LOS ANGELES – Steve Kerr spent a few minutes before tipoff Wednesday night musing about his predicament, which has transformed him into a coach Jordan Bell and Damian Jones, to name two former Warriors, would not recognize.
A coach with no choice but to tolerate the messes made by a roster heavy on youth and thinned by a slew of injuries.
“We’ve had anywhere from eight to 10 guys available each night,” Kerr said before a 120-94 loss to the Lakers at Staples Center. “There are nights where I would love to take someone out based on a mistake they made. But I can’t take them out.
“We don’t have that hammer, as a coaching staff, to be able to reward guys with playing time or penalize them by taking playing time away.”
So, the mistakes keep coming, with no real consequences for those who make them.
“We’ve already improved some,” Draymond Green said after the game. “But we’ve got a long way to go. A long way to go.”
The Warriors conducted defensive drills during their morning shootaround – something they haven’t done since 2014-15 – because the coaching staff feels a need to emphasize and reemphasize points that might keep them from remaining the worst defensive team in the NBA.
“It’s crazy,” Green said of the morning session. “It’s interesting. It’s different. But you’ve got to teach. The thing about the NBA is you don’t have a ton of practices. So, you have to kind of teach on the fly. I get it.”
Being spanked by a potent Lakers team won’t help their horrid numbers and will only provide more video to study in hopes of learning. LA shot 53.9 percent from the field, including 45 percent from beyond the arc. In the first half, when the game was being decided, those numbers were 63 percent and 50 percent.
“Defensively, we never really had any traction,” Kerr said afterward. “We had some spells where we made some good things happen offensively, maybe got a stop or two. But every time it felt like we were right there, we just couldn’t get a stop.
“It’s almost impossible to win in this league when you can’t count on getting three stops in a row at some point.”
These standards, set by the great Warriors teams of recent seasons, are new and daunting for rookies Jordan Poole and Eric Paschall, who previously would have been in sit-and-learn mode this season. In addition, the veterans new to the Warriors – Alec Burks, Willie Cauley-Stein, Glenn Robinson III and D’Angelo Russell – are having their own difficulties.
There is no choice but to live with the turnovers (Russell had five), the late defensive rotations and offensive sequences destined for segments on Shaqtin’ A Fool.
The Warriors are, in short, "Mistakes R Us."
Green and the veteran coaches who over the last five seasons prodded and pushed in pursuit of perfection can only watch and sigh. And contain the frustrations while waiting for lessons to be absorbed.
Bell and Jones are gone largely because they came into circumstances wherein there was very low tolerance for errors, particularly mental errors. They were kids among champions, new to a franchise chasing history, and simply were unable to approach the ultra-high standards set by such players as Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson – as well as regal veterans Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston.
So, when a youngster made a mistake in a game, Kerr was quick to summon a vet. He was coaching for wins, not growth. That was for practice.
Now, the focus is on growth with the faint hope it might lead to some victories. The Warriors are 2-10, with one proven scorer, Russell, and little reason to believe they can produce a startling turnaround.
“It’s understandable that we’re taking some licks, given the state of our team right now,” Kerr said. “But we have to learn from our mistakes. We’ve got to get better from game to game, especially defensively. It has to come.
“Not seeing it right now.”
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It’s not visible. It’s not there. It should get better, simply because the labor is not being questioned.
Until then, there is nothing that can be done by Kerr or Green or any of the coaches, all accustomed to repairing strategic issues in a matter of minutes, and penalizing those who couldn’t keep up.