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.
"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."