Warped Speed: Attrition and Injury Have Sidetracked the Warriors’ Dynasty
In classic folklore, the protagonist Faust, dissatisfied with his life, makes a deal with the Devil, exchanging his soul for untold knowledge and pleasures. This tale has been adapted over the years, from the play Damn Yankees to the Snoop Doggy Dog’s single Murder Was the Case, each time with a stargazing protagonist exchanging his mortal soul for the excesses of the good life. And each time, the Devil comes to collect.
The Golden State Warriors may be the latest adaptation of Faust’s tragedy, as team officials confirmed that two-time MVP Steph Curry suffered a broken left hand and will miss three months per reports. Curry went down in a game against the Phoenix Suns, a game that saw Golden State trail Phoenix 43-14 in front of an increasingly agitated Chase Center home crowd.
Curry’s injury is the latest blow to a team that is struggling to find its footing in this young season. Defense has been a glaring issue for the Warriors; they rank dead last in Defensive Rating and are giving up a whopping 126 points per game according to Basketball Reference. Klay Thompson’s inevitable return seems less likely this season and now Draymond Green and the newly acquired D’Angelo Russell must hold down the fort with a collection of players you couldn’t name if they were in line next to you at Starbucks. But even that lineup will be undermanned as Green will be out the a few games after suffering torn ligaments in his hand in a loss against the San Antonio Spurs Friday night.
Maybe this unprecedented string of bad luck is the price for success, a way of the universe balancing things out in what has been an otherwise one-sided basketball world the past five years. If the Devil has come to collect, then Golden State certainly got its money’s worth.
The Warriors have reveled in unparalleled success – five straight trips to the NBA Finals, three championships and a structure that owner Joe Lacob once described as light years ahead of the other 29 teams. Their ascension was not so much a deal with the Devil as it was taking advantage of friendly Devil discounts.
Talented to be sure, Golden State benefitted from a confluence of events that aided its success. Curry’s ankle issues early in his career kept him on a team-friendly deal for several years. The injuries to key players on other teams, most notably then Cavs guard Kyrie Irving, made the path to the 2015 NBA title just a wee bit easier. And the NBAPA insistence on an immediate, rather than gradual or “smoothing”, rise in the salary cap in 2016 gave the Warriors the necessary financial flexibility to sign Kevin Durant that summer.
Curry sarcastically apologized for the Warriors' good fortune during that 2015 championship run. And he was right to respond with snark in that moment. Those events, however random and favorable to the Warriors, were out of their control. All they could do was play ball.
That was 2015 when the Warriors had just opened the tab on their run. Now they’ve been hit with enough unfortunate events that would make Lemony Snicket blush. Durant has moved on from Golden State. The Splash Brothers are on the shelf. And, ironically in response to Golden State’s dominance, the rest of the Western Conference engaged in an arms race to close the gap created by the Warriors. It could be some very long nights in the new arena.
So, where does Golden State go from here? Some have suggested the Warriors should just tank for a high lottery pick, “Fall for Ball”, if you will. But that is not the Warriors’ pedigree and publicly they have scoffed at the notion. After its handling of Durant in the Finals last season, the medical staff will likely favor more conservative timetables for Curry and Thompson respective returns. Trade rumors circulated around Russell the moment he was signed – the front office has stated that he was acquired to be a part of Golden State’s future but that was before Curry’s injury.
No matter what happens, one thing you will not hear from other teams and their fan bases is sympathy for the Warriors’ current predicament. Not after years of shimmies and shit talk and unparalleled success. That the universe has turned Golden State’s world upside down will matter little to opponents as they try and drop 150 on the Warriors each night.
Steve Kerr’s troops will find no quarter this season. The Devil has come to collect; it’s time to settle up.