OAKLAND — Hope you got a good look at the Warriors recently, because they’ll be gone for a while. They left Tuesday for Los Angeles, and will be gone 11 days on a six-game road trip, their longest of the season.
Yes, they will be available through the miracle of cable TV and FM radio, but you get the point. By the time they get back, the Raiders will either be at .500 or in deep doo-doo, Jimmy Garoppolo will have solidified his Hall of Fame credentials and Giancarlo Stanton may be a Giant. Or a Dodger.
One thing you can take to the bank during these six far-flung games: Steve Kerr will continue to tinker with his lineups and rotations as if he were the NBA’s Dr. Frankenstein.
It’s a matter of necessity, with lingering injuries to superstars Stephen Curry (bruised and swollen right ring finger) and Kevin Durant (sprained left ankle), and with Draymond Green (foot) and Andre Iguodala (knee) not entirely spry either.
But here’s a little secret. Somewhere deep in his heart, Kerr is executing an invisible fist pump. It wouldn’t go over well if the coach of an NBA team publicly admitted he was happy his All-Stars were in physical pain, but those throbbing fingers and ankles and knees are an early holiday gift to Kerr.
In fact, if his players weren’t getting jarred and twisted on the court, he would be tempted to toss a few banana peels around the practice courts in downtown Oakland.
Because the best possible thing for the Warriors right now — and really until at least the All-Star break — is minor adversity, especially as expressed in a shortage of manpower.
The Warriors, at 15-6, haven’t been nearly as dominant this year as everyone expected. That point was hammered home Monday, when the improved-but-still-insufficient Sacramento Kings sent them packing for the road with an upset at Oracle Arena. And it doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t. None of those six losses meant a thing, because barring a truly disastrous injury, we know the Warriors will be the team to beat when the playoffs begin.
Until the home stretch draws near, Kerr’s most pressing task is to play as many of his guys as possible, and to tinker with his puzzle pieces so feverishly that he and his staff will have fully assembled the picture by the time the games matter.
Kerr has been working hard at this since Game 1.
“I mean, you’ve noticed,” he said Tuesday. “There are games I play 13 guys, and that doesn’t happen (in the NBA). But 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. (Monday) night was obviously odd, because without Steph and KD — I think that’s the first time we’ve ever had that scenario, since KD’s been here anyway. So we had some strange combinations, and it’s good for our team.”
Yes it is. Even if it looks bad sometimes. As Kerr noted, his Warriors were absolutely horrible in closing out quarters against the Kings. If you combine the last 2:25 of the first quarter, the last 2:44 of the second, the last 1:58 of the third and the final 3:10 of the fourth, Sacramento outscored Golden State 32-2. Seriously. Bogdan Bogdanovich and Skal Labissiere.