SAN FRANCISCO — The Warriors have two players in health and safety protocols for COVID-19.
Their opponent on Monday night, the Sacramento Kings, has six players in the protocol, plus their head coach, Alvin Gentry.
Teams around the NBA are seeing games — even a week’s worth of contests — postponed because of COVID.
But with the NBA not expected to pause play leaguewide amid this fourth wave, the Warriors and the rest of the association are walking on eggshells.
“It’s nerve-racking for everybody,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said before Monday’s game. “It’s tough to be back in this state, but it’s tough for everybody. “
But amid the chaos, there is an opportunity for the Warriors’ rookies, Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody.
With Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole out for an indefinite period of time, Kuminga will start his second consecutive game Monday. Kerr said that Moody will be a key player off the bench.
Kuminga picked up his first NBA start on Saturday in Toronto. He scored 26 points in 36 minutes in that game with most of the Warriors veterans back in the Bay Area.
Monday’s game will prove a different challenge for the No. 7 overall pick. Instead of playing alongside Chris Chiozza and Juan Toscano-Anderson, he’ll share the court with Steph Curry and Draymond Green.
“This is not 26 points in Toronto… That’s what we’re gonna see every night,” Kerr said of Kuminga. “It’s not so much that he has to play differently. It’s that he has to focus on the most important aspects of the game that are going to help us win.”
“We need him to lock in defensively and defend without fouling. [To] get out and run in transition. Just execute offensively. He’s so dynamic as an athlete, if he just stays patient and picks his spots wisely, he’s gonna produce.”
With Moody, who started Friday in Boston, but only played 10 minutes. Kerr cited the need to get the 19-year-old out of Arkansas “reps”.
“I see a guy who has a good feel for the game. Good natural instincts,” Kerr said of Moody. “As a rookie is it just takes time to gain confidence. You need reps, you need to feel the game over and over again.”
“He needs the experience. And that’s why we will continue to occasionally send him to Santa Cruz [the Warriors’ minor-league affiliate], where he’s done really well. And, you never know — as we’re finding out right now… he’ll get this opportunity.”
» Iron Man Looney
Kevon Looney has played in and started every game for the Warriors this season, and with two starters out of the lineup with COVID and two potential starters still sidelined with long-term injuries, the value of that consistency is not being overlooked by Kerr.
“He’s been a rock for us this year and couldn’t be happier for him,” Kerr said. “Especially the way last couple years went for him physically. He’s put in the time and the effort and he’s earned this. He’s been one of our most consistent performers, and one of the reasons our defenses ranked number one in the league.”
A one-time five-star recruit whose draft stock plummeted after one year at UCLA because of a hip injury, Looney has fought injury issues throughout his career. First his hip, then a core muscle injury that required surgery in May 2020.
In the Warriors’ last five competitive games — so, excluding Saturday’s shorthanded game at Toronto, in which Looney did play — the Warriors’ center is averaging 8.8 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 2 assists per contest and has been a plus-8 player per night over that stretch.
Looney isn’t a player whose impact can be properly explained by stats, but that’s not to say that stats can’t show his impact.
Whether the box score is empty or being filled like in recent games, Kerr is appreciative.
“Loon has really had a great season,” he said.
» Returns for Wiggins and Poole in air
Kerr could not provide an update on when the Warriors expect Poole and Wiggins back in the lineup Monday, leaving the matter to the team’s trainers.
“This is all up to the league and their protocols,” Kerr said. “And since I’m no expert, I’m not gonna go into detail on that. I just basically listened to the training stuff and whatever they say.”
“We’re obviously hoping to get both of them back as quickly as possible. I feel bad for them. I feel bad for everybody around the league who has been sidelined. Obviously, the main thing is health and both guys are doing fine, so hopefully, that continues and we get them back pretty soon.”