10 games to the All-Star break, Warriors still a work in progress
Wiggins questionable (illness - yeah, the same one)
Sometimes I wonder if we as a society are too uncomfortable with being comfortable with ambiguity. The Golden State Warriors are a classic example. With their proven core still intact - if perhaps a little bit older and creakier - the championship hasn’t suddenly slammed close. And yet, there’s something not all the way cohesive with this year’s roster. Yet.
So rather than turning to the trade machine, it might be time to take a longer lense to the Warriors struggles. Coming off an emotional win against the Memphis Grizzlies where the two timelines were never so apparent, it’s time to lean back and watch it all happen. There’s some story or parable about not digging up the seeds in order to judge the sprouting plant. That. More of that please!
Tonight, the Warriors are going to be without Andrew Wiggins potentially. He never looked all the way right after returning, and is reportedly back out with whatever that same earlier illness was.
Also, our beloved Otto Porter is out for Toronto, which makes me sad.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (24-24) vs. Toronto Raptors (22-27)
WHEN: Friday, January 27th, 2022 // 7pm PDT
WATCH: NBCSBA, NBATV
Do the math - Warriors are still looking for answers
In the first game back for James Wiseman, he saw no action. In a game that came all the way down to the wire, there’s no wriggle room for experiments - and that’s where Wiseman is at this point in his career. I remember my high school coach talking to me about coming off the bench and not trying too hard. “Just play the game, don’t rush it.” It was probably good advice, I don’t remember. The point is that for basketball players trying to crack the rotation, it can be a challenge to stay out of your own way. Even harder: the realization that there’s not much of a chance of moving up the depth chart.
Limited minutes, a dwindling window of opportunity, and a crowded roster that needs wins have all come together in a meteor storm to welcome Wiseman back from injury.
For as much grief as they get for the moves around the edges, I feel like Golden State has done a decent job of plugging the holes in their roster - to the extent that you can do so using veteran minimum contracts. Getting outplayed by JaMychal Green isn’t about the ceiling of these players, it’s about the Warriors need for wins right now.
The Warriors closed their last win by going about as small as they reasonably can.
“We had a little stretch there where we were not getting anything offensively,” Kerr said. “I think we had both bigs out there with Loon and Draymond and our defense is obviously better with those guys, but Memphis really makes it tough on us spacing wise because of the way they guard us and just their size and physicality. So we went small to try to create some space and open up the game. Donte was playing Ja (Morant) well.”
Part of the problem here is that Draymond Green and Kevon Looney solve a lot of the big man needs on this roster. And then, without garbage time, there’s no space in the lineup for experimentation. Not for a player that has been as unsteady as Wiseman’s production throughout his career.
The margins are real thin for this year’s Warriors. With no early season strong run to stand on, things are getting a little tense at the office. Curry, widely regarded as one of the best teammates, got frustrated enough with Poole’s late game shenanigans that he threw his mouthpiece and earned an ejection. I can’t recall ever seeing him clap his hands like that and then become so visibly frustrated with anyone on the court.
This whole episode highlights how high the stakes are. Holding something together this long is a remarkable feat and the Warriors dynasty is stretching at the seams.
There was a major article released earlier this week by The Athletic staff. I don’t think there’s a group of reporters with a better feel for what’s going in behind the scenes than Anthony Slater and Marcus Thompson. Here’s what they has to say about the frayed edges that could start to come undone soon. This is technically an article about the potential departure of Bob Myers, but the reverberations go all the way to the core of the team:
The reigning Finals MVP has become increasingly vocal about his win-now perspective and Myers has been the primary voice easing Curry’s concerns regarding the franchise’s direction and commitment to the present. Curry’s bent is for Warriors’ management to maximize the championship window, insistent it’s still open. One has to wonder how the face of the franchise would respond to losing the face of the front office — whose signature moves for Andre Iguodala, Kevin Durant and Andrew Wiggins were pivotal to winning rings.
In addition to Curry, Steve Kerr’s and Draymond Green’s close relationship with Myers are well known. Green has a player option for next season and could opt to walk. Kerr’s current contract expires after next season.
Sorry for the big wall of quoted text here, but this could well be the crux of it. After so many years at the top of the heap, there’s more than just a simple financial pressure here. It’s not simply that there are new challenges, fresh new places to go; this whole machine is running on thin margins - and that’s stressful.
The Warriors struck that two-timeline balance and still won a title last June. This season, after flooding the back end of the roster with more unprepared youth, the mix has become more problematic. The losses have piled up, creating extra tension for everyone involved in threading the win-and-develop needle.
Myers is the leading mediator of this high-stakes clash. When ground-level concerns arise from Kerr or the All-Stars on the roster, Myers is the trusted ear. When agents wonder why their young clients can’t gain career traction, Myers is the explainer. When Durant tore his Achilles, when James Wiseman missed an entire season, when Draymond Green punched Jordan Poole, it is Myers who faces the public. When Lacob turns the temperature up, Myers is closest to the fire and the staff’s buffer.
This summer is trending toward a culmination. The Warriors’ increased luxury tax concerns and rising salary numbers are creating wrenching personnel decisions. That could involve a choice between whether to part with Green or Klay Thompson, two living franchise legends who have both voiced a relative unease about their future with the Warriors beyond their current contracts.
Myers can’t be thrilled at the prospect of making that call, especially considering he’s going to have to break that news to No. 30.
Again, it doesn’t feel like the Warriors are on the cusp of making some sort of major move. They’re committed to the main components of this roster, and because of how little is left around the edges, there’s not many clear paths to improving right away - even if the team were willing to sell low on the second timeline.
Instead, it’s best to strap in and enjoy this white knuckle ride.
Thankfully the All Star break is coming up. A natural reset point ahead of a final push towards the end of this season. A season that hasn’t provided a ton of answers to date.
Warriors win, but the true victory is all the hugs Otto Porter will get.
A little lighter for you all today. This is… I don’t know, pop punk? Indy music? Whatever you want to call it, it’s catchy as hell. The line about when she lights her smile like a SCREEEAAAM is perfect. Give this one a chance, maybe you’ll like it!
Post game is up, featuring a BRAND NEW LOGO is up
(Ivan is just the absolute best!)
Beer of joy.