SAN FRANCISCO — After returning to the Bay Area last May following an elimination from the NBA playoffs, the Warriors’ first order of business was to heal the wounded pride that comes with losing to a lower-ranked team in, for crying out loud, a second-round loss.
The second order of business was for coaches and personnel executives to fully evaluate the postseason, which sent them into the lab looking for solutions to the problems caused by the Lakers.
“We did a lot of good things against Sacramento,” coach Steve Kerr said on Friday. “We came back and showed resilience after going down 2-0, winning Game 7 on the road, and we showed our consistency.”
“And then he revealed to us the Lakers.”
After getting past the Kings in the first round, and winning Game 7 on the road behind 50 points from Stephen Curry, Golden State was dismayed by the schemes laid out by Lakers coach Darvin Hamm and his staff.
The initial numbers provided by the main warriors were shocking. Stephen Curry – the centerpiece of Los Angeles’ defense – was limited to 43.9 percent shooting from the field, including 34.3 percent from deep. Klay Thompson shot 34.3 percent overall and 38.1 percent from deep. Andrew Wiggins posted a 45.2/33.3 split, while Jordan Poole had a 34.5/25.0.
Los Angeles, with its often less efficient shooters, was more accurate than the Warriors from the field (47.7-44.2) and from 3-point range (35.7-35.4). When the Lakers swarmed Curry, which was often the case, Thompson and Wiggins struggled to make them pay, and Paul was at his worst.
“We weren’t a complete team last year,” Kerr said. “Thinking about that series, watching it, they suppressed us defensively. We didn’t have a meter.
“So, we have to make sure we have the counters this year.”
And so the list rotation began. The veteran starting lineup — Curry, Thompson, Wiggins, Draymond Green, Kevon Looney — remained intact, but the youthful portion of the roster was diminished by the departures of Jordan Poole and Donte DiVincenzo, the sixth and seventh men.
The primary “counters” acquired this summer are Chris Paul and Dario Saric, two veteran players whose skills complement those of the traditional starting lineup while also nurturing the skills of Jonathan Kuminga and Musa Modi, who were both lottery picks from the 2021 draft.
This training camp, the first phase of which ended Friday, is all about incorporating significant changes to Golden State’s roster.
Perhaps the most important is the interaction between Carrie and Paul. It took a couple of months before Kevin Durant and Curry found traction, and now CP3 is early in the process of finding his way.
“It’s the speed with which Steve plays and his ability to shoot the ball,” Paul said. “I’ve played with a lot of really good players. But his ability to not only shoot, but also to dribble and pass…and the other guys around us, it was a lot of fun.”
“You just figure it out as you go.”
CP3 sneaks past defenses through careful and deliberate navigation; Mostly slow down. Steve attacks with constant movement and constant acceleration. While Paul’s style mimics Curry’s in many ways, the contrast between Paul and Curry gives the defense two very different styles to deal with. Each is an “anti” to the other.
As the two vets work together during and after training, the blending process begins, according to Steve.
“Obviously (Paul) plays a certain way, and I play a certain way,” Curry said Thursday. “There’s a challenge there. I’ll lead a certain part of the exercise. He’ll lead a certain part of the exercise. And we can sharpen the toolkit that way.”
“Over time, I’m sure there will be times where we do things individually based solely on our needs. But it’s really good now in terms of the pace and the work we’re trying to do.
Curry’s last true matchup, as a point guard, was Shaun Livingston, who retired after the 2019 season. Lacking Curry’s elusiveness, Livingston thrived by finding exploitable matchups for teammates or himself. All five of Livingston’s seasons with Golden State ended in the NBA Finals.
What worked for the Warriors from 2015 through 2019 didn’t work for them last season. Although it was good enough to win the championship in 2022, it faltered in ’23.
Curry: “Our ability to adapt quickly during games, regardless of the starting line-up, has to be our strength.” “And that’s what the script calls for.”
This was the decision made by the front office members at the laboratory. Whether this is the solution will be discovered in the coming months.
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