Warriors switch up practice routine, say it pays dividends

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — They call it “The Golden Hour.”

Each day after their film session, an hour goes up on the scoreboard clock and the Golden State Warriors break into small groups to begin working at three separate, 20-minute stations: on the court, in the weight room or with the training staff.

Coach Steve Kerr and his assistants met during the summer along with Stephen Curry and Draymond Green to review how they might practice more efficiently and with greater focus, and the resulting “Golden Hour” has meant so much to Golden State’s success so far.

“The idea was not, ‘Oh my God, we’re not good,’ the idea was, ‘We need some fresh ideas, we need some new blood.’ We felt it as an organization, so we made some moves to address that," Kerr said of the efforts by his new-look staff. “A lot of this came through really kind of reassessing everything about our program and putting our heads together in collaboration with the players, with the training staff and figuring out a format that really would allow us to flourish.”

New assistant coach for player development Jama Mahlalela and fellow new assistant Kenny Atkinson have helped lead the transformation alongside David Taylor -- the team’s first-year director of player health and performance — and Vice President of Player Health and Performance Rick Celebrini.

Nobody was quite sure how well it might work.

“We kind of fell into it,” said Mahlalela, who landed in the Bay Area after spending nine years coaching with the Toronto Raptors. “We all just kind of brainstormed and were thinking through just general sort of thoughts of how do we be efficient and how do we make the best situation possible for the players. ... We tried to find solutions, ‘Well, what do we do differently?’ and came up with this ‘Golden Hour’ idea, and it’s gone off really, really well."

The Warriors haven't been alone in looking for ways to refine their approaches.

In Detroit, coach Dwane Casey uses a similar system to Golden State's with his players in mind.

“In today’s game you have to be innovative,” Casey said. “We do some of the same things, 30 and 30, 30 minutes in the weight room, 30 minutes on the court, break up the groups.”

Casey said gone are the days of 2 1/2-hour NBA practices in the middle of a season when it’s so important to balance on-court time with recovery and giving players a chance to catch their breath.

Indiana coach Rick Carlisle takes into account that many of his athletes live about 30 minutes away from the practice facility, a stark difference from his days in Dallas when almost everybody lived nearby.

Many teams have moved to pregame walkthroughs rather than early shootarounds to give players the full morning before a full work day.

“There's been a lot of adjustments, particularly in the last couple of years. COVID has had a great influence on all walks of life,” Carlisle said. “It started off as a thing that was really influenced by the testing protocols where on game days in many instances you could not have a shootaround.”

Warriors players are certainly thrilled to have more time to themselves.

Green figures Golden State has eliminated 20 or 30 minutes of what he called "dead time.”

“It’s a beautiful thing,” he said. "At this point in my career I don’t need to be on the court all day, every day, I need to get in, get my work in, get to practice and get out. I have a family, I want to go home.”

Another benefit of the Warriors' schedule is it's less taxing on the young players. Mahlalela noted that typically in the NBA those athletes show up early to do extra work they aren’t getting in game situations, watch film, cool down and then have to warm back up for practice -- “it just doesn’t make much sense physiologically for their bodies.”

Curry appreciates the efforts to keep evolving.

“These last few years we’ve really had the first kind of consistent presence from a sports performance perspective," he said. "That definitely helps because they know us as players, they know our coaching style and there’s a lot of trust in how they collaborate to put us in the best position to be successful out on the court.”

Kerr called the makeup of his roster a big factor in making this work: Golden State has a mix of players still learning the system and veterans familiar with the schemes.

"The Golden Hour” has been a popular tweak.

“This is the perfect team for practices to flow like this, extremely efficient and beneficial to all the different levels of players we have,” associate head coach Mike Brown said.

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