As superstar Stephen Curry spoke to reporters after the Golden State Warriors lost a heartbreaker to the Denver Nuggets Thursday night, he inadvertently foreshadowed a shift in the team’s morale.
“When you lose hope in yourself as a team, that’s when the conversation changes,” Curry said. “We’re not there.”
But a Friday morning media report about forward Jonathan Kuminga suggested otherwise. The 2021 lottery pick “has lost faith” in head coach Steve Kerr and believes he will impede him from reaching his full potential, according to Shams Charania and Anthony Slater of The Athletic.
The anonymously sourced information comes after Kuminga scored 16 points in 19 minutes Thursday night and was benched for the entire fourth quarter. The 21-year-old sat and watched as the Warriors went on to blow an 18-point lead in the 130-127 loss.
Kuminga notched an and-1 score midway through the third quarter just for Kerr to take him out less than 30 seconds later. While Thompson and Looney were substituted out at the same time, they both returned in the fourth.
“[Thursday night] was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” a source told The Athletic.
It was the fourth time this season the Warriors have allowed a lead of at least 18 points to end in a loss. The loss also marked yet another instance of Kerr needing to defend a questionable closing lineup.
“He was playing great,” Kerr said of Kuminga after the game. “His normal time to go back in would have been around the five, six-minute mark [of the fourth]. [Andrew Wiggins] was playing great, we were rolling, were up 18, 19, whatever it was. So we just stayed with him. Then at that point, it didn’t feel like the right thing to do. He had been sitting for a while. So I stayed with the group that was out there, and obviously, we couldn’t close it out.”
Kuminga is a more well-rounded player than he was when the Warriors took him with the No. 7 pick three years ago. His run as a consistent starter began on Dec. 14 against the Los Angeles Clippers after veteran Draymond Green‘s indefinite suspension. Kuminga has averaged 14.6 points on 56.6 percent shooting from the field, 5.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 25.5 minutes per game over 11 starts since then.
Kerr has avoided playing Kuminga and Wiggins together, and frontcourt minutes will be in even shorter supply when Green is back in the fold.
The Warriors seem to be at a turning point now, sitting at 11th in the Western Conference with a 16-18 record. Even for young guard Brandin Podziemski, the experience is a new low.
“For me as a rookie, I’ve probably never lost like this,” he told reporters Thursday. “I’ve never had such good wins and such bad losses. I have to lean into the vets and what they think.”
To that effect, Curry attempted to put the team’s disappointment into context for reporters Thursday night.
“It’s frustrating because you do lose a what-if game, we could be 21-13 and a different vibe around the team,” he said after the loss. “But even with the record we are now, we know we can compete. Just a situation where you’re out there with a look of despair on your face because you’re trying to figure out how it happened. We have to find that balance right now for us to give ourselves a chance.”
The Warriors will have an opportunity to put those words to action against the Detroit Pistons Friday night.
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