As Steve Kerr left the floor at Oracle he made sure to throw in some sarcastic waves, yelling at the refs after he was ejected in the third quarter:
“I don’t want to be here anyway.”
Kerr didn’t mince words when asked if he went out to get ejected:
“I was trying to make a point, I was trying to back up my guys. We had all these offensive fouls, one after another, and I finally had enough.”
But while the lead up to opening night has become tedious for the stars, the fans and even Kerr, this last week of preseason is the most important time for the players at the end of the Warriors’ roster, trying to make an impression.
Stephen Curry’s 23 points in 24 minutes may have been impressive, but it’s hardly significant for the two-time MVP. But Danuel House drawing the start and getting a look with some of the starters — is.
Kerr has been impressed with what the new guys have brought to camp already:
“I was in that spot a couple of times. I always feel for the guys who are in camp that are fighting for jobs. I’m especially fond of this group. They are coming into practice before everyone else, before the older guys, so they can be up to speed on everything. They have lifted the level of play in training camp.”
New blood definitely needed to be injected after last season and there’s been a good amount of roster turnover at the end of the Warriors’ bench. While that has brought new energy with it, it also brought something the Warriors didn’t have to worry about last season: schematic familiarity.
While the stars and key bench pieces like Iguodala and Livingston are used to the switching defense and pick-and-roll responsibilities, this is new to the rest of the roster.
Damian Jones got abused in the pick-and-roll, losing Deandre Ayton and allowing the rookie to get multiple uncontested dunks on what seemed like every possession. When he would switch the initial action correctly, the secondary action would spring someone and leave Jones scrambling again.
But the Warriors defense as a whole looked suspect, and it got worse when the Warriors went deeper in the bench with Jacob Evans, Jonas Jerebko and Danuel House. They allowed Phoenix to shoot over 46 percent from deep and cruised to a 117-109 win.
While those new guys will have time to adjust and learn, Jones will need to improve drastically almost immediately as he’s still in the midst of his audition to be the team’s starting center.
He actually put together a nice statline of 11 points, eight rebounds and five assists, but if he can’t execute the basic scheme on defense, he’ll be a liability and one the team will be less and less patient with, especially once they decide what to do with his team option, which has to happen before Halloween.
While Jones struggled, Kevon Looney and Jordan Bell continue to show the skills the Warriors covet in their big men. Looney did have trouble with Ryan Anderson, who went for 18 points and four 3’s, he once again showed off his ability to switch on screens and cover smaller players. He also had a couple nice drives to the hoop and finished with 11 points.
Bell shot the ball confidently and knocked in a couple of elbow jumpers, while providing his usual hustle on defense. He would score six points and looked infinitely more comfortable with the ball in his hands.
Kevin Durant said it’s all about gained experience for Bell:
“Just think that experience helped him out, coming into his second year you just get a little more comfortable. Especially with as much success we had as a team and him being a huge part of that. So he’s more comfortable coming in, but still learning at the same time.”
With the way they are playing it seems like they are inching closer to wrestling the starting spot away from Jones.
The other position battle is for that last wing spot since it looks increasingly doubtful that Patrick McCaw will return to the team. House got the start and didn’t look out-of-place, while playing decent defense and showing off his athleticism.
His main competition, Alfonzo McKinnie, scored 10 points off the bench. Neither has shown off a 3-point stroke yet but the odds are that one of them is going to win a roster spot be it on a two-way or regular contract when the decision needs to be made next week.
Most of this preseason game will be lost to memory, aside from Kerr’s objectively entertaining ejection. But that’s important too said Curry, at least to his players:
“I love it. We got a good vibe going about what we’re doing and obviously it’s never too early to get that fire going… We’re all in this together, and obviously we have to have each other’s backs, it’s one of our core principles. Knowing that when we’re out there giving it everything we got, coach has your back, and he’s not pinching his wallet.”
The final week of the preseason continues as the Warriors will travel to Las Vegas to take on the Los Angeles Lakers at the T-Mobile Arena Wednesday.
Before the game, the Warriors announced they had signed guard Will Cherry to an Exhibit-10 contract, which is essentially a training camp contract. Cherry is an Oakland native and played high school basketball at McClymonds High School. … This is the last preseason game at Oracle Arena as the Warriors play in Vegas and then in San Jose before returning to Oakland for opening night.