Don’t Underestimate the Warriors Without Stephen Curry
By Ian Smith
The internet is tailor-made for contrarian opinions to ring loudly, but sometimes too much contradiction makes the environment suffocating, and needs to be remedied with consistency and critical thinking.
The subject that prompts these qualms with the discourse is the news of Stephen Curry’s injury. Whenever a team is brash while also successful, resentment brews amongst onlookers waiting for comeuppance when that team slips or fails.
Judging from discussion amongst fans voicing their opinions on this issue, there’s a lot of mean-spirited people who seem like they’ve been waiting for something like this to happen to the Warriors.
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Painting with broad strokes is something to be done with extreme caution, and the majority of outpouring from fans towards Curry and the Warriors has been positive and encouraging, as it should be.
First of all, these are human beings we’re talking about. When they get injured, they feel pain. One of the bad byproducts of entertainment culture is that it becomes far too easy to objectify participants as merely props in a narrative we observe from afar.
Hardly anybody who watches basketball games has ever met one of the players on a personal level, and empathy is always hardest to practice without firsthand knowledge or the subject or individual.
Second of all, people need to get past the antiquated idea that exuberance is arrogance. This is what Bryce Harper is talking about with his critiques of baseball etiquette: there’s nothing wrong with having fun on the field, and showing that you enjoy being blessed with the opportunity to make millions of dollars by playing a game for a living.
Curry shimmying after he makes a big shot doesn’t mean he’s arrogant; it means he’s enjoying himself. Wouldn’t it be a shame if the popularity of a sport started to decline because its participants acted like emotionless robots 95% of the time?
Third of all, most of the Curry haters are proving to be irrational based on their rhetoric towards the Warriors. Last season, there seemed to be a grassroots movement from fans to try to make the case that James Harden was the rightful MVP, and it was primarily based on the argument that Harden was more crucial to the Houston Rockets’ success than Curry was to the Warriors’, because Curry had a better supporting cast around him.
The Rockets won 56 games and the Warriors won 67 games, and they argued that while Harden was essentially a one-man show, Curry had great options to fall back on.
The argument immediately post-Curry injury from likely those same people was that the Los Angeles Clippers would definitely beat the Warriors without Curry because he’s so critical to any success they have.
Of course these arguments were made before Chris Paul’s own devastating injury last night, but they were made nonetheless.
Isn’t this the same supporting cast that was hyped up last season and used to discredit Curry’s fantastic season? Suddenly a lineup of Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes, Andre Iguodala, Andrew Bogut, Festus Ezeli, Shaun Livingston, and Marreese Speights would “definitely lose” to a 53 win Clippers team?
Paul being out clearly changes most of these people’s opinions, but Paul’s presence in a Warriors/Clippers series even without Curry playing in the majority of it should not have made the Clippers prohibitive favorites to advance from that series.
This Warriors team won 73 games this season. People who said the Warriors “definitely” couldn’t beat the Clippers in a series without Curry aren’t really respecting what a fantastic team this is.
With the Trail Blazers now seemingly having a better chance to advance from their current 2-2 series with the Clippers, the same argument is being applied to them; that the Warriors without Curry might not be favorites anymore in that potential series.
That’s even more ridiculous than the argument with the Clippers as the team involved. For their argument to make sense, Curry himself had to have been worth 20-30 of their regular season wins, which is hard to precisely quantify (his win shares on offense and defense combine to about 18 wins), but judging from the other key components this Warriors team has, by all accounts they have the capability to beat the Clippers without Curry, and hence have an even greater chance of still beating the Trail Blazers, although the odds may be more even between those two potential opponents in terms of who’d be the more difficult series for the Warriors with Paul suddenly injured.
It’s wishful thinking to assume that the Warriors couldn’t get to the Western Conference Finals without Curry. They probably wouldn’t have a chance against a 67 win San Antonio Spurs team without Curry, but against a 53 win Clippers team? A 44 win Trail Blazers team?
The San Antonio Spurs deservedly become the favorites to come out of the West with this news, but they should still anticipate having to go through the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals.
Look for Klay Thompson and Draymond Green to show doubters around the NBA about how valuable they truly are. 73 wins aren’t accomplished by just one great player, and a lot of fans seem to forget that.
The Spurs are an entirely different story. If Curry can’t return against the Spurs at full strength, that’s when the Warriors are in real trouble.
Next: Rumor Mill: Pau Gasol to San Antonio?
These next few weeks are going to be very interesting, as the Western Conference playoff picture has suddenly been tweaked by nothing other than what appears to be random fate.