OAKLAND -- Not 24 hours after publicly calling out his players, Warriors coach Mark Jackson looked as relaxed and calm as ever.
After Monday's practice, he had a shootout with a couple assistant coaches. He drilled a 3-pointer from the right wing, then shot a stare at onlooker Stephen Curry, who had questioned Jackson's range.
"This is what I do," he snapped to his starting point guard.
Mark Jackson has this right. It's not a time for panic.
No, things are not going well for the Warriors these days. They're losing games they should win, and in a fashion that eats at hairlines. Turnovers. Missed layups. Shoddy defense. But the only reason for panic is if Andre Iguodala will be out much longer.
The Warriors are not in a bad position. This is what usually happens when you lose your best defender and a key creator on offense. Just ask Memphis, which has tumbled down the standings with the loss of Marc Gasol to injury.
Golden State is in survival mode. But as bad as things have been, the Warriors were just three games behind the No. 4 Los Angeles Clippers entering play Monday. The Warriors, along with the Clippers, have played more road games (15) than any teams in the league. Golden State has played most of its 25 games without its top six players intact. Yet the Warriors are 13-12. They've played only four games against the Eastern Conference, where a team can get fat.
What really matters right now is that the Warriors develop during this rough spell.
Jackson's frustration after the Warriors' 106-102 loss at Phoenix on Sunday was viewed by many as a red flag for a team coming undone. But what you really saw was one of the NBA's good young coaches at work, a skilled motivator in action.
"The way he communicates is rare," ESPN NBA analyst Tim Legler said in a phone interview. "That's a big part of being a coach. Inspiring people to go out and play hard and play together, that's a skill not a lot of people have."
Think about that: To a man, the Warriors were expressing the need to play harder and better after a close loss while playing short-handed on the road against a hot team.
The Warriors will be all right.
Iguodala will come back, Curry won't have to generate offense by himself, and Jackson won't have to rely on the shaky ballhandling of Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes. Golden State will have an elite perimeter defender back on the floor.
What's more, Barnes will go back to the bench, where the Warriors have been really hurting for consistent play. That should help keep the minutes of the key players down -- which is one reason they aren't going all-out all of the time.
This part of the schedule is about the Warriors establishing some intangibles that will bear fruit in March and April. And as irritating as it is to watch an up-tempo team succumb to a post-up addiction, it should be encouraging that the team's focus is in the right place.
"We've seen us play better basketball," Jackson said Monday. "I just don't think right now we've put together 48 minutes of our brand of basketball. It's not acceptable. ... We're aware of it. But the only way out of it is to do something about it. Too often now we continue to make the same mistakes. But we understand where we are, and we'll be just fine. There's no question about that. But you've got to state the obvious."
Even at full strength the Warriors have issues. They are 5-1 when their six best players are available (Curry, Thompson, Iguodala, Barnes, David Lee and Andrew Bogut). But the bench has Golden State fans lighting up the online trade machines.
The Warriors' chances rest on their ability to defend and rebound. That's a character thing, and it is of utmost importance as this roster with three new players among the top nine develops that psyche. As long as that is being developed, survival mode is a good thing for the Warriors. It ingrains the qualities they will need to really be good in the Western Conference.
Golden State has a coach that won't accept it another way. It has players who still believe unequivocally in their coach. The Warriors will be all right.
"This is a new experience for everybody," Curry said. "We have crazy expectations for ourselves inside our of our locker room of how we're supposed to play. And when we don't do it and we start to lose games, frustration is going to build because it's a new experience. We've shown glimpses of it. ... We just haven't been able to put it all together. But we can."
Contact Marcus Thompson II at firstname.lastname@example.org.