OAKLAND — Like every team at this point of the NBA season, the Golden State Warriors are looking ahead to the All-Star Break in two weeks.
Head coach Steve Kerr calls this stretch the “dog days” and he’s adjusted how much he expects from his players as a result.
It gets lost sometimes that Kerr is just in his third year leading a team, here’s how he’s coping with this portion of the schedule by implementing what he’s learned over the last few years:
TAKING IT LIGHT
Your approach naturally changes when you aren’t actively pursuing the greatest regular season of all time like the Warriors did last season.
So, practice has been light lately. They took the day off entirely yesterday and had a “maintenance day” on Tuesday, although they “hardly ever take two-straight days off.”
“We didn’t think it would be productive to get a real practice in,” Kerr said. “It’s all with an eye on pacing the team for the season, and getting us to the All-Star Game.”
And once they get there? Besides the four going to New Orleans — Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson — Kerr is encouraging his players to relax in style.
“I hope they go to Mexico or Hawaii and sip on a margarita and come back and be ready to roll,” he said. “That’s the idea, then I think we can take another step forward.”
LETTING THE VETS COAST
David West is progressing with his thumb injury but isn’t ready for game action, Zaza Pachulia has a sore shoulder and Stephen Curry is overcoming a bout with the flu. And then there’s Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala, who both appreciate a night of rest.
Kerr has reacted to these events by erring on the side of caution and keeping them off the floor.
But he can only do that if he has serviceable replacements. Enter: Patrick McCaw and James Michael McAdoo.
“Every season offers opportunity for every single guy on the roster at some point based on injuries, the schedule, circumstance,” Kerr said. “And I think right now is McAdoo’s time, it’s Patrick’s time. McAdoo in particular hardly played at all until a week ago but with David’s injury, he just attacked that opportunity and has played exceptionally well and gives us a really unique dimension, with his ability to switch and play kind of a small center role.”
McAdoo has set his season-high for minutes played twice in the last three games and has delivered, shooting 9-for-13 for 22 points with 11 rebounds over that span.
Meanwhile, McCaw has played at least 11 minutes over the last five games after doing the D-League shuffle in late-December and early-January.
“Everybody keeps telling me about this rookie wall and I don’t know what that is,” McCaw said. “It’s kind of confusing, I don’t know if I’m supposed to have it, or it’s coming or when to expect it. Me, I feel great. I’m going continue to play and be ready to go whenever coach needs me.”
The experience offers short- and long-term advantages for the Warriors — that is, unless you’re opposed to Kerr’s belief in the “strength in numbers” mantra — as Kerr said this stretch of playing time has given him faith in playing the younger guys in pressure situations in the playoffs.
HONING IN ON THE DETAILS
The Warriors are still working through the kinks of adding a former scoring champ and MVP in Kevin Durant.
They’re ahead of schedule when put into context of other “super teams” that key players via free agency or trade. But they still haven’t reached their peak as a group.
So, Durant and the Dubs are focusing on getting more comfortable with each other.
“We know you can’t win a championship right now,” KD said. “We know that there’s still small things we can get better at [from] rebounding to making an extra pass after you just made a great pass, driving when you should drive instead of shooting 3’s sometimes. Just the small things.”
There isn’t much urgency at the Warriors’ headquarters in Oakland these days. The days of sprinting are far off; now is the time for methodical marching — and in a couple weeks, margaritas.