By Madeline Kenney
PHOENIX — Last year at this time, the Warriors were 12-2, boasting the best defense in the NBA while also leading the league in scoring.
Everything is different now.
While scoring hasn’t been an issue for Stephen Curry — he scored 50 Wednesday night and is leading the league at 34.6 points per game — the team has been inconsistent and out of sync on offense. That has been impacting play on the other end. The defense can’t get stops and is allowing 118.3 points per game, a 16.7-point increase from last November.
Golden State is 6-9 and 12th in the Western Conference standings. They are 0-8 on the road.
Coach Steve Kerr didn’t mince words Wednesday night following the Warriors’ 130-119 loss to the Phoenix Suns. Kerr said he has “failed” as coach, unable to unite the players and “give them a vision that they can collectively shoot for.”
But the responsibility doesn’t lie solely with Kerr. Everybody needs to be held accountable.
Unselfish play and commitment to both ends of the court, to each other and to winning — characteristics that defined this winning team for the better part of the last decade — are lacking.
“There’s no collective grit,” Kerr said. “And when you don’t have grit, the game is really easy for the other team.”
Kerr said guys aren’t focused on fundamentals and playing as a unit. He didn’t offer much insight on why that is, given that 10 of the team’s 16 players were on last year’s title team. Perhaps it’s exhaustion from last summer’s NBA Finals run or the lingering effects of Draymond Green’s act of aggression against Jordan Poole, the preseason incident Kerr called the biggest crisis of his Warriors’ tenure.
“We need to figure out what it’s going to take to win and figure out what everybody needs to do differently, more consistently,” Curry said. “Forget the road record, you can’t even find a sustainable period of success when habits start to form and we’re in a position where we’re feeling good about ourselves. We’re still searching and chasing a little bit.”
Defense was yet again an issue for the Warriors, who’ve surrendered 125 points or more in six of their 15 games. The Suns, playing without Chris Paul, Landry Shamet and Cameron Johnson, still managed to light it up beyond the arc. They made more than half of their 40 attempted 3-pointers and shot 51.6% from the field. Phoenix scored 73 points in the first half — its second time doing so this season against the Warriors.
The Warriors also haven’t been able to find an offensive rhythm. Klay Thompson remains in a slump, shooting 35.1% overall and 33% from 3-point range, both career lows. He scored 19 points Wednesday, but it took 17 shots (and four free throws) to get there.
Poole, coming off a 36-point game Monday night, had only two points Wednesday. He played 27 minutes, took only five shots, and missed them all.
Other young players weren’t the cause of Wednesday’s misfortune, but it’s becoming an increased concern that they’re struggling to get playing time as Kerr has tightened the rotation in an attempt to get the season back on track. Two-way forward Anthony Lamb has jumped the players touted as potential future foundational pieces such as Moses Moody and Jonathan Kuminga. James Wiseman has been sent to Santa Cruz until further notice to get reps after a rocky 11 games.
“We have to be honest with ourselves,” Curry said. “We’re not playing the way we should. What are we going to do about it?”
Kerr said the issues go beyond the numbers. The Warriors, a team known for playing with joy, desire and unity, are showing little of those characteristics. Their subdued reaction on the bench, even after big plays is telling.
“If you’re not right emotionally, spiritually, you will get exposed every night,” Kerr said. “And that’s where we are right now.”
It’s not as simple as just putting the five best players on the court and letting them work. Kerr wishes it were. But these guys are human beings, too, with complex emotions and life going on outside basketball.
“Every single player has a story, has something that’s going on in their life,” he said. “And if the group finds a way to put all that in the back seat and commit to just winning the game, the magic can happen.”
Perhaps one of the biggest tests of Curry’s leadership is ahead of him. He’ll play a big part, along with Iguodala and Kevon Looney, in helping the staff figure out how to shift the team’s mentality and get every guy in the locker room on the same page.
“Yeah, I’m scoring great, trying to be efficient, going to keep doing that,” Curry said, “but there’s a collective mindset around how I need to help everybody kind of get into the right frame of mind to help to win, and I’m ready for that challenge to try to figure that out.”
The Warriors, who’ve won four of the last eight NBA Finals, deserve the benefit of the doubt to right the ship. They stumbled at times last season and still went on to win a championship. But the clock is ticking.
Source: Paradise Post