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.
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.