This time, the insult came before the injury. For the first two and a half quarters of Wednesday night’s game between Golden State and Phoenix, the Suns—one of the worst teams in the league last season—were trouncing the Warriors in the brand-new Chase Center. After one quarter, the Suns led by a score of 43-14, which seemed like a typo, and by halftime, they’d dropped 72 points on the 2018-19 Western Conference champs. Then, with just over eight minutes left in the third and the Warriors down 29, Steph Curry drove toward the basket and collided with Aron Baynes, a player 7 inches taller and 75 pounds heavier than him. They both collapsed to the floor, and Curry’s arms folded awkwardly beneath Baynes’s body.
Curry immediately went to the locker room, and not long after the Warriors announced that the two-time MVP had broken his left hand. Curry will reportedly receive a CT scan on Thursday to determine how long he may be out, but at this point, the timeline seems meaningless. Even if he misses only six to eight weeks (the projected time for a broken second metacarpal), by the time he is pain-free and ready to step back on the court, the Warriors, who are 1-3 with Curry in the lineup, will likely be one of the worst teams in the West.
Over the first four games of this season, it’s felt as if Golden State has begun paying off the misery debt the team racked up while basking in its superteam-fueled glory. The mass exodus this offseason, led by Kevin Durant’s departure to the Nets, left the Warriors without the depth and continuity that made them one of the best teams ever. They were also coming in to the 2019-20 season without Klay Thompson, who tore his ACL in last season’s playoffs. But they didn’t decide to regress or tank—they swapped out veterans for young players and hoped Steve Kerr could make it work. But even with D’Angelo Russell in the fold and Curry’s individual greatness, they haven’t been able to overcome their slew of flaws, especially on the defensive end, where they rank dead last. In their three losses, the Warriors have been outscored by nearly 20 points per game and have yet to allow fewer than 120 points in any of their four contests.
This was supposed to be Curry’s throwback supernova season. Without the pressure of being title favorites or the weight that came with Durant’s impending free agency, an unleashed Curry was expected to once again set the league ablaze and remind us of the old days when he dropped 3s from all over the court and scored with acrobatic layups.
But what was supposed to be a season of warm nostalgia in a new arena began turning sour before the season even started. The Warriors looked horrible in the preseason, hinting at the fact that the roster turnover was far too drastic from them to stay afloat. Still, it was easy for Warriors fans to hang their hopes on Curry. If anyone could carry them to at least a fringe playoff spot in the West, it would be him. Now, with the rest of the roster struggling and Curry out for who knows how long, it may be time to keep Curry and Thompson on the shelf while they heal, give Draymond Green a sabbatical, and dream of draft lottery luck. In other words, pull a 1997 Spurs and pray for [glances at mock drafts] James Wiseman or LaMelo Ball.
Even in the draft, though, the ghost of Durant will haunt them for a few more years. Golden State and the Nets engaged in a sign-and-trade on the opening night of free agency in which Russell went to Golden State and Durant went to Brooklyn. But Durant reportedly didn’t think a straight swap was fair value for him, so the Nets ended up with the Warriors’ first-round pick, top-20 protected, in the 2020 draft (if it does not go to the Nets this year, it’ll become a 2025 second-rounder). Golden State may not have to worry about losing this year’s pick with Curry on the sideline, but as they try to reload, the value of each asset is astronomical. Which is why it wouldn’t be surprising if the Warriors explore trading Russell at the deadline (hello, Minnesota) or even field offers for—gulp—Green. Thompson and Curry are the only pillars that matter in the long term.
It is shocking, in retrospect, that the Warriors came into the year with a Vegas over/under win total of 48.5. In the span of four games, three losses, and a catastrophic injury, this has already turned into a season from hell—and it’s not yet November. I guess things can only go up from here.