Warriors vs. Raptors Preview: Just a couple of old champs, going at it
Wiggins, Looney, listed as "questionable" on early injury report
It’s nearly impossible to stay on top of the NBA mountain for very long. That’s why LeBron James flitters from team to team, chasing a new superstar partner while leaving a wasteland of bloated contracts and no draft assets. While things aren’t quite that bad in Toronto or Golden State, there are some clear parallels between these two franchises. The Warriors lost Kevin Durant (plus a bunch of critical veterans; and then Klay Thompson due to injury). The Raptors won their trophy and were waiving goodbye to Kawhi Leonard before the players even received their championship rings.
Now, two teams that will be forever linked by the 2019 NBA Finals will test their mettle against each other, while simultaneously trying to do the complicated roster dance required to recapture the magic that made their teams elite.
For Golden State, they’ve got two extra names on the early injury report - Kevon Looney and Andrew Wiggins are both “questionable” for this evening. Anthony Slater already mentioned yesterday that Wiggins was sitting out of practice but expected to play in today’s game, but it is apparently still a bit up in the air.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (5-4) vs. Toronto Raptors (2-6)
WHEN: Sunday January 10, 2021 // 5:30pm PST
New-look Warriors are starting to work
It’s no small feat to lose the quality of players that have recently departed from the Golden Empire. For the Warriors, it hasn’t been about trying the impossible (because you simply cannot replace Kevin Durant), but rather filling in the gaps. Those gaps have been plugged with a variety of internal projects and hired guns, but the end result is that the Warriors ship appears to be wobbling towards buoyancy.
Powered by the brilliance of Curry, and the oddly steadying presence of Draymond Green, the supporting cast of Andrew Wiggins and the rest of the Warriors are beginning to gel into a cohesive unit that has proven that it can beat good teams.
Now, with victories against the Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trailblazers tucked into their belts, Golden State welcomes a struggling Raptors team that is still more wobbly than stable.
Since that dreadful 0-2 start to the season, Golden State has gone 5-2, with an offensive rating of 114.4, and a defensive rating of 109.8, as per friend of the blog, Joe Viray. Over the last six games, Stephen Curry is shooting nearly 50% from deep… in other words, this is a team that’s pulling it all together.
Yes, it is extremely early in the season, and I’m not going to start screaming “stop the count,” or anything, but the Warriors are locked in a five-way tie for the 4th seed in the West right now. They’ve won three of their last four games, and are one Kelly Oubre hot streak away from becoming a real talking about around the league.
NBA beginning to succumb to Coronavirus vulnerabilities
The Orlando Bubble was both a huge success, and an enormous burden. For a variety of reasons (from cost, to impact on player’s lives) the league decided that a repeat of that process wasn’t feasible, and has been mostly successful in toeing that line. Sure, players have been impacted, like the Warriors own Draymond Green and James Wiseman missing all of training camp due to the virus, but nothing outside the nominal bounds of normalcy in a country that is getting hammered.
The Toronto Raptors were the first, and most glaring team directly affected, being forced to relocate to Tampa Bay in order to get around travel restrictions that currently prohibit travel from the United States to Canada.
The league has modified their travel schedule, implemented some of the most detailed virus-fighting protocols of an American professional sports association… and it still might not be enough. Jason Tatum of the Celtics tested positive yesterday, closing down the team facility and pushing the team to the brink of disqualification for today’s game:
I don’t have any answers here, just a succinct analysis: this sucks.
This comes a day after the 76ers were barely able to put the minimum number of players together to qualify as an NBA team. Those 76ers players were all impacted because of one positive test: Seth Curry, a Splash Brother by blood, if not by professional association.
Because of the timing, those 76er players found out about Seth Curry’s test results during the first quarter of their next game. The time lag between infection and diagnosis is a huge design issue. Remember that these quick-fire quarantine measures are designed to control any potential spread of the virus, and don’t reflect players actually coming down with Corona… but still. It’s not too hard to imagine ways this could all go disastrously sideways, very quickly.
Here’s hoping for the best! And remember folks, stay safe out there!