For the first time in their two plus year title run, the Golden State Warriors have to deal with what the rest of the league has to deal with as a matter of routine: bad luck. In a freakish circumstance, as if bit by the karma flu because he didn’t want to sign with the local team, Kevin Durant had his season altered by a Zaza Pachulia backwards fall. The accidental crime ended one of Duran’ts most brilliant seasons, leading the Warriors in scoring, rebounding and blocks. Durant will be put on the shelf with a bone bruise and a grade 2 MCL sprain. He will be re-evaluated in a month.
The more worrisome injury is the bone bruise. They take their time to heal and he can be ready in a month or not be ready. It is bad news for the Warriors who reshuffled their team to make room for Durant. Without him, they have holes.
The Warriors had planned on signing Jose Calderon who had been released by the Lakers. Calderon is a smart player who can make open threes. He fits in with the Warriors identity. But as soon as the news about Durant began filtering out as probably done for the regular season, the Warriors were in scramble mode.
There are no scoring, rebounding small forwards to pluck off a vine. Let’s be real. If you are released it is because 1) you are old- Deron Williams. 2) You don’t fit the scheme- Brandon Jennings. 3) You are on a worthless team- Bojan Bogdanovic. 3) Your skills have wildly diminished- Andrew Bogut.
Matt Barnes is all of those. He is old. In eight days he will be 37. Matt Barnes doesn’t fit the scheme. He doesn’t make threes, 32% this season, 32% last season. He came from the clueless Sacramento Kings who just delivered a Hall of Fame player for free, getting nothing in return. His skills are consistent with someone of his age cohort.
Credit Matt Barnes in this though. He was drafted in the second round (2002) and has found a way to stay relevant in the league by playing with intensity and emotion. The Warriors will be his 12th team. He is a No-Cal native, hailing from Sacramento. He was with the Warriors 2006-08, when he was 26 years old and averaged 8 points and 4 rebounds. This year with dreadful Sac he averaged 7 points and 5 rebounds.
But do the Warriors really need another hot head in the midst? They already have to navigate around the emotional impulsivity of Draymond Green. Now add emotional reactor Matt Barnes for Steve Kerr to play psychiatrist to. No need to go into the litany of technicals and dissing James Harden’s mother in the playoffs (accidental according to Barnes), nor turning himself in to police (last month) for a nightclub incident where assault was alleged. (Note: the alleged victims are suing Barnes for jamming up their face). No reason to rehash the Derek Fisher-Matt Barnes former teammate crime on crime that won’t go away because Barnes won’t let it. The point of it all is that Barnes emotions get the best of him in the worst possible moments. He was on his best behavior in L.A. with Kobe as cop but no one has really been able to get Barnes to, as Pat Riley put it, block out the “peripheral opponent.”
For a month at least, the Warriors will have to deal with what OKC had had to deal with since October. Trying to win games without Kevin Durant. It’s preaching to the choir and being Captain Obvious to say Kevin Durant can’t be replaced.
The Warriors will go back to who they were last year, minus Bogut to clog the middle. They will become Steph’s team once again. They will rely on Klay’s shot making and Draymond’s numbers will shoot up, he will get the ball more. There is a six to seven game tough matchup drama (Hawks, Spurs twice, Rockets twice, Celtics, Wizards) in which the Warriors will have to overcome their tragedy but other than that, they should proceed as usual.
More significant is the playoffs if Durant isn’t back. Or if he is back and takes time to be familiar Durant. The Warriors had depth issues already. They aren’t structured- and no NBA team is- to lose one of their max players.
In October, the thought was 2016-17 was going to be a different kind of Warriors season. In March, we can acknowledge how true that really is.
photo via llananba