Steph Curry

Steph, Kerr come to important realization about Warriors roster

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The words of Stephen Curry, exposed in his careful description of the upstart Oklahoma City Thunder, were natural and almost wistful. He sees where they are going and couldn’t ignore the comparison.

“When you become a threat,” Curry told reporters in OKC, referring to the Thunder, “everybody has to adapt and slow it down -- especially those young teams, like we were once upon a time, that just have a different energy about them.”

Especially those young teams, like we were once upon a time.

“We,” as in the Warriors, who are 10-11 and hoping to climb back to .500 Friday night against the Thunder.

Curry has not resigned. There is no sign of surrender. He is lucid. Memories of Warriors seasons past are sweet, almost magical. But the Warriors present is so ambiguous. This is what he is confronting. The best player on the team not only is facing it but also admitting it publicly.

Steph is not alone, either. Warriors coach Steve Kerr has spent the past 10 days or so sliding ever so deliberately toward facing the same truth, if not openly admitting it. He has seen enough losing to ponder making changes in rotations and maybe even starting lineups.

Curry is, of course, going nowhere. But Kerr also feels indebted to Draymond Green and Klay Thompson and Kevon Looney. Perhaps less so with Andrew Wiggins, but a good Wiggs makes a two-way impact.

Displeased with the inconsistency that has the Warriors among the bottom five teams in the Western Conference, Kerr, who treasures stability, won’t commit to the same lineup that excelled last season and was the nucleus of the squad that is 18 months removed from winning an NBA Finals.

“I haven’t decided yet,” he said after a light practice in OKC. “I’ve been very committed to getting this first group going because I just watched that group win a championship two years ago. A year-and-a-half, actually. That’s significant to me. I still think all those guys have a lot to offer.

“They’re kind of an ensemble cast. Each one is very much dependent on the other. We’ve sort of figured out who we are and how to play. We’ve got some different things we try to do. And there’s a lot of continuity with that group, so I want to stay with them.”

This group, the traditional starting five, last season had an NBA-best plus-21.9 net rating (128.0 on offense, 106.1 on defense). This season, however, it is minus-13.0 (110.0 and 123.1).

Which nudges Kerr toward clarity.

“But they have not been the same group to this point, for whatever reason,” Kerr said. “The shooting struggles, suspension, injury. You name it.”

This is, for Golden State and its coach, a start. Delusion is fading. Admission is the initial move toward progress. The Warriors exited training camp knowing their weaknesses -- they are older and smaller and less athletic than most -- but hoping they would be more than offset by savvy and passing and precision and shooting.

Curry is carrying his load and more. Green is doing his part but is too often absent. Looney’s numbers have dipped, as have his minutes. Thompson and Wiggins have not been able to find buckets with any consistency and seem to slow down as the game goes deeper.

Since winning six of their first eight games, the Warriors have lost nine of 13. Their point differential through 21 games is 0.6 per game. They are 15th in offensive rating. Four teams average more than 120 points per game, and they’re at 114.6. They’re 25th in field-goal percentage.

And it’s not just the offense. The Warriors are 16th in defensive rating, 21st in steals, 28th in blocks and only six teams have given up more points off turnovers.

Put simply, the Warriors are performing well below their standard. They are realizing that standard does not apply to this roster.

“It’s still a little early,” Curry said, “to . . . look at the overall playbook and say stuff doesn’t work and throw it out just because we haven’t had a constant stretch of the same unit together to get those reps. We’re getting close to that.

“Every team wants to be at full strength for a certain period of time so that you can get all the looks out and figure out what works and what doesn’t work, what lineups work together.”

Which drops the issue back into Kerr’s lap. He’s more committed than ever to rotational fluidity, which makes a ton of sense with this roster. The 22-and-under bunch -- Trayce Jackson-Davis, Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody, Brandin Podziemski -- has something to offer. Not each one every night, but enough to check the temperature of each on a regular basis.

They have, after all, a different energy about them. They are a bit like the vets were once upon a time.

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