Warriors

Warriors forced to improve on fly due to lack of practices

Warriors
Steve Kerr and Steph Curry

Following the Warriors' 114-93 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Thursday night, head coach Steve Kerr laid out a laundry list of things his team needs to improve on. 

They took bad shots which Kerr said were practically turnovers. They let guys get downhill on dribble handoffs. Instead of going under the screen, they tried to chase over them. 

"Our defense was very poor," Kerr told reporters after the game. "But our offense was poor and that also put our defense in jeopardy." 

The Warriors have yet to go on a three-game streak of any kind -- winning or losing, highlighting the overall inconsistency they are playing with so far this season. Avoiding a losing streak is good, but not many positives can be taken away when you can't build a winning streak either. 

"Our defense is up and down and our offense is up and down, so hence the season is up and down," Kerr said. "Until you really establish that you are something, that you have an identity, that you can hang your hat on something every night, then you can be a good team. Right now we just can't really trust anything that we're doing consistently. We can do things well periodically, but we haven't put it together."

Kerr gave himself 20 games to put it together. With the Warriors having just played their 19th game, his deadline approaches this weekend. The issue is, many of the games so far have been used as teaching and learning moments. Because of the coronavirus, the Warriors are practicing less, forcing them to correct their mistakes and find their identity on the fly.

 

The Warriors have made strides since the season started. They've learned to play alongside Steph Curry -- which is crucial for any kind of success -- and they are seeing development in rookie James Wiseman. However, the problem areas are much larger. 

Kelly Oubre Jr. still doesn't look well integrated into the system. The team is getting off to slow starts on offense. And they are making simple defensive mistakes. As Kerr said, the Warriors don't have an identity.

Figuring this out in a live game versus a controlled practice isn't making the process any easier. 

"You get more reps in practice, obviously," Eric Paschall said. "That's something that, for everybody, you get more reps. Even for the best player, you get more reps in practice. Now, you just got to see it on film and see how you can make it better the next game."

Watching film is a dependable learning tool. Wiseman has mentioned how much he has learned from coming off the bench after being able to watch Kevon Looney in the first five minutes of the game, and then apply what Looney did to his own game. He's also said how much film he watches each day. Kent Bazemore said he re-watches the game two or three times. 

However, it's still more difficult to see and then automatically apply -- and apply it successfully -- when there is no trial or buffer time.

"It's difficult," Curry said. "There are certain things, I don't want to say take for granted, but you kind of can gloss over in terms of just saying, 'OK, we're going to do XYZ on the defensive end,' and then the next night it's a little different based on personnel. We're still learning the basics of defensive principles, offensive play calls, certain reads that you can't just choreograph. You have to have that second nature."

"It is a lot. And it's a crash course, not just for the rooks and the young guys, but for everybody to try and put it together."

The Warriors aren't alone in having fewer practices. The pandemic has forced every team to shift the way they prepare for games. But for teams that are rebuilding -- such as the Warriors -- these changes are felt more.

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If the Warriors want to see improvement and find some sort of rhythm, they need to get to a place where they no longer have to work on the fundamentals of defense and offense, as Curry said they are. They need to be in a position to build off of those, and only then will they any kind of identity. 

If they don't, they will be starting each game from ground zero each game, and will never be able to build off their wins, or truly learn from their losses.