Steve Kerr On Starting Barnes Over Iggy: “You Could Call Me An Idiot”

The Warriors are contenders in the West with one of the best backcourts in the NBA right now. But they’ve also got a new coach with Steve Kerr and his jiggering of the starting lineup led to some self-effacing comments on Sunday before the Dubs tip off the season opener in Sacramento on Wednesday. Kerr has brought Andre Iguodala off the bench as the point/forward of their second team in the preseason, and they’ve started third-year forward Harrison Barnes despite Barnes’ regression in his second season.

Kerr is leaning towards starting the 22-year-old Barnes, who saw all his shooting percentages and offensive production drop in his second season despite more playing time. Except, with free agent acquisition and backup point guard Shaun Livingston out with a toe injury and doubtful for the start of the season, Kerr wants Iggy to handle the ball and initiate the second team’s offense as their point-forward to start the year.

Iguodala pulls down $12 million a season after signing a four-year, $48 million deal with the Dubs last summer, and the 30-year-old is one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA while possessing an all-around game that makes him eminently coachable, Kerr diplomatically threw himself under the bus for the preseason arrangement that’ll likely continue into the regular season. Per Rusty Simmons at the San Francisco Chronicle, comes Kerr’s self-abuse over the decision:

“I could make an argument that Andre has been our best player, especially over the past two weeks,” Kerr said Sunday, three days before the season opener in Sacramento. “Right now, in scrimmages, he’s the most impactful player we have. Over the past couple of weeks, he has sort of determined who is winning, depending on which side he’s on. From that standpoint, you could call me an idiot.”

While we don’t get to watch scrimmages when the Warriors practice, when Iggy did play during the preseason — as noted by Simmons — he was phenomenal in his sixth man role. He put up a 19-0 assist-to-turnover ratio in a three-game span. That’s not including his status as the winning player when the Warriors are running intra-squad scrimmages.

Kerr’s self-loathing is in jest, though, because he’s as big a fan of what Iguodala does on the court as almost all hardcore basketball observers.

“He’s an incredibly smart player,” Kerr said. “He recognizes everything that is happening on the floor at both ends. He’s a leader, so he knows how to run a team and get guys organized. He is an absolute joy to watch out there. I can’t wait to get him in the game to see him, but we’re trying to put the right combinations out there to help everybody and make the team its best.”

While Iggy could fit in on any basketball court in the land, Barnes played well during intermittent starting duties in his rookie season. When David Lee went down during the 2013 Playoffs, Barnes play well as an undersized starting power forward when the Warriors beat the Nuggets in the opening round and gave eventual Western Conference champs, San Antonio, all they could handle in their Western Conference Semifinal.

Igudola has spent more than a decade in the NBA as an all-star and all-defensive team selection. He’s the glue that can hold a team like Golden State — with their splash brother backcourt handling the majority of the offensive duties — together for a playoff run. He performs all the little plays that usually go overlooked in a box score, but not from a coach or his teammates. Iggy doesn’t need the shine to know he’s doing a good job.

So it’s no wonder the news of an impending stretch coming off the bench turned Iguodala light-hearted. He tried to pretend he was upset, but it’s obvious he’ll do whatever it takes to help his team win — including bench duty until Livingston returns.

“I’ve been in the league for a really long time, and there a lot of stories about anything and little things,” Iguodala said. “If my shoes are tied the wrong way, that can become a story. I’m trying not to make (coming off the bench) a story this year, and I’m trying to win a championship.”

With a selfless player like Iguodala to rely on and the addition of Livingston over the offseason, Kerr and the Dubs have the makings of a title contender in the ruthless West.

Smart to start Barnes over Iggy until Livingston returns?

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