Warriors

Why Warriors stars Steph Curry, Klay Thompson should return if healthy

Why Warriors stars Steph Curry, Klay Thompson should return if healthy

SAN FRANCISCO -- It has been established by now that, for the Warriors, the primary purpose of this season is to create a launching pad for next season, about resetting the foundation from which something special can be built.

What better way to get a head start on 2020-21 than to have Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson on the court for the final weeks of this season?

Curry is all for it, and you can bet Thompson is too.

“We’re like some caged animals right now, ready to get unleashed and back to what we do,” Curry said 45 minutes before tipoff of the Warriors’ 122-108 loss to the Utah Jazz on Monday night. “Selfishly speaking, it should be fun for both of us just to play basketball.”

With Curry fewer than two weeks removed from surgery on his left hand that is expected to keep him out until at least February and Thompson rehabbing his surgically repaired left ACL for at least another four months, there is considerable sentiment among some that neither should see the court this season.

Put them on ice, even if cleared. Even if they’re lobbying. Even if they crawl into coach Steve Kerr’s office and beg to play.

Such is the talk of lottery dreams. Put another way, tanking. The more games a team loses, the better its chances of moving up on draft night. James Wiseman is going to land somewhere, and if the Warriors are profoundly abysmal, they could get lucky.

They could get lucky anyway. There isn’t much difference between 30-52 and 23-59. Barring the utterly bizarre, they will have seat on the stage when lottery unfolds next May 19 in Chicago. And, moreover, it’s not what Curry, the man who matters most in this entire equation, wants.

He sees the wisdom in playing, particularly if Thompson is ready to go.

“Mostly just to understand the chemistry with the young guys, who will have gone through a lot of games and really understand what this league is about and what it’s going to take to play at a high level,” he said, a bulky protective sleeve running from his left hand to a few inches short of his elbow. “You could even play around with the rotations and get a vibe of what the following season, when we’re all healthy, looks like.”

I had asked Stephen if he saw the pros and cons of returning, with Klay, for the final weeks of the season. It was, well, all pros.

They’d have to be cleared to return to the court, of course. Should both be cleared, say, sometime in March, there is no question they’ll want to play. There should be no hesitation about putting them on the court.

Asked the same question, Kerr also was on board.

“It would be great,” he said after the game. “What we’re trying to do this year is build for the future, and Steph and Klay are part of the core group, along with Draymond in terms of what we want to accomplish long term.

“The idea of bringing some of these young guys along and helping them to be able to be a part of the core going forward, it means they need to play together. All those guys need to play together. It would be great to get some time with Steph and Klay later on in the year.”

Yes, that’s the politically correct answer. One any coach, who theoretically wants his strongest possible roster, is supposed to give.

But it’s also the strategically appropriate response. Better to have some experience with Warriors of the future than none at all entering training camp next September.

If the Warriors are 21-51 and Curry and Thompson are cleared in late March, for the final 10 games, they could reintroduce themselves to each other and, more significantly, to rookies Eric Paschall and Jordan Poole and, maybe, Alen Smailagic.

And, also, D’Angelo Russell. The Warriors acquired Russell believing he could play with Curry and Thompson, who would move to small forward, and the trio would pose serious challenges to any defense. No matter what the Warriors ultimately decide to do with D-Lo, they’d like to evaluate him with their best roster.

Curry conceded that the idea of returning to a team going nowhere is a tough acknowledgment. The Warriors, he said, “might surprise us and go on a crazy run” that could put them in the playoff picture.

Um, that would be beyond crazy.

“But when we get there ... just playing basketball,” Curry said. “I love to play basketball. I love having fun. I know Klay does too.”

[RELATED: Watch Draymond get ejected in first game back from injury]

If they are cleared, let them run. The risk of re-injury is going to be there in April, as it would be when the season opens in October.

The difference is, instead of putting an immediate cloud over next season, they’d have about five months to recover before it begins.

Warriors follow Draymond Green's lead in willing team to win vs. Bulls

Warriors follow Draymond Green's lead in willing team to win vs. Bulls

Throughout his career, Draymond Green simultaneously has been Golden State's emotional leader and one of its best players. 

On teams featuring Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant, Green consistently was the team's emotional heartbeat, occasionally willing his squads to unforeseen victories in standout performances that didn't necessarily reflect on the stat sheet. 

The latest example of Green's impact came in the last 12 minutes of Friday's 100-98 win over the Bulls, when he passed, defended and guided the Warriors to their fifth win of the season. 

A glimpse of Green's impact came four seconds before the final frame began when Golden State coach Steve Kerr substituted Green for Jordan Poole. On the next play, Green switched onto Bulls guard Coby White, forcing an off-balance miss. Four minutes into the fourth quarter -- with Golden State down 89-84 -- he successfully contested a Tomas Satoransky jump shot, leading to a fastbreak opportunity. Four minutes later, Green received a pass from guard D'Angelo Russell, drove the lane and found center Willie Cauley Stein for a dunk. With a minute left and the game tied at 98, he found Glenn Robinson III for another lob dunk to help seal the victory. 

Green -- who finished with nine points, five rebounds and four steals -- was responsible for 10 of the team's 23 fourth-quarter points, helping the Warriors outscore Chicago by eight points in the final frame. 

"Our defensive pressure picked up," Green explained after the win. "I think down the stretch in games, you have to do that. There have been games this year where teams have put pressure on us and we didn't respond well. I think tonight we were the aggressors and it worked out in our favor."

"He made great plays down the stretch," Robinson said of Green. "He got down on the floor for loose balls. He got us going, his talk, his communication. You always want a player like that the floor, directing things."

Green's performance came at a particular time of peril for Golden State. With Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson out of the lineup, the Warriors are one of the league's worst teams. In their last four games entering Friday night, they had been outscored by 61 points, including a 106-91 blowout loss to Charlotte on Wednesday. 

[RELATED: Sources: Steph has surgery to remove pins from hand]

Worse, Green's play has followed suit. Over his previous nine appearances, he had shot just 38.5 percent from the field while dealing with a myriad of injuries. On Friday, both he and his team found their stride. 

"We played the whole game hard," Warriors forward Eric Paschall said. "I felt like as a team, that's a big step for us after the last two games. We felt like we didn't compete at a high level. I felt like it was real good for us just in terms of coming out with a win."

Golden State's season has been new territory for Green. Since entering the NBA, he has never missed the playoffs, but with the Warriors' star-studded cast out for an extended time, that streak is expected to end. That makes Friday's act of leadership all the more important going forward. 

Warriors takeaways: What we learned in inspiring 100-98 win over Bulls

Warriors takeaways: What we learned in inspiring 100-98 win over Bulls

BOX SCORE

Too bad the Warriors can't play the Bulls every night. 

In their latest outing, the Warriors beat Chicago 100-98, sweeping the season series against Chicago while avoiding a winless five-game road trip. 

After Warriors coach Steve Kerr lamented his team's uninspired play, Golden State put together its best effort in nearly a week. 

The Warriors aren't going to beat most teams on talent like recent years. In order to have a chance on a nightly basis, they'll have to play as hard as they did Friday night at United Center. 

Here are the takeaways:

All heart

In the days leading up Chicago, Kerr was critical of his team's hustle and spirit. Against the Bulls, the Warriors got the hint, highlighted by a 16-5 run to start the second quarter. Golden State shot 57 percent from the field in the frame, helping the team get within one point at halftime. 

Similar efforts were littered throughout the game. When the Bulls went up seven, the Warriors went on a 14-5 run to take a brief lead. Eric Paschall continued his stellar rookie season, scoring 13 points, adding three rebounds and two assists. 

As they grow, the Warriors will continue to learn lessons during their transition. The one constant will have to be the effort they showed Friday. 

Too many miscues

Golden State's response to Kerr's demand would've been smoother with better control of the basketball. The Warriors committed 11 of their game-high 19 turnovers in the first half. 

Entering Friday, Chicago was among the stingiest teams in the league, forcing 18 turnovers per game.

Turnovers are a function of undisciplined play. The Warriors' youth was on display, and they were fortunate to get the win.

[RELATED: Ask Kerith: Why Warriors' focus is on player development]

Robinson drilling III's

In a game the Warriors needed an extra scoring punch, they got it from Robinson, who scored 20 points, including two 3-pointers. After struggling at the beginning of the season, Robinson has come alive in recent games. 

Over his last eight outings, he's averaging 13.6 points while shooting 41.4 percent from 3-point range. 

If Robinson can keep this up, he will force his way into Golden State's future plans.