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."

Warriors execs scout top 2020 NBA draft prospect James Wiseman up close


Warriors execs scout top 2020 NBA draft prospect James Wiseman up close

The Warriors likely will pick much higher than they've gotten used to in June's NBA draft. 

Golden State is a league-worst 2-9 this season, appearing like a lock to keep the top-20 protected 2020 first-round pick the Warriors sent to the Brooklyn Nets as part of the Kevin Durant sign-and-trade. The Warriors would have no shortage of options if they picked at -- or around -- the top of the draft, and their front office got an in-person glimpse at Memphis center James Wiseman on Tuesday night, according to The Athletic's John Hollinger. 

Wiseman, plagued by foul trouble early, finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds as Memphis lost to Oregon on Tuesday night.

Wiseman will be one of, if not the best player available in the draft. The 7-foot freshman center averaged 22.5 points, 10.0 rebounds and 4.0 blocks per game entering Tuesday's game, and the 18-year-old has the upside to develop into something the Warriors have not had in the Steve Kerr era: A truly dominant big man.

[RELATED: Warriors' injury report still growing through trying season]

How much more Wiseman will play this season remains to be seen. The NCAA ruled Wiseman ineligible for taking $11,500 from current Memphis coach Penny Hardaway in order to help Wiseman's family move when he transferred to play for Memphis East, the high school Hardaway was coaching at the time. A Shelby County, Tenn. judge placed an immediate temporary restraining order on the college athletics governing body shortly after the NCAA's ruling. Plus, as SB Nation's Ricky O'Donnell noted, Memphis has not ruled Wiseman ineligible and the Tigers plan to continue playing him. 

Myers' presence at the Phil Knight Invitational in Portland, as well as that of Harris and Dunleavy, suggests the Warriors are taking their new reality very seriously. Golden State will need the lottery balls to bounce its way, too, in order to select Wiseman, but the Warriors should have done their due diligence by then, at least. 

Warriors continue to ache from most detrimental injury list in NBA

Warriors continue to ache from most detrimental injury list in NBA

SAN FRANCISCO – The Warriors left for Los Angeles on Tuesday shortly after posting an injury report that is the longest and surely the most roster-altering in the NBA. It runs seven deep and includes three starters, two of them All-Stars in Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

Asked if he’d ever seen anything like it, coach Steve Kerr replied with a single word.

“No,” he said. “I’m not going to expound it either.”

Six weeks removed from training camp, only four players – Ky Bowman, Marquese Chriss, Jordan Poole and Glenn Robinson III – have escaped the trainer’s room.

With five games over an eight-day span beginning Wednesday against the Lakers in LA, here is an alphabetical status update on each player:

Steph Curry

The two-time MVP and franchise focal point for the past seven seasons sustained a broken left hand on Oct. 30 and underwent hand surgery on Nov. 1, after which the Warriors announced he will be re-evaluated in three months. When Curry addressed the media on Monday, he was wearing a heavy protective sleeve that runs from his left hand to his forearm. He also disclosed that he will undergo a second operation in December to remove pins inserted in the original procedure.

Curry also was firm in announcing his intention to return sometime this season.

Timeline for clearance: Undetermined. Obviously not before February.

Jacob Evans III 

The 6-foot-4 guard in his second season, who was expected to be in the team’s rotation, has missed the last eight games with a left adductor strain.

“Jacob, from what I heard (Monday) talking with him directly and our training staff, is still at least a couple weeks away,” Kerr said.

Timeline for clearance: Undetermined. It likely will be at least a month before he returns, so around mid-December.

Kevon Looney

The 6-foot-9 center-forward, scheduled to be at least a part-time starter, has not played since opening night, after which he was diagnosed with neuropathy, a condition related to the nervous system. It’s treatable but not necessarily curable. The effects of his condition might be permanent.

“He’s working out every day, getting some good work in,” Kerr said.

Timeline for clearance: Undetermined. The Warriors would be delighted if he returns next month. Looney might always have some level of restriction.

Damion Lee

The two-way guard, in his second season in that role with the Warriors, was diagnosed Tuesday with a non-displaced fracture of the fourth metacarpal in his right hand. He is one of four players that played in each of the team's first 10 games.

“We’re hoping it’s just a few weeks,” Kerr said Tuesday.

Timeline for clearance: Undetermined. Barring complications, the second week of December is a reasonable expectation.

Alen Smailagic 

The 19-year-old forward, drafted in the second round, sustained a right ankle sprain on the first day of training camp. He wore a boot for several weeks, but now is rehabbing.

“Smailagic told me he dunked today, which is a good sign,” Kerr said. “He was excited about that, so his ankle is improving.”

Timeline for clearance: He could be cleared for contact over the next 10 days and conceivably be available late during the Nov. 17-22 road trip.

Omari Spellman 

The versatile forward/center was playing well, particularly on offense, before spraining his left ankle last Saturday at Oklahoma City. He did not play Monday night and did not practice Tuesday. So, according to Kerr, Spellman is doubtful to play on Wednesday.

Timeline for clearance: Probably Friday against the Celtics. If not, he’ll go on the four-game road trip that begins Sunday at New Orleans.

[RELATED: Kerr explains Draymond's 'really bizarre' reality on Dubs]

Klay Thompson 

The five-time All-Star sustained a torn left ACL in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals and underwent surgery on July 1. He is rehabilitating and occasionally engaging in light one-on-one shooting sessions.

Timeline for clearance: He’s expected to miss at least another four months. There is optimism he could return in March. It’s typical for a player to sit out at least eight months – or as much as a year – after such surgery.