Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr speaks to the media before Game 1 of the 2019 NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors on May 30, 2019 at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Chris Victorio | Special to S.F. Examiner)

Warriors work out centers before Chase Center opening

Golden State Warriors are suddenly thin at center, and will look to remedy that in the coming days

CHASE CENTER — Unlike assistant coach Mike Brown, Steve Kerr doesn’t live 50 yards from Chase Center. He can’t just scooter to work.

“I’ve got Waze going on my phone, I have no idea where I’m going,” said Kerr, who bought a $7.3 million home in Presidio Heights in September. “I’m just trying to find my way around. Five years in Berkeley and Oakland, this is a different world.”

The Warriors’ first preseason tilt in their new $1.4 billion home — Saturday evening against the Los Angeles Lakers — is about finding a comfort level for more than just the new streets and hallways — seventh-year forward Draymond Green said earlier this week that he felt like a rookie again. It’s about figuring out what this first post-championship era team looks like in practice, not just at practice, especially with a sudden need for centers.

“You rarely have the type of talent and continuity that we’ve had the last few seasons,” said Kerr, who will have seven players 25 years old or younger on his roster and eight newcomers in all. Two of those newcomers — Willie Cauley-Stein and rookie Alen Smailagic — are centers, and both are now hurt.

While in the past, Golden State had upwards of five centers on the roster, the Warriors are now painfully thin at the position with the foot injury to Cauley-Stein, and 19-year-old rookie Smailagic out indefinitely with a rolled ankle. The lineup — already significantly different with the departures of championship staples like Andre Iguodala and Kevin Durant, and with Klay Thompson’s ACL injury — will look even more different than it did even a month ago because of those injuries.

Golden State worked out “a few” centers on Friday, Kerr said. The Warriors are evaluating whether they’ll try to bring in another big man to back up Kevon Looney (tweaked hamstring, out Saturday) and Omari Spellman, who will start at the five against the Lakers. Options may be limited. For now, Marquese Chriss, a training-camp invitee unlikely to make the 15-man roster, will be Spellman’s primary backup. Golden State can also play the undersized Green and rookie Eric Paschall some at center if necessary.

“That will be decided sometime in the next couple days,” Kerr said. “We’ll have more of an answer of how Alen [Smailagic] is doing later today. We are in a tough spot at that center position, not just in terms of the season two and a half weeks from now, but just training camp. Positionally, you need multiple guys at each spot to be able to practice and run your practice and your drills.”

Golden State is $241,913 away from the hard cap imposed on them due to the sign-and-trade that sent Kevin Durant to the Brooklyn Nets, and returned Russell. The only real flexibility is that the contract of Alfonzo McKinnie — who will start at the four against Los Angeles — is not fully guaranteed until January. In theory, they could drop him and sign a veteran after the trade deadline, but that doesn’t help them now, with Cauley-Stein’s injury keeping him out through October.

Instead, they’d have to either cut McKinnie now — or more likely one of the two-way players on the roster, Damion Lee or Ky Bowman — and sign Chriss (if he has a breakout camp) or another veteran.

“We’re in a bit of a strange spot that we weren’t anticipating, but we have to decide what we’ll do,” Kerr said.


The Warriors practiced on the Chase Center court for the first time on Friday. Kerr said the players liked the shooting background, but they won’t know how it really feels until fans are in seats.

After four days of practice, Kerr said, the new guys “understand the skeleton, and the system, and how we’re going to play.”

There hasn’t been much installation — certainly not the new defensive wrinkles — but there has been enough installed for Saturday to at least tell Kerr something.

Kerr is looking for “an awareness of both the offensive and defensive schemes” from rookies Jordan Poole and Paschall, who will get looks at the three, four and five.

“We have a list of things that are cardinal sins, and I’d like to see them avoid those,” Kerr said. Those include missing a man in transition, missing a box out or getting back-cut for a lay-up. “Those are critical for us.”


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