Dejan Milojević

Upcoming homestand offers Warriors chance for comfort, hope

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SAN FRANCISCO – After a mentally exhausting and emotionally draining road trip, the Warriors hope returning to Chase Center for a four-game homestand will be the elixir that everyone needs.

That used to be Golden State’s safety net in previous years, long before they moved across the San Francisco Bay from Oakland. But this current homestand might not provide the comfort and relief the Warriors hope it will.

Before Wednesday’s game against the Atlanta Hawks, Golden State plans to honor assistant coach Dejan Milojević, whose sudden passing last week from a heart attack led to the postponement of two games. 

Warriors coach Steve Kerr still was visibly shaken by Milojević’s death when he spoke to reporters following practice Monday. Kerr said he sought out long-time assistant Ron Adams for advice on how the team should move forward. 

“I lean on him for wisdom,” Kerr said. “I asked him a couple days ago and said, ‘How do we go on from here? What do we do?’ Ron thought for a second and he said ‘It’s relatively simple. You ask the guys what would [Milojević] want us to do?' I thought about it, and I literally could picture [Milojević] smiling and laughing and saying, ‘You motherf--kers need to go win a basketball game,’ and then laughing.”

The 46-year-old Milojević was known for his straight-forward approach to coaching and brought light and levity to any situation. 

Kevon Looney, who worked closely and daily with Milojević, is embracing the distraction of getting back on the court.

“Basketball is the fun part of our lives, getting on the court and competing. That’s what we’re all here as a family to do,” Looney said. “I’m looking forward to just being able to get to the game and be able to play. I know it’s going to be weird to build up to it, but I just want to get back on the court and try to get lost in my love for the game. I’m looking forward to the games and getting some level of normalcy back will be good.”

The Warriors haven’t played since losing to the Grizzlies in Memphis on Jan. 15. Games in Utah against the Jazz and at home against the Dallas Mavericks were postponed, turning a scheduled four-day break into an eight-day layoff that is a rarity in the NBA.

“We needed it,” Kerr said. “I want to thank the NBA, Adam Silver, for postponing those two games. There’s no way any of us could have walked out onto a court and played a basketball game either Wednesday or Friday.”

Golden State gathered together as a team and opened the gym for individual workouts on Sunday, then held a full team practice Monday.

Even that didn’t feel normal. 

“It was a whole different vibe to practice not having [Milojević] here,” Looney said. “He was an integral part of our team, an integral part of my day-to-day routine.”

Following the Atlanta game, the Warriors take on the Sacramento Kings on Thursday and the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday. All three teams have struggled on the road this season, although the Kings and Lakers are eighth and ninth, respectively, in the Western Conference.

Golden State’s homestand concludes Jan. 30 against the Philadelphia 76ers (28-13), who are third in the Eastern Conference and have won four of their last six on the road.

The Warriors traditionally have fared well at home. In six of the last nine seasons, Golden State has won 30 or more games on its home court.

This season has been much different. The Warriors head into Wednesday’s game 11-11 at Chase Center. They’ve dropped five of their last seven games in San Francisco. Their only wins during that stretch came against a mediocre Orlando Magic team and the lowly Detroit Pistons, both of which have had major problems winning on the road this season.

That’s not a good sign for a Golden State team in desperate need of something positive.

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