UPDATE: Good Luck has indeed returned to the Warriors with a resounding 4th NBA Title in 8 years, and the future looks brighter than ever with up and coming stars like Andrew Wiggins, Jonathan Kuminga, and James Wiseman. Despite losing the talents of Gary Payton II, Otto Porter, Jr., Nmanja Bjelica, and Juan Toscano-Anderson, the addition of Dante DiVincenzo, the continuing emergence of Jordan Poole and Moses Moody, and the signing of Kevon Looney should help the legendary corps of superstars make at least a few more legitimate runs at more titles a reality. Not to mention - could a deal to reunite KD in the city by the Bay be in the offing? Now that would definitely be epic!
Well, I’m sure we can all agree that when it comes to dismantling a dynasty, no city has been more affected than the City by the Bay. Just a few years ago, we watched the NFL front-runners inexplicably remove Jim Harbaugh - one of the most successful coaches in Niners history - and piece by piece bid adieu to almost every cornerstone of a successful franchise - everybody from Harbaugh to Alex Smith to Patrick Willis to Aldon Smith to Navarro Bowman, and eventually Colin Kaepernick, Michael Crabtree, Justin Smith, and Frank Gore, all mysteriously disappearing for myriad different reasons. The result? A team that managed to win an average of a minuscule 5 games per season over the next 5 seasons, laboring painfully at the bottom of the NFL. Of course, the Niners have now come full circle, and have turned that grim fate into fortune once again during this season’s return to Super Bowl Glory behind new superstars like Jimmy G, Nick Bosa, Raheem Mostert and coach Kyle Shanahan. So what, I ask you, will become of these new-look Golden State Warriors?
Essentially winners of the last 5 NBA championships, they have seen the likes of Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala, DeMarcus Cousins, Quinn Cook, Andrew Bogut, Patrick McCaw, Jordan Bell, Alfonzo McKinnie and the year before that - Ian Clark, Nick Young, Zaza Pachulia, and Javale McGee - all bolt elsewhere in search of a title. Not exactly the typical formula for players on a team that posted the highest winning percentage over a 5-year span in NBA history. What, you may ask, can possibly be causing this?
Well, the first and most obvious reason has been the absolutely inexplicable barrage of injuries that has plagued this team going back to last year’s NBA finals and playoffs. How many teams can lose their 3 best players (Durant and Klay Thompson in the Finals last year, and Steph Curry to an early-season fracture of the hand), not to mention their spiritual leader and defensive stalwart in Andre Iguodala and top free agent signee in D’Angelo Russell, as well as top rebounder Kevon Looney, and even Draymond Green - the heart and soul, and final member of the four 2019 all-star starters on this team, each missing significant time with a series of nagging injuries.
What on God’s green earth is going on here? Is this even possible? Even Damon Lillard, an Oakland native, had to remark on just how bizarre this cruel twist of fate truly was early this season. But the one bright spot would have to be - I have to say that the crop of new, young players that the Warriors have assembled to replace these absolute superstars have performed admirably well under very difficult circumstances, to say the least. D’Angelo Russell, when healthy, has proven to be every bit the scorer the Warriors were hoping to find when they signed him to make up for losing KD. The real surprise has come from the other newcomers such as Alec Burks, Glen Robinson III, and both former Villanova standouts, Eric Pascall and Omari Spellman, along with Kai Bowman scoring at a surprising rate at guard and forward positions, together with Willie-Cauley-Stein rebounding and rim protecting in the middle at center.
But despite this more than valiant, and unexpectedly impressive showing from these “role players”, the Warriors have also had to deal with an undeniably strong case of “reverse karma” from all the victories of the past half-decade. Often times it seems that lady luck, who was unquestionably on their side constantly and continuously for the past several years, has seemingly abandoned them altogether. How can this be happening? We all might wonder, is this really the same team karmically now that they have crossed over to the other side of the Bay? The hard-luck Warriors have lost an inordinate amount of close games, including games where they had big leads at different points in the game, only to see their opponents come storming back.
Fittingly, the game on MLK, Jr. Day, in which Damian Lillard (the very person who had voiced his dismay at their misfortune early in the season), almost single-handedly erased a 19-point 2nd half deficit en route to a 61-point amazing performance, turning what was nearly the Warriors first 3-game winning streak of the season, into the start of yet another long losing streak. Following this last crushing blow, had the Warriors closed up shop for this season after trading Cauley-Stein to the Dallas Mavericks, followed by Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III to the Philadelphia 76ers at the trade deadline? They did manage to acquire Andrew Wiggins to be Steph & Klay's new running mate for the future, but will rumors continue to swirl around Giannis Antetoknoumpo as well?
Even though Kevon Looney did also battle his way back into the lineup, and Steph Curry finally returned in March from his near season-long hand injury, and now, after the long pause due to the COVID-19 outbreak, might we see Klay make a late-season appearance for a few games if the season does indeed resume? Will this team really be able to recover, and return to their previous glory? They’ll need to do it very quickly, quietly and smartly if they hope too have any chance of regaining their form, and competing with teams like Milwaukee, Boston, and Miami (in the East), and the Lakers, Clippers, and Jazz (in the West), who have all, with their multitudes of trades and free-agent acquisitions made to bolster their lineups, put themselves in position to be the new Warriors, the new “kings of the hardwood.”
One has to believe Steve Kerr and the Warriors vaunted front-office has something hidden up its sleeves. And that this 15-50 abomination of a season will soon disappear like a distant memory as quickly as Kevin Durant said, “adios, amigos.” Who would ever have imagined the Warriors claiming a top 3 pick in the upcoming NBA draft lottery, but that seems very likely right now. Will they try to make a huge deal with this pick, or save everything for the off-season to make a serious run at Giannis, or another of the big-name superstars that will be available in 2021? Or will they trade down and stock up on draft picks in order to build the team up from scratch via the draft like they did not so long ago when they drafted the champions they currently have? It all remains to be seen, but in this most improbable of seasons, one that may or may not crown a champion at all, we know one thing for sure, the 5-time defending Western Conference champs desperately need that Oracle mojo to start shining its light down on the newly anointed palace - the Chase Center - once again, and the Splash brothers to start raining threes down on the Bay again like so many summer nights gone by here! Arise, Warriors, arise, and reclaim your illustrious throne!! This has all the drama of a Greek (Freak?) tragedy! :-)