In recent years, the Warriors have been bracing for a new beginning. In the last month, they're seeing the ripple effects of that change.
The latest example has been Golden State's injury-decimated frontcourt. In a three-day span, the Warriors announced injuries to big men Kevon Looney, Willie Cauley-Stein and rookie Alen Smailagic. Entering the first preseason game, the team had just one healthy big man -- Omari Spellman -- on a guaranteed contract.
Now, with the regular season a week away, the Warriors are hoping to find the health to remain competitive in the Western Conference.
"It's more challenging due to the amount of injuries we have," Warriors forward Draymond Green said. "There's a lot of moving parts."
On the eve of training camp, Warriors general manager Bob Myers announced Cauley-Stein would miss most of October with a foot strain. Two days later, Smailagic rolled his ankle and Looney strained his hamstring in the same controlled scrimmage. Adding to the peril, Spellman tweaked his back in the Warriors' first preseason game against the Lakers.
Through the first 24 minutes of the preseason, the Warriors were outrebounded 34-26, as Anthony Davis -- the Lakers' prized summer acquisition -- bullied Golden State's frontline, scoring 22 points and adding 10 rebounds in 18 minutes. Nine days later, Lakers backup center Dwight Howard punished the thin front line, grabbing 13 rebounds in 22 minutes, while getting to the free-throw line five times.
Still, the trend continued in Wednesday's 126-93 loss at Staples Center. Davis grabbed 10 rebounds in 27 minutes, helping the Lakers outrebound Golden State 46-34. Adding to the conundrum, the Lakers outscored the Warriors 64-36 in the paint. More alarming, with Looney and Cauley-Stein out, the Warriors don't have a healthy player on the roster over 6-foot-11.
"It's a little rough," admitted rookie Eric Paschal. "You've got Dwight, AD, JaVale, It's a lot of big bodies out there."
Head coach Steve Kerr spent three games watching his team get bullied by the Lakers. The returns were as expected.
"They're one of the biggest teams in the league," Kerr added. "And they kind of overwhelmed us with their size in the frontcourt."
Golden State's problems come at a time the team has little resources to fix them. With three max contracts on the payroll, the team currently is hard-capped, with just $400K to spend. The Warriors lone promising frontcourt man Marquese Chriss -- who is on a non-guaranteed contract -- will require a trade or for Golden State to release forward Alfonzo McKinnie in order to keep him on the roster. But losing McKinnie would decimate an already thin wing rotation. The issues abound.
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The Warriors' struggles comes as the team is in transition. Of the Warriors' eight summer additions, just three have postseason experience and only two are over the age of 26. Over the last five years, Golden State has entered the regular season with veteran-packed rosters primed to make deep playoff runs. Now, Kerr is tasked with teaching a young group rather than maintaining a contender, bringing a new set of challenges.
"There are just times where we're in the right position and we just get overwhelmed but then there's a lot of times when we're in the wrong position and so we've got to take care of the stuff we can take care of but we're going to need to get healthy,"
Still, even with a battered and young roster, the team has expressed optimism. Kerr said Looney could be back next week, bringing a dependable defender into the fold.
Green believes the team will get better with time.
"We've got three centers out," Green said. "So your rebounding probably will suffer but nothing's too concerning. You got to get it. I know the things that we need to improve upon but I'm not concerned."