James Wiseman received news Monday that might be as consequential to his rookie season as it is to the state of the Warriors.
The 7-foot center underwent an MRI test and was diagnosed with a sprained left wrist. He will be re-evaluated in next week and, depending upon the healing process, likely will miss more than 10 days.
It’s a blow to Wiseman’s Rookie of the Year campaign.
It is, however, a bigger blow to the hopes of the Warriors.
After ending training camp with three designated centers, they are now down to one, 6-foot-9 veteran Kevon Looney, who has yet to miss a game this season but has a career-long history of injury issues. Marquese Chriss sustained a leg fracture on Dec. 26 that required surgery likely will sideline him for the season.
It’s extremely risky to go two weeks or so with one undersize center. General manager Bob Myers has to be pondering a roster addition.
With a center trio of Looney, who started the last four games, and 6-foot-6 power forwards Draymond Green and Eric Paschall, the Warriors are the smallest team in the NBA. Their tallest active players, after Looney, are wings Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Oubre Jr., both of whom are 6-foot-7.
Can the Warriors win without seeking reinforcements? It sounds like they’re going to try.
“We’ll mix and match and figure out what we’re going to do,” coach Steve Kerr said.
“It’s a concern anytime you lose anybody for any stretch of time, especially a guy who is in the rotation,” Stephen Curry said. “But we’ll figure it out.”
I’m skeptical, mostly because of their problems rebounding. They’ve lost that category in 14 of 20 games. Though there are signs of improvement – they’ve won the rebounding battle in two of the last three games – but that was with Wiseman available.
With him out, that means more small-ball lineups and more responsibility for the undersize role players on the roster. More minutes for Paschall. More minutes for Damion Lee, a 6-foot-5 guard who has been pressed into service at both forward spots. Wiggins will see more minutes at power forward, as well Juan Toscano-Anderson. Oubre also might slide from shooting guard into minutes at either forward spot.
There will be some interesting and very challenged Golden State lineups facing the likes of 7-foot-3 Kristaps Porzingis for two games in Dallas, followed by a pair of games against 6-foot-11 LaMarcus Aldridge and 7-foot-1 Jakob Poeltl in San Antonio.
“We obviously have things we’ve got to work on, in terms of rebounding and fouling,” Curry said. “It seems if we don’t and we get one-shot possessions, our field goal percentage is really, really strong. Those two things you’ve got correct.”
Curry is right about those two areas. The Warriors play their best ball when they limit their fouls on defense and pull rebounds that trigger transition.
The problem with that in the upcoming games is those are two areas that bigger teams can exploit. Smaller players often get whistled for fouls simply because the size disparity results in excess physicality. Smaller players have more difficulty keeping teams off the offensive glass, limiting them to one-shot possessions.
If the Warriors play it safe and don’t make a move, they have to hope parity continues to exist in the middle of the Western Conference
If they opt to make a move, likely from the G League, it means creating a roster spot and a slight bump in the payroll – and maybe the difference in a couple games.
Either way, a challenging season is now more challenging. At least temporarily.