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Kerr tempers expectations as team expects growing pains

Durant's arrival will spark lineup experiments in search for right mix

POSTED: Sep 21, 2016 9:03 PM ET

By Scott Howard-Cooper

BY Scott Howard-Cooper


Warriors coach Steve Kerr had a chance to get a glimpse of how Kevin Durant would work with Klay Thompson and Draymond Green when the trio participated in the 2016 Olympics in Rio this summer.

— Steve Kerr kept using phrases Wednesday like "experimental" and "The fans should not be focused on how many wins we get" and "We've got a lot of growing ahead," until finally confirmation was necessary.

Yes, he is still the coach of the Warriors, the team that won a record 73 games last regular season followed by a second consecutive Western Conference title.

Yes, All-Stars Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson are back.

And, yes, his team is the one that led the league in scoring and then added Kevin Durant.

Point taken, though. There is possibly, if not likely, an adjustment period ahead with the arrival of two new starters, one of those newcomers will necessitate reconstructive surgery for the offense and the calendar is the 30th opponent. These are different times around the Warriors.

They are the ultimate in the NBA version of first-world concerns, but they are real concerns as Golden State prepares to open training camp Tuesday in a much different place than a year ago. The 2015 version was coming off a title and the roster was mostly filled with carryovers stepping back into the gym with a champion's certainty, as relaxing a way to return no matter how great the expectations.

This isn't that.

The September 2016 Warriors, in stark contrast, have a lot to prove. Durant has to fit into an offense already bursting with scorers. Thompson and Green have to power nap their way through the season after playing into June two seasons in a row and losing a large chunk of the most-recent offseason to be in the Olympics.

Zaza Pachulia has to prove to be a reliable replacement at center for Andrew Bogut, traded to Dallas in a salary dump to clear cap space for Durant. The carryovers this time can look back at the Finals and feel the memories not off a champagne shower but the historic implosion as the first team to blow a 3-1 lead in the championship series.

These Warriors will possibly use the start of the regular season to test lineups before settling into a set rotation and may even ration minutes early, beyond the fourth-quarter rest that may come, as it has in the past, with comfortable leads. This is the season, because of the marathons of the previous two seasons, because of the Olympics, because Kerr cares not at all about taking a shot at 74-8, because of the veteran roster, that will start with the coach refusing to dismiss the possibility of his stars sitting out games long before March and April.

"It could be," Kerr said at the practice facility when asked about the possibility of rationing minutes the opening months. "Those are things we have to read. It'll start out in training camp -- we're not going twice a day. We'll go just once a day in camp. We'll ease into things pretty well. We'll try to get some of the younger guys a lot of minutes in the preseason. I don't feel compelled to play Steph and KD and Klay a ton of minutes. And Draymond. They don't need to play a ton of minutes. Same with Andre (Iguodala) and Shaun (Livingston) right away. We can try to pace ourselves. But it's always a feel thing. You can't do it at the expense of your team growing and learning to play together. That's the challenge as a coaching staff. We've got to figure all this out.

".... In my mind this is a very different season and a different approach to the season. Much more experimental. I think our fans should really look forward to watching the growth of the team, whereas last year we were kind of a finished product on opening night. We really were. We were the same team that won the title. This is a different team. We've got a lot of growing ahead. The fans should not be focused on how many wins we get. They should be focused on how different we look from one month to the next. Good luck with that."

The Warriors could look a lot different as the calendar pages turn, in other words.

"We have to pace our team really well this year," Kerr said. "That's a key component to the season. Going to the Finals three years in a row is not something that happens very often, I think for a reason. In Chicago with the Bulls, we did it. They did it twice, I was on one of those teams and I remember the third year. Even with Michael (Jordan) and Scottie (Pippen) and Dennis (Rodman) it was a hard year and we were running on fumes. It's difficult to do. The emotion of it. The exertion that is spent. You go through a lot and don't get as much time off as everybody else, so we've got to pace our team. I think it's great that we've got some new guys. We're going to miss some of the old guys for sure, but I think in many ways we're going to be re-energized. KD will absolutely add a different level of energy to our team that will be necessary because of the grind of trying to make it back for a third time."

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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