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 jokes about waking up in NBA's Orlando bubble

Warriors' Steph Curry jokes about waking up in NBA's Orlando bubble

Steph Curry is jonesin' to play basketball.

The Warriors superstar misses the game so much that when he woke up on a recent morning, he thought he was in the NBA's Orlando bubble.

OK, maybe not. Clearly, Steph needs to work on his acting skills. But the sentiment isn't too far off.

After five straight trips to the NBA Finals that saw Curry play roughly an extra 20 games a season, the two-time NBA MVP broke his hand in the fourth game of the 2019-20 season. He returned to play in one game in March, but a combination of Curry catching the flu and the coronavirus shutdown ended his season early.

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

So between the end of the 2019 NBA Finals on June 13, 2019 and the potential start of the 2020-21 NBA season in December, Curry will have played five regular-season games in a year and a half.

So you can understand why Curry is dreaming of being in Orlando.

Alas, the Warriors finished the 2019-20 season with the worst record (15-50) in the NBA. They were one of eight NBA teams not invited to the NBA season restart at the Disney World complex in Orlando. The combination of Curry's injury, Klay Thompson's ACL injury and Kevin Durant's departure crushed the Warriors' hopes of a sixth straight NBA Finals appearance.

The bright side (of the bed) for Curry is that his body has been given an extended break, the longest of his professional career. After five long seasons, a long 18-month break could do Curry a lot of good.

[RELATED: Simmons wonders if Lillard is better than Steph]

The Warriors are expecting Curry and Thompson to come back healthy and rested when the 2020-21 season starts, ready for a return to NBA title contention.

Based on the video Curry posted, he's getting plenty of rest.

Bill Simmons wonders whether Damian Lillard is better than Steph Curry

Bill Simmons wonders whether Damian Lillard is better than Steph Curry

Steph Curry is a better basketball player than Damian Lillard.

We don't make that declaration in an attempt to slight Dame, because the Portland Trail Blazers star is awesome. We certainly aren't rooting against the Oakland native or saying he is overrated.

But we feel compelled to defend Steph when necessary. And we are doing that now because of the following back-and-forth that took place Monday on "The Bill Simmons Podcast."

Simmons: "Dame -- I don't know where he is on the top-10 players in the league list and what the qualifications are -- but is Curry better than him at this point?"

Ryen Russillo: "Oh come on. Let's take it easy. Don't do this when Curry's missed a year."

Simmons: "I'm not talking about career. I'm not talking playoff chops (or) stuff like that. I'm just talking game-to-game, the stuff Dame is doing now consistently, reminds me of Curry. I feel like he's money. He's in the top eight or nine for me now. And I don't know what the list is. But I just think he's great."

Lillard is great. No doubt about it. And the 30-year-old was fantastic in Portland's first two games in the Orlando bubble.

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

But we need to remind everybody -- again -- what happened during the Warriors' sweep of the Blazers in the 2019 Western Conference finals:

Curry: 36.5 points, 7.3 assists, 46.9 percent overall, 42.6 percent 3s
Lillard: 22.3 points, 8.5 assists, 37.1 percent overall, 36.8 percent 3s

Yes, Lillard is putting up big statistics this season with 28.9 points and 8.0 assists per game. But his shooting numbers -- 45.6 percent overall and 39.1 percent from 3-point range -- don't match up to what Steph did last season: 47.2 percent overall and 43.7 percent from beyond the arc.

[RELATED: The disrespect Steph gets absolutely blows Redick's mind]

The day possibly will come when Dame is considered the superior player by the majority of the basketball world. We aren't that naive.

But it definitely has not arrived yet.

So the answer to Simmons's question is ...

... "yes."

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