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  • Nathan Rogers

Warriors' Disarray Within Team Reveals Subtle but Evident Downfall of Organization

The Warriors have been the most successful team in the last decade. Participating in the NBA Finals 5 times in a row, winning three times, and having arguably the most talented team in the history of the game with stars like Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green, the Warriors aren't shy of greatness. But, as of late, things have taken a U-turn.

After sweeping the Cavaliers in the 2018 championship, the Warriors were feeling strong and they were determined to solidify their dominance in the NBA for another season. In 2019, they made it to the Finals but had a tough time, to say the least. Kevin Durant suffered a calf injury in the second round of the playoffs and returned to Game 5 of the Finals to only suffer another injury: a torn Achilles. In the very next game, Klay fell awkwardly and unfortunately tore his ACL. The Warriors, understandably so, lost the Finals 4 games to 2.

If things couldn't get any worse, the 2019 offseason happened. As Free Agency started to buzz everyone's phones on July 1, Kevin Durant decided to leave the Warriors and start his own super team in Brooklyn. Kyrie Irving and James Harden would later join the Nets, too.

The Warriors were against the odds for the whole 2020 season. Kevin Durant left the team, Klay was out the whole year due to his ACL tear, and Curry suffered a broken hand during the season and was out for a significant time. The team ended up finishing with the worst record in the NBA that year and their 4th-worst record in franchise history. It was a disaster.

The dynasty that all Warriors fans were enjoying for so long seemed like it was taking a close.

Now in the 2020-2021 season, the Warriors are currently in 10th place in the Western Conference and have the 13th-worst record in the league through 50 games.

While 10th place in their respective conference doesn't sound horrible, the stats say otherwise.

The Warriors currently allow the 7th-most points per game (114), commit the 3rd-most fouls per game (21.7), produce the 7th-most turnovers per game (15), haul in the 4th-lowest number of total rebounds per game (50.3), and have the worst rebounding percentage (47.2%).

The bench is average at best. They're middle of the pack regarding points per game (16th), 3-point percentage (16th), and field goals made (14th). But, they're also 5th worst in wins, bottom 10 in field goal percentage, the second-worst in free throw percentage, second-worst in offensive rebounding, along with being bottom ten in turnovers and personal fouls.

Other than Curry's MVP-caliber season, Jordan Poole's occasional exciting games, and the potential of Wiseman, there's really nothing Steve Kerr should be positive about this season.

Aside from the forehead-palming stats, horrendous play, and injuries, there is a more apparent, hard-hitting, yet subtly underscored concept: the organization is seemingly on a decline.

Life is forever changing. Meaning, it's not always going to be easy going for a significant amount of time. As time goes on, as kids get older, as parents get older, life gets harder. It's nature. Nature has unfortunately caught up with the Golden State Warriors.

Steve Kerr

Steve Kerr entered the league in 2014 as a coach. Considering the massive halt the team has taken from once being the most dominant team in the world for many years to literally being the worst in 2020, it seems like Steve Kerr has failed to change or adapt his ways of coaching to the circumstances of the team.

Wanamaker/Poole Situation

Kerr has never had to develop players, so it's difficult to point all fingers towards Kerr for the subpar development of Wiseman. But, his once label of a "great" coach has strongly become in question over the past 2 years. For instance, Wanamaker was terrible nearing the close of the first half of the season. Through January and February, it was looking like balls ricocheting off the rim and missed shots beyond the arc were becoming his best friends. He shot 25% from the 3-point line in January and 21% in February. Wanamaker was also averaging 4 points per game, only 1 rebound per game, and turned the ball over 18 times in 15 games. It was awful.

Meanwhile down in the G League, Jordan Poole — former 1st-round pick in the 2019 draft — was averaging 22 points per game, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists all while managing to score a career-high 37 points in 35 mins. He also scored 20 points more than 6 times and scored in double digits in all 11 games he played.

The Warriors were in dire need to get some help off the bench as they were getting outscored by almost 30 points per 100 possessions in that time period, per Basketball Index. They also had a really tough schedule. They were playing teams like Brooklyn, the Lakers, Portland, and Pheonix.

One would think that with a coach who has won 3 championships in 5 years, a change from a bench player, who is performing at an alarmingly low rate during a tough schedule, to a former 1st-round pick, who is producing outstanding numbers in the G League, would be a no-brainer. Well, Kerr decided to ignore this seemingly obvious scenario and waited until March 1 to call up Jordan Poole. This should've been weeks earlier, which could've altered the record of this team very advantageously.

Poole started his first game against the Suns on March 4th and scored 26 points. He averaged 20.7 points in his first 10 games back. The Warriors would've loved that sharp playmaking ability at guard off the bench earlier in the year.

Curry's Minutes

Secondly, Kerr cannot manage Curry's minutes like he has his whole career as a coach.

This isn't 2015, Steve. Your team is different. You have no Kevin Durant. You have no Klay. All you have is Curry.

It's time to stop treating your best player like your coaching your son in 5th grade. I think the best shooter of all time can play for a couple more minutes. If you're going to play him around 34-35 minutes a game, why sit him for the majority of the 4th quarter? That's a disservice to the team. When it matters most, Curry needs to be on the court. And that means the whole 4th quarter, not with 5-6 minutes. There needs to be consistency and unfortunately, Kerr is lacking in the department.

Take Sunday's game against the Atlanta Hawks for example. The Athletic's columnist, Marcus Thompson, outlined it perfectly:

It's truly mind-boggling that Kerr still treats Curry the same since 2015 regarding minutes.

The same thing happened in Game 4 of the 2018 Western Conference Final. The Warriors were on fire until Kerr decides to pull out Curry with two minutes remaining in the 4th quarter. The Rockets creep back and slowly regain the lead. The Warriors lose 92-95. It's ridiculous and a haphazard way of coaching. Although many fans have been banging the drum to change the restriction on Curry's minutes, it seems like Kerr has never strongly acted upon it. Why is that, you may ask? It's because the players bail out poor coaching time and time again. The players repeatedly painted a sugar glaze over the inept and inexperienced coaching and organizational staff.

Also, just last night, the Warriors gutted out a great win against the Bucks. However, it would not have happened if Curry didn't ask Kerr to play more in the 4th quarter. The fact that Curry had to ask, or request, Kerr to enter the 4th quarter as early as he did is ridiculous. The best shooter of all time should not have to request if he can play or not. Is Kerr trying to stomp his foot in the ground and maintain his ego, or is he just trying to ruin a relationship with the only player holding this organization afloat?

Curry is getting paid $46 million this year. Bob Meyers and the front office didn't extend his contract this previous offseason even though Curry is an unrestricted free agent this summer. Although it may seem certain that Curry re-signs, why would you want to restrict a player's minutes when a big decision is coming up this offseason? Contextually, financially, and personally, it makes no sense. If Kerr wants to restrict Curry from playing 2-3 more minutes in the 4th quarter every night then he has to meet the potential reality of Curry's departure without surprise.

Lack of Control in Locker Room

One of the more overlooked aspects of professional sports — or just sports in general, for that matter — is the locker room. It's not just a room of smelly shoes, showers, and sweaty jerseys; it represents the team's culture. In other words, it's the integrity and values of the team.

As an athlete myself, I've been on quite a few teams. Winning, in my opinion, isn't only due to the talent, amount of people on a team, or statistics. Spectators only see results, but it's the work behind the scenes that produce greatness, or the lack thereof.

As a current swimmer, I'm a part of Pacific Swimming's (a swimming LSC or league in California) governing team. I represent my team and attend meetings on current issues, events, rules, and news around the sport. One of the more influential meetings happened during USA Swimming's Leadership Summit. It was a weekend-long event and we engaged in activities and dialogue with peers regarding how to be a leader. One whole day was focused on team culture and its importance. We had discussions and guest speakers about how a team's environment, culture, values, and integrity directly affect the production of the team as a whole.

Some questions that were asked were:

Is the team's culture influenced more by coaches or athletes on the team?

How would you define the team's culture?

Are there "black and white" lines in the sand definitive standards of behavior?

Do the staff and team care about the culture of the team in and outside the locker room?

The last one stands out the most to me. Makes me think, maybe the Warriors should've been on this Leadership Summit Zoom call.

For context, coach Steve Kerr said on 95.7 The Game, "I'd love to have Kelly back next year. If that were to happen, it would be off the bench more than likely, because we'd be looking at Klay, Steph [Curry] and Wiggins in the starting lineup."

Former Warriors player, Andrew Bogut, said on the recent Rogues Bogues podcast that the idea of Oubre coming off the bench wasn't taking too well with other current players. Bogut said, "Now I'm not gonna name the player, but I've heard the Warriors players didn't take too lightly to those comments. They basically made it pretty known that Andre Iguodala, a Finals MVP, was OK coming off the bench, but we have Kelly motherf--king Oubre who won't." Bogut also added that this was said to Oubre's face directly.

Earlier this season, some players in the post-game press conferences said that Klay was not happy about the team's performance and had some emotional confrontations with the team in the locker room.

And just the other game, Curry detailed the emotion in the locker room calling it a "terrible feeling" and that "there's nothing to smile about".

Although Oubre responded to Bogut's comments by calling it "cap", or a lie, these stories underline an issue that has arisen these past years: the team culture is at its lowest and needs to be addressed.

The players' emotions are down, the front office's emotion is down, and the team culture is down. It's strongly a part of the reason the team has been so disappointing. I shouldn't be writing about a former player dumping rumors about verbal fights in locker rooms, Klay telling his teammates to get their act together, and Curry calling the locker room "terrible" and having the body language of a high schooler after a breakup.

So, to the Warriors, I leave you with these questions:

How would you define the team's culture?

Are there "black and white" lines in the sand definitive standards of behavior?

Do the staff and team care about the culture of the team in and outside the locker room?

No Help or Proaction From the Front Office

As the season's calendar approached March 25 at 12pm (the trade deadline), Warriors fans were hoping for some substantial roster moves to elevate the team into a playoff spot. Those hopes quickly went down the drain despite President of Basketball Operations, Bob Meyers, stating on the notable Bay Area sports radio show 95.7 The Game that the team would be "aggressive" at the deadline.

While the moves the team made weren't terrible, in fact, they were very good, (they eliminated Wanamaker from the lineup, moved Chris to clear roster spots and cap space, and kept Oubre) it wasn't "aggressive" and provided no performance elevation, rather it seemed like a financial maintenance deadline.

The Warriors are a below-average team to an average team at best. Curry is holding this team by a thread. Sure, Wiggins, Oubre, and Draymond are there but they only give you some defensive stops and solid offensive outings per game. The Warriors need to have an elevating, electric Robin to Curry's Batman to secure a playoff spot.

It felt as if the front office realized that the team needs, among other things, a jolt of energy to push them over the mediocracy hump, but opted to not solve the issue out of laziness, lack of competitiveness, and/or ignorance.

According to StatMuse (left), without Curry on the court, the Warriors have the worst offense in the last 5 years.

As pointed out by NBAcircles and The FastBreak, without Curry on the court, the Warriors have the worst offensive rating in the history of the game by 6.6 points.

The Warriors' front office simply cannot sit back and watch this historically bad team keep playing. Changes needed to have been made by the deadline, and the front office didn't follow through. Unbelievable.

Again, it all comes full circle back to Curry. Warriors front office, you didn't extend Curry. You have allowed an unsteady locker room. And you didn't make strong pushes for players to elevate the team and help Steph.

As Klay told some players in the locker room, "we've got to have a little more heart".

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