Warriors coach Steve Kerr embracing new normal, excited about future

Warriors coach Steve Kerr embracing new normal, excited about future

HOUSTON -- Just off a baseline inside Guy V. Lewis Development Facility at the University of Houston, Warriors coach Steve Kerr found himself in a familiar place Thursday afternoon. 

For four of the last five postseasons, Kerr and the rest of the Warriors used the adjoining facilities to train while in town to defend their championship ambitions. On this trip, Kerr -- hours removed from his latest blowout loss to the Rockets -- has a different mission than he's used to: building a championship mindset instead of maintaining one.   

"It's a different vibe," Kerr admitted. "Normally a day like this in the last couple of years was a game day and then back-to-back games, probably wouldn't even practice, or if we did it would be very, very light." 

With Draymond Green, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson injured for an extended time, Kerr currently oversees a battered roster of just 10 players, two of which are on two-way contracts, and six of which are under the age of 23. All-Star point guard D'Angelo Russell is expected to return Friday after a three-game absence. 

Under the current structure, Kerr's roster has been defined by youthful inconsistency. On Saturday, Golden State held the Charlotte Hornets -- the league's best 3-point shooting team -- to just 17 percent from beyond the arc, and took a brief lead with just over a minute left in regulation. Two nights later, the Warriors beat the Portland Trail Blazers, limiting guard CJ McCollum to just 37 percent from the field. Then, on Wednesday, they were outscored 87-66 over the final 27 minutes against the Rockets, much to Kerr's chagrin. 

Each loss came without Golden State's All-Star core. Thompson -- who tore his ACL in June -- isn't expected to return this season, while Curry's broken left hand will be re-evaluated in February. Meanwhile, Green didn't make the current three-game road trip as he tended to a torn ligament in his left index finger. 

The current climate is new territory for Kerr. Over his first five seasons in Golden State, Kerr won 78 percent of his games while overseeing the best run in NBA history and winning three titles. During his playing career, he won three championships with the Chicago Bulls (and another two with the Spurs). Once, while doing voiceover work for NBA 2K15, Kerr was shocked at the notion that he had the option to play as himself on the 1996 Bulls -- a team that won a league-record 72 games -- against himself as a coach on the 2015 Warriors -- a team that won the championship and broke the Bulls' record the following year. Now, sporting a 2-6 record through eight games, Kerr is reconciling the new normal. 

"I can't stand losing," Kerr admitted. "I'm also a realist and I understand the job at hand. Organizationally, we're trying to bring this young group ahead, forward, so that we can really build the depth of our roster and we know eventually Steph and Klay and Draymond are gonna be back."

Until that point comes, the coach who made a habit of breaking clipping boards when he was frustrated with a team destined for a championship is embracing a new approach with his younger squad.  

"Stay on them," Kerr said. "But stay positive. I mean the hardest thing is you're trying to get better. You're trying to improve every day, but you're losing some games. We're 2-6. It's not easy." 

As Kerr prioritizes development over wins, his young group is showing promise despite the circumstances. Over the last three games, rookie Eric Paschall is averaging 26.0 points and 7.7 rebounds per game while shooting 51 percent from the field. In Wednesday's loss to the Rockets, Warriors big man Omari Spellman scored 13 points -- making all six of his shot attempts -- and added seven rebounds in 18 minutes, strengthening Kerr's optimism about the future.

[RELATED: Zaza makes lofty comparison for Warriors rookie Paschall]

"We're gonna get better," Kerr promised. "And we'll continue to add to our team the next couple of years, through the draft, through free agency. So, let's get these young guys up to speed and if a few of them can really develop and become rotational players, then we put our organization in a really good spot. So, that's the job."

NBA players 'enjoy' Steph Curry being out, Giannis Antetokounmpo says

NBA players 'enjoy' Steph Curry being out, Giannis Antetokounmpo says

Steph Curry and the Warriors ran roughshod over the NBA for five years, reaching five consecutive NBA Finals and putting together the league’s greatest regular season ever with 73 wins in 2015-16.

The 2019-20 season has not gone quite the same for Golden State, as Curry remains out since suffering a broken hand on Oct. 30. The Warriors now own the league’s worst record at the All-Star break.

It’s safe to say players around the NBA haven’t exactly sympathized with the organization’s precipitous downturn.

"Let me be honest with you," Giannis told reporters Saturday during NBA All-Star Weekend in Chicago. "The players, we kind of enjoy that he's not playing -- not enjoy that he's hurt. We want him to be healthy, but he just makes it way, way tougher for the rest of the league."

[RELATED: Iguodala opens up about Steph defending him on social media]

It’s not the first time players have publicly stated their appreciation for the Warriors no longer being the unstoppable force they became in the 2010s.

The guard definitely has made life more difficult for defenders over the years, as Curry owns four first-team All-NBA honors as well as the most 3-point field goals among active NBA players.

Curry is aiming to return to the court in early March, and the Warriors will play the Bucks on March 14. Antetokounmpo’s reprieve from facing the two-time MVP might not last much longer, then. 

Why Hawks star Trae Young doesn't mind hearing Steph Curry comparisons

Why Hawks star Trae Young doesn't mind hearing Steph Curry comparisons

If you had a dollar every time someone compared Steph Curry to Trae Young, you'd have a lot of dollars. 

It's an obvious comparison. The Warriors star and the face of the Atlanta Hawks are electric, undersized point guards who can drain shots from just about anywhere on the court. 

Young surely has heard of the similarities countless times, but that doesn't mean he minds the reminder. 

"Who wouldn't want to be compared to MVP and a guy like that," the 21-year-old told reporters Friday ahead of the NBA Rising Stars Challenge. "I don't necessarily get into all that. I don't mind it. I'm glad I'm getting compared to a guy like him than somebody else. It's not a bad thing."

Curry has missed all but four games this season after breaking his left hand a day before Halloween. The two-time MVP will be re-evaluated March 1, and he'll return to the court soon after. 

Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard arguably has seized the reigns as the NBA's most ridiculous shot-maker in Curry's absence -- seriously, just look at the Oakland native's game logs since the start of 2020 -- but Young isn't far behind. Young is averaging 29.7 points per game and making 36.9 percent of his 3-point shots. 

[RELATED: Paschall impresses, leads Team USA to Rising Stars win]

He's not quite Curry, of course. The three-time NBA champion has never shot worse than 40 percent from deep in a season in which he played at least 50 games. Curry could retire today as the NBA's fifth-most proficient 3-point shooter (43.5 percent), while Young didn't even cross the 40 percent threshold in his one year at the University of Oklahoma. 

Young's cabinets are missing the hardware that fills Curry's, too. But being mentioned in the same breath at this point in his career? That's more than enough for Young right now.