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Familiar feeling: Short-handed Warriors limp back from All Star break
treading water at .500 with 24 games to go
The Golden State Warriors are comfortable with ambiguity, but the unknowns are starting to feel a little too well known. Will the team ever be fully healthy? Can they put it all together at the same time - without melting down in the 4th quarter? The core of the team is back for what has been one of the weirder seasons that I can remember for a title defender.
But these are the champs for a reason, and as the team staggers towards the conclusion of the regular season, all they need to do is hold on. Tonight, they’re up against a retooled Los Angeles Lakers team that made some pretty useful roster shakeups at the trade deadline. With Jarred Vanderbilt, James, D’Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley all acquired - and then slotted into the starting lineup - the Lakers are planning to make a big push before the postseason. But you know what they say about plans…
WHO: Golden State Warriors (29-29) at Los Angeles Lakers (27-32)
WHEN: Thursday, February 23rd, 2023 // 7pm PDT
Still no Wiggins, no Curry: big week coming up!
Coming into the All Star break, it was hoped that the natural refresh point would help Golden State get the full squad back on the court - but not just yet. The Warriors are returning to the dance floor doing another roster shuffle.
Andrew Wiggins is dealing with some sort of personal issue that seems to be fairly serious, given the amount of time he’s taken away from the team. And remember, this is a guy that doesn’t like to miss games lightly. So everyone is giving Wiggins and his family the space they need to deal with this. There’s no firm timeline here, but a whole lot of people are sending good vibes and well wishes his way and hoping for a prompt return.
Curry’s timeframe is a bit more concrete, if still uncertain. He’s back on the court, but not ready for games yet. His injury was a bad one - the second bad one he took this year - but unlike the shoulder, there’s unlikely to be any lingering effects. Once he’s cleared to play, he’ll be right back in action. The estimate as it stands now is that he’s likely to miss the next four games or so.
Four games against Western Conference playoff teams - part of a pretty big push out of the break that includes six games in nine days… all of them against Western Conference opponents. This is going to be a big week.
But hope is not lost. Unless you’re like Charles Barkley and aren’t a believer.
Sure, newly acquired Gary Payton isn’t ready for action, but this is a changed league. Especially in the Western Conference, most teams are struggling to emerge from the pack, and even those at the top don’t inspire a ton of fear. Look at the gaps between the Warriors and the #3 seed, as well as the 13th seed. This could obviously go either way given the thin margins and timing for return and recalibration, but three wins or losses in synch with other teams dipping is probably the outside edge of possible.
So all Golden State needs to do is tread water through this next week and everything will be fine… right?
I say yes. Much of the core is still ready and able. Led by Draymond Green and Kevon Looney’s expectedly stout presence inside, the tandem of Jordan Poole and Klay Thompson is as dangerous as any when either one of them gets scorching hot - as they both like to do from time to time.
Also, there are some nice additions around the edges. Maybe #2 pick James Wiseman didn’t work out, but Jonathan Kuminga is coming along nicely. He’s also a great fit next to Poole, as the two are extremely lethal when playing off each other because they’re both so quick that it’s far too easy for at least one of them to slice their way to an advantage.
By the way, the website that the graphic in that tweet above was pulled from is pretty cool. Go check out the NBA’s Court optics tracking page if you are bored/interested enough. As a guy who spends a lot of time wading through data, I can tell you that they’re going to be coming out with cooler and cooler insights for us basketball geeks.
I’m not totally in love with the labelling on these, but as I was poking around I couldn’t help but notice that Kuminga has been deemed one of the league’s best primary defenders on ball handlers. I knew coach Steve Kerr has been leaning more and more into that aspect of Kuminga’s game, and there’s apparently data that supports him being a top ten pressure guy directly against players handling the ball. Point of attack defense! An area of need!
Anyways, yes, it is going to be a tough week ahead of Curry’s return. But the Warriors have shown that it’s at least possible that they push high in the rankings; and dare I say even extremely plausible that they can tread water without Curry (and hopefully not Wiggins for much longer).
I’m a believer. Sometimes, you’ve got to either let go off the rope or get dragged along. This is a bumpy ride of a season, but I’m holding on to my hope.
Warriors win a squeaker in LA.