Early-season injuries testing Warriors’ mettle
By now, the Warriors are used to losing Stephen Curry here and there with ankle problems, or Andrew Bogut to this-or-that injury.
But just 14 games into the season, injuries and hot heads have wounded the Warriors and put their shortcomings on display.
Luckily, Jermaine O’Neal returned Tuesday and scored 18 points as the Warriors held off the Pelicans 102-101 in their first of a four-game road trip.
Yes, the Warriors snapped their three-game losing streak and improved to 9-6, but only narrowly escaped defeat as Eric Gordon missed a three-point shot in the last seconds.
Bogut will return against Dallas on Wednesday after serving his suspension during Tuesday’s game. Order will be restored down low for the Warriors, but they will continue on a road trip with a bench that has failed to be consistent, and without Andre Iguodala, out for the road trip with a hamstring injury.
At practice on this week, David Lee addressed the Warriors’ injury situation:
“We haven’t been playing our best ball and we’ve been shorthanded.”
That’s an understatement. Take a deep breath, this is a long list.
First, Toney Douglas suffered a stress reaction of his left tibia Nov. 12, sidelining him for at least two weeks and taking away relief at the point guard position, especially on the defensive end.
Curry missed a game in San Antonio near the start of the season because of a bruised ankle. Then, against Utah Nov. 18, Curry’s head was smashed into the court, shelving him for two games with a concussion.
The night before Curry was hurt, Jermaine O’Neal hit a wet spot on the court and nearly did the splits, injuring his right groin and knee.
On Monday, rookie center Ognjen Kuzmic had surgery on his pinky finger Monday after breaking it Nov. 20.
To top it off, an on-court brawl initiated by Bogut on Saturday against Portland led to a one-game suspension for the Warriors’ starting big — served in Tuesday night’s win — as well as a $20,000 fine for Draymond Green.
Not all of these issues have struck at the same time, and none of the injuries are hugely detrimental. But together they have exposed problems at Golden State.
While Curry and Douglas were out, Iguodala was spread thin, doing most of the heavy lifting, especially defensively. But when Iguodala wasn’t there, the other options were Kent Bazemore and rookie Nemanja Nedovic.
The bottom line is that both are young guys without enough game reps to be trusted with the offense for more than a couple minutes at a time. Even with small standout performances, it’s too early to get excited about what they’re able to do.
With O’Neal and Kuzmic injured, depth at the center position is becoming a problem too. The Warriors have called up Dewayne Dedmon from the D-League Santa Cruz Warriors, but can’t rely on him to replace the production of Bogut or O’Neal.
While some might say its unnessesary to make a big deal out of a three-game losing streak in November, I say anything that exposes the flaws of a team is a big deal. Especially when that team is expected to be a threat in the Western Conference.
O’Neal said after the game Tuesday that it is definitely a big deal when you look at the larger picture:
“If we want to be a championship calliber team we should never lose three games in a row, I don’t care who we play.”
If Golden State expects to stay in the championship conversation, not only do they need to stay healthy, they need to address the problems they are having coming up with a bench that can produce on a regular basis.
After playing Dallas on Wednesday, the Warriors head to Oklahoma City Friday and finish off their roadtrip in Sacramento on Sunday.