Randolph's ankle injury continues a rash of injuries that has plagued us all year -- Wright, Azubuike, Biedrins, Turiaf, now Randolph. We have had a very unlucky year on that front. And media coverage of the team, which has already gotten a lot of fodder out of the injury angle, will soon frame our health woes as the defining characteristic of the '09-'10 Warriors. Articles like this one are already cropping up. Injuries, you'll hear it said and suggested, are the story of our season.
And, hey. Your top two centers miss a ton of time, your starting small forward is out for the year, you're down to seven playable guys at points, you've had to use a washed-up non-rebounding vet at center, you've already had to sign two D-Leaguers, and now your young stud power forward hurts his ankle... I mean, that's your season, right? Of course you're gonna suck.
Here's the problem: everything in that description applies to the Portland Trail Blazers. Health-wise, they've had it every bit as bad as us. Their top ten guys -- Roy, Miller, Aldridge, Oden, Przybilla, Batum, Fernandez, Outlaw, Blake, Bayless -- have missed a combined 115 games due to injury or illness thus far. Our top ten guys -- Monta, Biedrins, Maggette, Randolph, Curry, 'Buike, Turiaf, Wright, Morrow, CJ -- have missed 111. And yet the Blazers are 23-15, and on pace to grab the sixth seed in one of the most loaded conferences in league history. The story of their season will not be about injuries; the story of their season will, more than likely, be written in the playoffs. If they're not willing to accept health woes as an excuse, why should we?
Our star player hasn't missed a single game. Our touted rookie hasn't missed a single game. Our most effective player has missed only a single game (which is amazing, because our most effective player is Corey Maggette). CJ, Randolph and Morrow have only missed eight games combined. We've had at least a couple good players and at least a couple useful role players available in every single game this season. Yes, our bigs have been decimated, but so have the Blazers'; they've made do just fine with their stud shooting guard, his high-scoring sidekick and their young point guard friend. They're 6-3 since losing both of their centers for the year. In our games without Biedrins and Turiaf, we went 5-17.
We are not 11-24 because of adversity. We are 11-24 because we have failed to respond to adversity. Larry Riley has failed to address the frontcourt shortcomings that have been glaring since Brandan Wright got hurt in early October. Don Nelson has failed to align our players in arrangements that had chances of competing. Monta Ellis has failed to justify his supremacy in our offense with star-level efficiency. So far, the overarching theme of our season is not injuries; the overarching theme of our season is ineptitude. Properly handled, this team could be 16-19 right now, injuries and all.
Now, the story of the season is not yet fully written. If we go 24-23 from here and play up to our potential for the next three months, the optimism engendered will change things dramatically; we will view this 35-47 season as more of a promising transitional step than an abject failure. But if we continue to underperform, and end the year at 25-57 instead, our failure will be colossal, and our excuses will be feeble.
That will not stop the team from making those excuses. Nellie, Riley, Rowell, Fitz -- every official Warriors mouthpiece will keep trumpeting the injury excuse, as they have been ad nauseam since Jack left. "It's just not our year -- we're too injured to compete." It sounds plausible on the surface, and it's a simple story to tell... most members of the local and national media will accept it without scrutiny.
But when you hear this party line, remember the Blazers. Remember the Rockets, who are on pace for the playoffs despite getting forty-six total minutes from 54% of their payroll. Remember the Knicks, who have won twelve of nineteen with a roster that doesn't have half the talent of ours. Remember the Clippers, who have competed all year, even though Blake Griffin's injury gave them the perfect excuse not to. Remember the Bobcats, who keep grinding away in miserable obscurity, trying to scratch their way past their low levels of talent.
A real basketball team fights past adversity. A real basketball team wins the games they should win, no matter what excuses they could fall back on. A real basketball team doesn't throw its hands up and ask for pity when it's not looking like their year; a real basketball team gets angry and smart and stubborn and makes it their year. A real basketball team takes its destiny in its hands, and either earns its success or owns its failure. A real basketball team writes its own story.
We will see what story arises from the '09-'10 Golden State Warriors... a happy story, of a sort, is still possible. But like any good English teacher, we will not accept a story told in the passive voice. Don't tell us what happened to you, Warriors. Tell us what you did.