OAKLAND – Steve Kerr concedes the obvious, that the remodeled Warriors aren’t built for the kind of mass substitutions he utilized when coaching the deepest roster in the NBA.
So, as the team prepares for training camp Tuesday, Kerr will make do with a roster that is, without doubt, the league’s most talented.
The advantage gained is that with four All-Stars on the roster – Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson – the Warriors have gained the flexibility to have at least two playmakers on the floor at all times.
“We’ve got a lot of combinations that can work and can also generate rest for other guys, and we’re going to be experimenting with all those,” Kerr says. “I have an idea of how it will look, but I don’t know if it’ll work yet. We have to see if it’ll work. But we absolutely will be staggering our players and keeping certain guys on the floor at all times.”
Though Kerr often was comfortable with having four or five reserves on the floor – featuring maybe one starter with any combination of Shaun Livingston, Leandro Barbosa, Andre Iguodala, Brandon Rush, James Michael McAdoo, Festus Ezeli or Marreese Speights -- there undeniably were occasions when the offense would stall with Curry and Green resting on the bench.
If Kerr stays with his routine of Curry and Green going to the bench as a tandem, the Warriors still could have Durant and Thompson on the floor, with any combination of David West, Anderson Varejao, Kevon Looney, rookie Patrick McCaw, Livingston, Iguodala or McAdoo.
“That’s one of the great luxuries of having not only Steph and Durant but also the guys around them: Klay and Draymond and Andre and Shaun,” Kerr says.
The top eight players might be better overall, but the far end of the bench lost considerable experience within Kerr’s system and in general.
Barbosa spent two years with the Warriors and also spent much of his career in a similar system when Kerr was the general manager in Phoenix. Ezeli, Speights, Rush and McAdoo also spent the last two seasons under Kerr.
Talent and skill aside, the Warriors will require some serious adjustment to become a cohesive unit.
“I think it takes years, not a month or a week,” general manager Bob Myers says.
Noting the loss not only of Ezeli but also starting center Andrew Bogut, who was replaced by Zaza Pachulia, Kerr realizes compromises were necessary to assemble a roster with four players of maximum contract status, even if not reflected in all four paychecks.
“I don’t think we’ll look a whole lot differently offensively,” Kerr says. “We still want to do the same things. We want to push it and play fast and move the ball and get good shots.
“Defensively is a bigger challenge. We lose the rim protection with Bogut and Ezeli. We gain a great position defender in Zaza. We gained great experience with David West. We have some youth inside, but you can’t count on anything from Looney or Jones. We’ll see what they bring.
“But in my mind, this is a very different season, and a different approach to a season, much more experimental.”