Warriors have hit desperate times, and Steve Kerr is turning to desperate measures

Warriors have hit desperate times, and Steve Kerr is turning to desperate measures
Video steve kerr news

The Golden State Warriors are a desperate basketball team at the moment, and for the first time all season, head coach Steve Kerr turned to desperate measures on Tuesday night by closing Golden State’s 119-116 loss to the Suns with Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins and Kevon Looney on the bench.

It didn’t work, but the Warriors made a run to make it close, and you have to wonder if this is going to be way of things moving forward. Out with the legacy hierarchies, and in with the best men for the job.

On Tuesday, that was Jonathan Kuminga and Brandin Podziemski in place of Wiggins and Looney to start the second half, and Kuminga, Podziemski, Dario Saric and Chris Paul alongside Steph Curry to close the game.

That’s no small thing. Thompson has started and finished his entire career. This is the first time this has happened. Asked about Podziemski getting the start in the third quarter over Wiggins and closing over Thompson, Kerr was direct in his assessment: “He’s playing better than those guys.”

That’s been true for a while, not just of Podziemski but also of Moses Moody. Two weeks ago, Kerr pulled Moody for the stretch run of Golden State’s loss to Sacramento. Moody was rolling late in that game, but Kerr still went with his stalwarts in Thompson and Wiggins to close.

Kerr admitted it was a mistake the next day. That moment felt like the start of Kerr officially having to reckon with the reality that Thompson and Wiggins can’t live forever on reputation. Thompson was 2-for-10 on Tuesday, including 1-for-8 from 3-point land. Meanwhile Wiggins was 1-for-7, his lone bucket being a 3. Curry led the Warriors with 24 points, while the other four starters had 12. Total.

Two of those points came from Draymond Green, who was, believe it or not, ejected from the game. Again. This time for swinging his arm around in his typically reckless fashion, and connecting with Jusuf Nurkic’s face.

Green said after the game that he was simply trying to sell the foul he felt Nurkic was committing. Whatever. It’s not even worth listening to his explanations anymore. The guy is off the rails, and a long suspension is coming. You can bet on that.

Green received five games for putting Rudy Gobert in a choke-hold last month, and the NBA said his history of such actions factored into the punishment. It will again. And it should. He’s literally been ejected in 20 percent of the games he’s played this season.

  GOP impeachment effort against Philadelphia prosecutor lands before Democratic-majority court

So now the Warriors are about to be without Green again. And the fact is, they’re not even that good with Green. This is a bad basketball team right now. There’s no other way to say it. You can talk about possible trades they can make, but, right now, they are a bad team. They turn the ball over and foul like crazy. They don’t have any reliable shot creators outside Curry. Overall, they’re tiny.

It would help if Thompson were making more than 27% of his open 3s, but he isn’t. That’s an atrocious number. Wiggins, overall, has been even worse.

Thompson, predictably, was not happy with the benching. As competitive and prideful an athlete as you’ll find, Thompson was professional in his post-game comments, but read this transcript, via Warriors insider Anthony Slater of The Athletic, and tell me this is a guy who is going to be cool with this diminished role if it continues.

Thompson didn’t love it. He circled during the timeout in frustration after learning of the decision, yelled toward the huddle a few times and smacked what seemed to be a cup rack to the ground behind the bench. Curry came over to calm him at one point during the timeout. Thompson stewed for much of the fourth quarter and had this exchange with reporters postgame.

One of the stories of the night is that you didn’t close.

“Yeah,” Thompson said. “It’s pretty strange. Pretty strange.”

How did you feel about it?

“I don’t know man,” Thompson said. “I don’t really have no feelings toward it.

Was it frustrating?

“Of course it frustrates me,” Thompson said. “You think I’m gonna just chill? I’m freaking competitive man. At the end of the day, I’m one of the most competitive people to put this uniform on. I can say that with confidence too. But whatever. I guess I didn’t bring it tonight. I deserved it.”

Were you given an explanation in the moment?

“Nope,” Thompson said. “Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Whatever. I deserved to be benched tonight. I played like crap.”

You were visibly upset on the bench.

“If you’ve ever played basketball before, you know what you’re capable of,” Thompson said. “You always want to be out there competing. That’s just facts. Whatever though. It happens. I deserved to be benched. I’ve been playing like crap. Twenty games in. I haven’t caught a good rhythm. But give credit to our bench. They played awesome. Young guys are stepping up.”

What do you think about some of the rotation decisions Steve has right now?

“I trust Steve,” Thompson said. “I trust Steve now and I forever will.”

The Warriors can count exactly two positives this year: Curry and the bench. In particular, the bench is having to dig the team out of holes created by a starting lineup that has gone from traditionally dominant to a minus-8.3 points per 100 possessions doormat, per Cleaning the Glass.

  College Football Conference Championship Preview: Storylines, matchups and predictions for the Power Five games

“It seems like every game our bench has to come in and kind of rescue the game,” Kerr said. “Our starting group just hasn’t been able to put it together. That’s kind of why we’re treading water and not finding any traction so far this season. We’ve got to just keep searching. We’ve got to get guys playing with more confidence and playing in a more connected manner.”

I remember talking to Mark Price, one of the greatest shooters of all time, about confidence, and I’ll always remember him saying that even great players lose it all the time. It comes and goes. It’s easy to say, “Hey, just play more confidently,” and you would assume that guys like Thompson, who were seemingly born to shoot a basketball, would be able to flip that switch rather easily. But the truth is, confidence comes after performance. Not before. And, right now, Thompson is performing dismally.

As Kerr said after the game, he’s been patient. Arguably too patient.

Whether the Warriors should look to trade Thompson as an expiring contract (this is extremely doubtful), or Wiggins as the money in a deal that might potentially include Kuminga and a draft pick, is another story for another day. I would argue they should definitely be considering this, strongly. Still, until they actually pull the trigger on something, the bottom line is this is what they have to work with.

And it’s not what it used to be. Not by a stretch. There is absolutely no leeway here. No margin for error. On their best night, as currently constructed, the Warriors still aren’t a true contender. If you think they are, you are living in the past. To even be a passable, puncher’s-chance threat, they have to double down on every single advantage they currently have.

  A Week with a 2024 BMW X5 + Review

Right now, that’s Kuminga, Podziemski and Moody, and potentially Saric over Looney for spacing if they aren’t going small. That’s three core guys from a championship team in Thompson, Wiggins and Looney on the bench watching two third-year guys and a rookie play over them come crunch time.

So be it. This is professional basketball. It’s not about feelings or nostalgia. It’s about winning. Or at least putting your best foot forward in the pursuit of winning. Kerr did that on Tuesday. It didn’t work. But it was the first step in what is going to be a tough, but necessary, call to make if Thompson doesn’t magically find something much closer to his old form.

Demoting Thompson, and to a lesser degree Wiggins, as a rotational rule rather than a one-off, if this is indeed a sign of things to come, is going to be brutal for Kerr. He loves those guys, especially Thompson, whose history with Kerr and the Warriors speaks for itself. But endings are rarely happy in sports. This isn’t to say this is the end for Thompson, but it certainly looks like the beginning of it.

The same might be true of the Warriors, who have lost 11 of their last 15 and currently sit outside even the Play-In. The only thing that gives them hope is Curry. As long as they have him, they have to try to be their very best. They owe that to him, not just because of what he has meant to the organization, but because of the player he still is today.

There’s still a contending team here. You have to squint to see it, and it’s almost certainly going to require a significant trade, but it’s within the realm of possibilities with Curry and the assets that Golden State has at its disposal. If a big trade feels desperate, it should. This is a desperate team. And desperate measures are almost certainly on the way.