Two days into training camp, the Warriors are still getting used to a roster with only five guys from last year and 13 fighting for the remaining slots.
Even through their dynastic run, one weakness was at center. What always seemed to be a position done by committee in their run and gun system is now more viable than ever, given he is a returning player.
Kevon Looney showed he fits the Warriors system. His skill, toughness and ability to rebound earned him a team-friendly three-year, $15 million contract this summer to stay in Golden State.
Unfortunately for the Warriors, Looney injured his left hamstring early Wednesday morning and left practice early, according to Head Coach Steve Kerr:
“Looney had a little tweak of his hamstring and missed the last part of practice…we cut practice short. This is kind of a fluke to have three of our four centers to go down, either before camp or on the second day. That’s very fluk-ish so it is what it is.”
Willie Cauley-Stein is out with a left foot injury and is expected to miss training camp and possibly the entire month of October. The Warriors signed Cauley-Stein in the off-season to a two-year deal.
The big free agent the Warriors landed was D’Angelo Russell. The fifth-year All-Star arrived from the Brooklyn Nets this summer via a sign-and-trade connected to the well-documented departure of Kevin Durant.
With Stephen Curry managing the new dynamic duo backcourt, Russell is confident the two will work well off each other:
“Kind of our formula of whoever gets the rebound, whoever is closest to the ball, get it and go and the other guy runs. I think the chemistry will be developed very, very quickly.”
To make room for 23-year-old Russell, Golden State traded Andre Iguodala to the Memphis Grizzlies. Iguodala, Quinn Cook (signed with Lakers), Shaun Livingston (retired) are among the notable absences on the court.
Curry said it still feels weird to not have his long-time teammate Iguodala:
“I texted Andre yesterday. I had a little heart felt moment. I said ‘I miss you, bro.’ It’s weird not seeing him … certain presence on the court and those two guys were…you saw them and you knew what time it was. Things change, but this is definitely weird.”
Iguodala has not showed up to training camp with the Grizzlies. Curry said Iguodala is still staying sharp and in shape to play.
The Warriors have a need at small forward (at least until Klay Thompson comes back), which feels weird to say because they had Durant for three years, and even Harrison Barnes, who was more than a serviceable player.
Alfonzo McKinnie, Juan Toscano-Anderson and Glenn Robinson III are the Warriors options at small forwards. Robinson was one of those players who knew his number would not be called until the Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes was over.
Now with Golden State, he said he knows he’ll be part of the rotation and compete for the small forward position, and already has gotten advice from his new star point guard:
“I’m trying to cut, trying to move, stay active and just get a feel for how they play. We all got to work together and work with each other and just implementing that in the offense is important. Our job is to come in here and compete. No one’s spot is suppose to be guaranteed.”
Kerr said he is not worried about the position and feels confident in the guys he has on the roster now, but he realizes the importance of the three position. He said he can’t do a small forward by committee like at center:
“We got a couple guys who have been pros now for a while and they got plenty of experience. And [Alfonzo] being a returning player knows our system and our style. … It’s a different league nowadays these days, so small forward is arguably the most important spot on the floor. It’s hard to buy a few minutes here and there.”
The Warriors have their first preseason game against the Los Angeles Lakers on Oct. 5 at 5 p.m. at their new and expensive playhouse Chase Center.
The Warriors play all five preseason games in California, which is nice after playing in China last season and putting miles on their bodies before the season even started.
As of right now, the matchup is not Warriors vs. Lakers. Golden State needs to first find out who they are.