Steve Kerr and the injury-ravaged Golden State Warriors are experiencing the opposite end of the performance spectrum this season after five consecutive trips to the NBA Finals.
The team’s potent lineup from past seasons is not on display this season and the Warriors bench has also been depleted due to departures and injuries.
Nobody would’ve predicted that Golden State would be 4-18 through Monday. The Warriors have the most defeats in the league right now, and players used to winning (Draymond Green and others) have reacted to criticism of the team’s performance.
As The Associated Press’ Tim Reynolds reported this week: “After five consecutive years of being No. 1 in the Western Conference — and ending up as NBA champions in three of those seasons — the Warriors are at the bottom of the league. Everyone knows why: Kevin Durant left, Stephen Curry got hurt, Klay Thompson got hurt, D’Angelo Russell got hurt, Andre Iguodala got traded, Shaun Livingston retired, DeMarcus Cousins left … it goes on and on.”
“You can’t have worse luck than they’ve had,’ ” Orlando coach Steve Clifford was quoted as saying by The AP.
The Warriors, of course, have been known as prolific winners during the Steve Kerr era, a pair of 67-victory seasons and a record 73-win campaign in 2015-16.
Now, Kerr recognizes that he’ll be judged by different expectations — because of a different reality based on the team’s roster — this season.
“I think I’ve learned how to be a better coach, honestly,” Kerr told The AP. “I haven’t had to coach a situation like this and it’s a good reminder that every circumstance is different, every year is different. The last five years, we’ve been a championship contender, so it meant that I had to manage the team through the season, prepare for the playoffs and try to get guys rest when we could. This is much more about teaching and developing young players.”
The taste of defeat
Legendary California-based sportswriter Art Spander penned a memorable column a few weeks ago about the Warriors’ current reality, aka the polar opposite of the Warriors’ existence from 2014-19 under Kerr.
It began this way: Bill Bradley knew about winning. He played for the championship Knicks, then was a U.S. Senator. And about losing, failing in bids to become a candidate for president.
”The taste of defeat,” Bradley wrote of his career, “has a richness of experience all its own.”
The Warriors this tormented season will come to know that experience. If they don’t already. Their record, 2-11, is the worst in the NBA. The next four games, starting with Sunday night’s game at New Orleans, are on the road. Another of their few veteran players, D’Angelo Russell, is injured and unable to play.
This is the reality of the NBA, as Steve Kerr has advised several times. The past five years, advancing to the finals each season, were fantasy. The party’s over. “Wake up,” go the lyrics, “all dreams must end . . .”
Another longtime observer of San Francisco Bay Area sports, Warriors insider Monte Poole of NBCSports.com, spelled out the disjointed nature of the team’s play after loss No. 18, a disastrous 104-79 road setback to the lowly Atlanta Hawks on Monday.
Here’s how Poole began his report on the game:
Considering the depths to which they plunged Monday night, politely referred to as the lower bottom, the Warriors can only go up.
Coming 25 points short against a 4-16 team reeling from a 10-game losing streak is Hall of Shame stuff, and the once-proud Warriors (4-18) earned every shred of ignominy that comes with such a performance that concluded in a 104-79 loss to the Hawks (5-16) in Atlanta.
There was an excess of sloppiness, selfishness and competitive arrhythmia that sent the Warriors down by 11 in the second quarter, by 23 in the third and by as much as 28 in the fourth. They generally played less as a team than as a bunch of dudes introduced a few minutes before tipoff after being told NBA scouts would be in the stands, pens and paper at the ready.
Poole then quoted Kerr, who said: “We were trying to dribble through traffic instead of moving the ball. Everybody was trying to make a play, instead of letting the next guy make the play and we just got frustrated. We didn’t have any kind of rhythm or flow to the game…”
It was a microcosm of the season for Steve Kerr’s team.
Championship-caliber teams don’t play this way.
On the other hand, some of the team’s youngsters will be given valuable playing time and greater opportunities to hone their skills. For Golden State, the 2019-20 season will be memorable for reasons different than the glorious five-year period that began the Steve Kerr era.