OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) A little ragged and out of rhythm, the Golden State Warriors and their All-Star contingent returned to the practice floor Wednesday night after a weeklong break that was anything but for most of them.
Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, coach Steve Kerr and his staff got two days of real rest following All-Star festivities in New York. They did their best to recharge and refocus, and Kerr said he pushed players in practice as hard as he has since training camp to begin preparing them for the season’s stretch run.
”We’ve turned the corner in terms of the dog days. These guys should all be refreshed,” Kerr said. ”Most of them got away and had a good time and relaxed and now the finish line is in sight. And we know what’s beyond that. That’s where it really gets exciting.”
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The Warriors, an NBA-best 42-9, are hardly easing back anyway.
They host the defending champion San Antonio Spurs on Friday night before beginning a six-game trip. The Spurs are the lone home game for Golden State in the middle of a grueling 11-game stretch that coincided with All-Star weekend, which kept Curry, Thompson, Kerr and the coaching staff bouncing around the bitter-cold Big Apple.
”It was a long weekend, but it was a lot of fun,” Curry said.
Curry, the 3-point contest champion, left his trophy in the team offices upstairs, where employees posed for selfies with it. The Warriors’ All-Star representatives also received a ring for making the Western Conference team.
”Not the ring I had in mind,” Kerr quipped.
Kerr thought the Warriors looked exhausted in the final week before the break, and he encouraged players to take some time off to rest their bodies. He asked Curry and Thompson not to overexert themselves with travel and the dizzying daze that is All-Star weekend, though that was a near-impossible task.
Unlike in previous years, the NBA doubled the days off between games this season after players requested that Commissioner Adam Silver to rework the schedule. The Warriors will have had eight days off before facing San Antonio, which Curry said was critical in his recovery.
Staying fresh will be crucial over the final 31 games. After all, the Warriors wore down late in the season and in the playoffs the past two years.
Kerr said everybody participated in practice and is ”good to go” for Friday night’s game. He said monitoring minutes will be paramount over the final few months, especially because no reinforcements are expected.
With the Warriors on such a roll and team chemistry at an all-time high, it’s unlikely general manager Bob Myers makes a move before Thursday’s noon PST trade deadline – and almost certainly not a major move.
After so many years of being buried in the standings, the Warriors are finally where they want to be.
The tough part will be staying there.
The Warriors have a four-game lead over Memphis in the West and are eight games ahead of the Clippers in the division. They’re aiming for home-court advantage throughout the playoffs, a berth in the Western Conference finals and maybe even a chance to bring the Bay Area its first NBA title in 40 years.
”We’ve got 31 games left to attack and try to keep getting better,” Curry said. ”Our record’s great and I think we’ll have a great record when the season’s over with, but the test for us is just to be playing our best basketball.”
Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP