The legendary Ekpe Udoh is set to make his NBA debut today. A hero's welcome he will likely receive, along with expectations of near-heroic proportions that seemed unfathomable just a short six months ago, when short-memoried Warriors fans may as well have likened him to a goat with sneakers. What the hell has happened to us?
What happened is what seems to happen every season for us pathetic souls: a summer full of rampant excitement and intrigue, Trade Machine links and hyperbole, desperate fans soaking in whatever optimism could be mustered before the inevitable dawn. Fans of this sad team are at our most hopeful heading into late May, when our fate can be decided by four perfectly round numbered orbs of salvation.
A couple of bad bounces later, the darkness sets in once again. But not for long, for the draft is around the corner, and lo! Perhaps salvation does not come in orb form, but instead in Player X who'll somehow fall to our unluckily low draft position. Or surely some other team would love to trade their star player for our, um, excellently positioned pick?
OK, so maybe this sick cycle doesn't play out exactly like this every year. Luck does welcome the Warriors with open arms on occasion. (I'm pretty much just talking about Curry here.) But 2010 was no different than most. And June 25th or whenever it was played out just as an observant and properly doubtful Warriors fan expected: we drafted sixth in a five-man draft and picked some big guy who had one good college season and whose name only 5% of people knew how to pronounce. Welcome to the Warriors, Ekpe Udoh; but, yeah, we wish you were someone else.
But because hope springs eternal in a Warriors summer, we soon moved on to more important (and promising) business: David Lee was on his way to Oakland, and so too soon would be some rich dude(s) who somehow thought buying this team, of all teams, was a good idea. News of the team's sale from the Demon Cohan was a powerful source of encompassing light, five times even brighter than in years past.
So much so that when Udoh went down with a major injury, it barely registered as meaningful. He was number six of five, and his name wasn't [insert name of some other player who went 7-20, none of whom, I might add, have done squat thus far]. Udoh might be a nice player, but who cares? He wasn't going to be a star, and our juju was high enough that we were going to be a good team despite this injured dud.
Fast forward to today. We're scraping, struggling, to find the right frame of mind—from "hey, 6-2!" to "we'll turn this around" to "maybe actually we're the worst team in history" to "or maybe—crap, Dirk just drained that in our faces".
And then, a beacon of light, from a source that—and let's be completely honest here—not a goddamned soul would have wagered on six months ago. The Nightmare has arrived, and he's about to stuff some punks. And even hit a feathery 17-footer or two.
Sure, this is overwrought hyperbole. Nobody really expects Ekpe to save this season single-handedly. But this season WILL be saved, dammit, and Udoh will play his part. The fact that he has yet to play a single minute in this league isn't relevant. Or maybe it's the most relevant of all. Either way, May is just too far away, and we're not yet ready to enter the purgatory that inevitably awaits us.
From goat to hero, without playing a single minute. Welcome to the Warriors, Ekpe Udoh.