Steve Kerr sat in front of the computer screen and tried to create the kind of positivity that was hard to feel in 2020. After watching his young team score a staggering 116-106 win against an understaffed Detroit Pistons squad Tuesday night, The Basketball Lifer tried to let the numbers do the talking.
“I think when we came out with the season schedule we were all looking at this trip and we all thought if we could go 2-2 it would be a really successful trip,” Kerr said during a videoconference with reporters. “Especially considering the length of our off-season and everything that’s going on with our team. Draymond [Green] Draymond misses the camp, all of that. I think we all feel great. We look forward to coming home. And our self-confidence should increase as we gradually realize what kind of team we should be. “
Kerr spoke with a fatherly optimism seldom needed in the glory of the Golden State Warriors. And it’s a noticeable change in tenor that underscores exactly what the group learned during their first road trip of the season. Long gone are the days when you could just roll the ball and expect the warriors to overwhelm everyone on their way.
It’s a change that started early last season but was stifled when Stephen Curry broke his hand in game five. It’s a realization of how much the warriors miss Klay Thompson, and a reminder that Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala, and Shaun Livingston will not be able to save the day.
Sure, the Warriors are 2-2, but Kerr knows better than anyone in the organization that not all wins are created equal.
After being blown up by the Eastern Conference power plants in the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks in the first two games of the campaign, the Warriors needed a Damion Lee winner to beat the lowly Chicago Bulls on Sunday night. Then it took Golden State 17 points in Andrew Wiggins’ fourth quarter to beat a poor Pistons team that shot 15-50 off the field in the first half (30%) and still led at half – but without Blake Griffin (concussion ) played protocol) in the second half.
After a nine-month break and four games in a shortened season, what do we really know about a group that is still learning something about itself?
Starting with Wiseman
Any conversation about the positive starts with rookie center James Wiseman. The 19-year-old continued to impress his teammates and coaches throughout the trip, displaying an offensive versatility few expected so early after the Warriors picked him with the number 2 on the 2020 draft.
“He’s just a kid and he’s studying,” said Kerr. “It’s just amazing to see someone so young with so little college-level experience, no summer league, no training camp to see how balanced they are, how much they want to learn, how much they listen, without feeling criticized or judged. He is beyond his years from the standpoint of maturity. “
He also seems to be beyond his years in terms of his abilities. Wiseman has a lot to learn, especially how to avoid getting cheap fouls, but his talent is overwhelming. When a reporter mistakenly used Giannis Antetokounmpo’s name to ask Curry about a coast-to-coast Dunk Wiseman, Curry couldn’t help but spot the same resemblance.
“It looked like a Giannis-type situation,” said Curry. “You’re right.”
The Warriors are confident Wiseman will keep improving and getting even better, which is a scary thought for the rest of the league, especially as Green continues to teach the young prodigy on the defensive.
Eliminate Oubre’s first knight
Aside from Wiseman’s appearance and the familiar (if the occasional) curry-hot streak, the negatives far outweigh the positives for a Warriors group that has questions up and down. The biggest of these concerns the new shooter Kelly Oubre Jr.
After playing 0-17 from beyond the arc to start the season, Oubre knocked down his first three goals on Tuesday – and then missed his next three attempts. He scores on Friday at home against the Portland Trail Blazers 1:21 from beyond the arch.
Curry said he encouraged Oubre to keep shooting and Kerr is confident Oubre will get back on track. But the Golden State crime can’t work properly without Oubre shooting a higher clip – soon. As throughout the trip, Kerr tried to stay positive as he described Oubre after Tuesday’s game.
“You just want to get this out of the way,” said Kerr. “I told Kelly the other day that Klay had at least two seasons, maybe three, when he started at 5 against 30 and just couldn’t buy any. And then the games move on, you finally have a good game, and then you land somehow where you should be in terms of your shooting percentage and all of that. “
Andrew Wiggins takes the ball the length of the court for a thundering dunk.
Oubre’s bouts were exacerbated by the fact that Wiggins shot almost as badly on Tuesday – just 16:49 before a 27-point breakout against the Pistons.
The good news for Kerr and the Warriors is that Wiggins had the best stretch of his brief career as a Warrior in the fourth quarter – he carried his new team while Curry rested. But the bad news is that the inconsistency shown on that trip served as a reminder to many in the Warriors organization who hoped a change of scene would serve Wiggins well, look very much like the player who frustrates so many in the Minnesota Timberwolves has organization because of its up and down play.
Like many Timberwolves coaches before him, Kerr tried to look on the good side while discussing Wiggins’ performance.
“I think what I like about Andrew is that he’s kind of gotten used to what’s coming in this league,” said Kerr. “Regarding control, criticism. He doesn’t seem to care. He’s been around a few times now, and the most important thing in this league, when you get that kind of criticism, judgment or control, is fair to be calm too stay and keep playing. And Andrew found that out. So I don’t think all the talk, I don’t think it bothered him too much. “
Not quite “strength in numbers”
Aside from Oubres and Wiggins’ struggles, what should bother Kerr after this trip is that he still has no sense of which bankers to trust.
After years of counting on players like Iguodala, Livingston, David West and Zaza Pachulia, Kerr has to wonder what he’s going to get each night. Brad Wanamaker, Eric Paschall, Kevon Looney, Mychal Mulder, and Lee showed some promises at times, but they also raised doubts.
Seasoned little striker Kent Bazemore was no longer seen as a trustworthy piece of a new bank in a week, but appeared to be getting out of rotation. Juan Toscano-Anderson, who was waived and signed a two-way contract, gave Kerr some nice minutes and was even put on the grid. But it’s fair to wonder if if the teams scout him more, he can have the same effect. Center Marquese Chriss would play; Now he is recovering from a seasonally threatening leg injury that he sustained in the office while traveling.
Green’s return will ease some fears and calm a defense that has at times struggled to stay ahead of opponents, but his return should not be viewed as some sort of magical panacea. Same goes for Curry’s brilliance, which is put to the test throughout the season as he sees more defenders on his way than ever before.
The Warriors are confident that they will take a break with a home stand of seven games in the next few weeks – making them the last team in the league to host a game. Despite all the positivity Kerr and his players tried to spin after the first week of play, it was Curry who offered one of the greatest doses of reality as he tried to be optimistic one more time.
“It’s kind of weird,” said Curry. “I don’t feel like there is much of a benefit to home court when I’ve been out. But being in our home, obviously in our routine and being close to our family, will hopefully have a positive effect on us.”