Steph Curry

Warriors return to action needing to value every second

NBC Universal, Inc.

Not one game at a time, or even one possession at a time. As the Warriors reach the halfway point of their season Wednesday night, hoping for a resurgence, their goals for the foreseeable future must come one second at a time.

Because every second matters.

From Draymond Green’s volatility to Andrew Wiggins’ diminishing impact, from reckless turnovers to the futile fouls, from vacillating rotations to fluctuating lineups, the first 12 weeks of Golden State’s season spun nothing more than a web of despair.

And the first day of Week 13 brought unspeakable tragedy.

So, as the Warriors begin Week 14 with Game 41, they are trying their darndest to fight through waves of emotional miasma to restart their season with the temporary respite that would come with beating the Atlanta Hawks.

“You don't need any more reminders of what's not promised in the future for us to just be able to play a basketball game tomorrow,” Stephen Curry said during his media session Tuesday. “Try to compete, try to win, try to execute the things that we've struggled with all year. With our defensive execution. Getting an identity of how we are going to win games.

“We have to remind ourselves of that mission as we go forward with the next stretch of the schedule but, really, it's just about tomorrow and can we go get a win and enjoy ourselves because then we deserve that.”

After the anguish of the past week, karma would seem to suggest the Warriors “deserve” some form of relief. The sudden death of assistant coach Dejan Milojević, always the brightest light in the room, has rocked them to the core. Everyone feels it. Everyone aches. Everyone is trying to conquer their own misery decisively enough to throw themselves into basketball.

The Warriors are displeased, even exasperated, with their 18-22 record. They’ve earned their 12th-place status in the Western Conference by blowing double-digit leads at an astonishing rate and failing to establish Chase Center as a genuine homecourt advantage.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr, subject to increasing pressure in the final year of his contract, surely realizes Game 41, even though it comes in a time of gloom, is a new start for a team that needs one.

“Are we at a crucial time? Do we have an identity? Where are we on that front?” Kerr said. “The truth is, we've been searching all season. That's why we are where we are, four games under .500.  We have not found the identity, we haven't found rotations, we haven't found a starting lineup that we've been able to kind of hang our hats on.

“The search continues. You keep working. You keep plugging away, every day, with the expectation, especially with a group of players who have accomplished so much, that you're going to find it. You're going to find momentum. You're going to find whatever it is. Rhythm. So, you keep working and you don’t look back.”

The Warriors were too wounded to play last Wednesday night in Utah, hours after “Deki” passed away, and they were no better off by Friday, when they were scheduled to face the Dallas Mavericks at Chase Center.

They spent three full days in the company of family and friends before reconvening on Sunday, not to hold a structured practice but simply to experience a few moments of their usual routine. Get in the gym. Break a sweat. See their brothers for an hour or two.

The task now is whether they can be much more removed from their shared misery when the ball goes up Wednesday night.

“We’ve all been trying to communicate through it,” Curry said. “It is a huge loss and it's going to be a void there. You're going to feel it for a long time.

“But hopefully, we can get lost in the game and move forward.”

The Hawks (18-25) have spent the past two months at or below .500. They’ve lost 10 of their last 16, and their defense has allowed 122.4 points per game. Constant trade chatter is stalking star guard Dejounte Murray. This team is vulnerable.

As are the Warriors, for a completely different reason.

They’re still awaiting the best of Green on a regular basis and something resembling the best of Wiggins a bit more frequently. The defense has shown no sign of baring the kind of teeth seen in years past.

This is not a “Let’s play for Deki” situation. But, maybe, the Warriors can tap into his relentless energy and gain inspiration.

“I think the guys will 100 percent rally and compete,” Kerr said. “But this is not Hollywood. There's not some magic story ahead where everything's going to turn out .... this is so much bigger than winning a basketball game. This is losing a father, a husband, a colleague. Our guys will want to honor Deki and his family. They will undoubtedly compete and play hard.

“But the basketball stuff is more about ‘Can we defend better? Can we get each other better shots?' All the basic stuff. None of that changes unless we change.”

The Warriors play three games in four nights, with the Hawks followed by the Sacramento Kings and Los Angeles Lakers. Because of the postponements, they have more remaining games than any team in the league.

The Warriors can’t afford to think in such broad terms. Any chance of finding peace in this troubled season begins with one game, one second at a time.

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