The Warriors returned home early Saturday morning to the same compromised circumstances they’ve lived since the eighth day of the season, when they were informed that Steph Curry would miss at least the next three months.
That’s when the eighth consecutive trip to the playoffs, a fantasy spread mostly by delusional passengers that jumped aboard the five-year-old bandwagon, was swept off the table and into the fire pit.
The Warriors had to start over. Craft an entirely new blueprint for 2019-20. What they had planned as a partial makeover, a “gap” year that could be tolerated as the youngsters developed, suddenly was a season that would be sacrificed.
With Curry missing most of the season and fellow multiple-time All-Star Klay Thompson possibly sidelined for its entirety, stark realism flooded the hallways and meeting rooms of Chase Center on Halloween. Everywhere except on the court, according to multiple team and league sources, the organization immediately began looking past this season, toward the next and beyond.
It’s rare that a season in any sport is torched in Week 1, but what choice was there? Though the Warriors added D’Angelo Russell, hoping he might offset some of the offense lost with KevIn Durant’s departure (a decision that, according to some, still haunts franchise CEO Joe Lacob) – and, at worst, be of value in trade – they already had seen enough of D-Lo to know he is not equipped to fill the leadership/galvanization void created by Curry’s absence.
No Curry, no chance for the postseason. Again, getting there at all would have required an absurd combination of Warriors magic and rampant misfortune around the Western Conference.
Instead, they are 3-14, with coach Steve Kerr and his nine assistants trying to win (Priority 2) while evaluating the roster to determine which players might fit beyond next April 15 (Priority 1). They have mid-career veterans Alec Burks, Willie Cauley-Stein and Glenn Robinson III, who signed “I’ll show ‘em” one-year contracts, realizing they’re holding a transfer to elsewhere.
They have youngsters like Marquese Chriss, Eric Paschall, Jordan Poole and Omari Spellman ostensibly absorbing the lessons that come with such moral victories as the 113-109 loss to the Jazz on Friday in Salt Lake City that was made close by a stirring comeback that wiped out 90 percent of a 20-point fourth-quarter deficit.
“This team has been fighting since the beginning of the season and, obviously, dealt with a lot of adversity,” Kerr told reporters in Utah. “But this is what we’ve seen, as a staff. It’s what our fans have seen. We’re not winning a lot of games, but we’re competing. And I’m really proud of the guys.”
The Warriors are sold on Paschall, and that was before the rest of the NBA took notice of the second-round draft pick. They believe in Poole, convinced he is one strong game away from his heralded scoring skills coming out of hibernation. They like undrafted point guard Ky Bowman – “I want to keep him,” Kerr said Friday night – but they can’t convert his two-way contract and without making at least one other move.
The franchise that in recent years had such an obscene level of talent it was considered unhealthy for the NBA now owns the worst record in the league is chasing goals and dollars and carrots that won’t exist until next September.
These Warriors have a chance to be the worst ever, which some of the wretched Warriors teams of old would find hard to believe. It’s bad enough that the front office barely watches. There is no need, and no fun to pretend there is.
President/general manager Bob Myers and his comrades, Larry Harris and Mike Dunleavy in particular, are studying miles of video and traveling thousands of miles by air and maybe even spaceship in search of new talent. Myers headed to Australia to scout LaMelo Ball and R.J. Hampton, according to The Athletic.
This is the routine for the next six months, until the May 19 lottery in Chicago. The Warriors will be present for the first time since 2012, when Myers represented the franchise.
No matter who represents the Warriors next May – don’t count out Curry – there will be zero reflection on this season. The focus then will be where it is now and has been since the two-time MVP underwent surgery the day after Halloween.
Looking toward 2020 and beyond. It’s smart, and it’s not as if they have a choice.