Warriors desperately need big man help after preseason loss to Lakers


Warriors desperately need big man help after preseason loss to Lakers

SAN FRANCISCO – When the Warriors we’ve come to know splintered in July, coach Steve Kerr decided to get risky. Partly out of principle, partly out of circumstance.

Kerr likes to play small. Loves to play small. Flood the floor with versatile players capable of defending multiple positions on one end, for easy switching, while also being a scoring threat on the other. This approach served the Warriors well, five consecutive trips to the NBA Finals, with three championships.

That success came largely on the efforts of Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Klay Thompson, Shaun Livingston and, the last three years, Kevin Durant. They had experience, length, intellect and anticipation. Steph Curry did his part, too, but as an ultra-dangerous scorer at the point, he was spared some of the broad defensive responsibilities.

Kerr and the Warriors were trendsetters, to a degree. Other coaches, Don Nelson and Mike D’Antoni to name two, have relied on similar strategy, but none has succeeded as Kerr has.

With Iguodala, Livingston and Durant gone, all replaced by younger but unaccomplished players, it’s risky to stay small. Without a legitimate rim protector behind the new crew, it’s downright hazardous.

The Warriors opened the preseason against the Lakers on Saturday with 6-foot-9, 275-pound Omari Spellman, scrapped after one season by the lowly Hawks, starting at center. His backup was 6-10, 240-pound Marquese Chriss, a 2016 lottery pick discarded by three teams in three years. Both are listed as forwards but were forced to move over with injuries sidelining 7-foot newcomer Willie Cauley-Stein and 6-9 staple Kevon Looney.

The Lakers, with 6-10 forward Anthony Davis and 7-foot center JaVale McGee, wasted no time punishing the rim. McGee was 3-of-3 from the field, all dunks, in the first five minutes. Davis was 7-of-7 in the paint, with five dunks.

Undersized and overmatched, the Warriors couldn’t prevent the parade of dunks and layups and were outscored 22-8 in the paint. The Lakers rolled to a wire-to-wire 123-101 victory.

“I’m not too concerned by the result,” Kerr said. “But we do have to play better defense, for sure. We will work hard on that next week.”

This was the first time these Warriors had played together, so it’s not fair to conclude there won’t be incremental improvement. There is a lot of youth, but there is enough talent, and enough wisdom on the bench and in uniform.

“Repetition and communication are important,” said Draymond Green, perhaps the wisest defensive player in the league. “The effort has been there. We have a lot of stuff to figure out. With just three days of practice with eight or nine new guys, it’s a lot of stuff to figure out. And we will, when we start communicating and figuring out the rotations.”

They also need to figure out how to get bigger. This roster was constructed, on the fly, to play small; Cauley-Stein is the only true vertical threat. Over four seasons in Sacramento, he was a decent lob threat but a poor protector. Looney better fits the profile of a switching defender.

Kerr says the front office is addressing ways to add a big man, a need made more acute by the ankle injury sustained by 6-10 rookie Alen Smailagic, who is out indefinitely.

“We are in a tough spot at that center position,” Kerr said. “Not just in terms of the season being two-and-a-half weeks from now but just training camp. Positionally, you need multiple guys at each spot to be able to practice and run your drills. We’re in a little bit of strange spot that we weren’t anticipating.”

The problem is as much about the Warriors being small as it is about them not having enough versatility and expertise to elsewhere to offset that.

Seeking size and knowledge last March, the Warriors summoned Andrew Bogut out of retirement. Realizing they need size now, they worked out 7-3 Hasheem Thabeet, who is 32 years old and has been out the NBA since 2014. Doing anything will require some wizardry from general manager Bob Myers and cap specialist David Kelly.

Playing small can work wonders with the right roster. The Warriors don’t have that roster.

“That’s where Looney and Willie Cauley-Stein come into play,” Kerr said. “We need their length and athleticism and ability to play that center spot. Badly. Hopefully, their absences won’t last too long and maybe we’ll be fortified at that center spot and more able to match up with big teams like the Lakers.”

Not only the Lakers. The Jazz, with 7-2 Rudy Gobert. The Trail Blazers, with 7-foot Hassan Whiteside. Rockets big man Clint Capela is only 6-10 but plays above the rim. Clippers big man Ivaca Zubac, at 7-1, could pose a problem.

[RELATED: Cauley-Stein brings receipts after C-Webb's Dubs prediction]

Teams not expected to make the playoffs will be seeking payback for recent years of Warriors abuse. The Suns, with 7-foot-1 Deandre Ayton. The Pelicans, with flying Zion Williamson. The Dallas freaking Mavericks have four players standing at least 6-11, including 7-3 Kristaps Porzingis, and Oklahoma City has 7-foot Steven Adams and 6-11 Nerlens Noel.

Maybe Spellman will provide. Maybe Chriss has matured, as Green implied, and Myers/Kelly can sneak him in the back door. The weakness is neon to all, and the Warriors know it.

Steph Curry left off Chris Paul's description of ultimate point guard

Steph Curry left off Chris Paul's description of ultimate point guard

Thus far through their NBA careers, Steph Curry has gotten the better of Chris Paul. In three head-to-head postseason matchups, Curry's Warriors have won two playoff series to Paul's one. Curry is a two-time NBA MVP, while Paul is still waiting for first. Curry owns three NBA championship rings. Paul has never made it to the NBA Finals.

So, yes, it would be easy to understand if Paul was bitter about the younger Curry's success. He might not have wanted to pass the torch of predominant NBA point guard, but it happened nonetheless.

Paul was traded from the Houston Rockets -- after they were eliminated by Curry and the Warriors -- to the Oklahoma City Thunder last offseason, and he has done a tremendous job in leading OKC (36-22) to what is currently sixth place in the Western Conference. The Thunder have outperformed expectations thus far in what has been a feel-good season, and Paul arguably deserves the bulk of the credit for that.

Despite all those good feelings, however, it appears some of that bitterness still lingers. Paul was recently asked to build the ultimate point guard, taking attributes from different players, and he had one glaring omission that, frankly, seems intentional.

"I probably want [Derrick Rose]'s explosiveness," Paul told Bleacher Report's Taylor Rooks on the newest episode of "Take it There." "And then you've got the different arms, so like one hand, probably Kyrie [Irving]'s finishes and all that. And then on the other hand, Shai [Gilgeous-Alexander] nice with the finishes.

"Steve Nash was a really good shooter," he continued. "Russ [Westbrook] -- a great rebounder. [LeBron James] is always good at passing and all that different type of stuff. But I know my basketball IQ and awareness ... nobody watches more basketball than me."

All right. Some fair selections. No arguments there. But wait ... 

"Probably [Deron Williams] or Baron Davis' build. Shooting also might be somebody like Gilbert Arenas."

Hold up ... What?!

Curry is the greatest shooter of all-time. One could make the case for Nash as well, so his inclusion on Paul's list makes sense. But Arenas?

Come. On.

Currently in his 11th NBA season, Curry is a career 47.6-percent shooter from the field and 43.5-percent marksman from 3-point range. He will own every 3-point record by the time his career is over. Arenas, meanwhile, shot 42.1 percent from the field and 35.1 percent from beyond the arc over his 11-year NBA career, never once coming close to Curry's career effective field goal percentage (.581) in any single season.

[RELATED: Kerr casts doubt on Curry's March 1 return date for Dubs]

Seeing Curry disrespected by NBA greats of past and present is nothing new. It's certainly possible that Paul simply forgot to include him, but based on history, that's awfully tough to believe.

Warriors brought in Klay Thompson's friend 'off the street' to scrimmage

Warriors brought in Klay Thompson's friend 'off the street' to scrimmage

Warriors superstar Steph Curry scrimmaged Wednesday for the second time as he continues to inch closer to returning to game action after breaking his left hand back on Oct. 30.

Golden State doesn't have many healthy bodies right now, so the team had to get creative to field 5-on-5 action.

"It was a ragtag group," coach Steve Kerr told reporters. "Theo Robertson was probably the highlight for me. He looked good. One of Klay's buddies came in off the street basically.

"Dragan (Bender) played, Juan (Toscano-Anderson) played -- so that was good.

"It wasn't the highest level pickup ball I've ever seen."

Robertson -- a Warriors player development coach who works closely with Eric Paschall -- played at Cal from 2005 to 2010. Over his junior and senior seasons combined, he averaged 13.6 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists, while shooting better than 49 percent from the field and 47 percent from deep.

The Bears won the regular-season conference championship his last year in Berkeley, and he was named the team's MVP.

As for "one of Klay's buddies" -- his name is Seth Tarver, and he is very close friends with Klay's brother, Mychel.

Tarver -- who serves as a Director for the Thompson Family Foundation -- played at Oregon State from 2006 to 2010, and he was named Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year as a senior.

[RELATED: Kerr casts doubt on Curry's March 1 return date for Dubs]

Golden State player development coach Luke Loucks -- who played his college ball at Florida State -- also suited up for the scrimmage. 

As a senior in 2012, he started all 35 games for a Seminoles squad that earned a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Have a great rest of your day.

Follow @DrewShiller on Twitter and Instagram