Draymond Green's injury forces Warriors to further invest in youth

Draymond Green's injury forces Warriors to further invest in youth

SAN FRANCISCO -- Tucked near his locker about 70 minutes before Saturday's matchup against the Charlotte Hornets, Warriors forward Draymond Green raised both of his hands in front of his eyes in bewilderment. 

Comparing index fingers, Green took a look at his left pointer -- one he admitted featured a torn ligament suffered in Friday's loss to the Spurs -- and shook his head. 

Green's injury -- one of Golden State's seven on Sunday's injury report -- puts him out for at least "a few games," putting the Warriors' season in further peril.

The origin of Green's ailment came in the first half of Friday's loss when he attempted to contest a Trey Lyles pump fake, jamming the finger on Lyles' shoulder as the big man drove towards the lane. While he finished the night with six points, eight rebounds and seven assists, most of his performance was done with one hand. Unable to grip the ball, most of his actions were done with his right hand. 

Even when his son -- Draymond Jr. -- visited to the sideline to offer a hug and kiss with the loss in hand, the elder Green was sure to keep the hand at a distance. 

As Green reconciled the new shape of his finger, D'Angelo Russell -- who sprained his ankle Friday evening -- walked with a limp across the room to his locker. 

The visual encapsulated Golden State's young season. So far this year, five players have missed games due to injury, including star guards Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry, who will be re-evaluated in February. Of the healthy bodies on the roster Sunday night, none owned a guaranteed roster spot last season. With Curry, Thompson and Russell out, Steve Kerr named Ky Bowman -- one of Golden State's two two-way players -- the team's starting point guard. 

With injuries piling up, the Warriors are forced to invest in a young core with limited experience. So far, the process has seen progress. On Friday, rookie guard Jordan Poole scored eight of his career-high 20 points in the second quarter, while Damion Lee scored 16 points, including two 3-pointers.

Through the first 24 minutes, Golden State converted on 52 percent of its 3-pointers. However, they were outscored 70-55 over the final 48 minutes. In the third quarter, Golden State was outscored 40-31 by the Spurs.

To get players up to speed, Kerr has opted to simplify Golden State's motion offense, opting for more pick-and-roll centric strategy. By Saturday, amid the news of yet another injury, Kerr facetiously enlisted the help of The Athletic's Tim Kawakami to play Sunday's game.

[RELATED: Very different starting lineup last year]

“Are you busy?” he asked. 

“I’m very expensive," Kawakami responded. "and you’re hard-capped.”  

As for Green, the forward says he plans to be a presence around the team and plans to accompany the battered Warriors on their upcoming three-game road trip in hopes of salvaging an already slipping season.

Warriors' Steph Curry jokes about waking up in NBA's Orlando bubble

Warriors' Steph Curry jokes about waking up in NBA's Orlando bubble

Steph Curry is jonesin' to play basketball.

The Warriors superstar misses the game so much that when he woke up on a recent morning, he thought he was in the NBA's Orlando bubble.

OK, maybe not. Clearly, Steph needs to work on his acting skills. But the sentiment isn't too far off.

After five straight trips to the NBA Finals that saw Curry play roughly an extra 20 games a season, the two-time NBA MVP broke his hand in the fourth game of the 2019-20 season. He returned to play in one game in March, but a combination of Curry catching the flu and the coronavirus shutdown ended his season early.

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

So between the end of the 2019 NBA Finals on June 13, 2019 and the potential start of the 2020-21 NBA season in December, Curry will have played five regular-season games in a year and a half.

So you can understand why Curry is dreaming of being in Orlando.

Alas, the Warriors finished the 2019-20 season with the worst record (15-50) in the NBA. They were one of eight NBA teams not invited to the NBA season restart at the Disney World complex in Orlando. The combination of Curry's injury, Klay Thompson's ACL injury and Kevin Durant's departure crushed the Warriors' hopes of a sixth straight NBA Finals appearance.

The bright side (of the bed) for Curry is that his body has been given an extended break, the longest of his professional career. After five long seasons, a long 18-month break could do Curry a lot of good.

[RELATED: Simmons wonders if Lillard is better than Steph]

The Warriors are expecting Curry and Thompson to come back healthy and rested when the 2020-21 season starts, ready for a return to NBA title contention.

Based on the video Curry posted, he's getting plenty of rest.

Bill Simmons wonders whether Damian Lillard is better than Steph Curry

Bill Simmons wonders whether Damian Lillard is better than Steph Curry

Steph Curry is a better basketball player than Damian Lillard.

We don't make that declaration in an attempt to slight Dame, because the Portland Trail Blazers star is awesome. We certainly aren't rooting against the Oakland native or saying he is overrated.

But we feel compelled to defend Steph when necessary. And we are doing that now because of the following back-and-forth that took place Monday on "The Bill Simmons Podcast."

Simmons: "Dame -- I don't know where he is on the top-10 players in the league list and what the qualifications are -- but is Curry better than him at this point?"

Ryen Russillo: "Oh come on. Let's take it easy. Don't do this when Curry's missed a year."

Simmons: "I'm not talking about career. I'm not talking playoff chops (or) stuff like that. I'm just talking game-to-game, the stuff Dame is doing now consistently, reminds me of Curry. I feel like he's money. He's in the top eight or nine for me now. And I don't know what the list is. But I just think he's great."

Lillard is great. No doubt about it. And the 30-year-old was fantastic in Portland's first two games in the Orlando bubble.

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

But we need to remind everybody -- again -- what happened during the Warriors' sweep of the Blazers in the 2019 Western Conference finals:

Curry: 36.5 points, 7.3 assists, 46.9 percent overall, 42.6 percent 3s
Lillard: 22.3 points, 8.5 assists, 37.1 percent overall, 36.8 percent 3s

Yes, Lillard is putting up big statistics this season with 28.9 points and 8.0 assists per game. But his shooting numbers -- 45.6 percent overall and 39.1 percent from 3-point range -- don't match up to what Steph did last season: 47.2 percent overall and 43.7 percent from beyond the arc.

[RELATED: The disrespect Steph gets absolutely blows Redick's mind]

The day possibly will come when Dame is considered the superior player by the majority of the basketball world. We aren't that naive.

But it definitely has not arrived yet.

So the answer to Simmons's question is ...

... "yes."

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