San Francisco Chronicle
Kerr unsure of when Payton, Wiggins will bolster defense
DALLAS — The Golden State Warriors will be without forward Andre Iguodala for at least the next four weeks, and head coach Steve Kerr can only hope two other key stoppers will return soon.
A day after the team announced Iguodala had wrist surgery Monday that would sideline him for at least the rest of the regular season, Kerr said Wednesday that Gary Payton II’s core-muscle injury rehab is “going well” and the team hopes he’ll be back on the court “before too long.” Payton, who hasn’t played since being traded from Portland to Golden State on Feb. 9, is expected to be re-evaluated Thursday.
Andrew Wiggins, meanwhile, missed his 17th straight game Wednesday night in Dallas as he continues to deal with an ongoing “family matter.” There’s no timetable for his return.
“Those two guys were really key players for us during the championship run a year ago,” Kerr said. “You can feel it. We can feel it. A lot of these games where we’re a little short defensively — literally and figuratively. So to get a couple of guys back who can help us take our defense to another notch, if we can get to that stage, get into the playoffs, give ourselves a chance.
“We just won a title last year, so we know what we’re capable of. But we have to get there, and we’re in a dogfight with a lot of teams just trying to get there.”
Both would provide an immediate boost for a Warriors team that struggles mightily on defense away from Chase Center. Golden State has a defensive rating of 108.0 at home entering Wednesday’s games, which ranked third in the NBA. However, its defensive rating of 119.7 on the road was third worst in the league.
“I wish I had a clear answer,” Kerr said when asked about the Warriors’ defensive issues on the road. “The numbers are just shocking on the road in terms of the 3-point variants. When we go on the road, it seems like teams make every 3-point shot, even guys that aren’t considered 3-point shooters, and it’s happened all season long.”
Kerr envisions improvement when Wiggins and Payton eventually return.
“If I’m 4 feet away from you as I challenge your shot, it’ll feel a little different to you if Andrew Wiggins is 4 feet away from you . ... He’s got long arms and can cloud your vision,” he said. “I think some of the advanced metrics don’t reflect the quality of the shot challengers we’ve got on the road.”
Iguodala, 39, appeared in just eight games this season.
“I texted with him the day of his surgery a couple of days ago,” Kerr said. “He’s in good spirits, but it’s a really tough way for this season to play out. We really planned for him to be ready for the stretch run.”