“He is being evaluated today. We haven’t gotten the results back yet… We are going to start Brandon Rush.”
The Golden State Warriors avoided the worst possible news when Barnes’ X-rays came back negative, though it remains unclear how long Barnes will remain shelved. The way Barnes left the court in Friday’s 135-116 win over the Phoenix Suns was especially troubling, clearly in pain and putting no weight on his left ankle.
Barnes — who has played a key role in the Warriors’ NBA-record 17-0 start — injured himself landing on the foot of Suns forward Markieff Morris while attempting to defend a shot. Barnes had been averaging career-bests in minutes (30.1), shooting percentage (.500) and points (13.4).
The top choice to step into the role of starting forward might have seemed to be sixth man Andre Iguodala. But Walton, in a decision that included input from head coach Steve Kerr, went with Rush to allow Iguodala to continue to lead a Golden State bench squad that has been among the best in the NBA.
The starting lineup may not be the most affected, though. Barnes plays a key role in the Warriors’ small lineup, and the 6-foot-8, 230-pound Iowa native brings the ability to guard all five positions — something few are able to do — giving the Warriors’ small lineup an edge over all others.
Walton said he has not yet set on who will fill that role during Barnes’ absence:
“We still feel like we can get to it, obviously Harrison is a huge part of that success… (we are considering) playing Andre at some (power forward) and Shaun (Livingston) being the guy to fill in. Have Shaun playing Andre’s role and Andre playing Harrison’s role, that’s one option.”
While Walton expressed some concern over not having the “Black Falcon” for this game, he seemed more worried about the “31 missed 3-point shots” his squad missed when they edged their northern California rivals 103-94 in Sacramento Nov. 7.
Also among Walton’s concerns was a feared injury to center Andrew Bogut’s hand. Bogut, who appeared to jam the middle finger on his left hand (the same he dislocated less than a week earlier), has not said anything to the coaching staff about the apparent injury. And, as Walton put it, when they don’t come to him, about the injury it isn’t anything to worry about.