MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The showdown between the top two teams in the Western Conference is going to be lacking a whole lot of star power.
Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr says Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala all will sit out the nationally televised game on Saturday night in San Antonio against the second-seeded Spurs.
“It’s my call and it’s the right thing to do in terms of the way the season is playing out and the way the minutes have gone and (Kevin Durant’s) injury,” coach Steve Kerr said after a 103-102 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night. “It’s the right thing to do, so we’re doing it.”
The Warriors are 2-4 since Durant went down with a knee injury on Feb. 28, and they have looked little like the seemingly invincible group in search of a third straight trip to the NBA Finals. Curry is shooting a ghastly 31 percent from 3-point range in March, and the schedule could have something to do with that.
The Warriors are at the tail end of a stretch of eight games in eight different cities in 13 days, something Kerr said he’s never seen before. Golden State finished a five-game East Coast road trip with a win in Atlanta on Monday, flew all the way back home for a game against Boston on Wednesday and then got right back on a plane for a tough back-to-back in Minnesota and San Antonio.
“That can’t be healthy for the human body,” Green said. “It’s a very interesting thing that Steve’s doing by sitting us. I can’t say we don’t need it. It’s been a brutal stretch. … It’s a bit much. It’s cool.”
Kerr said he consulted with the athletic training staff on which game would make the most sense to rest the Warriors who play the biggest minutes, and they all settled on San Antonio.
The Spurs will be short-handed as well. Kawhi Leonard will miss the game after being entered in the NBA’s concussion protocol, LaMarcus Aldridge is out indefinitely with a minor heart arrhythmia and Tony Parker remains sidelined with a back injury.
Kerr’s decision likely won’t sit well with fans, and maybe not the league. The topic of rest is a big one across the league, with fans clamoring to see star players and the league recently signing a $24 billion television contract that is built on showcasing the league’s biggest stars.
The Warriors contingent certainly qualifies there, but Kerr said the team has to prioritize health over a single game, even if it does come against a team that is just 1½ games behind them for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference playoff race.
“I don’t know if it’s a statement,” Green said. “I think it’s for us to be better down the stretch. For us to get a little rest and get back in a groove. You’re more or less saying we don’t care if we win or lose this game tomorrow. I don’t think you lose a game to say screw the league. You do that for the better health of your team.”
Commissioner Adam Silver has said the league is very sensitive to players needing as much rest as possible to perform at their best and avoid injury. The league will start the regular season earlier next year so it can reduce the number of back-to-backs and stretches of four games in five nights that teams face.
But the Warriors are living in the moment right now, and this moment called for a breather.
“He’s done it before,” Curry said. “It’s obviously a different situation with San Antonio and whatnot, but we’ve had a tough schedule and he made that decision. Even if we tried to suit up tomorrow he’s not going to play us, so it is what it is.”