The Warriors entered Saturday an astounding 24-0 after surviving a double-overtime thriller on Friday night against the Celtics. This time, they managed to do it with one of their marquee stars on the sidelines — and that’s bringing even more attention to 35-year-old interim coach Luke Walton.
Guard Klay Thompson, who shoots over 44 percent from behind the arc, sat out in Boston after spraining an ankle in Golden State’s prior game. To be fair, the Warriors still had reigning MVP Stephen Curry and Draymond Green in their starting lineup, so it’s certainly not as if they were devoid of talent.
But Walton kept his team poised despite a furious fourth-quarter comeback by the Celtics, and the Warriors remain unbeaten — despite the fact that usual head coach Steve Kerr remains sidelined due to offseason back surgeries.
“Luke is a genuine guy,” Draymond Green recently said of Golden State’s interim man. “He’s the same guy he was as an assistant coach, and guys respect that. It goes a long way, for sure.”
As talented as the Warriors are, the 24-0 mark is no small feat. And that’s bringing significant praise to Walton from many around the NBA, including former defensive stalwart Shane Battier:
If I’m a bad NBA team, I open the bank vault for Luke Walton. Give my man some credit here.
— Shane Battier (@ShaneBattier) December 12, 2015
There is still no specific timetable for Kerr’s return, so Walton will retain his current job for the foreseeable future. But whenever it ends, the work he’s done in the first two months of the 2015-16 season could well provide him with a permanent head-coaching opportunity somewhere else.
Ben DuBose is a veteran sports reporter who has followed the Houston Rockets and the NBA since Hakeem Olajuwon was Akeem Olajuwon. He writes for both SheridanHoops and ClutchFans, an independent Rockets blog. You can follow him on Twitter.