Kerr displays Warriors’ latest version of Strength In Numbers

SAN FRANCISCO — Prior to the Warriors’ 123-109 season-opening win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night at Chase Center, Steve Kerr made it clear he didn’t expect Klay Thompson or Draymond Green to flirt with playing 30 minutes. Steph Curry, Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole were good to race up and down the floor, but Green and Thompson still had a ways to go.

Part of that course is circumstance. Thompson only played one preseason game while overcoming a mental block of scrimmaging and playing pickup games, and the training staff was focused on strengthening his right calf. Green missed two preseason games while he stayed away from the team after his practice incident with Poole.

Tuesday night also might have been a precursor of how this season will play out, both in the preservation of the Warriors’ veterans and Kerr digging into his depth.

“We’ll have to ease into it a little bit, but we’re planning on playing a lot of people anyway this year,” Kerr said before the win. “We’ve got a lot of depth and we want to use it, so we’ve got to be able to rely on it here tonight and the first couple weeks of the season.”

Kerr didn’t waste any time. He sent 10 players out on the floor in the first quarter alone. Poole was the first off the bench, coming in for Thompson with a little over seven minutes left. He was followed by James Wiseman and JaMychal Green entering the game for Draymond and Kevon Looney. A little over a minute later, Jonathan Kuminga replaced Wiggins. Soon after, Donte DiVincenzo entered for Curry.

The 11th man off the bench was Moses Moody, who finally saw action less than two minutes into the second quarter. On the second offensive possession he was part of and the first time he let it fly, he swished a corner 3-pointer. That’s a shot he thrived taking during the preseason.

Moody throughout the preseason was one of the first reserves to come in. But in the season opener, he was the final piece of Kerr’s 11-man rotation and played only eight minutes. Moody did miss the final preseason game with right calf soreness and was wrapped in a heating pad when on the bench against the Lakers.

But that’s also simply how it’s going to go sometimes.

“I already talked to the team about the idea that over the season, everybody is going to get their opportunities, but what that level of commitment to the team requires is understanding that certain nights aren’t going to be your night,” Kerr said. “I think one of the reasons we’ve had a lot of success over the years, I know that the 2014-15 team … that ‘Strength In Numbers’ philosophy. Guys just committed and understood that over time, everybody would contribute and get their chance.

“It’s tough. All these guys have individual goals. They want to play and there are going to be nights when they just have to move forward and keep working. That’s the plan.”

That 2014-15 team, the first Warriors championship squad in 40 years, was fresh to the scene. There were stars, but they were the surprise team. They crashed the scene and never turned back.

They also fully bought in. Sure, they didn’t know better. They also had a handful of players who weren’t new to the league, knew what it took to win and badly wanted to be a champion.

One of those players was Marreese Speights, who was in his seventh season as a pro and had never made it out of the first round of the NBA playoffs.

“That was the key of the team, to really have two starting lineups,” Speights told NBC Sports Bay Area on Tuesday night two hours before tipoff. “We just competed against each other every day at practice. A well-balanced second unit with a Hall of Famer, one who’s going to be a Hall of Famer in Andre Iguodala.

“Then you had” [Shaun Livingston]and you had [Leandro Barbosa]myself and [Festus Ezeli]. It’s basically like having two teams over there. It’s not a first unit, it’s not a second unit. Anyone of the guys in the second unit could have got in the first unit and did pretty good. That was definitely a big part of that season.”

Does Speights see similarities in this Warriors team, even though it’s constructed much differently in age?

“They got young guys, but they’re in a system,” Speights said. “Any guy who’s come over in the system and adapted to it and be OK with sacrificing your role or whatever, leaving your ego at the door, you’re going to be successful. That just shows the guys they got, they young talent they got.

“It’s going to be exciting.”

Speights, Barbosa, Livingston and Iguodala all were veterans by the time the first version of Strength In Numbers was created. Ezeli was the pup.

Iguodala, when healthy again, will be the mentor of the bench mob, followed by Green at 32 years old. Poole just began his fourth season and is 23. Wiseman is in Year 3, but this basically is the 21-year-old’s second go at the pros and hopefully his first fully healthy campaign. Moody and Kuminga are both only 20 and were rookies a year ago. DiVincenzo, 25, does have a championship pedigree and is in his fifth season but his first with the Warriors.

In total, 12 Warriors were given minutes. Second-round pick Ryan Rollins made his NBA debut, and first-round pick Patrick Baldwin Jr. was the only active player stuck to the bench as he deals with a thumb issue.

Nearly every player provided something in the win. Curry took over when it mattered most, scoring 33 points and hitting dagger 3-pointers in the fourth quarter. Wiggins made four threes, scored 20 points and added six rebounds and four assists. Thompson put up 18 points, Draymond did what he does with four points, five rebounds and five assists and Looney was a game-high plus-30 in plus-minus.

Off the bench, Poole led the way with 12 points. Golden State’s newest Green, along with Wiseman and DiVincenzo, each had eight points. Wiseman and Green also grabbed seven rebounds. Moody gave the Warriors five points in limited minutes. Kuminga and Rollins were the only two who didn’t get on the board.

RELATED: Wiggins’ scoring evolution evident in Warriors’ season opener

Curry’s 33 minutes were the most for the Warriors. He was followed by Wiggins (29), Poole (28), Draymond Green (25), JaMychal Green (23), DiVincenzo (22), Looney (21), Thompson (20), Wiseman (17), Kuminga (13) , Moody (8) and Rollins (2).

“There’s a vibe of that,” Curry said when asked about comparisons to the 2014-15 Warriors. “You have 11 guys who probably deserve an opportunity to play. It’ll be key for us to be the team that we want to be throughout the regular season and identify what the best rotations are come playoff time.

“The ’14-15 team was a little older through the bench. A little more experience and guys playing different roles. But that was where ‘Strength In Numbers’ was born. To have the ability, especially early in the year, to confidently put out 10 guys and expect them to contribute, expect them to learn and grow in their roles — that definitely has similarities.”

The start to a new dawn is in front of us for the Warriors with their mixture of young and old, and with that is the rebirth of Strength In Numbers.

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