Warriors

With Kevon Looney on mend, Warriors' best plan is center-by-committee

With Kevon Looney on mend, Warriors' best plan is center-by-committee

SAN FRANCISCO -- With two practices remaining before opening night on Thursday, the Warriors have yet to identify their regular starting center.

That likely will be the case for at least a few weeks, according to coach Steve Kerr.

Though Marquese Chriss started the final four preseason games and appeared to have the edge, the return of Kevon Looney -- after being sidelined by a hamstring strain for nearly three weeks -- on Sunday provides some flexibility.

“Loon scrimmaged,” Kerr said after practice. “I just talked to him and he said he felt good. He’ll continue to get more work in as the week goes on. Hopefully, he’ll be ready to go on Thursday night.”

Asked if Looney, the only big man on the roster with experience as a Warrior, might be the starter Thursday against the Clippers, Kerr did not dismiss the possibility.

“He probably would be,” he said. “But I’d probably do it based on matchups from game to game.”

As the Warriors prepared for training camp, it was generally assumed that the majority of the minutes at center would go to Willie Cauley-Stein and Looney. Cauley-Stein, acquired as a free agent after four seasons with the Kings, was the presumed starter, with Looney maintaining his role as an early sub.

That was before Cauley-Stein sustained a mid-foot sprain a few days before camp.

That was before Looney strained a hamstring on the first day of camp.

And before Marquese Chriss -- signed to a non-guaranteed contract one day before camp -- started four of five preseason games, opening eyes and minds and earning a roster spot.

Chriss, 22, might have the most comprehensive set of skills. Cauley-Stein, 26, offers the greatest length (7-foot-3 wingspan) and most experience as an NBA starter. Looney, 23, is most familiar with the team’s playbook and culture.

[RELATED: Warriors GM Myers happy with what Chriss brings to team]

Those three represent most of the center committee, with leftovers going to Omari Spellman.

“We lack size, obviously with Willie and Loon out,” Kerr said. “So, if we get Loon back, we’d probably look at the other team’s lineups and see what makes the most sense.”

The Warriors have been here before. Damian Jones and Looney rotated starting assignments at center last season before DeMarcus Cousins was cleared to play. Both Zaza Pachulia and JaVale McGee were utilized as starters in each of the two previous seasons.

A rotation of three, however, provides tremendous flexibility -- a platoon system of sorts -- while also presenting potential challenges to court chemistry.

Above all, it maintains the spirit of competition while also keeping everyone fresh.

Until someone emerges as the clear starter -- Cauley-Stein has progressed to non-contact drills, but he’s not expected to return until next month -- a center-by-committee system seems the smart way to go.

Indeed, for now, it may be the only way.

Draymond Green: Warriors '100 percent' win title if Klay Thompson healthy

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Draymond Green: Warriors '100 percent' win title if Klay Thompson healthy

The Warriors had a chance to win their third consecutive championship in the 2019 NBA Finals, but crippling injuries to Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson in tandem with Kawhi Leonard playing like a young Michael Jordan ended Golden State’s dream of a three-peat.

However, even after losing KD in Game 5 of the series, Golden State was still in the lead at home in Game 6 before Thompson’s knee buckled and dashed the Warriors’ hopes and dreams of glory in Oracle Arena’s NBA finale.

Warriors star Draymond Green firmly believes that barring those injuries to Klay and KD, he’d have a fourth championship ring to add to his extensive trophy case.

“If Klay Thompson had been healthy, I 100 percent believe that we win the title last year,” Green told ESPN’s Sam Alipour. “We have no way of ever knowing, but I 100 percent believe that.”

[RELATED: Why Draymond's excited to play like he did before KD joined]

The Warriors would have had to go back up to Toronto for Game 7 and win in order to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy, but a healthy Klay Thompson definitely would have made that a much more attainable mission.

Unfortunately for Draymond and all Warriors fans, the human race hasn’t discovered the ability to time travel, so we’ll never know who would come out on top in that ideal scenario.

Warriors' Draymond Green excited to play like he did pre-Kevin Durant

Warriors' Draymond Green excited to play like he did pre-Kevin Durant

It's wild how things can change so quickly in such a short amount of time.

In late September -- just before the Warriors opened training camp -- Draymond Green had lofty expectations for the 2019-20 season.

"I'm going back to the way I was pre-KD (Kevin Durant), and that's exciting to me," he told Sam Alipour of ESPN in an article published Friday. "I had to give up shots to make sure Kevin gets his touches, and I don't regret that. It got me a couple of championships.

"But as a competitor, as someone who's still in his prime, who's been in the gym all summer trying to improve my game, it's exciting to know that I can go back to playing the way that I was playing before.

"You haven't seen the best of me. I'm definitely not at my peak. I have so much room to grow, new heights that I can reach -- like becoming a 40 percent 3-point shooter. That'd be amazing, right?

"My shooting dropped off the last couple of seasons, but it's tough when you're taking only two or three 3s a game. My percentages were a lot higher when I took more."

Well, fast forward six weeks later and Draymond finds himself in unchartered territory as the Warriors (2-10) have the worst record in the NBA.

Plain and simple, he doesn't look like himself so far. He not only is playing without Klay Thompson, but Steph Curry also won't be taking the floor for several more months, and Kevon Looney remains out indefinitely.

As a result, the Warriors predominantly have become a pick-and-roll team, as Draymond finds himself watching D'Angelo Russell run the show.

"I’ve always been a playmaker. I don't really have the ball much," the three-time All-Star told reporters Monday night after Golden State's loss to the Jazz.

"This is going to allow him to play off the ball and space out and work on his shot," coach Steve Kerr told the media Tuesday. "I'm going to encourage that. He can get that confidence back."

Let's take a look at Draymond's 3-point shooting over the years:
-2015-16 = 38.8 percent on 3.2 attempts
-2016-17 = 30.8 percent on 3.5 attempts
-2017-18 = 30.1 percent on 3.7 attempts
-2018-19 = 28.5 percent on 2.5 attempts

So Draymond's earlier point about fewer attempts negatively impacting his percentage doesn't really hold up, because he shot more triples in the first two seasons with KD than he did during his career-year in 2015-16.

But in his defense, Draymond making those shots didn't matter as much with KD onboard because the loaded Warriors probably were going to win the game anyway.

[RELATEDHow much one bettor makes if Warriors win 2020 NBA Finals]

That no longer is the case. And even if Draymond were to go 8-for-10 from deep in a game this season, the Dubs still might lose.

But thinking big picture, the two-time All-NBA selection absolutely should use this season to regain his consistency from beyond the arc (he went 2-for-4 on Wednesday against the Lakers). As it pertains to that 40 percent goal, the mindset he had in late September should not change.

Given the circumstances, that won't be easy on a nightly basis.

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