Why Warriors bringing Steph Curry off bench smart move for now

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Why Warriors bringing Steph off bench is smart move for now originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

SAN FRANCISCO – Steve Kerr wouldn’t tell Sunday whether his starting point guard for Game 2 against the Denver Nuggets on Monday night would be Jordan Poole, who started Game 1, or if it would be longtime incumbent Stephen Curry.

If Kerr’s decision is guided by logic, Curry will be watching from the bench as Poole joins his fellow Warriors for the opening tip.

Though it might have seemed puzzling that Curry did not start Game 1 on Saturday, the answer is found in connecting the dots between Klay Thompson and common sense.

Curry had missed a month while recovering from a left foot sprain. He’d be shaking off rust and seeking his timing, His minutes would be restricted, his rotations regulated. An immediate move into the starting lineup complicated all those factors.

That was realized three months ago, when Thompson started and played well in his first game after an absence of 31 months. What followed was messy, with Klay and the Warriors struggling to find their timing. They lost four of the next six.

Losing four of six in the postseason is, um, elimination.

So, the Warriors took no chances with Curry in Game 1. Poole would start and Steph would come off the bench, just as Draymond Green did when he returned March 14 after a nine-week layoff.

“With (the experience with Thompson) in mind, it was a lot easier to do what we did with Steph,” coach Steve Kerr says. “We did it in concert with him. It wasn’t like I made the decision. I talked to him about it, and we made the decision together.”

Draymond pointed out that it can be a delicate situation when an established NBA starter returns after a layoff. Coming off the bench, where minutes can be more easily regulated and restricted, might be the rational approach but ego can be a factor.

“Not necessarily speaking of Klay, just saying in general: If you’re doing what’s best for Klay or anyone coming back from two serious injuries in Klay’s case ... in any other world, you’re coming off the bench,” Green said.

“Who’s telling him you’re coming off the bench? Who’s going to tell him it’s best for him to come off the bench? Who’s doing that? ... Who’s going to tell Jimmy Butler, when he’s coming back from three- or four-week absence?”

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The Warriors considered bringing Thompson off the bench but opted against it. That decision might have been influenced by sentiment and timing.

“We talked about that at the time, but what outweighed that for us was the two-and-a-half-year absence,” Kerr said. “Klay is a starter. It’s the middle of the season. He’s going to start the rest of the year. It’s ‘Let’s throw you in the starting lineup.’

“Now the first couple weeks, it was definitely awkward, where he’s riding the bike in the tunnel for 20 minutes. The minutes were really tricky until they crept up enough to where we could stagger his rotations to a comfortable level.”

Thompson played 20 minutes in his debut and didn’t go beyond 25 until his seventh game. He didn’t play 30 minutes until his 13th game, by which time he had been on the court for a full month. He didn’t find a groove until the final eight days of the regular season.

Green reached the 30-minute level 16 days after he returned but didn’t feel comfortable with his timing until the final 10 days of the season. He firmly believes the strategy behind his return is more beneficial to the player and the team than the one that was followed with Thompson.

“In that case when you’re on a minutes restriction and it’s not better suited for you, then ultimately it ends up hurting you and it ends up hurting the team,” Green said. “What we all saw with Klay coming back is that it was just impossible for him to find a rhythm.

“It wasn’t that he was doing so many things wrong. It’s just that he couldn’t find a rhythm. He’s playing for five minutes, and then he’s sitting for 45 minutes in real-time. You’re getting older, you’re coming off injury, so you get tighter. It’s necessary that you get up and down to get loose.  And then you come out and you sit that long, now you’re starting that process all over again each time you do that.”

If Curry’s minutes are restricted for the duration of the series, which is likely, the prudent move would be to follow the Game 1 script for Game 2 and perhaps beyond.

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