceable, both players routinely are playing out of position. At 6-foot-9, Spellman prefers to play on the wings, with a game more suitable for jump shots than post-ups. Meanwhile, Chriss has played much of his career as a power forward, providing a learning experience in his new role.

"Marquese was good tonight," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "Every night is a learning experience for him. He's going to be a guy that shoots a high percentage from the field because of his athleticism.

"He's going to get good experience going forward, so we're just going to keep working with him and I know he will work hard."  

As Chriss adjusts to his new role, coach Kerr said he would be open to bringing up rookie Alen Smailagic from the G League for a unit in need of improvement. Over the last two games, the Warriors have been outrebounded 92-75, including a 56-37 disadvantage in Wednesday's loss to the Utah Jazz.

That, combined with Cauley-Stein's trade, is prompting a new approach moving forward.

"Marquese and Omari will get some experience out there and we'll let Draymond play some center," Kerr said, "and then it's a matter of helping with defense with all five guys on the screen and we have to communicate."

[RELATED: What we learned as Warriors fumble chance to beat Pacers]

Cauley-Stein's departure could be the first of many for the current roster. Last month, league sources told NBC Sports Bay Area's Monte Poole that the team would be open to parting with Alec Burks in the coming weeks for the right deal.

But before the Feb. 6 trade deadline, Cauley-Stein's replacement says he's up for the challenge of filling the departing big man's shoes. 

"I've tried making a role off playing hard and doing the dirty work," Chriss said. "I'm not the guy who is going to shoot 20 shots and get you 40 points. I'm gonna try and be that guy that is down low and banging, getting rebounds and setting screens."

Warriors takeaways: What we learned in 112-94 loss to red-hot Kings

warriorstakeaways.jpg
USATSI

Warriors takeaways: What we learned in 112-94 loss to red-hot Kings

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Warriors-Kings matchup has provided some fun in recent years. The fun was entirely one-sided Tuesday in Sacramento's 112-94 drubbing of Golden State. 

It was the Warriors' seven straight loss and their third consecutive to the Kings this season. Sacramento (24-33) can sweep a series with Golden State (12-46) for the first time since 2003 with a win on April 15. Kings guard De'Aaron Fox scored 21 points and dished out five assists as Sacramento won its third straight game. 

Here are three takeaways from another dejected Warriors performance in a season full of lows. 

Sloppy play dooms first half

The easiest way to catch Steve Kerr's ire is to turn the ball over, and the Warriors did just that Monday. They committed nine of their game-high 17 turnovers in the first half, allowing the Kings to hold a 12-point lead at halftime. 

The Warriors have turned the ball over a lot against the Kings this season. Golden State committed 20 turnovers against Sacramento the last time these two played in San Francisco, and the two teams combined for 57 in an unwatchable affair that night.

While their ballhandling improved in the second half, the Warriors' lack of talent all but sealed another loss. On most nights, Golden State won't be the best team on the floor. The Dubs have to limit mistakes enough to give themselves a chance. 

Warriors can't shoot

The Warriors became one of the best-ever shooting teams during their dynastic run. Golden State demoralized teams with a 3-point attack led by Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. Tuesday showed just how far the mighty have fallen. 

Thompson and Curry are sidelined, and the Warriors shot 4-for-28 (14 percent) from beyond the arc Tuesday. Even worse? The ways the Warriors missed. Marquese Chriss and rookie Juan Toscano-Anderson traded airballs in the first half, as the Warriors shot just 5.9 percent from 3-point range in the first two quarters.

The Warriors' 3-point struggles are understandable. Only one Golden State player who dressed Tuesday -- Damion Lee -- shot better than 35 percent from beyond the arc entering the night. As long as Curry and Thompson are out, the Warriors' 3-point shooting will continue to decline. 

[RELATED: Kerr says 'hope' is Steph can return to Dubs on March 1]

Chriss shines 

The last time Chriss faced his hometown team, he played knowing he'd be cut by the end of the evening to make room for Lee's multi-year contract. Chriss showed how indispensable he is to the Warriors right now Tuesday, finishing with 21 points and 10 rebounds in 25 minutes. 

Chriss showed his potential in the first half, jamming an alley-oop pass from Dragan Bender over Kings big man Harry Giles. By the end of the half, he scored 13 points and grabbed five rebounds. 

The 22-year-old has played well since signing a multi-year deal last month. Chriss has averaged 18.4 points and 9.0 rebounds over his last five games. If he continues his current pace, he'll be an intriguing piece when the Warriors are healthy next season.

Watch Steph Curry mesmerize adorable baby Warriors fan with high five

stephsmileusatsi.jpg
USATSI

Watch Steph Curry mesmerize adorable baby Warriors fan with high five

Warriors fans intently watch Steph Curry during his pre-game shooting routine, especially now that the injured star is so close to returning to Golden State's lineup.

None, however, stared as intently at Curry on Tuesday at Chase Center as this adorable baby with primo floor access. 

Curry was kind enough to give the tiny fan one high five, but he completely left them hanging for a second! Steve Kerr said Saturday that news of Curry's participation in a scrimmage prompted a standing ovation from his teammates, but that was before the two-time MVP left a baby hanging. 

That probably won't diminish any excitement in Golden State's locker room, though, especially after Curry did Curry Things before the Warriors' game against the Kings on Tuesday. 

[RELATED: Klay shares moving tribute to Kobe after attending memorial]

Curry has not played since breaking his left hand on Oct. 30. Four months and two surgeries later, Kerr said "the hope" is that Curry returns to the Warriors' lineup Sunday against the Washington Wizards. 

The 31-year-old's hand will be re-evaluated Saturday, and he'll play if all goes well. Whether or not he's cleared, the Warriors at least know that his hand is capable of making a young fan's day.