Steve Kerr

Warriors cherish ‘much-needed' All-Star break after taxing first half

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Heading into the 2024 NBA All-Star break with a 27-26 record, good for the Western Conference’s No. 10 seed, the veteran-heavy Warriors are grateful for their six-day leave after dealing with injuries, shifting lineups and tragedy 53 games into the season.

After the Warriors’ 140-137 win over the Utah Jazz on Thursday at Delta Center, the team emphasized the importance of the much-needed break.

“[It’s] great to have some time off,” coach Steve Kerr told reporters postgame. “I think all the guys have really earned it. It’s a good chance to just breathe and get away, take their minds off basketball. We’re in a good spot [and] we’re above .500. We’ve come back with an opportunity to make some hay, and we’re excited about it.”

Kerr’s accustomed to guiding contending Warriors teams -- not playoff hopefuls -- behind the stardom of Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. Two years removed from Golden State’s 2022 NBA Finals victory over the Boston Celtics and an offseason removed from a then-promising trade for Chris Paul, Kerr has had to manage more than ever.

After recently returning from late Warriors assistant coach Dejan Milojević’s funeral in Belgrade, Serbia, Kerr gladly will take advantage of the rest period and doesn't plan to watch much basketball.

“Hell no,” Kerr joked postgame. “Hell no. I’m not watching any basketball [over the All-Star break]. You kidding me?”

Thompson, age 34, came off the bench for the first time in the Kerr-led era in the Warriors’ win over the Jazz. After digesting Kerr’s understandably challenging decision, Thompson scored 35 points on 59.1-percent shooting -- one of his better performances this season.

A four-time NBA Champion with the Warriors alongside Curry, Green and Kerr, Thompson remains positive his team can contend as the year progresses, beginning with taking advantage of the All-Star break.

“It’s been a long season,” Thompson said postgame. “We’ve had some really tragic instances. Obviously, [coach Dejan Milojević’s] passing hit us like nothing we’ve ever experienced. I know everyone in the organization is going to need this mental break to reset.

“We have a chance to really carry this momentum after the break. At the end of the day, we still believe we have what it takes to reach our ultimate goal -- win a championship. It’s going to take some great, high-level, thoughtful basketball from here on out.”

Replacing Thompson in Kerr’s starting lineup, was rookie Brandin Podziemski, who is averaging 9.9 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.9 assists and has been a youthful bright spot on Golden State’s aging roster through 53 games, alongside players like Jonathan Kuminga and Trayce Jackson-Davis. 

Serving as the Warriors’ “glue guy,” Podziemski believes the break could not have been more timely, explaining Golden State’s weariness to the "Warriors Postgame Live" crew after he posted 13 points, eight assists and six rebounds against Utah.

“It’s much needed. It was good to end with a win, Podziemski told Bonta Hill, Chris Mullin and Festus Ezeli. “I know the guys will be looking forward to their break, just getting away from basketball for a little bit -- with their family and friends. [We’ll] come back ready to go next week. We got a big rest of the season ahead of us. We’re super excited, but I also think this break is well-needed.”

Upon returning from the All-Star Break, the Warriors will host the 30-26 Los Angeles Lakers at Chase Center on Thursday, Feb. 22 at 7 p.m. PT. Golden State is trailing Los Angeles by 1.5 games for the Western Conference’s ninth seed.

The Warriors, aiming to finish the season as a top-six seed in the West, realize every game is vital. They’re hoping to ride their momentum post-All-Star break, ideally avoiding the NBA Play-In Tournament. 

“You know, it has been an up-and-down season, but things are definitely starting to take a turn for the best,” Andrew Wiggins added. “We just have to stay at it, stay connected [and] keep playing, together.”

Twenty-nine games remain for the Warriors, who look to keep their championship goals alive.

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