Warriors

How young Warriors are making incremental improvements on defense

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How young Warriors are making incremental improvements on defense

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- For much of the season, Warriors coach Steve Kerr has tried to find the anecdote to his struggling defense. 

The problem has been exasperated in the last month, as seven players have gone done with injuries, eliminating any hope of continuity. However, the undermanned unit has shown improvement over its last two games, giving Kerr hope going forward. 

"As a group, team and coaches have started to figure out what works well for this team and what we need to stay away from," Kerr said Tuesday afternoon. 

Seeds of optimism started in Friday's loss to the Celtics, when the Warriors held the Eastern Conference leaders to just 40 percent from the field, with Boston guard Kemba Walker making just 6 of his 19 shots. Two days later, the Warriors held the battered Pelicans to 41 percent from the field. More importantly, the league's worst interior defense has outscored their opponents 88-80 in the paint over the last two outings. 

For the last five years, the Warriors have used a switch-heavy defense, helping the unit become one of the best in the league. Over the stretch, Golden State finished in the top 10 in defensive rating in four of the five seasons. Now, with Andre Iguodala and Kevin Durant gone -- and both Klay Thompson and Kevon Looney out of the lineup -- the Warriors are giving up nearly 120 points per game. 

"We were just giving up too many easy baskets early in the season," Kerr said. 

The Warriors defensive woes have coincided with its uncommon rash of injuries. The trend started on the eve of training camp, when general manager Bob Myers announced that center Willie Cauley-Stein would miss most of October with a foot strain. Two days later, rookie Alen Smailagic rolled his ankle and Looney strained his hamstring in the same controlled scrimmage. 

In the last month, Curry broke his hand, sidelining the guard until at least February. Two nights later, forward Draymond Green tore a ligament in his left index finger. Last week, two-way guard Damion Lee fractured his hand. All the while, one of the league's most vaunted defense has plummeted to last in the league. 

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However, the team still has shown moments of potential. A few weeks ago, the Warriors held the Charlotte Hornets -- one of the league's best 3-point shooting teams -- to just 17 percent from beyond the arc, taking a brief lead with just over a minute left in regulation. Two nights later, the Warriors beat the Portland Trail Blazers, limiting guard CJ McCollum to just 37 percent from the field. 

Now, as they embark on their latest road trip, Kerr would like to see an improvement in the Warriors' perimeter defense. In Sunday's loss to the Pelicans, his team gave up 18 3-pointers, including six from sharpshooter JJ Redick. Still, for a team prioritizing development over wins at the moment, the defensive improvement is noteworthy.  

Warriors' Steve Kerr says trade rumors don't affect D'Angelo Russell

Warriors' Steve Kerr says trade rumors don't affect D'Angelo Russell

D'Angelo Russell is rapidly approaching a date some NBA observers have circled since the Warriors acquired him this summer.

Golden State can trade Russell as soon as Sunday, Dec. 15, and the 23-year-old has been the source of trade speculation during his time in the Bay Area. The Athletic's Jon Krawczynski reported Wednesday, citing sources that the Minnesota Timberwolves "remain interested in Russell" and that the guard "seems to be realistic in understanding that he may not be long for the Warriors once Steph Curry and Klay Thompson return to full health."

Russell is averaging a career-high 22.4 points per game this season to go with 6.1 assists and 3.1 rebounds, serving as the top offensive option in the absence of his All-Star teammates. He knew he wouldn't play much with Thompson this season as he recovers from a torn ACL, but Curry's broken hand threw a wrench into the Warriors' -- and thus Russell's -- prospects this season. Warriors coach Steve Kerr praised how Russell has handled the rumors surrounding him. 

"Money doesn't buy peace of mind," Kerr said Friday morning (H/T San Francisco Chronicle's Connor Letourneau). "It doesn't buy a sense of belonging, a sense of, 'Alright, this is my team.' If there's speculation that you're going to be traded all the time, I don't care how much money you make, I don't care who you are. That's tough. That's no fun to deal with, and this season has been nowhere close to what D'Angelo thought it would be when he first signed with us.

"There's no Steph. We're struggling to win games. He's had his own injuries, and we're throwing all kinds of different lineups out there based on the other injuries we've faced." 

Russell has played in just 15 of the Warriors' 27 games this season, playing on a team that looks far more like the Los Angeles Lakers of his first two seasons than the playoff-contending Brooklyn Nets a year ago -- let alone the reigning Western Conference champion Warriors. 

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Kerr, who entered this season with the highest winning percentage in NBA history (.785), is as aware of Golden State's dramatically different reality as anyone. He said it has only brought out the best in Russell. 

"So given all that, he's played really well, and he's been a great teammate and he's doing everything he needs to do to solidify his position here," Kerr continued. "But this is the NBA here, and we never know what's coming, what's happening. So, it's a difficult position to be in in general, but for him in particular it's strange set of circumstances and he's handling it really well." 

Whether or not the Warriors trade Russell, it's clear Kerr holds him in high regard.

Watch Warriors' Ky Bowman dominate for Santa Cruz in G League debut

Watch Warriors' Ky Bowman dominate for Santa Cruz in G League debut

Warriors two-way guard Ky Bowman made his G League debut Friday night in Santa Cruz.

He dominated the Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario. 

The Boston College product could have scored 40 points if he really wanted to, but he picked his spots and made sure his teammates were getting good looks.

After shootaround in Utah on Friday, Warriors coach Steve Kerr was asked what Bowman can work on while he's with the Sea Dubs.

"He's got a really aggressive mindset -- which I like -- but there are still circumstances and situations where he needs to think more pass," Kerr said. "And more strategic, rather than just score, score, score."

Bowman clearly listened to the eight-time NBA champion.

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Also, "Sky Bowman" was on full display.

The 22-year-old will be back in action Sunday afternoon as Santa Cruz faces the Northern Arizona Suns. Watch the game at 2:00 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area.

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