Warriors' foundation of excellence helping team through trying season

Kerith Burke

Editor's note: Kerith Burke, NBC Sports Bay Area's Warriors reporter, will take you inside the Dubs as only she can each Friday with the Ask Kerith Mailbag. Send her a question on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #askkerith


The mailbag has Christmas week off, so this is the last mailbag of 2019. It feels strange to type that. Even though I know how time and calendars work, the end of the year always sneaks up on me. 

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I'm thankful each year of my life has been better than the last one. There's no time I'd rather go back to. 

Game on!

Via IG, @cchhaayy asks, Do you guys purposely lose games in "tank mode"?

Tanking is intentionally playing poorly. Not a soul on the Warriors is doing that. 

There's too much pride to swallow to play poorly. Being in the NBA means something. It's the peak, and for players and their families and their teammates and their wallets and their futures, it makes no sense to deliberately screw up. 

It would be stupid for rookies Eric Paschall and Jordan Poole to stunt their growth by tanking. It would be stupid for Glenn Robinson III, Marquise Chriss, Omari Spellman, and Willie Cauley-Stein to play with little effort and risk losing their value. 

Long-term injuries to Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, plus Kevin Durant's departure along with goodbyes for Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston reduced the amount of talent the Warriors had on the roster instantly. The issue this season is talent. They simply are outmatched in some games, no matter how much they want to win.

@mefixcomputers What's the mood around the team? You could hear from your sideline interview that Chriss is tired of losing, but can we retain the positive locker room culture if we don't win?

Everyone on the team cares about this season and making the most of it. That means learning, doing the work to develop, and fighting for wins. Build good habits and approach the work seriously. Those are the simple asks. 

What helps a positive culture is a foundation of excellence. The Warriors built a dynasty. A one-year blip won't crush them. The leadership under Bob Myers and Steve Kerr means this is a healthy environment during the struggle. Calm, sensible leadership sets the tone for everyone else. Draymond has a patient attitude as well.

It's also helpful that these guys like each other. The atmosphere isn't thick with tension in the locker room. There's disappointment, but little finger-pointing. I don't sense any fracturing. 

At practice, on the plane, on the bus ... you can tell the players enjoy the guys next to them. They're real friends. That's helpful during tough times. 

@SwipaBee What is being done to help Poole get out of his shooting slump. Like we know what he's capable of, I think Klay should mentor him or something #askKerith

Jordan Poole does significant one-on-one work with director of player development Chris DeMarco. When Klay is healthy, DeMarco is his shooting buddy during practice. Now, he works with Poole. DeMarco knows what he's doing. They watch loads of film together. They're always talking. It looks like DeMarco is Poole's counselor to help Poole during his first year. The rookie season is difficult for everyone. 

Had the Warriors not been so injury-prone, Poole may have started his season in the G League, or gotten considerable time there already. It's a nice transition place to help young players learn the Warriors' system at a pace that's more comfortable. Instead, the Warriors were forced to play Poole right away. 

Remember, Poole is 20 years old. He only had two years of college ball. Ideally, he'd be playing alongside Steph and Klay. 

He's in a tricky spot where he needs to play to keep shooting and build his confidence, but throwing him out there while he's pressing isn't positive. The Warriors will try a G League stint for Poole to see if he can find some comfort at a speed that suits his development.

Via IG, @marinchef asks, Do family members or spouses of the players travel with them to away games? Why don't inactive players attend all home and away games - are they not required to do so? 

Family and close friends have the option to fly on the team charter. There are more people on the plane when the team is going to fun cities like New York, Miami, and Chicago. Holidays tend to mean family travels as well. 

Inactive players attend more home games than you would think. They might not be on the bench during the game, but they're with the team in the locker room and they watch from there to be out of sight. Sometimes they'll come out. Klay occasionally goes to the bench for the second halves of games. I noticed he brings a bag of sunflower seeds. 

It's not mandatory for inactive players to attend games, home or away. If the injuries are on the minor side, say one or two games missed, you're more likely to see the player stay around the team. If it's a long-term injury, like Steph's, the benefit he could get from rest at home is important too. There's a mental side to injuries we shouldn't forget about. 

Finally, veterans get some leeway young players do not. It's a feeling-out process, based on what's earned. 

@lvpelt When can we expect the beast known as Smailagic to be unleashed #askKerith

Right now, Alen Smailagic is playing with the Santa Cruz Warriors in the G League Showcase in Las Vegas. Before the showcase, he scored a career-high 29 points with five 3-pointers. His development is coming along well! 

Development is the point for Smailagic this season. He's 19 years old, and last season, he was the youngest player to ever see games in the G League. The Warriors are high on him, but he's not going to be a big part of their plans this season. He's an asset for the future. 

That said, Steve Kerr indicated Smailagic will make his NBA debut sometime this season. "He will 100 percent find his way onto the floor in a game, or multiple games," Kerr said.

@GJohnde What are your favorite Christmas traditions?

I'm from an Army family, and one of my favorite things my mom did while we were growing up is collect Christmas ornaments from the places we lived or visited. Anytime I look at the tree, I see the story of my family. I'm keeping the same tradition for my tree.

The only difference is I have a small, real tree. My parents have a large, fake tree. 

@ben_bespinosa11 What is Your New Year Resolution For 2020?

My resolution is to be more charitable. Whether it's donating more money or giving more of my time, there are always ways to help people.

[RELATED: Kerr changes tune, welcomes high school NBA draft prospects]

High Five

Shoutout to Season One of the Runnin' Plays podcast. I'm thankful I get to work with Logan Murdock on these pods. We've already welcomed Eric Paschall, Kelenna Azubuike, Jim Barnett, Steve Kerr, Glenn Robinson III, Gary Payton, and Chelsea Gray as guests. 

Find the latest episode with Gray here.

Let us know who you'd like to hear on upcoming podcasts, and what you think of our work so far. Thanks for listening, and thanks for reading the #askKerith mailbag.

See you in 2020!

Follow Kerith on Twitter @KerithBurke and on Instagram @warriorskerith, and, of course, watch her on NBC Sports Bay Area's Warriors coverage all season. 

Warriors' foundation of excellence helping team through trying season originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

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