OAKLAND — A 8-2 record is a great way to start the season. Right?
On the outside, everything seems shiny, sparkly and new. A new and confident coaching staff, bench depth, ball movement, improved defense, and scorers coming out the wazoo. Great.
Not exactly. At least not in the eyes of the Warriors or their head coach Steve Kerr.
The Warriors won five straight games to start the season, and in those games two of their players had career nights. First, Klay Thompson scored 41 points in a battle with Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, then the Warriors handled the Clippers in a blowout that saw Draymond Green sink a career-high 24 points.
Golden State shot out of the gate like bulls waiting to buck a rider at a Texas rodeo. But the foreshadowing was there. Their faults were going to catch up with them.
In every post game interview and at every practice the team and their rookie leader sound off the same mantra: There are still things we need to improve.
One area specifically is the same that has been nagging the Warriors for years. Turnovers.
After last Saturday’s win against the Howard-less Rockets, Kerr told reporters he couldn’t believe they were 5-0 with the way they were playing.
By game time on Sunday, the perfect storm had landed in Phoenix. Golden State, averaging more than 19 turnovers a game, had to play the Suns on the tail-end of a back-to-back road trip and without two of their best in Thompson and David Lee.
Twenty-seven turnovers and 26 fouls later, the Warriors were handed their first loss of the season. Two days later, the Warriors posted 20 more turnovers and fell prey to the champion San Antonio Spurs.
Carelessness with the ball has cost the Warriors numerous games and opportunities the past few seasons and is still a pestering problem they can’t seem to shake.
One reason Kerr says the Warriors seem to be prone to the turnover bug is because they are a team that gets caught up in the moment and forgets to execute:
“This team thrives a little bit on chaos and the frenzy of Oracle when the crowd gets going and they start knocking down three’s. It’s fun and the team enjoys that. But what goes with that sometimes is some decision making and risk taking that is too much. I’m trying to find the balance. I don’t want to take away this teams spirit, but I want them to be a little more mindful of key possessions and circumstances.”
Stephen Curry is averaging a career-worst 3.9 turnovers per-game — third-most in the league — and led the league in turnovers last season. In the loss to Phoenix, Curry committed 10 of the 26 turnovers. And along with Curry, two other Warriors — Green and Klay Thompson — are in the top 25 for turnovers per-game this season.
So what is to be done? What do you do to fix the problem of making bad choices with the ball, and how do you teach players to make better decisions?
Kerr told SFBay that more value needs to be placed on the ball. They way to do that, Kerr says, is to make sure the players know the intricacies of the offense:
“You really go through the offense in detail and do skill work. We put those things together and really explain why we’re doing something when we run a set and explain the multiple options.”
Trying to fix problems while the season is underway can be a struggle in itself with practice time being crucial in preparing for the next team. But Kerr told SFBay that he is finding the time to make it work with practice being used to focus on offensive execution and game day shoot-arounds used for game preparation.
Thursday, the focus and preparations paid off as the Warriors notched their sixth season victory with a season-low 11 turnovers against the Brooklyn Nets.
Though the team essentially cut their turnovers in half, its just one game, and a game that center Andrew Bogut says proves the team is still trying to find the right balance:
“In first half it looked like we were playing not to turn the ball over and we can’t play like that. We’re an aggressive team so [Kerr] emphasizes us to be aggressive and just not to give away the stupid ones. Everyone’s going to turn the ball over, but its the silly ones, the one handed passes and the fifty-fifty gambles that we some times make. If we get rid of those we’re going to be ok.”
The Warriors are 8-2 leading the Pacific Division and currently hold the third best record in the Western Conference.