For a while during the In-Season Tournament game between the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings on Tuesday, the talk was about the point differential. Earlier in the night, the Boston Celtics were playing for it even in a blowout, showing how much teams valued this wrinkle of the NBA's newest regular season experiment. But, in the end, all that talk didn't matter because the Warriors wouldn't end up winning.
Golden State, even after being up for most of the game, blew a 24-point lead, including a five point advantage in the final minute, lost to the Sacramento Kings. It helped continue the skid the Warriors are currently in, who have now lost eight of their last 10. And, to make things, worse, it appears the struggles on the court have bled over to tension outside of it. Or viceversa, depending on how you look at it.
Kerr: "I didn't have my best game as a coach"
Steve Kerr has been a big topic of discussion among people who follow the Warriors because of lack of adjustments at times, not deviating from his established rotation when some think he should. Kerr admitted to making such mistake after Tuesday's loss. In an appearance on 95.7 The Game, he conceded that a substitution in the fourth quarter was one of the big reasons they lost:
"I didn't have my best game as a coach... should've left Moses (Moody) in the game. Moses hits three threes and he's rolling, and we overthought it, we wanted to get out best defensive group. But Moses was really good defensively and, watching the tape over again, that was really a terrible decision. I regret that one, I regret the challenge... both of those were poor decisions. Both kept me up last night."
In the fourth period, Moody had 11 points on perfect shooting from the field (4-4 overall, 3-3 from three). However, he was subbed out for at the 4:26 mark for Andrew Wiggins, who went 1-5 from the field in the period (3 points and 7 rebounds). Thompson, on the other hand, subbed in at the 6:43 mark to give Wiggins a brief rest before he went back in and went 0-1 with a turnover in the quarter.
While, of course, the Moody sub wasn't directly for Thompson, it certainly involved him in a way. If Moody had closed out that game, he would've been at the spot that Thompson usually fills in, which is the shooting guard that can defend and hit shots on the other end. Kerr clearly likes Wiggins' defense late in games, so he wouldn't have been benched down the stretch of that game, especially given his rebounding. But Tuesday's meltdown and the mistakes made in it aren't a new issue for the Warriors this season.
The Klay Thompson dilemma
So far, Klay has had a tough start to his season, dropping his points average from last season by six points and all of his shooting percentages down at least three points. Which is still good, but it doesn't compare to the level he used to play at during his peak. Or even last season, his first full campaign since coming back from Achilles surgery, which is where the comparison of numbers comes from.
His struggles would be a non-story if it wasn't for his contract situation. If he was still under contract for a while, this topic would simply be about a star player who is simply struggling. But, given that he's a free agent this summer, the stress of the situation is heightened. That much would appear as speculation, but Kendra Andrews of ESPN reported as such, stating that the lack of agreement in contract extension talks has weighed on Thompson and has led to more frustration on the court.
The Warriors have depth at that position, with the aforementioned Moody, Gary Payton II and the rookie Brandin Podziemski. Yet, while criticizing Kerr may seem valid, a solution isn't that straightforward: Payton II recently suffered a torn right calf and will be out indefinitely, and while playing the young players over him might seem logical, the veteran Thompson has shot that notion down.
All of this reinforces how tough a gig Kerr has right now. On one hand, the veterans have earned the right to play through their struggles and led this team to being competitive. On the other, if something isn't working 20 games in, there should be heavy adjustments. So far, Thompson hasn't made life easy for Kerr, and the front office will have a tough decision to make this offseason. It's a battle they chose by trying to compete and rebuild at the same time, and these are the results.