Warriors

Warriors still searching for answers on defense after loss vs. Lakers

Warriors still searching for answers on defense after loss vs. Lakers

LOS ANGELES -- Five seconds into the Warriors' 120-94 loss Wednesday night, Lakers forward LeBron James took one dribble and threw a crosscourt alley-oop pass to JaVale McGee, leading to Los Angeles' easiest bucket of the evening.

The play marked a familiar scenario for Golden State. In the last month, a once-dominant defense has descended to the league's worst unit. By the end of Wednesday evening, it added yet another lackluster performance to its résumé.

"We never had any traction in that game," Warriors coach Steve Kerr admitted. "We had some spells where we made some good things happen offensively and maybe got a stop or two but every time it felt like we were right there we just couldn't get a stop."

Golden State's defensive lapses started early Wednesday evening at Staples Center. Through the first 12 minutes, Los Angeles shot 69 percent, including five 3-pointers. James scored 19 of his team-high 23 points in the first half, adding six rebounds as the Lakers scored 64 points in the paint.

Defensive lapses were all too common Wednesday evening. In the third quarter, James received an inbounds pass from guard Alex Caruso, drove baseline as Caruso screened both D'Angelo Russell and Glenn Robinson, leading to an easy pass to Dwight Howard for a wide-open dunk.

Throughout his tenure, Kerr's defensive philosophy required his team to get three straight stops at least once during a game. For the last five years, the strategy worked. The Warriors finished in the top 10 in defensive rating in four of the five seasons. Now, with Andre Iguodala and Kevin Durant gone, and both Klay Thompson and Kevon Looney out of the lineup, the Warriors are giving up more than 120 points per game.

The defensive effort has gotten so bad that Kerr used Wednesday's shootaround -- usually reserved for light pregame preparation -- as an intense practice that mirrored his training camps of the past.

During the session, he put his team through a gauntlet of defensive drills in hopes they would spark an improvement. Adding to the conundrum is the face the Warriors aren't using one defensive method that made them one of the league's most vaunted defensive units.

"Most guys in general struggle with communication," Warriors forward Draymond Green said. "It's kind of amplified when you're dealing with younger guys. You always wonder is the communication because you're not comfortable? Because you don't know. But half the battle is getting them to say something.

"If you can get people to say something," he added. "If it's the wrong thing, your teammates can react to the wrong thing and if you overwork the wrong thing it becomes right. The battle is to get everyone to communicate and that's an area we have to grow in."

[RELATED: Kerr losing patience, but Warriors see no alternative]

The Warriors' defensive troubles come as the team's health is in peril. Of the nine active players in the loss to the Lakers, just one was on the team's roster last season.

As Green walked out of Staples Center, the forward perfectly summed up the team's current state.

"I think we've improved but we've got a long ways to go," Green said. "A long ways to go."

Why Steph Curry's gesture at Oracle Arena finale touched Monta Ellis

Why Steph Curry's gesture at Oracle Arena finale touched Monta Ellis

For the final regular-season game in Oracle Arena history, Steph Curry arrived rocking a No. 8 Monta Ellis jersey.

"Obviously, a lot of history that Monta was able to be a part of with the 'We Believe' Warriors era, and when I got here my rookie year, he was that guy," Curry told reporters back on April 7. "And I think for me, in terms of representing him on the last game, it meant a lot because we were in that backcourt together. 

"When he was traded it was a tough time in terms of the transition of the organization and things like that. I wanted to pay, obviously, honor to him in terms of his story, coming out of high school and doing what he was able to do. He was an Oakland fan, Warrior fan. Beloved guy."

Shortly after he got wind of Curry's gesture, Monta reacted on Instagram. But he recently expanded on his feelings.

"The biggest thing that I always wanted to do, like, when I leave this Earth, is know that I impacted somebody in some shape or form, no matter if it was on or off the basketball court," he told Marcus Thompson of The Athletic. "That’s my biggest thing.

"So to hear that from him, man, it just means I did what I was supposed to do. I made an impact on somebody’s life before I left here.”

During the 2009-10 season -- Curry's rookie campaign -- Ellis averaged a career-high 25.5 points per game.

[RELATEDKerr explains why he prefers Thanksgiving over Christmas]

The following year, he racked up 24.1 points and 5.6 assists per contest, while Curry registered 18.6 points and 5.8 assists per night.

Although Monta was disappointed with how the franchise handled his trade to Milwaukee in March 2012, he has nothing but love for Dub Nation.

“That’s my second home,” he told Thompson. “I love Oakland. The fans are like no other. I’ve never seen any other fans in America like Oracle.”

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Steve Kerr's message during Warriors' dynasty's end should've been heeded

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Steve Kerr's message during Warriors' dynasty's end should've been heeded

Steve Kerr knew this season would be different, how could he not?

Still, even the Warriors head coach couldn't have predicted how drastically different his sixth season in the Bay would be. 

Kevin Durant left to become a Net. Klay Thompson likely will miss the entire season rehabbing his torn ACL. Then, Steph Curry broke his left hand and will be re-evaluated in February and D'Angelo Russell missed nine of the first 21 games with a thumb sprain, leaving Kerr to lead a group of rookies, role players and reclamation projects through the NBA season.

Dynasties aren't built to last. Kerr, a six-time NBA champion as a player and coach, knows that. He knows how fleeting championship runs can be. The Warriors have gone from dreaded bully thirsting for June champagne to champion laying on the canvas as a 12-month recharge washes over them.

“No,” Kerr laughed when NBC Sports Chicago's K.C. Johnson asked if he thought anyone savored last season's run when he told them too. “It’s human nature to think we’re going to win it again and we’re going to keep going forever. Life changes quickly.

“I talked not only to the media and our fans but to our team. Last year there were several times when I said, ‘This is going to be our best chance to win a championship.’ We’ve got an incredible opportunity that may never come up again. That’s something that’s important for everybody to realize---fans, management, players. It is lightning in a bottle. You can do everything perfectly and you still may not get to where you think you might be.”

The Warriors will be back. That's the plan at least. This season serves as a reboot point. A mere pitstop in a dynasty that has been paused not concluded.

But plans, even those best laid, rarely go as drawn up. Kerr knows that. That's why he implored everyone from Curry to those sitting in the nosebleeds at Oracle Arena to enjoy one of the most impressive runs in NBA history.

You never know when things will come back, and things surely will never be the way they were when Curry and Warriors were pulverizing teams into oblivion en route to five-straight NBA Finals appearances.

That ride, as Kerr predicted, came to an end.

A new one has begun.

[RELATED: Warriors' plan might draw speculation after two inexplicable losses]

The Warriors sit at 4-19. Rookies Eric Paschall and Ky Bowman have played well, as has veteran swingman Glenn Robinson III. But it's unlikely to amount to many wins this season. It's instead about teaching, about growth for next season when a fully loaded Warriors team will enact its vengeance on an NBA that is taking pleasure in pummelling the wounded champions. 

That will be a sweet moment for Kerr and the Warriors, should it come.

Pleasure, in sports and in life is, fleeting. Titles come. Confetti falls. Elation hits. Then, it's on to next year, and one day, before you've blinked, things are different. The run is over and a new course has been charted.

That course is expected to get the Warriors back to the top soon. If it does, expect everyone to heed Kerr's advice and enjoy the ride.