Warriors

Warriors coaches understand why team inspires juicy debate this season

Warriors coaches understand why team inspires juicy debate this season

As the flurry of activity that defined this NBA summer ambles toward its end, debating the future of the Warriors continues to run hotter than it has since 2008, when folks argued the merits and potential of Year 2 of the “We Believe” team.

After four seasons during which it was widely accepted that the Warriors were championship favorites, 2019-20 brings fresh intrigue and -- as we’ve learned in casual conversations around the league -- sharp differences of opinion among media members, scouts, agents and others.

One side: If Stephen Curry and Draymond Green stay healthy, they can reach 50 wins. Maybe more. And if Klay Thompson makes a strong return by March, they’ll win a playoff series.

The other side: Anyone putting the Warriors in the playoffs is delusional. Their defense will spring too many leaks, Curry is bound to miss games, they’re too small and the Western Conference is too deep.

Seeking a candid opinion from an informed individual, I reached out to Warriors assistant coach Ron Adams. He’s pragmatic, devoid of BS and, obviously, has a stake in the matter. I dropped some of the outside chatter into his lap.

“I don’t know,” he said recently, chuckling. “I mean, we have a lot of moving parts, a lot of young players. They’re good guys, willing to learn and eager to get better.

“I’m hopeful.”

Adams is 11 days away from perhaps his most important season as a member of Steve Kerr’s coaching staff. He thrived in his initial role, to coordinate and promote a defensive mentality. His new role means a reduction in game input, with greater emphasis on behind-the-scenes development. His job is to help the kids grow up.

He has a ton of clay to mold.

D’Angelo Russell last season progressed from gifted player to All-Star. What’s next for D-Lo? The Warriors, for the first time under this staff, which has been revamped, will need contributions from at least one rookie, maybe two. Can 7-foot Willie Cauley-Stein become, at age 26, the rim protector in San Francisco he was not during four seasons in Sacramento?

Adams on Russell: “I’ve spent some time with D’Angelo and I find him to be a really charming guy. Intuitively, I really like him as a person. He’s still young, still growing, but I like what I see. He’s going to help us.”

On rookies Jordan Poole, Eric Paschall and Alen Smailagic: “I like all of them. We have a really good crop of gym rats. I don’t think there’s any question Jordan is a pro shooter. He has quick release, can handle and has defensive potential.

"Eric has a chance to contribute this year. He needs to keep working on his shot, but he's got a good vibe. Alen is very dedicated and wants to be good, but he’s pretty green.”

On Cauley-Stein: “This experiment is going to be really interesting. He’s got length and he’s a good athlete. He’s got some developing to do, and I think he knows that.”

On the reserves playing behind Curry, Green, Russell, Cauley-Stein (the presumptive starter) and whomever opens the season at small forward: “Our bench could be a little more dynamic, regarding the ability to score, than it was last season. But stopping people is going to be challenging.”

Adams can be an old-school contrarian, but he enjoys the teaching aspect of his job. That’s one reason for modifying his duties toward that end.

Kerr, on the other hand, takes more of a new-school approach, no doubt because of his own 15-year playing career.

But, yes, both agree that defense is going to be pivotal.

“Nobody knows what we have right now,” Kerr said earlier this summer on the Warriors Insider podcast. “We know what we’ve lost. We’ve lost Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and Klay Thompson. So, from that perspective it doesn’t sound that great.”

Kerr allowed himself a laugh before continuing.

“We’ve got all these young guys and we’ve got to see how they fit together. We’ve got to figure out how we’re going to play, who can play together and what our defense is going to look like. That’s probably the thing I’m most worried about. We’ve had a great, versatile defensive club every year since I’ve been here, and we’re losing so much of that defensive versatility on the perimeter.

"We’ve got a lot to sort through.”

[RELATED: Biggest questions Warriors face heading into this season]

That’s why there is such fuel to the debate. The Warriors have gone from sure thing to mystery team. Adams and Kerr know what’s ahead, and they understand it will be their most challenging season.

On that point, there is not even a rumor of debate.

Warriors' hard work finally 'rewarded' with skid-busting win in Memphis

Warriors' hard work finally 'rewarded' with skid-busting win in Memphis

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- For much of the young season, the Warriors have been in search of a small piece of continuity. 

With three of its four All-Star pieces out due to injury, the quest has been arduous for the Warriors, leading to the team's longest losing streak in since 2012. 

Those troubles momentarily paused when the Warriors beat the Grizzlies 114-95 on Tuesday to snap a seven-game losing streak while validating the progress the team has made in recent weeks. 

"I'm happy for the guys," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "They've been playing hard and working hard and It's good to see them rewarded."

Tuesday's win comes as the Warriors have played just well enough to lose in recent games. In Friday's loss to the Celtics, the team held the Eastern Conference leaders to just 40 percent from the field, with Boston guard Kemba Walker making just 6 of his 19 shots. Two days later, the Warriors held the battered Pelicans to 41 percent from the field, before losing 108-100. Entering Tuesday, the team allowed teams to shoot just 41.1 percent over their last two outings. 

Keeping with a recent trend, Golden State held the Grizzlies to just 40 percent from the field and forcing 14 turnovers. Rookie of the Year candidate Ja Morant struggled much, making just 7-of-20 from the field as the Warriors diversified its defensive sets for most of the night. 

"We came out and competed hard and executed the gameplan like we talked about and I'm proud of the guys," Warriors forward Glenn Robinson said. "I knew it was coming because of the way we played, we're trying to play hard and play the right way." 

"I think we just challenged ourselves," Warriors forward Draymond Green added. "That's something we've talked a lot about, getting better on the defensive end and we've been stepping up to the challenge." 

For much of the season, the team's defensive woes have coincided with its uncommon rash of injuries. The trend started on the eve of training camp when the Warriors announce Willie Cauley-Stein would miss most of October with a foot strain. Two days later, rookie Alen Smailagic rolled his ankle and Looney strained his hamstring in the same controlled scrimmage. 

In the last month, Curry broke his hand, sidelining the guard until at least February. Two nights later, forward Green tore a ligament in his left index finger. Last week, two-way guard Damion Lee fractured his hand. All the while, one of the league's most vaunted defense has plummeted to last in the league. 

Even as injuries mounted, signs of promise were apparent around the locker room. Rookie Eric Paschall is averaging 16.7 points and 4.8 rebounds, including a 30-point performance in Sunday's loss to the Pelicans. Veteran guard Alec Burk -- who signed a one-year contract with the team last summer -- is averaging 13.5 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 11 games. 

"The great thing with these guys is they've stayed with it every step of the way," Kerr said. "They haven't taken a day off, they haven't stopped working." 

[RELATED: Warriors get good news on Looney, Smailagic]

"You can definitely see that there's some improvement," Green added. "And with the improvement, we've been talking after each game about 'We're getting there, we're getting there, just keep on working.'" 

While their recent play has been promising, the real progress will be dictated by what the Warriors have been about for nearly a decade. 

"We've also been talking about don't get comfortable with just being there," Green said. "Don't get comfortable with 'Hey we're getting better.' Let's try to make this 'Hey, we're getting better' equal some wins."

Warriors takeaways: What we learned in 114-95 win over Grizzlies

Warriors takeaways: What we learned in 114-95 win over Grizzlies

BOX SCORE

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- For much of the season, the Warriors have been searching for a complete performance amid an unusual amount of injuries. 

They achieved that goal Friday evening, beating the Memphis Grizzlies 114-95 at FedEx Forum with nine inactive players. 

In its best performance of the season, the Warriors used a big second quarter to blow the game open. Rookie Eric Paschall finished with 17 points, aiding an offense carried by Alec Burks, finishing off an impressive bounce-back performance after losing to New Orleans Sunday evening.

Here are the takeaways from Tuesday night 

Alec Burks

After signing a one-year deal last summer, Burks has used his time with the Warriors to revitalize a once-promising career. On Tuesday, he continued towards that goal, scoring 29 points and grabbing eight rebounds in 36 minutes. 

Despite missing all of training camp with an ankle injury, Burks has become a dependable scorer, averaging 13.5 points through 11 games. Two weeks ago in Houston, he scored 28 points, adding eight rebounds, showing his promise. 

Burks seemed destined for big things after the Jazz selected him No. 12 overall in the 2011 NBA Draft. Through his first five seasons, he averaged 10.6 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. However, a series of stress fractures limited Burks to just 100 games from 2014 through 2016, and he has not played in more than 75 games in a season since 2013-14. 

But if he continues to play at his current level, he could not only revitalize his career, but play his way into a lucrative deal.   

Defense

Keeping with a recent trend, the Warriors were stout defensively Tuesday evening, holding the Grizzlies to just 40 percent from the field and forcing 14 turnovers. 

Grizzlies Rookie of the Year candidate Ja Morant struggled all night, making just 7-of-20 from the field as the Warriors diversified its defensive sets for most of the night. On occasion, they'd switch from a traditional man-to-man sets to a 2-3 zone. 

The performance is on par with Golden State's output of late. Entering Tuesday, the team allowed teams to shoot just 41.1 percent over their last two outings. 

While the Warriors have shown improvement, Tuesday's performance did highlight the team's need for a frontcourt presence as the Grizzlies outscored them 52-46 in the paint.

[RELATED: Looney, Smailagic clearned for on-court work]

Second-quarter magic

For years, the Warriors have used big runs to blow games wide open. Despite not having most of its All-Star core, Golden State gave a glimpse of the past. 

After Memphis took a two-point lead following the first quarter, Golden State outscored Memphis 33-16 in the second quarter. Alec Burks scored 10 of his game-high 29 points as the Warriors held Memphis to just 36 percent in the first half. 

Following Tuesday's shootaround, Warriors coach Steve Kerr cited that the team is finally getting comfortable playing with each other despite Golden State's myriad of injuries. If the team can keep up the recent trend, it will bode well for their development as its stars rehab.