Steve Kerr cites one specific concern with Warriors' roster


Steve Kerr cites one specific concern with Warriors' roster

The euphoria felt by Warriors fans with the signing of Kevin Durant was accompanied by at least a modicum of anxiety. Yes, adding Durant is an epic move. But, but . . . what about . . .

What about the bench?

Warriors coach Steve Kerr shares some of this trepidation – but only with a specific area, as centers Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli are gone. Zaza Pachulia was signed to help fill this considerable void.

“The thing that’s different will be a lack of rim protection,” Kerr told CSNBayArea.com. “We had great rim protection from Bogut and Ezeli, and both those guys are gone. Zaza’s a very good defender, but he’s more of a positional guy than a shot blocker.

“So there’s definitely adjustments we’ll have to make, even schematically. We’ll have some growing pains, especially on defense, as we try to make sure we get everything right and comfortable.”

[RELATED: Myers: Warriors will have 'turbulence,' losses 'exaggerated']

Other than that, though, Kerr is ready to roll. The coach that coined the phrase “Strength In Numbers,” to acknowledge the team’s depth, does not seem greatly concerned about his reserves.

“I think we’ll still have a very good bench,” Kerr said.

The previous bench crew, also known as The Dubstitutes, were led by Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston and often found ways to maintain leads and sometimes even grow them. They got offensive punch from sweet-shooting big man Marreese Speights, who led the reserves in scoring, and quicksilver guard Leandro Barbosa, who was capable of supplying a flurry of buckets in a short span of time.

Speights and Barbosa are gone. So is Ezeli, the big man who was second among reserve scorers. That trio combined for an average of 20.5 points per game last season, numbers that dropped to 15.2 with shortened minutes in the playoffs.

When the Warriors open training camp later this month, Kerr and his assistants will be tasked with finding new combinations.

“The three main guys off the bench are Iguodala, Livingston and (newly acquired forward) David West; that’s pretty good,” Kerr said. “There’s no doubt we’ll miss LB’s speed. We’ll miss Mo’s shooting. We’ll miss Festus’ rim protection. No doubt we’ll miss all of that.

“But we’ve replaced those guys with some pretty good players.”

With four All-Stars, each capable of providing offense, Kerr can more comfortably stagger his substitutions. We may have seen the last of the five-man second unit he often rode for a few minutes each game. If all five starters are on the bench next season, it’s probably the fourth quarter of a blowout.

The starting lineup will feature Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson at guards, Draymond Green and Durant at forwards, and Pachulia at center. With Ezeli gone to Portland, the only other centers on the roster are veteran Anderson Varejao and rookie Damian Jones, who is recovering from pectoral surgery and probably won’t be ready for the Oct. 25 season opener, much less the start of training camp.

[REWIND: Kerr knew nothing about McCaw, believes he can play as rookie]

The key men behind Iguodala, Livingston and West, for now, are Ian Clark, James Michael McAdoo, Kevon Looney and rookie wing Patrick McCaw.

“We like Patrick McCaw quite a bit; I think he can help right away,” Kerr said of the 6-foot-6 guard-forward selected after the Warriors bought their way into the second round of the draft in June.

“This will be a much different training camp than it was a year ago, when we had virtually the entire team back. We were just picking up where we left off. Now we have to really implement some new things and we’re going to have to help half the roster get acclimated to the way we play and our style and culture every day.”

Warriors' Steph Curry cements himself as social justice leader in NBA

Warriors' Steph Curry cements himself as social justice leader in NBA

Steph Curry stood on a makeshift stage on the campus of Howard University on Monday afternoon to announce his latest venture. 

Over the next six years, the Warriors star will fund the university's golf program, helping the Bison field a Division I team for the first time in school history. The commitment is expected to revitalize both the men and women's programs at the historically black university. 

Throughout his career, Curry has been supplanted in the national conversation by LeBron James and others as the basketball leader of social change. But in recent years, the six-time All-Star has become among the leaders on a variety of issues. With his latest contribution to the historically black institution, Curry is proving why he should be among the leading NBA voices in social justice. 

The guard's relationship with the university started in January, when Curry hosted a screening of Emanuel - a documentary about the Emanuel AME Church shooting that he produced. Curry's latest contribution to the university includes a seven-figure endorsement to the golf program that will be paid out in installments to give Howard time to raise an endowment fund to make the golf program self-sustainable. 

"This is one of the most generous gifts in the history of Howard University," athletic director Kery Davis said.

Curry's contribution to Howard is historically on-brand. The opening of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) started in the 1800s as more of a necessity for blacks. With African Americans barred from attending white schools, black churches -- with the help of the American Missionary Association and the Freedmen’s Bureau -- helped build and advance a black education. From 1861 to 1900, more than 90 black colleges were established, including Howard in 1867. Now, more than 150 years later, Curry, a black man, is helping advance the university through sports.

Prior to Curry's involvement, Howard fielded a Division II team that was discontinued in the 1970s. With Curry's financing, the Bison men's team will play in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, while the women will play as independents. In addition, the teams will be outfitted by Under Armour -- the shoe company Curry endorses -- and will have three scholarship athletes, an idea that was born on the night of the January premiere. 

"The idea around re-creating Howard's golf team and turning it into a Division I program for men and women was born on that specific night," Curry said. "Now, seven and a half or eight months later, we're here."

For the last half-decade, James has been at the forefront of the NBA's social justice conversation. In 2014, days after black teen Trayvon Martin was gunned down in Florida by George Zimmerman, James -- along with his Miami Heat teammates -- posted a picture in team-issued hoodies. Two years later, standing beside Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul, James opened the ESPYs by condemning police brutality. Recently, James has put his money behind change, opening the I Promise school in Akron, OH. Before last season, James even defended Curry on Twitter, calling President Donald Trump a "bum" after Trump "disinvited" the Warriors from the White House after they won the 2017 title. 

While James has been (correctly) celebrated for his actions, Curry has been putting together a portfolio of his own. The guard has been a part of former President Barack Obama's My Brother's Keeper initiative aimed at addressing "persistent opportunity gaps facing boys and young men of color and to ensure all youth can reach their full potential." Just before last season, Curry raised more than $21,000 for the family of Oakland native Nia Wilson, who was stabbed to death at a BART station. 

Even before his actions against social change were public, seeds of Curry's activism were beginning to manifest. Before Game 5 of an NBA first-round playoff series against the Clippers -- during the Donald Sterling saga -- Curry was among a group of players ready to boycott a game if the owner wasn't banned by NBA commissioner Adam Silver. 

"I remember everybody talking like if Adam Silver don't come down with a tough enough post and we don't think it's right, we're not playing tonight," Warriors forward Draymond Green said.

Added former Warrior Andre Iguodala: "If it came to it, I think we were ready. We were willing and ready."

Curry's absence from James' stature may be his own doing. While marketed as a clean-cut, baby-faced player that appealed to children, Curry's voice noticeably was absent when he gave a PC answer when asked about a North Carolina bathroom bill that discriminated against transgender people, drawing the ire of LGBT groups. 

Ironically, Trump might be simultaneously both the uniting force and a call to action players like Curry needed to grow their voice. Two weeks after Trump was inaugurated, then-Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank said that the President could be an "asset" to the United States. Curry then joked that said he agreed with the notion, “if you remove the ‘et’” from asset, even saying he'd reconsider his deal with Under Armour.

“If there is a situation where I can look at myself in the mirror and say they don’t have my best intentions, they don’t have the right attitude about taking care of people,” Curry told The Mercury News in 2017. “If I can say the leadership is not in line with my core values, then there is no amount of money, there is no platform I wouldn’t jump off if it wasn’t in line with who I am. So that’s a decision I will make every single day when I wake up. If something is not in line with what I’m about, then, yeah, I definitely need to take a stance in that respect.”

[RELATED: Warriors were ready to boycott game after Sterling tape]

Twenty-one months ago, Curry's former teammate Kevin Durant sat along the north baseline of the Warriors practice facility and openly pondered his identity as a black man in this country 

"Finally waking up, to be honest," Durant said. "Just kind of seeing how rough it is for an average black man."

"I see how far we get pushed down. For me, I kind of grew up in this basketball world, whereas my talent kind of overrides what I look like."

Like Durant, Curry took time to find his voice. And now, after yet another contribution, he should be among the NBA's faces for social justice. 

Watch NBA rookies try to guess Warriors guard Jordan Poole's nickname

Watch NBA rookies try to guess Warriors guard Jordan Poole's nickname

The best part of any of the sports reference websites is when you discover the nicknames of athletes, and whether the height listed is accurate.

But some might not even be aware of these nicknames, even Ty Jerome was unaware he's been dubbed as "Milk."

NBA TV had some fun quizzing rookies and their classmates about the nicknames Basketball Reference had listed on the website. And it went about as you would expect it to be:

Warriors rookie Jordan Poole's "Microwave" nickname was guessed rather easily.

The microwave nickname came when he was asked if he knew who the original "Microwave," Vinne Johnson was. He was young and didn't quite know who he was, but it ended up sticking. 

Plus, the fact that he scores fast and "heats up" quickly adds to the comparison.

[RELATED: Iggy catches Steph looking stunned in photo]

He likes it, even suggesting "The Microwave Part II."

If you don't know, now you know.