Steph Curry's early-season hand injury left the Warriors with an impossible choice.
Thursday night was bittersweet for the Golden State Warriors and their new fans in San Francisco. The team got to play against the Toronto Raptors, who defeated them in their last ever game at their old arena. This aforementioned game was, of course, Game 6 of the NBA Finals which saw the Raptors win their first-ever title. Fans wanted to see the Warriors get some revenge but more importantly, they were happy to see Steph Curry make his long-awaited return to the Warriors lineup.
When the season started, fans knew the team wasn't going to be at its best. How could they be? Kevin Durant was gone and Klay Thompson was going to miss the entire season with an ACL injury. With Steph, Draymond Green, and D'Angelo Russell at the helm, this Warriors squad would be, at best, a six seed in the playoffs. Within the first few games of the season, things completely fell apart for the Warriors as Curry suffered a hand injury against the Phoenix Suns. The injury completely took the breath out of fans who were hoping the team's season could be salvaged. Unsurprisingly, the Warriors fell off the deep end without Curry on the roster. They went on multiple elongated losing streaks and quickly fell to the bottom of the league's standings, prompting many to assume the team was playing for a lottery pick.
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Despite this run of misfortune, there was always this notion in the back of everyone's head that Curry would return near the end of the season and right the sinking ship. On Thursday, that's exactly what he sought out to do, although it wasn't enough as the Warriors lost to the Raptors, 121-113. While the result isn't exactly what Curry may have wanted, it certainly came with some positives. On one hand, Curry looked like his old self as he notched 23 points in 27 minutes of play. He also added seven assists and seemed to have more than adequate chemistry with Warriors newcomer Andrew Wiggins. If you were to throw Klay Thompson back on the roster, this would be a formidable lineup that could even find its way back into the upper echelon of the Western Conference. While this may be true, these points raise the question: why is Curry even playing right now?
Realistically, the answer comes down to one thing: pride. If you're a competitor, you want to play no matter what. In Curry's case, his rehab went well and when he worked out with the team, his jump shot had him looking like his old self. It's easy to see why Curry would want to force his way back into the lineup. The only problem is that his team has nothing to play for -- except a lottery pick. Last time we checked, Curry doesn't exactly have a track record of being good at losing. An argument can be made that he should probably be sitting out the rest of the season.
Think about it. The Warriors have no chance at making the playoffs. Regardless of how well Curry plays from here on out, he will still be on a minutes restriction that will force bench players into more playing time and consequently, more losses. No matter what, the Warriors won't be able to make up the necessary ground. Even if the Warriors do go on a run, they will still probably miss the postseason which means their odds at a top-three pick go down dramatically. While losing isn't exactly fun, the Warriors can afford to do it, especially when you consider how they won three of the last five NBA titles. Not to mention, a high draft pick playing alongside Klay Thompson, Steph Curry, and Draymond Green would prove to be a force to be reckoned with. This factor alone should be enough to keep Curry out of the lineup.
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Next season, the Warriors are going to be 100 percent healthy. Curry just went through a rigorous rehab process for his broken hand and yet, he still has some lingering nerve damage that could take months to completely heal. While the nerve damage doesn't keep him from playing to the best of his abilities, it puts him at risk of reinjury. If you know your season can't be saved, why put one of your best players at further risk ahead of next season, which is destined to be promising? Quite simply, it doesn't make sense.
Now look, we get it, if Curry wants to play, he should be allowed to play. After all, the league is a lot more fun when he's draining threes from out of nowhere. But if you're Curry and the Warriors, you need to play the long game here and think about it from a logical standpoint. When you're 14-49 with 19 games left in the season, hero ball is a loser's game. A game the Warriors can't afford to play right now.