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Two-time defending champ Warriors switch up practice routine

Golden State Warriors Media Day

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 24: Head coach Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors poses for a picture during the Golden State Warriors media day on September 24, 2018 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Even the two-time defending NBA champions are seeking ways to reinvent themselves when it comes to preparation and practice routine.

The Golden State Warriors are putting a greater emphasis on player development this training camp with a younger roster.

An hour ahead of formal team workouts, Golden State’s young core shows up for individual skill work, to learn defensive concepts or to go over offensive schemes and terminology with assistant coach Chris DeMarco.

“We have a veteran team, so being able to get these young guys in and still be able to do drill work that maybe the veterans don’t need, that’s always going to be beneficial moving forward because it’s a long season,” DeMarco said after practice Tuesday. “So sometimes you get caught up and you’re not able to practice, there’s back-to-backs where the young guys aren’t out there developing those skills that we need them to develop. So coming in early, making sure they’re getting that individual work, making sure they’re getting that team defense concept, offensively what we’re trying to do, the actions and all that, that’s important.”

Veterans such as Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green, meanwhile, may use that time to work on their bodies in the training room or weightlifting before Steve Kerr’s entire squad comes together for an efficient, shorter workout some days if that’s all the coaches deem the Warriors need.

Or, those older players might just grab some extra rest.

That slight adjustment to the practice approach has made for what Kerr considers the best camp of his tenure as he enters his fifth season running the show. Golden State also didn’t have to travel like the trip the Warriors made to China last year that took a physical toll.

“The continuity that we have with the group combined with a really good crop of young guys, both the guys we know will be on our roster and the guys trying out, and some of whom will end up in Santa Cruz, working really hard,” he said. “I think we’ve figured some things out as a coaching staff how to streamline practice, make it more efficient, cleaner.”

DeMarco, recently promoted to assistant coach and director of player development, is leading the young Warriors after the departures of three key veterans in JaVale McGee, David West and Zaza Pachulia.

There’s a youth movement now, and Golden State is determined to sustain its recent success - three titles in four years - even with the challenges of keeping an All-Star-studded roster together in free agency next summer.

By having the younger players do their work earlier, Kerr can run more focused practices with fewer breaks by going straight from one drill to the next.

“As a result, they’re up to speed by the time the whole group gets out on the floor,” Kerr said. “It’s something we’ve been looking to do over the last year, is kind of improve our player development program. It was hard to do last year because we had so many veterans. We were kind of left with about three young guys who we could work out more individual work stuff, but now we have a pretty clear five, six, seven young guys who need work and I like the format that we have with them.”

Green sat out Tuesday’s practice with a sore knee following an intense two-hour session Monday, Kerr said. And after that heavy scrimmage day to start the week, Golden State went lighter and shorter for Tuesday’s session.

About an hour and that was it. After last season, Kerr’s staff and even general manager Bob Myers brainstormed ways they could be even better with a younger roster.

Player development became a bigger focus point.

“It definitely has been structured, our guys are putting the work in,” DeMarco said. “It’s been great.”