Steph Curry returned to the hardcourt last week after a 58-game absence that left the Golden State Warriors without its top 2 stars for the longest time. Basketball pundits quickly spelled DOOM to the Warrior season when Steph injured his left wrist in a freak accident in a game against the Phoenix Suns last Halloween. And with only 20 games remaining in the tailend of this season, it looks like it’s all over for the Warriors. For this season, at least.
Indeed, it looks like a foregone conclusion that this post-season will be the first time in years without the illustrious Warriors. Standing dead last in the Western Conference with a Win-Loss slate of 14-49, it is still mathematically possible to catch the last seat. The Memphis Grizzlies occupy 8th place in the star-decked Western Conference with a 31-31 slate. But it will take a miracle for the Warriors to sweep its remaining games with the rest of the Western Conference chasers remaining actively engaged as well.
So there. In answer to the question of whether Steph can bring the Warriors back into contention, the answer is no. Not for this year anyway.
But Steph’s return has certainly electrified the San Francisco crowd last week, as he provided vintage highlight shots and nifty passes in his first game. Yes, the steady Toronto Raptors may have defeated the undermanned Warriors 121-113 in a Finals rematch on the night of Steph’s return. But Steph’s return has certainly changed the mood at the Center. Finally, things are starting to perk up. Steph’s sensational shots, plus his clearly engaging and fun-loving nature are what the fans come to the Center to see.
Sure, the Warriors played minus Klay Thompson (out for the season with a knee surgery) and Draymond Green (sore left knee). That left the Warriors relying heavily on Steph – who was simply breaking in – and Andrew Wiggins, acquired recently from the Minnesota Timberwolves in a trade for D’Angelo Russell.
The Warriors of last season will remain hostaged to that huge question mark on top of their heads. If only Kevin Durant hadn’t been injured in last year’s Finals. Maybe Klay Thompson wouldn’t have overplayed and injured himself. Maybe they still would have won the crown. Maybe Durant wouldn’t have left. Maybe the 4-headed juggernaut-of-a-dynasty would have continued. Maybe this year, having transferred to the newly-minted Chase Arena in San Francisco, wouldn’t have looked as jinxed.
This year then is rehabilitation time for the Warriors. It is a huge learning experience for everyone, as the new guys try to learn the culture, imbibe the team philosophy and develop on-court chemistry and pride. The coaching staff, the support staff and the management itself, they too will have to relearn to work in the new environment at the Chase Center, and work on teaching, developing and maturing the new players.
Gone are such illustrious names as Durant, Andre Igoudala, Shaun Livingston, Demarcus Cousins. Gone too is Russell, whom everyone had hoped would carry the team in the absence of Steph and Klay.
Next season, the core group of Steph, Klay and Draymond will be complete. Everyone in the Bay Area will be looking forward to that. But until that time, all members of the team will have to learn to step up and find his place in the grand scheme of things.
Cover pic courtesy of CBS Sports. Other pics courtesy of ESPN.com, CBS Sports, USA Today, Sportsnaut, ABS-CBN News, Desert News, Sky Sports, YouTube, NBA.com, San Francisco Examiner, Pinterest.