In Early Season Test, Warriors' Steve Kerr Elects to Go Small

NEW ORLEANS -- For the last half-decade, Warriors coach Steve Kerr has always had the luxury of an anecdote whenever his team found itself on the brink. 

Dubbed the 'Death Lineup,' the unit employed 6-foot-5 forward Draymond Green at center, surrounded by shooters, including Andre Iguodala, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant, helping Golden State overcome major deficits to win three championships in five years. 

On Monday evening, with the less-star studded Warriors facing an 0-3 start to the season, a lineup featuring Green at center momentarily helped Golden State get its season back on track. 

In Golden State's 134-123 victory over the Pelicans, Green made an imprint early. In the game's first possession, he received a pass from Stephen Curry, faked a pass, and drove in for an easy layup. Four minutes later, he secured a rebound and flipped a perfect pass to Jordan Poole for a 3-pointer. By night's end, he contributed a triple-double with 16 points, 10 assists and 17 rebounds, finishing a game-high plus-36 from the floor. 

"I thought it gave us a better chance to get started early, open up the floor," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "When Draymond is in the middle of our offense, as the fulcrum, he's going to generate a lot of offense. So he's difficult to handle out there."

"He's just a playmaker," he knows how to get to the right spots and make other guys better just by getting the ball on time and on target or putting pressure on the rim. He's made a living doing that on the offensive end and featuring the weapons around him."

Historically, the "Death Lineup" has been used to push the pace. With Green at center alongside shooters, Golden State could push the pace, essentially running teams off the floor. 

This time around, Kerr's decision to put Green at center comes as a necessity. With Kevin Durant gone to Brooklyn, Andre Iguodala technically in Memphis and Klay Thompson potentially out of the season, Golden State's defense has plummeted to the bottom of the league. In its first two games, the Warriors were outscored 261-214. Adding to the troubles, three of the team's four big men are out with injuries, including defensive specialist Kevon Looney and 7-footer Willie Cauley Stein. 

In recent games, the Warriors have been forced to rely on their inexperienced core, including six players under the age of 26. All too frequently, players have been out of position, often second-guessing actions while overthinking the system, a trend they momentarily reversed Monday evening.

"There's a level of intensity we got to. A level of energy that we hadn't seen in the first two games," Kerr said. "I thought it was more confusion on our young guys kind of trying to figure out where to be rather than lack of effort. When you're thinking too much it's tough to just let it go and play. Tonight I felt like we just played. Our guys didn't think too much." 

For the moment, lineups including Green at center will continue. Looney's immediate future is uncertain while Cauley Stein hasn't secured a return date. Still, some believe the current unit could even mirror the famous lineup of Death.  

"We'll find something like that with this group over time," Curry said. "But there was a lot of high IQ guys, veterans that know how to play their game and have been through so much in their careers so just up into that point. You can't rush things."

"Again, that'll come. We have to find the identity with this squad and like the go-to lineup is." 
 

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