Curry’s Return Is A Risky Proposition

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Updated: March 2, 2020
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The Golden State Warriors are strangers to themselves and to the rest of the league that often prayed for their downfall in the years preceding. This 2019-2020 iteration of G-Leaguers, second (and in some cases third) chancers and castoffs is a facelift nobody could have predicted.

It is certainly not what the Warriors themselves thought would be their reality, even after Kevin Durant bolted to the Big Apple. This is a proud franchise that has been doused in success and championship lore led by the heroics of Stephen Curry, even before the addition of Durant.

When the team entered the season, the hope was that Curry would invoke the spirit of MVPs past and ignite a changed roster. Draymond Green remained and D’Angelo Russell joined the fold as the consolation prize acquired in the sign-and-trade deal for Durant. The team hoped to tread water and maybe even prove to be menacing as the season progressed led by an invigorated Curry.

It was not to be.

The two-time MVP injured his left hand on October 30, 2019, just four games into the season, and underwent surgery two days later. With an estimated time table of no less than three months before he could return, it appeared as if the Warriors would have no choice but to put any hopes of competing this season in their back pockets.

The losses mounted as did the injuries and “rest” days for those even semi-capable with Green, Russell, Kevon Looney, Willie Caulie-Stein and others all missing significant time.

Now as the season enters its home stretch, the Warriors are still hobbled and even more unfamiliar with Russell, Caulie-Stein, Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson all traded away. Yet, according to multiple reports, they intend to bring Curry back on March 1st in what seems like a perplexing move in a lost season.

What exactly are they trying to salvage or prove?

Curry is truly a warrior in every sense of the word and always fully intended to return this season if his body would allow it. Golden State also maintained that they are too proud to tank and if their star was capable of suiting up—they would deploy him no matter when that was or what their outlook was perceived to be.

But do both parties need to be saved from themselves?

Keep in mind the Warriors aren’t too far removed from the controversy of The NBA Finals where Durant returned from a mysterious lower extremity injury only to rupture his Achilles after 12 minutes of action. Durant has exonerated Golden State of any malpractice regarding his return but the franchise is still haunted by the impact of that decision in the court of public opinion. What if Curry suffers a setback on a stage for less important than that of the Finals in this final stretch of games?

Then there is the issue of the aforementioned current roster. Klay Thompson is not walking through that door and Russell is playing Call of Duty with his friend Karl-Anthony Towns in Minnesota. Andrew Wiggins now occupies one of the musical chair seats of the team’s wings flanked by a sour Green who is having his worst season in the Steve Kerr era.

The argument could be made that Curry’s return is to help build team chemistry for next season, but even with Wiggins and Green as likely holdovers the risk vs reward appears skewed. In today’s NBA players coming back from significant injury (of any variety) are often placed on minutes restrictions and held out on the second night of back-to-backs.

Golden State has four back-to-back sets remaining this season and the third toughest remaining schedule, which includes the Raptors, Nuggets and Clippers, twice each and games against the Sixers, Lakers, Bucks and Thunder. Curry isn’t afraid of competition but building rapport with his teammates, against that level of competition, while recovering from injury will be an uphill battle.

Skeptics may also wonder why the team would allow Curry to return as he could—in theory—hurt their lottery chances. Nevertheless, Golden State is in no danger of improving to the point where they would not still own one of the three worst records in league. That is something they are actually winning at this year sitting five wins below the next worst team in the association.

Management is probably licking their chops charmed by this reality as it allows them to support their claims of not tanking openly while knowing a rehabilitating Curry is unlikely to sway their lottery outlook. In the event the Warriors and Curry got hot or even moderately warm, the cooling effect of load management would pop up quicker than a Draymond Green technical. In that regard, it is the perfect win-win.

From a business standpoint, Curry is still a draw and the Warriors just moved into their new arena, the Chase Center. With the product on the floor not coming close to matching the prices for tickets initially, the team has seen a significant drop in home attendance. They were sixth in the league last year and now they rank 16th with 12 home games remaining. There is a puncher’s chance that getting the six-time All-Star back can boost what has been an unexpected dip in attendance. Incidentally, the Warriors rank 26th in road attendance this season compared to being second only a year ago.

Stars and super teams affect the league’s bottom line and Curry coming back for the home stretch is as much about money as it is pride. Hopefully it works out for all parties involved including the fans who have missed his long distance assault and shimmies.

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