OAKLAND — When you’ve been to the NBA Finals for three straight years and are heavily favored to make it a fourth this summer, you can approach the regular season differently than your peers.
That’s been Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr’s approach this season, at least.
Kerr, who has long embraced the “Strength in Numbers” in his substitution patterns has taken it up a notch this season. Through the first 21 games of the regular season, the Dubs have played 12 players twice. They’ve called on all 13 active players 14 times.
Playing that many players that often means certain guys won’t get as much playing time as fans would prefer. But Kerr is too focused on finding groupings that work well together to care.
“I think we’re in a pretty unique position with our team where we can experiment and use the regular season to figure out combinations,” he said after practice on Tuesday.
Monday night’s loss to the Sacramento Kings was a different situation, he said, due to the absence of Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant.
“We had some strange combinations and it’s good for our team. you saw the flaws,” Kerr said. “… This is all part of our regular season is trying to figure all of this stuff out.”
The Warriors are taking a new approach this year, a more laid back one. The days of hurtling through the schedule with an eye for destruction are gone.
“It feels more like guys are just thinking more big picture, more long term — myself included,” Kerr said. “We know what we’re up against with the yearlong journey. So we’re not stepping on people’s throats like we used to.”
The fourth-year head coach said he’s OK with that for now, as long as they start to pick it up when it matters. (The Warriors are still in Month Two of a nine-month slog.)
The players didn’t seem worried about the loss or the fact that they’ve lost several games by more than 10 points — something that simply didn’t happen with this regularity in recent years.
“Not really worried about that per se, because it’s been different each time,” Curry said. “There’s no glaring weakness.”
The experiments, roster tinkering and strategic days off aren’t going anywhere for months.
Today will mark the first game between the Warriors and the new-look Los Angeles Lakers.
While Kyle Kuzma has been the best rookie on Luke Walton’s team, Lonzo Ball has been getting all the attention.
He’s struggled offensively through his first quarter of a season as a pro, scoring 8.7 points per game on 31-percent shooting.
Durant and Curry, both top-10 draft picks themselves, said on Tuesday that there was no real reason for concern about Ball’s long-term prospects.
“He’s a rookie, he’s going through all the ups and downs that every rookie has — whether you’re highly touted our not,” Curry said.
“Hopefully you didn’t judge me after my first 20 games in the league either.”