Here is a link to my column previewing the Warriors season. The full text appears below.
OAKLAND — The Warriors open their season Wednesday night at home against the Lakers, no less. We all know the Warriors are good, they are a contender in the West and a force in the league and they should win a bunch of games and go deep into the playoffs.
We no longer wonder whether they’ll make the playoffs. It’s strictly how far they will go. All praise to the Golden State Warriors, although that name Golden State still stinks.
Got all that?
Because we are discerning people, curious people, we like to delve beneath the surface, shoot past the obvious. What I wrote above about the Warriors’ terrificness is the obvious. So, we ask this: What threatens the Warriors’ glamorous, golden future?
Mark Jackson is a fine coach. Stephen Curry is a superstar guard. Andrew Bogut is a ferocious center who’s been hurt, but he seems fine now. The Warriors just extended his contract on the assumption he’s healthy. And even if he gets injured, the Warriors can do without him for long stretches in the regular season as they did last season, playing David Lee in the post or using Festus Ezeli when he gets well from knee surgery.
And Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes are quality, and now the Warriors have swingman Andre Iguodala.
Is there a “but” lingering beyond the periphery, a “but” as in, “The Warriors are just great but … ?”
Here’s a quiz. Name the but because, believe me, there is a but.
The but is not about the starting lineup, which in itself involves a measure of strangeness.
On Monday, I asked Jackson to name his starting lineup in the short and long term.
“Whatever my starting lineup is, that’s what it will be,” he said. “There’s no short term or long term unless things go wrong, and we totally don’t expect that.”
That was a fair answer, although vague. I asked the natural follow-up. “Could you tell me what the starting lineup is?”
“Still figuring it out,” Jackson said. “We’ll know on Wednesday.”
Here’s the impediment to a clear, concise, firm answer. Jackson is deciding between starting Barnes at small forward or Thompson at shooting guard. It’s either one or the other. Curry, Iguodala, Lee and Bogut are set. Or I believe they are set. Remember, the coach wouldn’t say. If Barnes starts, Iguodala is the 2 guard. If Thompson starts, Iguodala is the 3 forward. The issue with Barnes is not yet clear — inflamed left foot, doesn’t practice.
But as I say, the starting lineup is not the major but.
Well, what is the major but?
Stephen Curry’s ankles are the but of all buts.
He is a great athlete born with a weakness — it may be a fatal flaw. The flaw is the ankles. The right one was surgically repaired. The left one, the good one, gave out in the playoffs against the Spurs and Curry needed anti-inflammatory drugs to play.
Now, we’re getting someplace.
What happens if Curry hurts an ankle and the Warriors don’t have him for a while? Before you think I’m being hysterical, he doesn’t need much to hurt an ankle. He doesn’t even need contact. Against San Antonio, he rolled his own ankle, did it himself. He is a self-made ankler.
Last season, when Curry got hurt, there was Jarrett Jack to lead the team. Even when Curry was well, Jack became the point guard in the fourth quarter, although Jackson never copped to that. Protect your star’s ego. The Warriors are currently Jack-less. At Monday’s practice, Curry wore big braces on both ankles. He wasn’t wearing them for acne.
Jackson was speaking to the media about Curry. “The most important thing for me from Day One in training camp was for him to leave training camp healthy, and he’s done that.”
He sure has. Throw salt over your left shoulder and rub that rabbit’s foot.
This is what I asked Jackson. “Last season, when Stephen Curry couldn’t play, you had Jarrett Jack to be your point guard. Who could take the Jarrett Jack role now?
“We’re not looking for anybody to take the Jarrett Jack role, his ability to make plays,” Jackson said. “He was a scorer. He was a gamer. He competed. We brought in a guy like Toney Douglas who does things differently than Jarrett Jack. He doesn’t take over games the same way. He’s a big-time defender.
“We’ve got a guy like Andre Iguodala. His versatility is very different that Jack. So I think if you get caught up in trying to do what somebody else did, that’s when you get into trouble.”
Correct me if I’m wrong, but Jackson was agreeing with me, agreeing 100 percent.
The Warriors do not have anyone to replace Jack. I mean when Jackson talked about Jack, he got real excited: “He was a scorer. He was a gamer. He competed.”
But Jackson’s praise of Douglas was distinctly lukewarm. “He does things differently than Jarrett Jack. He doesn’t take over games the same way.”
I’m not sure Douglas takes over games at all. And this is what I surmise. If Curry goes down — we all hope he doesn’t — no one replaces him, not the way Jack did.
Douglas may fill in somewhat, and Iguodala, who is not a point guard, could give it the old college try (FYI, he went to Arizona). But there is a distinct Jack gap and that could be serious. And it means the Warriors have a potential problem.
Let me rephrase that. The Warriors are primed for a fantastic season except for the obvious, persistent, somewhat troubling but.