Morning Shootaround

Golden State Warriors hoping to halt their early season woes

NBA.com staff reports

They punted on 82-0 with that opening night loss to the Houston Rockets. But that was supposed to be just a hiccup, a temporary interruption of the freight train that the Golden State Warriors were expected to be rolling over the rest of the league this season. The only problem is someone forgot to remind the competition, and the Warriors, who are 1-2 heading into tonight’s game in Dallas (8:30 ET, NBA League Pass).

Instead of basking in the glow of yet another ring night celebration and the universal theory that they could be headed for a third one this season, everyone is asking questions about these Warriors. What’s wrong with them? Why do their stars seem so uneasy (Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant already have ejections on their season ledgers)? Mark Medina of the Bay Area News Group dives in with a three-game autopsy on the champs:

A week ago, it seemed nothing could stop the Warriors. Their depth appeared so overwhelming that NBA teams pondered if any weaknesses existed. The Warriors’ discipline appeared so consistent it suggested they could run on autopilot.

Instead the Warriors have lost two of their first three games, matching their worst three-game start since 2009-10 under Don Nelson, the season they finished 26-56.

It’s absurd to think the Warriors could crash to those depths. They remain the heavy favorite to win their third NBA title in four years. There is no sign of panic.

“If you ask anybody in this locker room, nobody was expecting us to be playing at the level we left last year,” Warriors center Zaza Pachulia said after the 111-101 loss in Memphis on Saturday night. “That’s normal. Maybe it’s even good. That way we work harder and prepare ourselves for April, May and June.”

Defending NBA champions are vulnerable to complacency. NBA coaches, Larry Bird once said, tend to lose their influence on players after three years. That led Warriors coach Steve Kerr to crack: “I’m in year four, aren’t I? I’m on the clock.”

Turning serious, Kerr said: “I was really lucky coming into this organization at the right time when players were really entering their primes. The thing I try to do is keep it light and fresh and let the assistants do the talking and hopefully my voice doesn’t get too old on them too quickly.”

The Warriors have suggested their problems lay elsewhere.

After having reduced practice time due to a compressed preseason schedule and a week-long trip in China, the Warriors have admitted feeling behind both with their conditioning and rhythm. The Warriors suggested those issues have contributed toward their struggles to defend without fouling.

Kerr called that a “major problem… Our habits are really bad. A lot of reaches, a lot of silly ones late in the shot clock.”

Stephen Curry has been the biggest offender. He was called for four fouls in Houston and five in Memphis. That wreaked havoc on Kerr’s substitution rotation. Saturday night in Memphis, he kept Curry in the game after he was called for his third foul in the second quarter. Moments later, Curry picked up his fourth foul.

Curry knows what he must do.

“You can still play aggressive defense and not reach,” Curry said. “I’ve done it my entire career just being conscious of where my hands are and where my body is. You play physical, the ticky-tack stuff and you’re literally reaching in and trying to get a steal and overzealous. That’s the stuff that can get you come back and bite you.”

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