CLEVELAND (AP) — Steve Kerr doesn't like being the bad guy, and empathizes with fans who get upset when NBA teams rest star players.
Golden State's coach has a solution — less games.
Following the Warriors' overtime loss in Boston on Thursday night, Kerr sat superstar Steph Curry along with starters Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Andrew Wiggins on Friday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
But even without their top players, the Warriors made 23 3-pointers and stunned the Cavs 120-114 to cap a five-game trip at 3-2.
Curry, who recently returned after missing 11 games with a shoulder injury, played 43 minutes and scored 29 points in the Warriors' 121-118 loss to the Celtics in a rematch of last season's NBA Finals won by Golden State.
Kerr's decision meant fans were deprived of maybe seeing Curry put on a shooting clinic like he did at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in last year's All-Star Game. It was Golden State's only visit to Cleveland.
“I feel terrible for fans who buy tickets expecting to see someone play and they don’t get to see that person play,” Kerr said during his pregame news conference. “It’s a brutal part of the business. It’s why I’m going to continue to advocate for 72-game seasons.”
Kerr's rationale is that a shorter season would better protect players' health, balance the schedule and improve the overall quality of play. Most importantly, it would keep players fresh for the playoffs when the games mean more.
“You take 10 games off the schedule, it always feels like with 10 games left in the year everybody’s sort of had it anyways,” he said. “That creates enough rest where we don’t have to have some of these crazy situations. I think you’d see way fewer games missed from players.”
Jordan Poole was the only starter to face the Cavs and finished with 32 points as the Warriors handed Cleveland its most embarrassing loss.
Kerr has been juggling his rotation lately while trying to balance bringing players back from injuries and getting them adequate rest. Curry was out with his shoulder while Wiggins missed 15 games with a strained leg muscle and a non-COVID illness.
Kerr has also been trying to snap his team out of a season-long funk. The Warriors are 22-23 and just 5-18 on the road.
He said the decision to rest his four players against the Cavs had nothing to do with the loss to the Celtics.
“You can’t operate that way,” he said. "I know it’s a big topic around the league. We have so much more data. So much more awareness of players’ vulnerability. It’s proven that if guys are banged up, back-to-backs, players are much more likely to get injured and miss more games and that’s why you’re seeing it league wide.
“Everybody is being cautious when a guy is banged up. You’re just playing the long game.”
While the Warriors are severely short-handed, the Cavs are sitting star guard Donovan Mitchell for the second straight game with a strained groin.
Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff believes there's a bigger benefit to giving players more rest. It extends careers, therefore giving fans the chance to seem them play longer.
“You look at these guys and they’re playing 15 years to some guys 20 years," he said. “So it’s a trade off of five games a season and you get five more years of these guys playing. So I think in the long run, the fans get their money’s worth because guys do get to extend their career and play more years.
"I know from our standpoint where you only get to see a team once a year. I know that can be frustrating for fans if those guys don’t play but I do think for the greater good of the game, getting these superstars and elite players for multiple years and multiple more seasons, I think is only good for the game.”
Cleveland was also without reserve guard Ricky Rubio, who recently returned after missing a year following knee surgery. The Cavs are just being cautious with Rubio, who played 12 minutes against the Grizzlies.