SAN FRANCISCO — Warriors coach Steve Kerr hasn’t experienced anything quite like this season before. Not only because the team is off to its worst start since he took over five years ago but also, as injuries deplete a championship core, the Warriors have played the last three games with just eight players. Kerr has deemed them the “Elite Eight.”
No team in the league has had players miss as many games due to injury as the Warriors. With Stephen Curry (broken hand) and Klay Thompson (ACL) sidelined for most of the season, Golden State is also facing injuries to Draymond Green (heel) D’Angelo Russell (thumb), Kevon Looney (neuropathy) and others.
With a largely inexperienced roster, the Warriors own the league’s worst record at 3-15. On Monday, they let a 15-point lead slip away in a 100-97 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. They have now lost 10 of the last 11 games.
“You need bodies in the NBA, especially to get through the long haul. And playing eight guys, as long as I’ve been doing this, 30, 31 years in the league, it seems like maybe once or twice a year you have eight guys.
“So for us to be doing this almost routinely now is — I’ve never seen it. So it’s a testament to the group, the ‘Elite Eight,’ that I like to call them. The Elite Eight’s doing a hell of a job hanging in there.”
Despite the mounting losses and injuries, Kerr has tried to remain positive. He often points to the development of the young players, including rookies Eric Paschall, Jordan Poole and Ky Bowman, as signs of progress.
Maybe the most impressive thing about the Warriors this season is how hard they have played despite often facing double-digit deficits. Monday’s loss was rare in which they gave up a late lead.
“I think it’s important to keep accentuating the positives,” Kerr said. “We’ve gotten a lot better the last few weeks. And (it’s) not easy playing with eight guys. The effort was there and the defensive consistency has improved dramatically. The offensive execution for the most part during the game was purposeful."
The good news for the Warriors is that they could be getting some players back from injury soon. Green is questionable for Wednesday’s game against the Chicago Bulls while Looney recently returned to practice and is expected to play soon.
After losing Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston in the offseason, an adjustment period was expected. Still, the Warriors were expected to contend for a playoff spot.
But after Curry broke his hand in the fourth game of the season, the organization’s goals pragmatically shifted from making the playoffs to developing a foundation the injured All-Stars could come back to.