“Life comes at you fast,” Matthew Broderick noted at the end of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”
The Golden State Warriors can attest to that.
A few months ago, they were making their fifth consecutive NBA Finals appearance, and competing for a fourth championship in that span.
Then … Kevin Durant tore his Achilles … Klay Thompson tore his ACL … they lost the Finals to the Raptors … Durant bolted in free agency … D’Angelo Russell’s acquisition required both excising experienced depth and triggering the hard cap … they were an outright defensive disaster through their first four games … and Steph Curry just broke his hand and will be out 3 to 4 months after undergoing surgery on Friday.
Even Lindsey Lohan and her acting career were like, “Wow, that is rough. Are you guys OK?”
That is actually a good question that begs another similar one: What exactly are they OK with now? Certainly, a re-framing of expectations is in order.
Coming into the season, Golden State was viewed as something of a dark horse. The growing narrative was that in spite of all those calamities, the pendulum of perception had swung too far negative, and with an MVP-level season from Curry, a focused campaign from Draymond Green, continued improvement from D’Angelo, a potential return to action from Thompson, and just enough contributions from the young’uns, the Warriors might well become that team you scheme to avoid in the playoffs.
And now? Well, let’s be blunt about it …
The Warriors ought to tank.
I know, I know — the T-word is so nasty! And as someone who publicly loathed the Philadelphia 76ers continuing to charge NBA prices for a G League product back when “The Process” was in its nascent stages, maybe this argument is even hypocritical.
Fair enough. If you tell me that you just cannot support a team being intentionally bad now as a means of being better later, I understand. Same goes for “load management.” I get both sides: The team is willing to sacrifice a particular game for the sake of the bigger picture; but that bigger picture probably isn’t worth much to a family that splurged for last Wednesday’s Jazz-Clippers game, only for Kawhi Leonard to sit out.
Clippers coach Doc Rivers acknowledged the conundrum before that contest.
“That’s a tough one. All I can say is, if you’re a Clipper fan, that’s easy to explain. And that’s who we should be concerned with more, to be honest,” he said. “Having said that, you should care about all the fans, because they pay. Hopefully we have enough on the floor that we can show them a good game. Now, if you’re a Kawhi fan and live in Utah, then that’s just a tough one. That’s a tough break — it’s tough. But there’s really no way around it today — anywhere.”
Anyway, back to the Warriors. From an organizational standpoint, tanking is the most logical pathway forward from here. It’s an undeniable fact that, even with Curry in the lineup, they had been a pretty bad team.
You could theorize that four games is a small sample size and they might have improved over time. Perhaps. What is inarguable, however, is that the average age of their roster is 24.87 years — third-youngest in the league, behind only Phoenix and Chicago. And the team’s average NBA experience is 3.93 years (tied for eighth-least).
Also inarguable: The Warriors had surrendered an average of 126.3 ppg (second-most in the league); their 118.3 defensive rating was dead-last; they ranked 28th in both opponents’ fast-break points and points in the paint; and they weren’t exactly lights-out on the other end, either (ranking 11th in ppg; 13th in offensive rating; 26th in FG%; 25th in 3P%; 27th in EFG%; and 21st in TS%).
Russell has struggled. Big men Willie Cauley-Stein and Kevon Looney have battled injuries. Rookies Jordan Poole and Eric Paschall have been thrust into oversized roles. With Curry out, and Thompson poised to maybe miss the entire year, and the hard-cap eliminating myriad pathways toward in-season improvement, there’s no getting around it — the Warriors’ season is toast. Burned toast. With no butter or jam or anything.
Accept that you’re going to be bad, follow through, and at least come away with a lottery pick as a salve for this miserable season (the 2020 pick they owe the Nets for the Durant-Russell deal will roll over to ’21 if it lands in the top 20).
And if you simply can’t accept the team trying to be bad on purpose? Well, you may be able to console yourself with the notion that they may have no choice in it — they’re bad enough now they may not even need to tank. Losing a ton (and by a ton) may just happen organically at this point.
Like Ferris said, life comes at you fast.