Why you should watch the Warriors after Steph Curry injury

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This column was meant to posit that the Golden State Warriors had an opportunity to right their season the same place it first veered off the rails: on the road. That faint hope was shattered the moment Stephen Curry’s attempted strip of Jalen Smith in Indiana culminated with a shoulder injury that looks to sideline Curry for at least two weeks, and likely, longer. This obviously changes the calculus of the Road Warrior redemption tour. The goal now is just to survive and win enough games to not be completely out of the playoff hunt, then hope there’s enough mental fortitude left on the margins to make a mid- to late season push. As of this writing, Jordan Poole just dropped 43 points on the Toronto Raptors, and the cobbled-together Warriors have won their third road game of the year. Nice.

In the saccharine but also uplifting and genuinely sweet spirit of the holidays, we wanted to remind ourselves that though things seem a bit bleak, there are both slivers of optimism and reasons to be thankful for a wonderful, frustrating, and imperfectly perfect team.

1. Treading water is very achievable

Despite how intermittently woebegone Golden State have played even at full strength, going .500 while Curry is out isn’t all that unrealistic. It’s hardly a “slam dunk” (this is a well-known basketball term and also a metaphor for something relatively easy) but a home stand against some struggling teams (and the Blazers, whom the Warriors have always owned) is an almost perfectly scripted opportunity to make up ground lost on the road.

2. Rise of the sickos

As we just saw in Toronto, even without Curry’s gravitational pull, the Warriors in theory have the firepower to still bomb their adversaries into submission. In the absence of their leader, both Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole have more minutes and more importantly, more touches to find the best versions of themselves and strive for consistently complete performances that have mostly eluded them to varying extents. Neither of these guys will replace what Curry does with one hand tied behind his back, but both Thompson and Poole are workhorses with evil in their hearts. When the fates align, they can drop 40 on a jet-lagged team that had too much In-N-Out the night before.

3. Victor Wembanyama

Look, the absolute worst-case scenario is a full implosion and disgraceful capitulation, but on the other hand, the Warriors have shamelessly tanked before (sup Harrison Barnes) and they can shamelessly tank again, this time for the most-hyped Frenchman since Charles de Gaulle. Obviously, they’d have their work cut out for them to catch the true dregs of the NBA in the loss column, but never underestimate the heart of a champion throwing games. Light years.

4. Joe Lacob gets owned

Look, if the Warriors really stink up the joint the next few months, this will make us all sad and possibly despondent about life itself and very melancholy about what could have been a stout title defense gone awry, but at least we don’t have to pay millions and millions of dollars to watch it happen. Joe Lacob on the other hand? Yes, he has to do that. He simultaneously signs the checks and gets the blame for his venture-capitalist-brain vision of a certain bridge to a certain future … signifying nothing.

5. You can’t let the haters win …

Antonio Gramsci’s most overused quote about dealing with the haters says it best: pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will. Starting about two minutes after the 2015 title, they’ve been disrespected and loathed by a large swath of the basketball loving world. Arrogant front-runners, line-jumpers, Kevin Durant seducers, tech bro-adjacent. There’s some truth to the stereotypes, but that’s why we as Warriors nation have to stand firm — to spite the cottage industry of extremely basic naysayers that the Warriors spawned by being the best NBA team of the 21st century. The only thing more annoying than the Warriors are people who hate the Warriors for the dumbest reasons possible.

6. They’ve done it before … LAST YEAR!

The Warriors have survived an extended Curry injury as recently as last year, as they finished the year strong to clinch the third seed. Granted, that was a different team, but for the most part, the best players on that squad are still here and there’s power in having been there before. 

7. Azubuike ascendent

Last year I wrote an entire column about what a weird guy Warriors color commentator (and former shooting guard) Kelenna Azubuike was and how awkward his banter was with company man/oaf Bob Fitzgerald. Azubuike’s still sort of a weird guy, but he’s gotten much better at his job, and that’s really great to see. Fitzgerald is still a goblin, though.

8. Draymond the good

After potentially the most toxic moment in Warriors history that didn’t involve choking a head coach or Mark Jackson making Festus Ezeli cry, Draymond Green has been a model citizen. The resident bad boy has risen to the occasion for the most part (OK, a few ejections, but who among us) and has categorically not punched any additional teammates.

9. How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Steve Kerr’s Rotations

Steve Kerr’s rotations, the source of many sports fans prematurely balding, are less frustrating if the fulcrum of the offense is sidelined. Instead, think of his whimsical substitutions — which usually imply madness and a gambler’s unhinged spirit — as a sort of post-modern art, like Dada, or maybe a new Banksy.

10. The Iron Men

The bridge to the future? How about the escalator to the present? Andrew Wiggins and Kevon Looney are 27 and 26 years old respectively, entering their primes, known quantities, iron men, team players, both hailing from cold climates but thriving in temperate California. Locking these dudes up is both a short-term and long-term victory. When people talk about “Warriors players” both these fellows fit the bill, but they both had to fight to get there. That they persevered says a lot. The system isn’t kind to those not cut out for its convoluted process. 

11. Messing with Tim Kawakami

One fun thing no matter if the Warriors are good or bad or anywhere in between is to get on longtime Bay Area sports columnist/gadfly Tim Kawakami’s nerves. Getting blocked by Kawakami — a fine reporter with a hair-trigger block finger — is something of a badge of honor, strangely so because it is an exceedingly easy thing to achieve. 

12. The Tao of Jonathan Kuminga

I’m not always sure Jonathan Kuminga is a basketball player. But he’s occasionally a religious experience, and not always a positive one. Poole’s accession to the lead-guard spot in Curry’s absence should (should, Steve!) give Kuminga more opportunities to get on the court and be his best and sometimes worst self. He’s the monster athlete the Dynasty has never had, and even his stumbles and mistakes can be intriguing. He adds a brand-new sort of forceful weapon to a relatively familiar and finessed arsenal. 

13. The dream of midseason trades for Otto Porter Jr. and Gary Payton II

It could happen. Also, Air Bud is an unrestricted free agent. 



14. So many young guys

We’ve got some young guys, apparently? Not sure if I’m happy about them or not, but unless Steve Kerr torpedoes their confidence and trade value, it’s never a bad thing to have a couple of assets that aren’t old enough to drink alcohol. Potential is everything! More one-point Patrick Baldwin Jr. games!

15. Steph and FTX

Stephen Curry might actually need this little sabbatical from the hardwood to shore up his legal defense due to his involvement in hawking the disgraced millennial billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried’s FTX crypto fraud-factory. Curry’s definitely the sort of guy who doesn’t read the terms and agreements, so his involvement with something so patently evil and stupid can be forgiven, but he’ll need to lawyer up, unless he wants to blow life’s 3-1 lead and end up in a white-collar resort prison. Best of luck, Steph. Don’t go to jail!

16. Denying the Grizzlies their blood-soaked closure

After last year’s contentious second-round victory over the Grizzlies, the sense of an extremely ill-tempered rivalry forming was cemented, complete with injuries and ad hominem trash-talking and rancid vibes. The Grizzlies want to avenge themselves so bad it would be almost embarrassing if it weren’t so totally understandable. They very well may have been the better team last year. They certainly are this year. But if the Warriors are also-rans this year, the Grizzlies don’t get their Michael Jordan over the Bad Boys Pistons cleansing. They’ll have to settle for winning the counterfactual battle, which they’re already champs at

17. The Lakers are in hell

Want to know the most important reason to be happy about this Warriors season, warts and all? They’re still unequivocally better than the Los Angeles Lakers of Crypto.com Arena. It’s a beautiful thing that unites us in Safeway Select schadenfreude.

18. Slashed ticket prices

If the Warriors continue their free fall, maybe ticket prices will fall and regular people who don’t own falcons or telecom companies can start going to games again! OK, this will never happen, even if the team is moved to Hayward or Modesto, but we can dream.

19. ‘Holey Moley’ season five writers’ retreat

Curry executive produces and is featured in a show about mini-golf? And at some point in this show an ethnically ambiguous Muppet kidnapped and tortured him? This is all next-level GOAT status stuff, and he’s going to need to double-down on this side hustle, as this basketball thing isn’t going to last forever. Hopefully they can get back to the drawing board and really up the ante for next season, maybe by having some characters from “Fraggle Rock” waterboard Curry on live TV.

20. Last year

Let’s stop beating around the bush! Nothing else matters. They won the title just last season! It was the perfect unlikely ending to an entertaining but perhaps too long Oscar-bait film. This season is just a direct-to-video sequel. Interesting, sometimes fun, only necessary for completists. You don’t have to take it too seriously.

Enjoy the ride, because it’s very much winding down and despite the myriad frustrations, they’ve proven everything they need to prove over and over again. As Aragorn would say, “My friends. You bow to no one. Also, for real, ticket prices are way too high. Please. Get real.”

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