Warriors News: Steve Kerr Praises Team’s ‘Elite Eight’ Amid GSW’s Injury Woes

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Brandon Dill/Associated Press

Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr has a new nickname for his injury-riddled roster: the Elite Eight.   

Kerr spoke to reporters Tuesday after watching film on the Warriors’ 100-97 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder a day earlier, heaping praise on the young roster for its perseverance:

“We could have used Draymond Green and D’Angelo Russell for sure. And Kevon Looney would have been very helpful. Jacob Evans would have helped. You need bodies in the NBA, especially to get through the long haul. And playing eight guys, as long as I’ve been doing this, 30, 31 years in the league, it seems like maybe once or twice a year you have eight guys. Maybe, because of crazy circumstances.

“So for us to be doing this almost routinely now is — I’ve never seen it. So it’s a testament to the group, the ‘Elite Eight,’ that I like to call them. The Elite Eight’s doing a hell of a job hanging in there.”

The Warriors are currently an NBA-worst 3-15, and every major contributor on their roster has missed time due to injury. Just three players—Glenn Robinson III, Ky Bowman and Jordan Poole—have played in all 18 games.

Stephen Curry has missed 14 games, and D’Angelo Russell and Draymond Green have missed eight apiece. Klay Thompson remains out of the lineup and is expected to miss much of the 2019-20 season after suffering a torn ACL. It’s possible Curry’s season will be limited to just four games, but the team’s current plan is for him to return at some point.

The season has been a swift fall from grace for a franchise that made the last five NBA Finals. Kerr has been forced to use a constantly shuffling and rarely successful rotation, though this stretch may be best for the franchise’s long-term growth, as the coach said:

“I think it’s important to keep accentuating the positives. We’ve gotten a lot better the last few weeks. And [it’s] not easy playing with eight guys. The effort was there and the defensive consistency has improved dramatically. The offensive execution for the most part during the game was purposeful. We took care of the ball, we moved the ball. Fourth quarter when the pressure came we didn’t execute, but that’s kind of the next step for this young group. So that’s what we’re aiming to improve upon as a group. The players, but also the coaches. We have to do our part to put them in the best position to succeed.

“So it’s kind of one step at a time, and having said all that, I’ve been doing this for a long time in one capacity or another, and I see a lot of really positive things from this team. We’re going to get some people back, we’ve been hampered by a lot of injuries, but we get [Russell] back, we get [Looney] back, we get [Green] back, what the young guys have done, what they’ve helped to build in the early part of the season foundationally — we’re going to start winning some games. We just got to keep doing what we’re doing.”

The Warriors’ first-round pick is top-20 protected, and adding a high lottery pick to the fold—or moving it for a win-now veteran—is clearly the right move for the franchise’s long-term health. Curry, Thompson and Green using the 2019-20 season as what amounts to a redshirt year should preserve their bodies and help undo some of the wear and tear from five straight seasons playing into deep June.

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