The Warriors have gladly reached the 2023 NBA All-Star break, and it's time to admit some mistakes. Well, mistakes on my end.
Prior to the start of the regular season, I did my journalistic duties in putting together three bold (key word) Warriors predictions for 2022-23. In order, they consisted of the Warriors having four All-Stars, Jordan Poole being the Warriors' second-leading scorer and finally, Golden State winning at least 53 games and flirting with 60 if all went right.
*Covers eyes* My bad!
Clank, brink, airball -- hit me with whatever basketball cliché you can think of.
With a perfectly encapsulating 29-29 record at the break, the Warriors, like yours truly, have missed the mark. They would have to win literally every game left to reach 53 wins, their lone All-Star (Steph Curry) is missing Salt Lake City's shenanigans while rehabbing a left lower leg injury and though Poole still could finish as Golden State's second-leading scorer, that title looks like it'll still belong to Klay Thompson.
So, what's next? Here are three Warriors storylines to watch coming out of the break.
Of the Warriors' 24 remaining games in the regular season, only three are against Eastern Conference teams -- one apiece against the Milwaukee Bucks, Atlanta Hawks and Philadelphia 76ers. Those are two true contenders and one middling disappointment, like the defending champions.
The rest of the regular season will continue to be a gauntlet through the Western Conference. Going into Wednesday's slate of games, the Warriors are the No. 9 seed in the West. Taking advantage of Chase Center will be key.
At this point, it's no secret how much better the Warriors have played at home compared to the road. They're 22-7 on their home court and 7-22 away from San Francisco. Dominant in one place, terrible in the others -- the formula for an average product.
Being better on the road obviously is a must. So is continuing to rack up wins in front of Dub Nation. Their remaining home games are against the Houston Rockets, Minnesota Timberwolves (twice), Portland Trail Blazers, LA Clippers, New Orleans Pelicans (twice), Bucks, Phoenix Suns, 76ers, San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder.
There will be deciding factors -- see the third category on this list -- but the Warriors still winning the majority of their home games will take them a long way. As long as they get a bit better than being historically bad on the road.
Which has been in hiding this season.
"We're fine offensively," Steve Kerr said Tuesday night after the Warriors' 134-124 loss to the Clippers. "We're No. 1 in the league in assists. We have our identity, our guys know what we're trying to do. We've done a better job of taking care of the ball, I'm not worried about our offense.'
"But we've got to make stops. But tonight, that third quarter they scored 44 and that was the game. Couldn't get stops."
That has been the story from the start to the middle of February. The Warriors' vaunted defense has vanished. They were one of the best on that side of the ball last season, and are average at best defensively this season. In many cases, they're downright bad defensively.
Draymond Green took it a step further Tuesday night in LA, saying the Warriors have no collective will on that side of the ball. It's not the first time he has called out his team's defense this season, and it won't be the last if this continues. The former Defensive Player of the Year takes it upon himself to fix the Warriors' many defensive cracks.
A message was sent behind Draymond's frustrations. He's demanding to be heard.
Talking about it is only one part of the equation. This is a results based league, and the results often times have been bad. Perhaps Gary Payton II, when healthy, can wave a Warriors magic wand and make everything right again. Counting on that to be the solution is a hell of a decision.
Maybe an addition on the buyout market is the answer. Maybe Payton will make that much of an impact. Maybe the problem is solved obsessing over film. Or maybe this is just who the Warriors are this season.
The most important factor in the Warriors' success also has been their biggest question mark this season. Steph Curry has missed 20 games and Andrew Wiggins has missed 21. Curry and Wiggins were two of the Warriors' three All-Stars last season. Green was their third.
He has only been out for six games this season, but the weight on his shoulders keeps getting heavier weeks away from his 33rd birthday.
Poole and Kevon Looney have each played all 58 games, and Looney now has played 169 consecutive regular season games. Both can use the rest the All-Star break should bring.
Andre Iguodala missed the first 39 games of the season. He then played three in a row and now has missed 16 straight to hip soreness. The 39-year-old has ramped up his workouts and is expected to be back on the court shortly after the break. Iguodala was a plus-18 in plus/minus combined over his three games.
Payton won't be re-evaluated for the next month with a core muscle/right adductor injury. It's nice having the All-Star break for his injury and others, though the time away isn't going to cure all for Golden State.
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The good news is, Thompson just played his first set of back-to-backs since April 2019 and came out feel well after 18 points in 28 minutes. Wiggins played his best game since the calendar flipped to 2023 before missing Tuesday's game because of personal reasons. Curry will be, eventually. The Warriors are hopeful the same can be said of Payton.
Will it all be too late? The Warriors weren't fully healthy until the playoffs last season and won their fourth title in an eight-season span. Thus far, they haven't looked up to par with that team.
If Curry, Thompson and Green still are wearing Warriors jerseys, though, the script can be flipped in an instant. The Warriors have their fingers crossed that narrative continues in the coming months.