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Warriors tweak starting five amid first unit’s issues

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

The Warriors are making a change to their starting lineup. A big change — though mostly literally.

Center Kevon Looney is moving into the opening five and replacing James Wiseman as the team will try out a veteran lineup that plays better defense.

The five with Wiseman — surrounded by Stephen Curry, Kelly Oubre Jr., Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green — has been a minus-59 together, highlighted (or lowlighted) by Saturday night’s 19-2 deficit just a few minutes into a loss in Utah.

“The last two games have been really disappointing defensively. Particularly right out of the gate, first quarter, we gave up [40 points] to the Knicks, [38] to Utah,” Steve Kerr said before the Warriors hosted the Timberwolves on Monday. “So I’m going to go with my veteran center, my veteran group together. That group happens to be our best defensive five on the season. The hope is we can get off to a better start.”

Kerr has said consistently the Warriors need to be a good defensive team for this season to be successful. Being the 24th-worst defense, in terms of total points allowed, has brought them to 8-8 entering the Chase Center matchup.

Wiseman, the electric rookie center, does not yet have the strength to be a well-regarded rim protector, though the athleticism is there. Kerr talked with the 19-year-old Monday morning to alert him of the switch and stressed it is not a demotion; “it’s simply a part of his development.”

It will be a setback, though, for the long-term future of the team, which will need Curry, Green, Wiseman and eventually Klay Thompson to mesh. With Wiseman on the court with the other starters, Curry’s usage rate is at just 22 percent. It’s possible that adding more defense to the unit will help the offense, too.

“We’ve got a lot of moving parts,” said Kerr, who also could have pulled Oubre for a better shooter, such as Damion Lee. “We’re trying to develop young players and be a playoff team, be a contender. And we’re trying to do all that at once. And so part of that process is going to include occasional changes to lineups combinations, whatever that means. I’m very confident that this ultimately will be a good part of James’ development. He’s still going to play, but it gives him a slightly different role.”


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