SAN FRANCISCO — Steph Curry practiced with the Warriors on Friday morning and there’s a chance he’ll return to their lineup for Saturday night’s rematch with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Head coach Steve Kerr said Steph looked good in practice and should be considered questionable for Saturday while he recovers from a sprained knee. He’s missed the last two games.
“Some of it will depend on how he responds to today’s practice,” Kerr said.
The Warriors will certainly be without Gary Payton II as he recovers from an ankle sprain suffered in the team’s 128-109 loss to the Thunder on Thursday. An MRI revealed no major damage, “but there were some things on the MRI that he felt, in terms of pain, to rule him out for tomorrow.”
Kerr said Payton won’t be out long and he’s considered day-to-day.
The Warriors are also without Draymond Green, who will be out for the rest of the homestand while he serves his five-game suspension for putting Rody Gobert in a chokehold.
There might be temptation to blame their five-game losing streak on the absence of key players, but Kerr won’t take the bait. He said the Warriors have been searching for their identity all year.
He said he’s been particularly unhappy with the pace.
“We always had an identity here, pace and ball movement,” Kerr said. “Right now we’re (15th) in the league in pace and we’re not playing fast. The ball doesn’t feel like it’s moving well. I think those two things can go hand in hand.”
Watching the tape, Kerr said he too often sees his ball carriers moving slowly up the floor to to begin a possession.
“We’re walking the ball up the floor, sometimes even on missed shots,” he said. “We’re just jogging up the floor. We have to throw it ahead and create more advantages.”
He added, “It’s obviously way harder to create an advantage without Steph. But we have to be able to do so and those are the things we worked on (at practice) today.”
While Curry is out, rookie Brandin Podziemski has been getting more opportunities. Kerr has been loving what he’s seen from the 20-year-old shooting guard and said Podziemski could play some point guard at some point as well.
“The beauty of Brandon is he can play in any lineup or any spot,” Kerr said.
If the Warriors can get the best version of Jonathan Kuminga on a nightly basis, it could solve some of their problems in the attacking end.
Taking more direct routes to the basket without Green or Curry on the floor, Kuminga knocked down a season-high 21 points and six rebounds on Thursday night.
“I had a couple talks with certain people,” he said afterwards. “Just to keep me in check, keep motivating me. I felt like we were down a couple people and it’s something we really needed.”
Asked to follow up on what it means to keep him in check, he said, “just keeping me involved, clearing my mind.”
Kerr was asked about Kuminga’s mindset on Friday.
“JK is a young player so he’s going to be up and down a little bit,” the coach said. “The biggest thing with him is just to bring the focus and the energy and the force. When he’s going downhill on a drive or a cut, crashing the glass, it makes a huge impact. You feel his athleticism and his power. We need that.”
The 21-year-old led the NBA in preseason scoring with 109 points and was second with 21.8 points per game. He’s averaging 12.3 points per game since the regular season started.
“He makes our team way more dynamic,” said Kevon Looney. “Last night we saw that. He was getting to the rim, hitting 3s when he’s open, and attacking the paint.”
Looney said the guys have been telling him to “keep playing with a certain energy, which is big to him, just playing with a lot of pace… Sometimes when things aren’t going your way you kind of get in your own head sometimes. With him we just want him to stay confident, stay positive and keep going hard.”
Andrew Wiggins is still searching for some of that confidence.
The slumping forward said he’s trying to remind himself of how good of a player he’s been over 10 years in the NBA. Even if he’s averaging a career-low 10.5 points per game while shooting a career-low 13.5% from 3-point range.
Asked if he’s ever had a slump like this, he said, “No.”
“Just keep believing in myself, tell myself I’m here for a reason,” he said. “I’m in a funk. We still have 69 games left. Have a short-term memory and keep looking forward to the next game.”
Playing in the final season of his contract, Klay Thompson is another one looking for confidence.
A career 42% 3-point shooter, Thompson is shooting 33% from downtown in the early going. He went 1-for-6 from 3-point range and 1-for-10 from the field on Thursday.
“Klay has frequently started out seasons very cold,” Kerr said. “If you go back and look at his career, more often than not he has started it off slowly. I think what’s happening this year, the losing, when you combine a losing streak with a cold streak, that’s especially demoralizing, especially for a competitor like Klay. The guy lives and breathes for winning.
“Every season of his career when he’s gotten off to a slow start, he’s found it. There’s no doubt he’s going to find it.”