Game Thread: No Curry, Wiseman or Paschall - Warriors evaluate options against Grizzlies
I'm going camping in the cold wetness (low of 37), but hard to say who's about to have a tougher weekend
The Golden State Warriors are about to play two back-to-back games against the Memphis Grizzlies. With a near-sighted focus, it’s going to suck. James Wiseman and Eric Paschall aren’t even with the team due to Covid contact tracing, and both Stephen Curry (tailbone) and Kelly Oubre (ankle) are listed as ‘doubtful.’
This is all really poor timing as the Warriors enter what was supposed to be a soft spot in their schedule where they could pick up some wins to help them in their playoff race.
Embrace the suck, pull back your perception a bit, and take in the process, and this becomes a rare opportunity to explore some of the bench combinations to look for the answers that have been unsurprisingly elusive in this gap year.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (21-20) at Memphis Grizzlies (18-19)
WHEN: Friday, March 19th, 2021 // 5:00 pm PST
(also, same teams, same time tomorrow)
Time to tinker!
Stephen Curry took a shot and came away stumbling. Years and years of conditioning led him to believe that he could lean into something on the sideline - a chair, a person, a scorers table - but instead he met empty air. Well, he passed through empty air and met cold, unforgiving metal:
Listed as “doubtful” for tonight’s game, it would be a bit surprising to see him tomorrow at Memphis, but we’ll see. After the game, Kerr said "I have no idea if he'll play in Memphis but he's feeling like he'll be OK over the next week or so.”
Oubre’s play was a lot easier to miss, but he rolled his ankle a little bit after getting landed on from behind. Also listed as “doubtful” for tonight, Oubre played through his injury, so it isn’t expected to be anything that keeps him out for an extended time.
In the interim though, the Warriors find the cupboards painfully bare. Sure, there’s recent call-up, Jordan Poole who has been a fantastic addition off the bench (95 points in 112 minutes since re-joining the Warriors), but Golden State will need to cover for a lot of missing rotation.
The four missing players are responsible for 38% of total minutes played, 52% of the team’s total points, and 41% of the Warriors’ rebounds.
Kerr and the coaching staff are well aware of this issue, and this is why they’ve got so much redundancy at the wing. The realistic goal for the weekend is probably to at least split these two games, but doing so will require a bunch of marginal players to step into bigger roles.
For me, I’m extremely excited to see Damion Lee get some run. As we’ve pointed out before, he’s a standout offensive player amongst the Warriors’ bench options. One of the more shocking revelations that I found while crunching the numbers to see what percentage of points, et cetera, the team was missing: Lee has played the fifth most total minutes for the Warriors this season. I’d expect a lot of Lee during the back-to-back against Memphis.
It points to a deeper issue as well: the Warriors reliance on Curry is about more than just maximizing him. There is a very valid concern about the team’s ability to perform without their star. You’ve heard of the Ewing Effect? The weird thing where a team plays better without their best players? Well, the Curry effect is the opposite of that.
Somehow, the Warriors need to figure out a way to not crumble without Stephen Curry.
It’s also worth noting that the NBA trade deadline is less than a week away. I suck at predicting the big moves, and I really don’t see how a deal for someone like Lonzo Ball would work (his $8 million salary doesn’t work without using the Warriors Exceptions, which assumes that the Warriors are sending back high value pick(s)). PJ Tucker was recently traded, and the deal seems like one that would have been within the Warriors price range, as the teams moved some picks around but nothing major.
All indications from within the Warriors are that Bob Myers is yelling “hold the course” even as the storm rages around Golden State’s ship. If there’s a bright side to this weird convergence of injuries and Covid quarantines, it’s that the Warriors have cleared off the depth chart for a couple of games and will get to tinker around with a bench rotation that has been problematic more often than not.
Strap in for the Ja Morant show
One of the coolest parts about following the NBA for years is watching a young player come into the league and make the leap between interesting and “damn, he’s good!” Ja Morant is one such player. Averaging 19.4 points, 7.6 assists, 3.3 rebounds, and one steal in around 31 minutes per game, Morant is the real deal. He’s an extremely smooth player that uses finesse and his ability to predict where people will be rather than brute strength. It’s just his second season, but he’s already one of the best players on the court most nights.
Juan Toscano-Anderson feature article
Connor Letourneau posted a retrospective on LGW favorite, Juan Toscano-Anderson (JTA), so I’m going to summarize it here, since LGW member sabrinasez brought it to my attention.
It starts with the story of JTA as a third grader in Montclair elementary - a school his mom transferred him to after another student at his old school threatened to stab him… His teacher, Wilhelmina Attles (wife of Warriors legend, Al Attles) was the first one to help him attend basketball camp. JTA, it seems was a quiet kid, and one that was not dealt an easy hand.
Apparently, the family was left in a bad state of housing after their home burned down in an electrical fire in the middle of the night. JTA wasn’t home that night, and everyone was okay, but most all their belongings, including many of the kids’ childhood photos, were destroyed.
JTA was seven at the time.
There was a sadness in his eyes. In class, his voice barely rose above a whisper.
What Attles didn’t know then was that Toscano-Anderson was homeless. Some nights, he slept with his mom, Patricia Toscano, and sister, Ariana, in their silver sedan.
“As a teacher, you spend so much time around these kids that you know what they need at various times,” said Attles, who watches every Warriors game to cheer for Toscano-Anderson. “At that time, I could see that Juan loved sports. He needed an outlet.”
Letourneau goes on to point out that there’s something reflected in JTA’s game, a hunger, or a drive to find a way to make it. JTA didn’t have an easy path to a professional basketball career. He didn’t play much in college, and had to go through Mexico, as well as the Santa Cruz G League team before finally getting a shot with the Warriors.
JTA’s No. 95 jersey, the highest number in Warriors history, is a nod to these roots, a nod to his grandfather’s home at 95th Avenue and A Street in East Oakland’s Elmhurst neighborhood. “Some players play hungry; Juan plays like a guy who’s starving,” the story quotes guard Mychal Mulder.
I’m just going to dump a big quote in here, generally bad form for a summary, but it’s powerful, and I don’t want to water it down. Remember, this kid was seven when his house burned down, and this is him now, at a school he transferred to (using his Aunt’s address).
Attles, one of Montclair’s only African American teachers, felt an immediate kinship with Juan, who is half-Black, half-Mexican. A month after Juan enrolled at Montclair, Attles learned from a member of the parent-teacher association that Juan had been staying at a family member’s house over the holidays when an intruder shot and killed one of Juan’s relatives, then stole the Christmas presents from under the tree.
Attles worked with the PTA to raise money to replace all the stolen gifts. For the rest of the school year, she made herself available to Juan anytime he needed her.
“We were just so hurt, the staff and I, that a kid would be exposed to that,” Attles said. “After that happened, I was just really aware that he needed me more than I had thought when he first came to school. I tried to provide a shoulder, just extra love and attention.”
Attles and JTA lost touch as the world pulled them in different directions, but his mom would later send Attles a college program, featuring JTA on his new team, with a letter telling the former teacher that none of it would have been possible without her.
It’s a really tremendous article, and I came away with even more adoration and respect for JTA. Next step, to check out his favorite spot for Mexican food - which Yelp says is about nine minutes from my house!
I’m going camping this weekend. Lows of 37, highs in the low 50s - and the ground is soaked after days of rain. It’s going to be miserable.
I predict that the Warriors will have a better weekend, get at least one win, and develop some bench rotations that can tread water.