Key injury loss provides critical juncture for Steve Kerr and the Golden State Warriors

Portland Trail Blazers v Golden State Warriors
Portland Trail Blazers v Golden State Warriors / Thearon W. Henderson/GettyImages

At the start of Tuesday night's final In-Season Tournament group game against the Sacramento Kings, Moses Moody wasn't even in the Golden State Warriors rotation. Yet by the end, his benching late in the final period became one of the talking points of the team's season to date.

Steve Kerr's decision to pull Moody after back-to-back threes and 11 fourth-quarter points was egregious, only made worse by the Warriors' eventual 124-123 loss. It was a blatant mistake, though not necessarily a surprising one given how Kerr has often treated Moody over the last 18 months.

A key mid-to-long term injury to Gary Payton II provides a critical juncture for Steve Kerr, Moses Moody and the entire Golden State Warriors franchise.

Whatever Moody does, which in the eyes of fans is often good, it never appears to be enough for Kerr to warrant him more minutes. To the head coach's credit, after sleeping on it and undoubtedly hearing the wave of criticism, he acknowledged his decision was a terrible one.

"“I didn’t have my best game as a coach… Should’ve left Moses in the game… Watching the tape over again that was a really terrible decision," Kerr said to 95.7 The Game's Willard and Dibs on Wednesday."

After that acknowledgment, now is the time for action. There's a stark contrast between how Kerr speaks about Moody publicly, and how much actual on-court opportunity that equates to. The gap needs to close.

Moses Moody
Moses Moody in action for the Golden State Warriors / Christian Petersen/GettyImages

This critical juncture has been heightened by the loss of Gary Payton II, who's departure from Tuesday's game opened up the chance for Moody to star in the fourth. The defensive-minded guard has a torn right calf and is expected to miss a significant period.

Payton has regularly served as a roadblock for Moody, often rightly so given his stature as one of the league's premier perimeter defenders. The 30-year-old's absence will be sorely felt, but on the bright side it does provide a period to get an answer on Moody once and for all.

The time to hide behind development is over. Moody is ready to play. You utilize him or you don't. If he can't get a consistent 20 minutes per game across Payton's absence, he never will. The 21-year-old is shooting 49.5% from the floor, over 38% from three, is an improved defender (particularly off the ball), and has a positive net rating in a team that's 8-10 -- what more does he need to do?

If Moody can't earn significant playing time across the next six weeks...pack it up. For the good of his career if nothing else, send him somewhere where his skillset will be coveted. The entire Moody situation is an encapsulation of Kerr's mantra of trusting in veteran players over younger ones.

Although not as important as the Moody scenario, Kerr's philosophy will also be tested over the course of Chris Paul's absence (which is expected to be short). He went to veteran Cory Joseph against the Kings -- does that continue or do those minutes go to a rookie in Brandin Podziemski?

This is an incredibly crucial point for the Warriors. Not only do they need to stack some wins in the short-term, but their entire future could hinge on Kerr's willingness to adapt. That starts on Thursday night against the LA Clippers back home at Chase Center.