OAKLAND — After all the talk about change and new ideas being implemented, things were business as usual for the Warriors and continuity was the theme for day one of training camp under new coach Steve Kerr.
Following the first session of Tuesday’s two-a-day practices, Kerr said taking over virtually the same team that managed 51 wins last season will make his first head coaching job much easier:
“I think basketball is all about how the pieces fit. Pieces already fit pretty well here. … This is already a good team. We’re not coming in here trying to change everything, we’re trying to just get better.”
Kerr says he isn’t planning to shake things up, but rather to tweak and refine a team that Mark Jackson lead to two consecutive playoff appearances.
Star point guard Stephen Curry said he was actually surprised at the lack of changes between Tuesday’s session and last season:
“Less than I thought. (The coaching staff) commented a lot on what we did last year not to complicate things. We have a reloaded roster. The core is back so we’re very familiar with each other.”
The All-Star bristled, though, was asked to compare his first session with Kerr to those with Jackson:
“Coach Jackson did a lot of great things and don’t want to take away what he did. To try to make those comparisons is tough because they’re different.”
Kerr emphasized the importance of depth for a team whose bench unit averaged little over 15 minutes per game last season, the 24th lowest tally in the league:
“Depth was a message. We’ve got a lot of guys who can play so we’re going to rely on our depth. Guys have to be willing to make some sacrifices on certain nights with playing time as a result.”
Kerr’s desire to push the ball in transition was the only portion of the offense implemented during the team’s first session. Kerr won’t start tying in the half-court offense until later.
An expanded bench should mean more frequent and longer breaks for Splash Brothers Curry and Klay Thompson, both of whom averaged more than 35 minutes per game last season.
Depth will also be beneficial for a deep playoff run, something Andrew Bogut said Kerr already mentioned:
“Coach Kerr touched on San Antonio not having one guy that played more than 30 minutes a game. So when you look that they won a championship, I’m guessing we’re not gonna have guys play 44 minutes for us to win games, cause it just won’t last for a whole season. They understand that, it’s very exciting.”
Kerr continued to emphasize ball movement, hoping to cut down on turnovers while maintaining an uptempo style. The Warriors were fourth in the league in turnovers last year, averaging just under 15 per game. Bogut threw out an alarming stat illuminating the importance of moving the ball:
“We shot 55 percent when we moved the ball more than twice, 40 percent when we didn’t.”
Bogut also touched on the importance of bringing back almost all of the team’s impact players, exceedingly rare in today’s NBA:
“It’s huge. Not just for a coaching transition but in general. It’s so rare that a core group stays for two or three years anymore. The impatience of general managers and teams these days is at an all-time high.”
Curry echoed that sentiment:
“Someone asked me the other day is it easier to deal with a coaching change or a personnel change. When you have chemistry with guys going in to a season, having that established makes it a lot easier when you all go through the transition together.”
Bogut said the real test will come when adversity rears its head:
“After the first day everyone’s positive and vocal. What will be testing for us is when some poo hits the fan….How players respond to coach and how the coaches respond to us. But I don’t see it being a problem”
Shaun Livingston was the only Warrior who did not practice on Tuesday and is still recovering from toe surgery.
Festus Ezeli returned to practice and was in good spirits, according to Bogut, who said the young center couldn’t help but dunk the ball every chance he got, including during a three-man-weave drill.
Bogut spoke openly about the physical and mental difficulties he went through while being sidelined during the playoffs last year:
“It pissed me off. It was tough sitting at home, high on Oxycontin, watching a playoff series. I was laid flat on my stomach for 23 hours a day and the other hour was on the toilet, so it wasn’t fun. That’s why I wasn’t sitting on the bench when people were questioning why I wasn’t traveling with the team.”