Lost amid the spectacle that was Steve Kerr handing over the reins to his players in Monday night’s thrashing of the Phoenix Suns was a subtler yet nonetheless valuable tactic deployed by the Golden State Warriors’ head coach.
Kerr utilized the meeting with the Suns — one of the bottom feeders of the NBA — as a chance to instill some much needed confidence in his crew of reserves.
There was no Warrior who who needed the minutes and the ego boost more than Omri Casspi, who’s been all but a ghost over the past month. With Draymond Green nursing a sprained right index finger — the ideal injury should the Warriors have been skirting the league’s rest rules — Casspi drew his seventh start.
Based on recent performance, Kevon Looney was the guy that should have slotted into Green’s void. Instead, Kerr, a long-time bench member himself, seized the moment to get Casspi back in the mix.
The last month has been trying for the Warriors’ journeyman. An illness cost Casspi three games in mid January and he’d struggled to reestablish himself once the calendar flipped to February. Before playing 27 minutes against the Suns, Casspi had logged 29 minutes combined in the first five games of the month.
“It’s always good,” Casspi said of the chance to get a rare start. “I felt like in the last month or so I’ve been dealing with a lot on and off the court with injuries and being sick or whatnot. It’s tough.”
Casspi delivered his best hoops in months, recording a double-double as he dropped 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. It was the first time since Jan. 10 that he’s played 20-plus minutes. It was the first time since Dec. 27 that Casspi’s scored in double figures.
The first-year Dub even hit a 3-pointer — his first triple in almost exactly two months (Dec. 14).
“Great energy,” Kerr said of Casspi’s performance. “More than anything, just the opportunity. I’ve hardly played him — to no fault of his own. He just hasn’t had much of a chance.”
Casspi was far from the only struggling member of the bench to star against the Suns.
“I think it’s great for a guy like Omri to have a night like [that], Nick Young to get extended minutes,” Kerr said. “[Patrick McCaw], obviously, would have played some more if he hadn’t hurt his hand.”
Young was a game and career-high plus-34. He went for 16 points (5-for-10 from the field, 3-for-7 from distance) in 24 minutes. McCaw, who has floundered so badly that he asked to spend some time in the G-League, had nine points in eight minutes before spraining his right wrist.
JaVale McGee, who has roared back into the rotation in the the absence of Jordan Bell, blocked three shots and scored seven points in 14 minutes.
With how the buyout market is playing out — Joe Johnson is joining the Houston Rockets and Marco Belinelli is signing with the Philadelphia 76ers — it’s looking increasingly likely that the Warriors will have to lean on internal options.
After the beatdown of the Suns, Casspi expressed just how much it helps to get a vote of confidence from the boss.
“I’m trying on the run, on the fly [to get back on track] and it’s been tough,” Casspi. “But it is what it is — part of the game. And I’m happy that coach trusted me [against the Suns] to go out there and compete and I felt good.”
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