Nevius: Steve Kerr likes this Warriors team despite its struggles
Right up until Steve Kerr started bleeding on his clipboard, I had a whole different column in mind for the Warriors.
The point was supposed to be that for a team that has taken up residence at the absolute bottom of the NBA standings, this is the most cheerful and close-knit group of losers you are likely to encounter.
It isn’t as if they are about to catch fire and make a run at the Finals. Frankly, it is almost fitting that Steph Curry broke his hand. (And doesn’t that cast seem to get bigger every time you see it?)
Curry’s absence puts a big red bow on expectations. They’re not good. At the very least, they lack star-power closers who can take over a game.
Actually, they don’t lack them. Curry and Klay Thompson are right there on the bench - injured.
But rather than tantalize us with hope, the Warriors have gone south early, giving us plenty of time to come to grips with the season. It’s going to be a slog.
Which, in its way, is liberating. Everyone seems to have settled into the reality. The fans have certainly caught on. It’s not the new Chase Arena that is muting the noise. It is those empty seats. And there are a noticeable number of them now.
Wednesday night, the Warriors (3-15 coming in) and the Bulls (then 6-12), were like two prize fighters, neither of whom could hurt the other. They kept throwing punches, often missing wildly, and the game of basketball winced.
Still, it was, as the arena announcer shouted at the end, “ANOTHER Warriors win.” And it was an improvement over Monday’s loss to Oklahoma City, when they couldn’t even get a shot off at crunch time.
Still, you can hate the losing, but not the losers.
So far we’ve just about used up all adjectives for hustle. This year’s bargain-bin Warriors have pluck, grit, spunk and mettle. Which is what we always say about a less-talented team.
Except, it seems to be true. They are playing hard. And, by all signs, they’ve kept it together. The team seems tight. Body language is good. (Except for Jordan Poole. Dude, calm down, you’re doing some good things.)
And you don’t have to squint very hard to imagine a better future. Soon.
Let’s assume All-Star Thompson and two-time MVP Curry make full recoveries. Also, the team will be out of salary cap jail next year and can sign a nice, mid-level player. And if they successfully stink for the rest of the year, they could get a lottery draft pick, which is something they haven’t had in eons.
In the meantime, in a weird way, this is a nice change for Kerr. He’s coaching guys who are all-in, eager to buy what Kerr is selling. Unlike Kevin Durant who asked Kerr, “Why are you telling me how to play? I know how to play.”
“Before it’s been win or bust,” Kerr said. “But these guys are out there playing for their NBA lives. They’re fun to coach.”
Kerr mentioned Glenn Robinson III and Alec Burks as guys who have been around the league and now are “building a resume.”
Burks, like Robinson, is a high-character veteran who is not only grateful for the chance, the Warriors were his first choice.
“I just wanted to be part of the culture here,” he said. “I wanted the experience to work with a coach I love and to play with Draymond (Green) and D-Lo (D’angelo Russell).”
And as Russell, and others, work their way back from injuries, the team should improve. In the meantime, Burks and Robinson are getting lots of showcase minutes. And they are, you have to admit, playing hard.
“You can’t cheat the game,” Burks said. “Or the game won’t respect you.”
So that was pretty much the original premise of the column. The Warriors aren’t good, but there may be brighter days ahead. That everyone had kind of settled into the idea that this was going to be a lost season but they were not going to stress about the W’s and L’s.
Right up until the last quarter Wednesday against the Bulls, when the Dubs went into hot potato mode - missing shots, failing to cover defensively and giving away possessions. When one defender - OK, it was Poole - spaced out and let his man get behind him for a layup, the coach “did a Kerr,” slamming down his clipboard and breaking it.
He asked the trainer for a towel right away and wrapped his hand while calling a timeout. He diagramed plays, the Warriors steadied and won the game.
Kerr came to the postgame press conference with his right hand in his pocket, hoping no one would notice the Band-Aid. Called on it, he admitted he cut his hand with flying clipboard pieces.
“I was pissed,” he said later.
So, officially, there is one member of the front office that hasn’t settled into oh-what-the-heck mode. Was he drawing up plays using his bleeding hand?
“There was blood on the clipboard,” Kerr said. “In fact, maybe that’s a good headline, ‘Blood on the Clipboard.’”
We’ll handle the headlines, Steve. You keep coaching.
Contact C.W. Nevius at email@example.com. Twitter: @cwnevius