It was an ugly night in Los Angeles for the Warriors on Thursday, in multiple ways, too.
Golden State was hammered by the Clippers, 130-104 on national TV, losing its fourth-straight game. It was exactly the way coach Steve Kerr didn’t want the second half of the season to begin, but he seemingly has a bevy of issues to deal with, mostly with his reserve rotation, as the team limps along at 19-19.
Perhaps worst of all, rookie center James Wiseman was benched for the first three quarters of the game. He missed an NBA mandated Covid-19 test over the All-Star break, couldn’t practice on Wednesday, and was held back by Kerr until garbage time on Thursday.
Here’s part of what Kerr said postgame, courtesy of Bay Area Sports HQ.
“Everything matters,” said Kerr. “This was just the reaction to him missing the test and not being able to practice last night. That hurt us. So that was the reason he did not play in the first half. I’m not going to go into more detail than that.”
Harsh but fair from the coach. Wiseman is just 19 years old, but he’s a professional now. It’s his job to make extra-special 100 percent sure he can practice. As Kerr said, everything matters. Rough luck for him having to deal with a pandemic during his rookie year, but those are the breaks.
Also, I doubt holding Wiseman out until late cost the Warriors this game. The Clippers’ roster is stacked, and Kerr’s new reserve unit, with young guards Nico Mannion and Jordan Poole, was terrible, and I don’t see how adding another young player, Wiseman, would have helped against LA on Thursday. (Though the plan moving forward is to play all three in the second unit.)
Essentially, when Kerr said Wiseman’s forgetfulness hurt the club, I think he was talking about the overall health of the team, not that Wiseman would have saved the day at Staples Center. The first practice after the All-Star break is usually one of the most important practices of the year, from a camaraderie perspective and Kerr likely had some new ideas to try out.
The rookie played with an edge when he entered late, however, scoring 14 points and grabbing seven rebounds in 12 minutes. It was a heck of an answer, and Kerr was at least happy about that.
“He responded exactly as I hoped he would,” Kerr said. “He looked like he was a little angry. And he really competed. And he played with good energy and that bodes well. He’ll be out there next game.”
For a team embarking on a playoff quest after the All-Star break, the Warriors seemingly have a lot to figure out: Wiseman’s role, he bench rotation, supplemental scoring, Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Oubre’s inconsistency. I’m likely forgetting something. Kerr’s has a lot of work to do, as does star guard Stephen Curry.
The Warriors have to tread water again, with a tough schedule coming up, and then the opponents get easier toward the end of the season. If they can’t make that happen, we might see more of Curry doing this, as he did during the LA night in question, and that’s a baaaad sign.
(Photo credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)