Chris Paul went through his regular pregame routine Saturday at Crypto.com Arena before missing his second straight game because of a left lower leg nerve contusion. Andrew Wiggins also went through pregame warmups but wasn’t able to play for the second straight game because of right index finger soreness from slamming it on a car door.
The Warriors following their frustrating 113-112 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers where they once held a 22-point lead now don’t play again until Wednesday. There’s a chance Paul and Wiggins are back by then.
Instead of seeing Gary Payton II’s strained right calf as being a season-ending injury, Payton will be re-evaluated this upcoming Thursday, meaning he’ll miss at least one more game and likely more. But Saturday’s loss was yet another reminder of Steve Kerr’s rotation dilemmas.
Stay in the game with the latest updates on your beloved Bay Area and California sports teams! Sign up here for our All Access Daily newsletter.
And the fact that 21-year-old Moses Moody and 20-year-old rookie Brandin Podziemski have to see significant minutes, whether the Warriors are fully healthy or not.
“I didn’t do it for them, I did it for me,” Kerr said after the Warriors’ loss when asked about Moody and Podziemski playing down the stretch.
Podziemski played the second-most minutes of any Warriors player, 36 minutes and 31 seconds, five seconds fewer than Steph Curry. Podziemski also was the only Warrior who played the entire fourth quarter. His five points in the final 12 minutes were tied for the most on the team, and he was the only Warrior to make multiple shots in that span.
“Brandin is .. he’s a baller,” Kerr said.
Golden State Warriors
The rookie was the first player Kerr turned to off the bench, entering the game for Klay Thompson at the 6:34 mark. Podziemski in the first quarter alone showcased the many ways he impacts the game almost immediately. Playing the rest of the quarter, Podziemski made one shot, grabbed one rebound, handed out an assist and blocked a shot.
Kerr had to stick with Podziemski the rest of the way, and the second quarter was another display of him getting it done in multiple ways.
Here he is as a one-man show on offense.
Here he is seeing Ivica Zubac sag, letting Podziemski sink a 3-pointer.
Here he is as a playmaker, too.
“BP is just a player, it’s not much else to say,” Draymond Green said. “When you think about guys in this league, you always try to categorize guys. ‘This guy’s a shooter. This guy’s a defender. This guy’s a passer.’ He’s just a player.
“He just figures it out, he gets it done, he defends, he competes at a high level. He’s a gamer. He figures out his spots and he doesn’t get outside of himself.”
There were a handful of plays Green and the rest of Podziemski’s teammates had to love from the rookie in LA. One undoubtedly stood out more than the others to Draymond, even if Podziemski didn’t complete his no-look pass attempt to him on the other side of the court.
But stripping the ball from James Harden, who did take Podziemski to work for stretches in the second half, isn’t something to scoff at.
“The last but most important thing is, he’s fearless,” Green said. “He’s going up against James Harden like he belongs there. That’s a skill. That’s a trait most people don’t possess. You’re talking about a rookie. We know who James Harden is, and he’s taking on that challenge like he’s another guy at the park.”
Podziemski’s 12 points led all Warriors bench players. His six rebounds were third on the team, behind only Green and Kevon Looney, he had three assists and the guard was the only Warrior to block multiple shots.
Moody was the other Warrior to score five points in the fourth quarter. This was the second straight game Moody started in place of an injured Wiggins, and after a 13-point performance Thursday, he was even better Saturday, scoring a season-high 21 points.
Though Moody wasn’t super efficient shooting the ball, going 5 of 13 from the field, he was 9 of 10 at the free throw after entering the day as a 66.7 percent free throw shooter this season. Moody also contributed five rebounds, two assists and two steals.
The numbers stand out, but it’s hustle plays like this on a game-by-game basis that can’t be ignored. Moody last game had an assist falling to the floor, and one game later gave the Warriors two points while doing so off all heart.
“Moses has had a great season to this point and with the injuries we have and the guys out, those were the best options,” Kerr said of Moody and Podziemski.
Kerr took full accountability for taking Moody out of a fourth quarter where he scored 11 points on 4-of-4 shooting and made two shots in that stretch that didn’t count when the Warriors lost to the Kings on Tuesday. The Warriors coach also said not too long before then that Podziemski was going to be part of the rotation. Moody would have received a DNP (Did Not Play) in that game if it wasn’t for Paul and Payton getting injured, and Podziemski did get a DNP that loss.
The last two games since then, Podziemski has played over 30 minutes and has earned every second. Moody played over 27 minutes in Thursday’s win and 31-plus on Saturday. Kerr already is battling balancing his appreciation for the Warriors’ depth, along with establishing a more set rotation.
Whoever’s available, Moody and Podziemski look like they have to be a major part of the mix.