SAN FRANCISCO -- It has been established by now that, for the Warriors, the primary purpose of this season is to create a launching pad for next season, about resetting the foundation from which something special can be built.
What better way to get a head start on 2020-21 than to have Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson on the court for the final weeks of this season?
Curry is all for it, and you can bet Thompson is too.
“We’re like some caged animals right now, ready to get unleashed and back to what we do,” Curry said 45 minutes before tipoff of the Warriors’ 122-108 loss to the Utah Jazz on Monday night. “Selfishly speaking, it should be fun for both of us just to play basketball.”
With Curry fewer than two weeks removed from surgery on his left hand that is expected to keep him out until at least February and Thompson rehabbing his surgically repaired left ACL for at least another four months, there is considerable sentiment among some that neither should see the court this season.
Put them on ice, even if cleared. Even if they’re lobbying. Even if they crawl into coach Steve Kerr’s office and beg to play.
Such is the talk of lottery dreams. Put another way, tanking. The more games a team loses, the better its chances of moving up on draft night. James Wiseman is going to land somewhere, and if the Warriors are profoundly abysmal, they could get lucky.
They could get lucky anyway. There isn’t much difference between 30-52 and 23-59. Barring the utterly bizarre, they will have seat on the stage when lottery unfolds next May 19 in Chicago. And, moreover, it’s not what Curry, the man who matters most in this entire equation, wants.
He sees the wisdom in playing, particularly if Thompson is ready to go.
“Mostly just to understand the chemistry with the young guys, who will have gone through a lot of games and really understand what this league is about and what it’s going to take to play at a high level,” he said, a bulky protective sleeve running from his left hand to a few inches short of his elbow. “You could even play around with the rotations and get a vibe of what the following season, when we’re all healthy, looks like.”
I had asked Stephen if he saw the pros and cons of returning, with Klay, for the final weeks of the season. It was, well, all pros.
They’d have to be cleared to return to the court, of course. Should both be cleared, say, sometime in March, there is no question they’ll want to play. There should be no hesitation about putting them on the court.
Asked the same question, Kerr also was on board.
“It would be great,” he said after the game. “What we’re trying to do this year is build for the future, and Steph and Klay are part of the core group, along with Draymond in terms of what we want to accomplish long term.
“The idea of bringing some of these young guys along and helping them to be able to be a part of the core going forward, it means they need to play together. All those guys need to play together. It would be great to get some time with Steph and Klay later on in the year.”
Yes, that’s the politically correct answer. One any coach, who theoretically wants his strongest possible roster, is supposed to give.
But it’s also the strategically appropriate response. Better to have some experience with Warriors of the future than none at all entering training camp next September.
If the Warriors are 21-51 and Curry and Thompson are cleared in late March, for the final 10 games, they could reintroduce themselves to each other and, more significantly, to rookies Eric Paschall and Jordan Poole and, maybe, Alen Smailagic.
And, also, D’Angelo Russell. The Warriors acquired Russell believing he could play with Curry and Thompson, who would move to small forward, and the trio would pose serious challenges to any defense. No matter what the Warriors ultimately decide to do with D-Lo, they’d like to evaluate him with their best roster.
Curry conceded that the idea of returning to a team going nowhere is a tough acknowledgment. The Warriors, he said, “might surprise us and go on a crazy run” that could put them in the playoff picture.
Um, that would be beyond crazy.
“But when we get there ... just playing basketball,” Curry said. “I love to play basketball. I love having fun. I know Klay does too.”
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If they are cleared, let them run. The risk of re-injury is going to be there in April, as it would be when the season opens in October.
The difference is, instead of putting an immediate cloud over next season, they’d have about five months to recover before it begins.