Warriors

/ by Monte Poole
Presented By montepoole
Warriors

SAN FRANCISCO -- Warriors stars Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson could not have known it would come to this, that they’d find themselves squarely in the thrall of superstition.

They have to keep planting themselves on the bench until this thing ends.

This winning thing.

And why not take it beyond?

The Warriors on Monday won their second consecutive game, a 113-104 strangling of the suddenly moribund Minnesota Timberwolves at Chase Center. This might not seem like much to the outside observer, and it barely would have been a blip in recent Warriors seasons, but this is the first time they have won successive games since last May, when they swept the Portland Trail Blazers out of the Western Conference finals.

Either Curry or Thompson, or both, were on the bench, as was the case Friday night, when the Warriors held off the New Orleans Pelicans. They’re watching, mock participating in the action, cheering, encouraging and even teasing their teammates.

With six championship rings and 11 All-Star Game appearances between them, Curry and Thompson, simply by mere presence, are reminding the young Warriors of how it’s done and what’s to come.

“We’ve got a super-young team,” said Draymond Green, who surely approves of having his career-long teammates around to assist in leadership. “These young guys look up to them. They are legends. Superstars. Heroes, to some of these young guys. So, just to have their presence around it definitely helps and makes a difference.”

 

The bonding of an NBA team usually begins in summer, picks up in training camp and becomes fully formed over the course of a season, particularly on road trips. Curry or Thompson, sometimes both, soon will begin traveling with the team. It matters.

Thompson, who tore his left ACL during the NBA Finals in June, is ramping up his weight-room rehab and also doing light non-contact work in the gym, mostly shooting. There is no timetable for his return -- or if he will be back this season.

Curry broke his left hand on Oct. 30. Two days later, he underwent surgery that included the insertion of pins. The pins were removed two weeks ago. He is not yet cleared for basketball activities but is hopeful he can rejoin his teammates on the floor after the All-Star break.

Meanwhile, both players are available to be themselves in a room with four rookies -- Ky Bowman, Eric Paschall, Jordan Poole and Alen Smailagic -- and other young players, like Marquese Chriss, Jacob Evans III, Omari Spellman and, yes, 23-year-old D’Angelo Russell.

“It’s solid; you feel that energy,” Russell said of having Curry and Thompson on the bench. “The crowd wants that. They play their part, too, and then you’ve got those guys kind of leading the way on the bench with energy. It’s contagious.”

This season will fall well short of the heights the Warriors achieved over the past seven seasons, with annual playoff appearances, five trips to the NBA Finals and three championships. This was going to be a transition year until Curry’s injury moved it at warp speed toward the lottery.

Evans is struggling with his shot; an 0-of-6 evening on Monday dropped his shooting percentage for December to 21.6 percent. Poole is beyond struggling. He’s failing, shooting 10.0 percent this month. Though neither of the young guards can be expected to shoot at the level of a Steph or Klay, both can take lessons about finding a rhythm.

“Our young guys are learning every day,” coach Steve Kerr said. “And Steph and Klay have been leaders on this team for a long time. Many of our other leaders have moved on, so they really stand out, along with Draymond, as the foundation of this team. To have them here, cheering the guys on, working out around them, being on the practice floor, is really good for our young guys.”

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There are multiple reasons why the Warriors won their last two games. They’re healthier and deeper than they’ve been all season. They’re playing at home, against vulnerable opponents.

But sports locker rooms tend to incubate superstition. Not everyone is, but most are. If anybody believes the presence of Curry and Thompson will bring some luck, they’ll take it.

 

As for those who don’t believe in superstition, good luck finding a downside to having these two around.