With Durant, other Warriors out, Golden State is suddenly in a bind

With Durant, other Warriors out, Golden State is suddenly in a bind

OAKLAND -- There was legitimate concern during the regular season that the day could come when the Warriors would pay a price for having a roster extra deep in big men and extra light elsewhere.

That day arrived Wednesday as the Warriors prepared for Game 2 of their first-round series against Portland.

Starting forward Kevin Durant was ruled out, as was Matt Barnes, the swing forward signed when Durant was injured four months into the regular season. Also sitting is Shaun Livingston, a backup point guard with the physical radius of a forward.

It’s not that the Warriors can’t survive this. But the existing challenges now loom larger. Suddenly, a team that built an elite defense mostly on the arms and chemistry of similar-size players switching off picks is thin on required parts.

“It changes everything, really,” coach Steve Kerr said in his pregame news conference.

Of the 11 Warriors available, three are strictly centers and three more are power forwards who spend considerable time at center.

That leaves five players to man both guard spots and small forward: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Ian Clark, Andre Iguodala and rookie Pat McCaw.

“We’re pretty thin,” Kerr conceded. “And with KD out those six weeks, we basically had a full roster, for the most part. We picked up Matt Barnes and once we got settled, we played pretty well. But we had a lot of depth to rely on. Tonight we’ll be pretty thin. So we’ll have to figure out a way.”

You may recall the Warriors reached agreement with veteran point guard Jose Calderon two days before Durant went down on Feb. 28. Durant’s injury forced an adjustment, with the team honoring its commitment to Calderon and then immediately releasing him to sign Barnes.

With Durant, Livingston and Barnes all sitting for Game 2, the defense is certain to be compromised. They Warriors may play big more often than usual.

“We talked about it a lot the last couple days,” Kerr said. “It complicates things. But it’s just the reality of the NBA. You just adapt and, hopefully, come up with a good plan. And the players go out there and compete and play well.”

Kerr indicated that this will be a short-term problem, saying that it’s possible Durant, Livingston and Barnes could all be ready to play Game 3 Saturday at Portland.

“I think everybody is healing, and on the right path,” Kerr said. “But none of them was ready to play tonight. We still have lots of good players. We’re lucky. We’ve got a lot of talent and we’ve won plenty of games the last couple years with guys down, and that’s the plan tonight.”

The Warriors, to a man, expressed confidence that the available players can provide enough to give them a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. Maybe they can.

But they’ll have to do it while crossing their fingers and hoping the five “smalls” can get them to at least Game 3.

 

Whether Brown or Kerr coach, Warriors sticking to same blueprint

Whether Brown or Kerr coach, Warriors sticking to same blueprint

OAKLAND -- For the first time since he joined the coaching staff last summer, Mike Brown on Wednesday morning arrived at the Warriors facility a man in charge.

As acting head coach, he would decide when practice started and when it ended, and conduct proceedings in between.

The general activity was not much different for anyone else, though, as it continues to become evident that everything the Warriors do for the foreseeable future will be a Brown-Kerr, or Kerr-Brown, production.

“Steve is going to be a part of this process the whole time,” Brown said after practice. “Almost before I do anything, I’m going to consult with him. The only time I won’t consult with him is probably during a game.”

Since Kerr’s announcement last Sunday that he was taking an indefinite leave to attend to personal health issues, Brown has been wielding the clipboard. He actually coached Game 3 against Portland last Saturday, in Kerr’s absence, before knowing in advance he’d also coach Game 4 Monday night.

Brown is 2-0, with the Game 4 win clinching a Warriors sweep of the Trail Blazers. Yet Brown is quick to remind anyone that he is following the plan laid out by Kerr. The two exchanged texts Tuesday and, according to Brown, “spoke at length” after the game between the Jazz and the Clippers -- one of which will face the Warriors in the next round.

Though the Warriors are operating under a different head coach, all indications are the atmosphere around the team remains stable and relatively unchanged.

“Obviously it’s different personalities, but when you make it about the players, when you make it about winning, all that other stuff really doesn’t matter,” Kevin Durant said. “He coaches us. He coaches the game of basketball and he does it very well. Our whole coaching staff does the same thing.

“When it’s about basketball, it’s not about trying to have authority over us. He’s just coaching us. He’s just coaching us up. He’s just telling us the proper way to do things on the basketball court. It’s pretty simple when you try to do that. Then it’s on us to try to execute.”

Execution has gone well, particularly over the last six quarters of the series against Portland. The Warriors wiped out a 16-point deficit in the second half to win Game 3, and then rolled to a 35-9 start in Game 4 before coasting to the closeout victory.

Brown was on the sideline in Game 4, with Kerr watching the game from the locker room.

It’s fairly apparent, though, that everyone involved feels a heightened sense of accountability and ownership.

“Mike has had a pretty big voice throughout the whole season,” Durant said. “He’s been a head coach before, understands what it takes to be a head coach. And the coaching staff is just so smart, and they empower each other.

“Anybody, if you’re around us on a day-to-day basis, anybody can tell that they work well as a group. Coach Kerr does a great job. He spearheads it all by empowering everybody, from the coaches to the players.”

After sweeping Blazers, Warriors relishing some needed down time

After sweeping Blazers, Warriors relishing some needed down time

OAKLAND -- After arriving in Oakland in the wee hours Tuesday morning, the Warriors took the day off, went through a light practice Wednesday and will take another day off Thursday.

Slackers, eh?

Not really, when the next game is at least four days away.

The semi-lax scheduling isn’t the decision of acting head coach Mike Brown. It’s not even the decision of head coach Steve Kerr, who was not at practice Wednesday and remains out indefinitely. It’s a common sense call that was made between the two men, with players and staffers on board.

“If you can sweep every series,” Kevin Durant said after practice, “then that’ll be perfect.”

This is one of the perks of sweeping a first-round opponent. By eliminating the Trail Blazers in four games and with their next opponent undetermined, the Warriors are able to balance work and rest.

“With this group here,” Brown said, “the continuity that the nucleus has and how intelligent the guys are, with the big-time veterans we’ve brought in, we feel that rest for their bodies and mentally (are) more important than coming in here and having practice on a daily basis.”

They also have a couple guys recovering from injuries. Forward Matt Barnes (right foot/ankle bone bruise) has been out two weeks, and guard Shaun Livingston (right index finger sprain/hand contusion) has missed the past nine days. Both, however, are expected to be available for the next series.

The soonest that would be is Sunday against Utah, which owns a 3-2 series lead over the Clippers and can close it out Friday in Salt Lake City. If the Clippers win and push the series to seven games, the Warriors would then open against the Clippers-Jazz winner on May 2.

Meanwhile, the Warriors have no choice but to prepare for both, with plenty of time to do so.