Stephen Curry rolled his surgically repaired ankle in a win against the Pelicans during a heated game this past Monday. To be frank, it was an ugly roll. Originally thought as serious, turns out that the injury only amounted to be a sprained ankle. While everyone can breathe easy, the debate has began as to how long the Warriors should rest their $201 million dollar investment.
Last year, the Warriors lost Kevin Durant to a scary knee injury initiated by his own teammate, Zaza Pachulia. Immediately following Durant’s absence, the Warriors looked confused on offense, and had no rhythm. However, the core team of Curry, Thompson, Green, and Igoudala had already won a championship before Durant’s arrival, so getting back into a groove took all but a week or so. During the Warriors’ surge, ‘Steph went Steph’ and easily carried the team on his back, night-in and night-out. It was almost as if Curry had flipped a switch; Video game mode, on!
Now things are different. It’s Stephen Curry that will be sidelined for an undetermined amount of time, starting today.
As much as everyone would like to believe that Draymond Green is the heart of the Warriors, in reality, it’s quietly Stephen Curry. Take a look back at any one game that Curry has sat out, and you’ll quickly see that the team’s offense reveals a different dynamic during his absence. There’s a bit more standing around, partially due to the reduced amount of double teams that Curry draws in order to free his teammates for shots.
Defenses simply react differently when Curry’s on the floor, just as his teammates and the fans do. The Warriors without Curry are akin to a regular cartoon. With him, consider it Disney animation.
As Stephen Curry prepares to sit out with his sprained ankle, it’s anyone’s guess as to how the bigger team will react. Both Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant will surely be called upon to increase their respective minutes, and buckets. Patrick McCaw, ailing from an injury himself, will likely be moved to more of a floor general role. It’ll be a great chance for McCaw to not only increase his playing time, but also further showcase his skills. To keep the game fast, the Warriors may also consider starting Jordan Bell over Zaza Pachulia during Curry’s absence. Perhaps GM Bob Myers will take the time to consider moving JaVale McGee, Kevon Looney, or Damian Jones for more depth at the guard position?
Team reaction aside, the bigger question to be answered relates to the length of time that Curry should sit out. While both the league and fans would surely like to see Curry face off with his nemesis, LeBron James, on Christmas Day, that may not be such a great idea. Considering Curry’s ankle injury history, and the bigger franchise goal of winning another championship, the Warriors should sit their star player for as long as the doctors and league allows. Not to belittle the rest of the league, but if the Warriors get their act together, then they can still win games against more than half of NBA teams, including the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The risk of running Curry out too early could not only present a setback for the Warriors franchise this year and beyond, but for the league in general. Along with a host of other players that include LeBron James, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and Kyrie Irving, among others, Stephen Curry is the current face of the league. His long term value both on and off the court equates to billions of dollars for everyone associated with the star athlete. For that reason alone, rushing Curry back would be a foolish decision.
At the beginning of the new year, the bulk of Warriors games will be on the road during January, proving to be one of the more grueling parts of the team’s schedule. If the Warriors can hold out, then aiming to get Curry back for the away games in early to mid-January seems sensible (assuming that it’s enough time to heal). In the meantime, Curry can do just as much good by cheering on his teammates from the bench throughout the month of December. We all know how great a player Stephen Curry is individually, so now is as good a time as any for the Warriors organization to prove their team motto; “Strength in Numbers,” where you at?