The Warriors dominance the past few years has been marinated in a whole lot of injury luck. None of their key players had injuries that would change the season or playoffs. For the most part, Steph and Co. played together as a unit which enabled their chemistry to take off. Adversity never knocked on the Warriors door and blew the whole damned house down. They had it easy. Their first major adjustment of the dynasty came in game 4 of NBA Finals #1 when Steve Kerr inserted Andre Iguodala into the starting lineup. Other than that, the Dubs have breezed through three seasons and post-seasons while the rest of the NBA limped and hobbled and grimaced their way to the losers finish line.
In Oakland, you don’t talk about Steph’s ankles. The mere mention of his tortured history is like asking for a monsoon to swallow the bay. Because Oakland lived through Steph injury hell, no one can put it out of their mind that we have been here before. We have been here before. Damn. We have been here before.
We. Have. Been. Here. Before.
It may not be serious now. It may not be anything to worry about. Steph may recover quickly. He may be back on the court as early as the 20th of March when he is re-evaluated. He may make 9 threes. He may dribble in the lane, change directions, hand off to KD and run to the three point line and finish a Steph special. He may dish to Draymond who drives and dishes to Klay, who finds an open Steph. He may sink a floater to break the game open, that nasty mouthpiece hanging off his lips. Or….
He may injure his ankle again.
In his worry years, Steph Curry had freak injuries of no contact, no one within five feet of him and the ankles would go, like someone had just pushed a pin in a voodoo doll to make him crumble. This didn’t just happen once. It happened over and over again.
Who is to say that Curry won’t be Jalen Rose-d. In the NBA Finals of 2000, Jalen Rose deliberately kicked his leg out to twist Kobe’s ankle just because he wanted to win a ring that badly and taking Kobe out would do the trick. I’m not saying a Warrior opponent would be crazy enough to do something like that…wait, I take that back. That is exactly something Patrick Beverly would do (if he was healthy). Or, Steven Adams. Or, Marcus Smart. All is fair in love and war so why wouldn’t someone crowd Steph and trap him with footwork making his ability to be elusive with a bum ankle a complication?
Steph’s ankle drama is the Warriors ankle drama, is Oakland’s ankle drama. A lot of Bay area folk are thinking let Steph come back real slow so he can get healed. The Dubs don’t need home court. They can win anywhere. They won a Finals game on the road. In fact, in the playoffs during this Warriors dynasty run, they are 7-2, 4-6, and 7-1 on the road. They know how to win in a city not their own. But what is worrisome is the amount of games Steph has played the past three seasons: 101, 97, 96. If he doesn’t play any more games this season and plays the full 16 playoff games, he would have only suited up for 66 games. Can they win with a little of Steph?
Durant doesn’t think so. He calls it weird. Whereas a few years ago when the Steph everything was considered a gimmick, there is respect for how he makes the Warriors work. He’s not a short Kyle Korver. He drains threes, creates offense with his dribble, drives into the lane with a floater, drives into the lane and creates shots for others, finishes at the rim, gets to the line, spaces the floor, draws double teams creatiing uncontested shots. The Warriors are not the Warriors without Steph Curry. They won’t go where they want to go, repeat champion parade, if he isn’t healthy. Period.
NBA History has schooled us. We know what happens to a team when injuries ruin their postseason. Three years ago when the Cavaliers lost Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, and LeBron James tried but failed to win it by himself, it was an anticlimactic finish robbing us of the ending we wanted to see. Injuries to stars create skeleton teams that just can’t win and it’s a built in excuse for the ages: if only so and so was healthy we would have…..
There isn’t a NBA trophy for good but not great. Or injured, wait until next year. Or sorry this keeps happening. The Warriors are penciled in as back-to-back champions. Pencil, is the key. Not ink. Because Curry paper ankles is their kryptonite.