SAN FRANCISCO — The path to the NBA draft lottery is all quicksand, mile after dark mile of it, with long days that often feel pointless and tedious nights that siphon the spirit.
That’s where the Warriors are. It’s how they are living.
It’s one thing to believe everything will improve dramatically in the future, quite another to consistently leave the court with the unsatisfying feeling that comes with a nine-game losing streak over a 17-day period in that languid period — often referred to as the dog days — between the holidays and the All-Star break.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr feels it as much as anyone with the possible exception of Draymond Green. Kerr won as a player in Chicago. Won as a player in San Antonio. Won as a first-time NBA coach, with the Warriors.
This is … brutal.
“The losing part is the hardest part,” Kerr said. “I mean, you can pick apart the details. The defense tonight, we struggled to get stops. But we’re also playing the No. 1 offense in the league and they’ve been a tough matchup for us this year.
“What I don’t like is just the feeling of things snowballing on us. We’ve been competitive for the most part this year. Right now, we’re in a tailspin and we’ve got to stop it.”
There has been considerable regression over the past couple of games. The Warriors were rudderless while being blown out by the impetuous Grizzlies, 122-102, Sunday in Memphis. And they often were flat on Tuesday at Chase Center.
Green, so often the emotional center of the team, flashes his trademark energy only occasionally. This is the first losing season of his eight-year career. And the toll it is taking is visible. He snagged three rebounds in 27 minutes Tuesday, bringing his total over the last four games to nine — a number he exceeded 16 times last regular season.
With nothing at stake, Draymond is not Draymond. Can’t be that guy we’ve seen demolishing opposing offenses and lighting a flame beneath his teammates.
Then there is Willie Cauley-Stein, the 7-foot center who came over from Sacramento seeking not only a new environment but also a new experience. He’s 1-for-2.
“It’s a different circumstance,” he said, referring to four losing seasons with the Kings. “We’re building and just weathering storms. This is coming out of left field. Over there, you kind of knew what was going on.
“So, it’s about being a professional. Even though it’s not going well, we still show up to work and try to get better. Just keep on working on your stuff because it’s going to get better eventually. I mean, we’re at the bottom. It’s only going to go up.”
This is a franchise that, four years ago, lost nine games over the course of an entire season. Their 9-33 record explains the terse look on Kerr’s face, the agitation in the voice of CEO Joe Lacob, who late Tuesday night said he “hates this feeling.”
It explains Kerr’s plea for Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, the sidelined All-Stars, to spend as much time as they can around this season. Neither will play anytime soon, but seeing their faces amounts to a glimpse of the future.
That’s where the Warriors are, and all coping mechanisms are being summoned.
“Even though we’re losing these games, it’s not life or death,” Paschall said. “It’s not the end of the world. We still get to go out there and play basketball.
“But, it’s not fun losing at all.”
The rookie has perspective. Most of the Warriors have it. All of them need it to endure a season such as this.
Owning the worst record in the league is an exorbitant price to pay today for a better tomorrow, and the Warriors are paying it in every way. Losses are piling up. There is no joy.
And no way of knowing when there might be.
How Warriors are paying steep price today for promise of better tomorrow originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area