OAKLAND -- Waiting for the Warriors to achieve perfection is not easy. Not when the roster is so mesmerizing and the games are a nightly spectacle. Not when the there is a glaring mistake here, an inexplicable meltdown there.
And it’s certainly hard to remain calm when there is a glaring error there, an inexplicable meltdown here and suddenly the Twittersphere is abuzz, inciting widespread anxiety, if not sheer panic.
That’s all it took for clueless keyboard CEOs to call for the head of coach Steve Kerr after recent losses to the Cavaliers and the Grizzlies.
How about taking a breath and remembering that these Warriors were not assembled to impress throughout the regular season but to excel in the postseason? The addition of a superstar like Kevin Durant means there will be growing pains. It also means the only bar that matters can’t be cleared or even clearly visible until the NBA Finals.
Meanwhile, every game and every practice is a preparatory exercise toward that. The Warriors are using the first 50 or 60 or 70 games as their laboratory. That they are an NBA-best 33-6 means little except to hint maybe they are on schedule.
“We’re still experimenting, that’s the best thing about it,” Durant said late Tuesday night, after the win over Miami. “We’re still winning at a high rate and we’re still trying to figure ourselves out.”
Durant was referring specifically to rotation tweaks Kerr made Tuesday night in the absence of Klay Thompson but also as part of an ongoing quest to discover which groups are the strongest as a unit.
Each game brings a little something different. JaVale McGee always is the first big man off the bench, unless he’s not. Shaun Livingston and David West always enter and leave together, unless they don’t. Starters Stephen Curry and Durant always stagger their minutes in the second, third and fourth quarters. Unless, that is, Kerr decides to try something else.
What was consistent last season, that Draymond Green would share the floor with Curry 99 percent on the time, is less consistent this season. When a roster is turned over by a third, coaches and players need time to discern what works best and why.
This is never more evident than in the final minutes of a close game. That they don’t have many makes it exceedingly difficult to accelerate the process.
“You can simulate the game plan when it comes to just being confident in what sets you’re going to run, the timing and spacing,” Curry said. “You can’t simulate the adrenaline rush, the environment of the fourth quarter, down the stretch, until you get into it. Practice is the only time you get a chance to work on it. You make adjustments from game to game if you have to.
“Every basketball team in history has had to figure that out as you go along through the season and get ready for the playoffs.”
These Warriors don’t get a grace period, which sets them apart from every basketball team in history. They entered the season on a massive vessel of overheated hype as the greatest collection of talent ever assembled, All-Stars stacked atop All-Stars, hands extended for the fitting of rings.
But reality has a way of delivering reminders that the work is ongoing and can’t be cheated. There are no shortcuts. If you think there are the fourth quarter will set you straight.
“We’re figuring out what things to go to when we need to stop a run,” Green said. “What sets do we need to run in order to get a good shot? You can’t guarantee a bucket, but if you get a good shot that’s all you can ask for.
“And we’re starting to figure those things out as we continue to go, continue to play together. That’s good. Because there’s going to be times like that throughout the rest of this season and, of course, in the playoffs where a team goes on a run and we’ve got to go to something to stop that run.”
Musicians go into the studio until they are satisfied. Contractors demolish and clean out before digging and drilling and hammering until they are satisfied. The greatest chefs can’t serve a meal until they’ve had time to prepare it.
We won’t know what the Warriors will look like until the playoffs. Until then, they are unfinished and bound to make the occasional mess.
That’s OK, for as they approach the halfway point of the season at 33-6, they are not chasing the championship of the regular season. They won that “title” last April.