Warriors outline lofty goals for season’s final weeks

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SAN FRANCISCO — We’ve reached the homestretch of the Warriors’ lost season.

Thank goodness.

The final 27 games of the regular season will start Thursday, but the Warriors’ long All-Star break didn’t serve time to reflect on everything that has gone wrong for the team so far, though. Frankly, there might not have been enough time for that.

No, instead it was an opportunity for the Dubs to take stock for the first time in months (wait, is that guy on our team?) and put together a to-do list for the final eight weeks of the campaign.

Draymond Green, for instance, has only one item on his list.

“A buyout… Go to a playoff team,” Green — who claims to have never been on a losing team in his basketball career — said Wednesday.

Green sold the joke well — I assure you it was a joke — but Warriors coach Steve Kerr had a more serious attitude towards games 56 through 82.

Draft pick be damned, he wants his team to create some good vibes heading into next season.

Kerr outlined the team’s more specific goals for the media Wednesday:

• Better incorporate Andrew Wiggins into the team

• Re-integrate Stephen Curry

• Create a springboard into the 2020-2021 season

Obvious? Perhaps. But going three-for-three won’t be so easily managed.

Let’s start with Wiggins. You can forgive the Warriors for feeling vindicated by the wing’s first three games in blue and yellow. Yes, it’s a small sample size, but it doesn’t take a full season to see that the former Timberwolf is a clear-cut fit in the Warriors system — or, at least, that he’s a much better fit than D’Angelo Russell was ever going to be. He’s averaging 23 points per game in those contests, is filling up the other box-score columns, and has helped the Warriors look like, well, the Warriors once again. I’ve had multiple neutral observers tell me that Wiggins has played some of the best basketball of his career in his three games with the Warriors.

Yes, things are off to a great start.

But few things in this league are truly perfect and Wiggins still has plenty to pick up and learn with his new team, particularly on the defensive end — an area where he has garnered a less than sterling reputation in his career.

Green, for one, doesn’t care about Wiggins’ backstory, though — he set a high bar for him after Dubs’ practice:

“The couple games that he’s been here, I’ve seen him match up with some pretty good guys, and he’s shown a lot of promise on that side of the ball,” Green said of Wiggins. “[He] Reminds me a lot of Kevin [Durant] as a defender… And Kevin is a great defender… They’re both long and lanky, but agile [and] can move. Skinny guys, but not weak.

“I think he can be an All-Defensive player… That’s a next-year goal… [But] That’s one of my goals for him. As a leader of this team, that’s one of the things I really want to push him on.”

As Green noted and Warriors fans can attest after a few games, Wiggins is a gifted scorer, averaging nearly 20 points a game for his career.

“It’s not a f****** bum we’re talking about. I’m not gonna sit here and act like we found some diamond in the rough. This is the No. 1 pick. He’s averaged 20. He’s a player.”

But pair that scoring with solid defense (perhaps All-Defensive team is too high a bar) and you have a possible elite player in this league.

It’s at least feasible. Wiggins will never be asked to carry the same offensive load the Timberwolves put on him — he’ll find easier baskets in the Warriors’ offense, which should leave him room to improve his defense.

Of course, there are nuances in the Warriors’ offense that Wiggins will still need to learn, especially with Curry’s return to the fold, but if in the final weeks of the season the Warriors can see marked improvement on defense — if effort and increasing familiarity can increase his lacking awareness on that side of the ball — then the homestretch will be considered a success.

And about that Curry return: it’s imminent. The Warriors expect him on the court early next month.

When he does take the court, he’s going to find a team that is dramatically different than the one he was playing with at the beginning of the season.

And that team was dramatically different than the team Curry effectively played with the last five years.

“Steph needs to figure this group out, and vice versa,” Kerr said.

That process is already underway. Curry has been traveling with the team for the last few weeks, and Kerr said he can already see his effect the superstar’s presence is having on the squad’s young players.

“Post practice, it’s a clinic for younger players on how you have to conduct yourself as an NBA player,” Kerr said. “ The work that you put in once practice is over is really the bar for how good you want to become and how serious you’re taking this stuff.”

“I’ve never seen anybody work harder than Steph in his post-practice workouts. Now we’re seeing the younger guys looking over there and seeing him… it’s beautiful to watch.

“I think our team is getting a bounce from that,” Kerr said. “A bounce of energy and a reminder that better days are ahead.”

Kerr doesn’t want to have that bounce be merely emotional, though — he wants to see better play on the court; for the Baby Dubs to start winning games at the end of this year so they don’t have to learn at the beginning of next season.

And if goals one and two on his list are achieved — if Wiggins can look like a steal (while swiping steals) and Curry takes no time to once again look like the transcendent player he is — that might just come to pass.

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