OAKLAND — Midway through the opening quarter of the Golden State Warriors’ 129-83 rout of the Phoenix Suns on Monday night, Steve Kerr provided a reminder of why he’s the owner of two rings as a head coach and the 2016 NBA Coach of the Year.
Amid a timeout, Kerr handed his clipboard and his marker to Andre Iguodala then stood at the fringe of the huddle — his back to the group — as the 14-year NBA vet diagramed the play and offered directions to his teammates.
“It had nothing to do with being disrespectful,” Kerr explained of the unusual tactic. “It had to do with me trying to reach my team. I have not reached them for the last month. They’re tired of my voice. I’m tired of my voice. It’s been a long haul these last fews years.”
Iguodala was the first of three Warriors to play coach in the first half. Next up was Draymond Green and then it was David West’s turn. Like Iguodala, Green and West are among the most cerebral Warriors. West is the renaissance man of the squad. Green, the offense’s chief facilitator and last season’s Defensive Player of the Year, would already be a top five coach were he to assume that role. Green missed the game with the Suns due to a sprained left index finger. Kerr expects him to return for Wednesday’s meeting with Portland Trail Blazers.
In the second half, JaVale McGee was one of the Warriors to take on an assistant role, helping Green during a timeout. McGee led the film session during Monday morning’s shoot around, which Iguodala has stepped up to run.
“JaVale was on the computer,” Kerr said. “JaVale’s the smartest tech guy we have. So, he was running the tape.”
Jay Triano, head coach of the Suns, met Kerr on the court after the game to ask what exactly went down.
“You have to do what you have to do to build your team up,” Triano told reporters. “If he thinks that helps them, then I tip my hat.”
It was a simple and brilliant ploy by Kerr to break up the malaise that has been dragging down the Warriors in the runup to the All-Star break.
Stephen Curry, who went for a team-high 22 points, detailed how the players’ huddle boosted the slumping Warriors.
“I think it was good, I call it an experiment,” Curry said. “But it was a good vibe today.”
“You appreciate the process of being a little bit more thoughtful when it comes to controlling the game and the game plan and locking in the tendencies of the Phoenix players and getting your mind right to play,” Cury added.
Entering the dismantling of the Suns, the Warriors were 3-3 in their past six contests — especially lethargic at the beginning of games. In the past three, the San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks and Oklahoma City Thunder had combined to outscore them by 32 points in the first quarter. Before the beatdown, Kerr was asked about the soporific starts, a trend that has plagued the reigning champs throughout the season.
“We do have four All-Stars in the starting lineup for god’s sake,” Kerr cracked. “We should be able to get off to a better start.”
With Green absent, there was a start to be had for Omri Casspi and more minutes for Patrick McCaw. Casspi capitalized, dropping a season-high 19 points (7-for-10 from the field) in 27 minutes, while McCaw played his most inspired basketball since the playoffs. McCaw, who’s now played five games in as many nights while bouncing between Oracle Arena and the G-League, scored nine points (4-for-6 from the field) in eight minutes before a right wrist sprain knocked him out of the second half.
McCaw’s injury was a blemish on an otherwise spectacular night. Now, only the trip to Portland stands between the Warriors and the much-needed break.
“Tonight we were focused,” Kerr said. “I think just having to count on each other and not hearing my voice, which sort of sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher or parents or whoever’s voice that is. At this point, that’s what I sound like to them. So, they needed a different voice.”