Warriors players continue to cooperate amid fluctuating minutes

Frustrations with fluctuating minutes made easier by Warriors wins originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

LOS ANGELES — The Warriors have one of the deepest teams in the NBA, and with the imminent return of Klay Thompson and James Wiseman — they’re only going to get deeper. 

The question of what the Warriors’ rotation will look like when Thompson and Wiseman come back has been asked a lot, and rightfully so. But, because they are both still at least a few weeks away, Warriors coach Steve Kerr hasn’t put much thought into what changes they will force. 

He hasn’t put much thought into it because it will require Kerr to make difficult decisions regarding who to play less. And, it’s something he’s actually already grappling with in regards to the players he has available now. 

Nineteen games into the season, Kerr has been changing his lineups and rotations on what feels like a nightly basis. And that won’t change any time soon. 

“I think we’ve established that every night is going to be a little different and that everyone’s going to contribute,” Kerr said ahead of the Warriors’ game against Philadelphia on Wednesday. “The great thing with our guys is that they’re all connected. They understand this is what it takes to win. We’ve got a deep roster, a versatile roster. So we just have to play the people we think are going to help us win every night and then move on to the next.”

Kerr rattled off a list of role players who have had to sacrifice regular rotational minutes but have still found instances to have breakout moments. 

“The other night was a good one for Chris Chiozza,” Kerr said. “The game before that was a [Nemanja] Bjelica game. Before that, it was an Otto Porter game.”

For the past few games, it’s been Juan Toscano-Anderson who has been plugged into the lineup as an energy source and a defensive presence. Just a few weeks ago, Toscano-Anderson spoke on how it has been difficult to fall to the end of the bench. 

But, as Kerr said, there’s an understanding that this is what it will take to win. 

“It’s just what it’s going to be. I’ve accepted it,” Toscano-Anderson said after the Warriors’ win over the Portland Trail Blazers Friday night. “I wasn’t mad at anybody that my minutes weren’t there. I just kind of looked at myself in the mirror like, ‘I gotta get better. I gotta find something else to bring to this team.’ And I’m sure other guys are as well.”

That seems to be the overall mentality of the team.

A source told NBC Sports Bay Area that there is some frustration for players whose minutes have been cut, but stated that there’s a level of acceptance because of how well the team has been doing.

Even Steph Curry has vocalized some dissatisfaction with the way his minutes have been distributed, particularly when he feels he’s gaining momentum and a rhythm coming on but has to be subbed out in the middle of quarters.

But again, as long as the team stays winning, they are willing to take on the personal sacrifices.

“We got a special team, a great locker room. So everybody’s understanding,” Toscano-Anderson said. “We all talk about how deep this team is. We all talk about damn, Klay’s about to come back. Wise is about to come back. [Moses] Moody and [Jonathan Kuminga] are down in the G League. Andre [Iguodala] is sitting out … So it is what it is and we just got to accept it. We talked about this at the beginning of the season: we got to sacrificer the bigger picture, and we all want to win a championship.”

The Warriors’ depth is a big reason why Golden State has gotten off to their league-best 17-2 start. In the instances where the Warriors have started off slow, Kerr has thrown out different combination after different combination in search of something to get his team going. It’s worked all but two times.

In other instances, Kerr has decided to lean more on his No. 3-ranked offense, giving Bjelica, Porter and Damion Lee more minutes off the bench. When he wants a lockdown defense, he turns to Gary Payton II and Juan Toscano-Anderson.

Chiozza, as well as Kuminga, have given them a cushion, while Iguodala has missed time with right knee swelling and Damion Lee has been out for personal reasons.

Even with all of this fluctuation, Golden State hasn’t missed a beat.

So, what happens when Thompson and Wiseman return? Well, Wiseman’s addition shouldn’t change up too much. The Warriors plan on integrating him into their system very slowly, and because of how much they love playing small-ball, Wiseman will most likely just cut down Kevon Looney’s minutes a little and perhaps some of Bjelica’s minutes at center. 

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As for Thompson’s impact, Jordan Poole will move into the sixth man role, leaving Payton, Lee and Chiozza all on the chopping block for minutes. But as Kerr said, those decisions will only be made when they have to be. And that’s not right now.

“It’s tough, and for that reason, I’m not doing it,” Kerr said. “There’s also no point … neither of them is coming back this week or next week. So I’m not going to waste too much energy on it. It will be a very difficult thing.”

Besides, Kerr is making plenty of difficult decisions already.

The tough choices he’s made thus far are paying off. And the general consensus is, as long as the Warriors keep winning, everyone will continue to buy into this unsolidified rotation.

“Luckily we have a great group of guys. Our chemistry and camaraderie is second to none,” Toscano-Anderson said. “I haven’t been on many teams like this where everybody’s gelling like this and there’s not ego. Everyone leaves their ego at the door. That’s the cost of being on a championship-caliber team.”

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