Friday, May 17, 2013

Warriors season comes to an end on but greater things remain on horizon

And so the big red curtain closes on another Warriors season. Or maybe it was a big yellow curtain. At any rate, the Warriors’ stirring 2012-2013 campaign and an equally thrilling postseason run came to an end as the Spurs took Game 6, 94-82, and the series, 4-2, Thursday night in Oakland.

On a night the Spurs didn’t get much from Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili (combined 4-of-22 from the field), the Warriors got even less from Klay Thompson and Andrew Bogut (stats? You’re better off looking at Kevin Ware’s broken leg).

Stephen Curry did all he could to will his team toward somehow forcing a Game 7 in San Antonio on Sunday.

He shook off a dreadful Game 5 by scoring 22 points on 10-of-25 shooting. Jarrett “Jared” Jack added in 15.

Harrison Barnes contributed nine points but wasn’t the same after he probably sustained a concussion at the end
of the first half on a scary fall that resulted in blood being spilled on the court and having to get stitches over his right eye.

But all night the Warriors couldn’t get over the proverbial hump. They’d make a run and come within striking distance, only to fall backward. This is was none more painfully evident when the Warriors were down by as little as 3 with 2:20 left in the ball game, only for the Spurs to wield daggers with back-to-back 3?s.

It was a game in which the Warriors could have gotten something, anything from Bogut, who played only 20 minutes and was clearly being limited by his hobbled ankle. Golden State really could have used his presence down low to disrupt all the problems Tiago Splitter and Tim Duncan were causing. But as was the case all season long, his body wasn’t willing to cooperate.

Tons of credit goes to the Spurs, though. Sure, they were fortunate the Warriors had their own seven-game series with the injury bug. But they much better team. They eventually figured out the Warriors. No adjustment they made was more devastating than putting Kawhi Leonard on Klay Thompson and effectively neutralizing him the rest of the series after his 34-point rain dance in Game 2. That the words “eventually figured out” had to be used is still a compliment to the Warriors for their feisty, stubborn effort against this veteran, playoff-tested, championship caliber Spurs unit. The warriors put up a respectable fight, but this just wasn’t their time. Yet there’s plenty to build off of.

And now that’s it’s officially the offseason, it’s about that time you start looking ahead.

First things first, Bogut needs to spend the next three months in a constant state ice baths, cardio and rest. Take the summer to finally get his body 100 percent. If he can also stay away from sharp objects or anything remotely posing a threat to his health, even better. Just stay inside all summer, Andrew. Buy an elliptical. Watch Aussie Rules Football. Binge on Game of Thrones. Just get yourself right for next season. But knowing Bogut’s luck with injuries, he’ll probably go back home to Australia and get bit by one of the, like, gazillion dangerously poisonous bugs there and end up having to miss the season while the flesh on his leg repairs itself.

(As I said at the time, and as it’s become starkly evident by now, the Monta Ellis trade was absolutely the right move. Even through Bogut’s health woes. Bogut was an indomitable force in the post for the Warriors on both ends for most of this postseason, a game-changer in some games. Imagine the weapon he could be for the Warriors if he can ever get his health right. Potential all-star, maybe. Monta apologists, your rebuttal? That’s right. There’s is none.)

The same goes for Curry. Keep making freaking adorable Vine videos of your daughter, Steph. Just stay away from anything that could possibly do harm to your ankles. This includes but is not limited to taking the stairs. Elevators only from now on, Steph. If you have to get one of these bad boys in your home, do it. WE CAN’T MESS AROUND WITH THIS ANYMORE. BASKETBALL NEEDS YOU DOING THE JAWDROPPING THINGS YOU DO ON THE COURT AND TAKING HEAT CHECKS FROM 50 FEET AWAY.

While Curry is great, that Harrison Barnes is blossoming into some type of player, huh? The confidence he displayed in both rounds on the big stage of the playoffs as a rookie was impressive and at times vital for the Warriors. It shows he is capable of shouldering more responsibility and deserves more minutes, even in crunch time, next season.

With the starting lineup firmly established, the Warriors bench will be an interesting storyline to follow. Festus Ezeli and Draymond Green will hopefully have normal progressions. Brandon Rush will be back healthy, if he opts to pick up his player option. But it’s hard seeing both Jack and Carl Landry coming back. Jack has an expiring contract, Landry has a player option, which he’ll probably decline it if he’s smart. Both should see lucrative and attractive offers on the market and will make it hard for the Warriors to keep both of them. Both were the Warriors’ two most important players off the bench this season and fall-back options with the shaky health of Curry and Bogut. Big holes the Warriors have got to address.

But, hey, if the Warriors don’t find anything on the market they like, there’s always Andris Biedrins and Richard Jefferson. No, not to step up. God, no. But both players have astronomically expensive expiring contracts next season. Just remember that in case there’s a trade partner out there with attractive pieces and on the reset, looking to shed salary quickly.

Assuming health cooperates, though, the Warriors have already laid the foundation to become one of the league’s more dangerous teams for years to come. Even this season, the Warriors took down the likes of the mighty Clippers, Heat, Thunder, Spurs, Nuggets with Bogut out most of the season and with three rookies in the rotation.

The Warriors weren’t a championship contender this season. If in the middle of this postseason odyssey, you sincerely believed that they were, I’ll venture a step short of telling you to seek help and just say stop lying to yourself. STAWP. JUST STOP. Most people saw this team as a fringe playoff contender. Getting the sixth seed was enough of a worthwhile accomplishment. Anything that came after that was just the cherry.

Now this is a team that will have bigger expectations heading into next season. Can’t wait to see the team try to run through those expectations just like they did with this year’s. For now, though, this is goodbye. Goodbye to this bonkers, exhausting, sometimes frustrating but, above all else, fun Warriors season. This is a multi-act show, though. The curtain closes for now but rises again shortly. And I get the feeling the other acts are better than the first.
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