As cool as it would be to watch the Golden State Warriors win a record 73 games this season, it's really hard to ignore the need for rest at this point.
After the San Antonio Spurs elected to rest their aging big three against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday, the Warriors now hold a four-game lead for first place in the Western Conference — given that they've only lost seven games all season, it's probably safe to assume that they'll not only clinch first place in the conference but also homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs before the season ends.
Warriors’ magic number for homecourt throughout will be 5, but a better way to look at it is they’d need to lose 5 of their last 9. NOPE.— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) March 28, 2016
However, rather than an issue of the players not being able to rest, Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News reported before yesterday's win against the Philadelphia 76ers that the bigger issue is simply not having enough healthy bodies to regularly rest their key players at this point.
KERR: At this point I’m not anticipating sitting anybody Tuesday or Wednesday. But it all depends on how everybody turns out physically after the game Tuesday night.
Again, we’re just down players already. So it’s not like we have a full roster and we can pick and choose guys. We’re down 2 of our main guys with Festus and Andre.
It’s kind of tough to rest people when other guys are already out.
Then there's also the issue of anticipating the added wear and tear — mentally and physically — for the four starters who could definitely be staring at playing in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio; Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson are hoping to play for the United States while Harrison Barnes and Andre Iguodala are also finalists while Andrew Bogut expects to play for Australia. As reported by NBA.com's Scott Howard-Cooper, the organization is taking all of that into consideration given they also had a long season on the way to the 2015 NBA title as well.
...then there's the Olympics factor. The Warriors are already feeling the short offseason of 2015 and the impact it had on their 2015-16 along with the emotional grind of constantly being chased, and now several of the core players tell NBA.com they are sticking with plans for an even shorter offseason in 2016. They will almost certainly play until at least May, possibly into June. The United States and Australia will have practices and exhibition games, and then the Games are in August.
With the prospect of having a seriously exhausted core by the end of the season, the issue of having enough players to rest starters is why the progress of players like Festus Ezeli and Andre Iguodala is all the more significant as the season draws to a close. And last night, Brandon Rush left with a knee injury as well and is listed as day-to-day, as reported by Carl Steward of the Bay Area News Group and others.
Brandon Rush bruised his right knee in the third quarter and did not return vs. #76ers. #Warriors say he is day to day.— Monte Poole (@MontePooleCSN) March 28, 2016
As an example of the effect of all that, Shaun Livingston sat out last night's game against the Sixers because of his increased minutes due to Iguodala's absence leading to an increase in minutes for him, according to CSN's Monte Poole.
Rusty Simmons of the S.F. Chronicle reported that Ezeli was actually ahead of schedule this past Wednesday, saying that he's definitely expected to get some run before the end of the regular season.
The 6-foot-11, 255-pound 26-year-old will miss his 26th straight game Wednesday night, but he’s hoping to return to the active list during the final weeks of the regular season, which could prime him for the Warriors’ postseason...Ezeli has been back on the court since early this month, progressing through a series of tests that included running, stopping, backpedaling and jumping. He added 1-on-1 drills Tuesday and went through 5-on-0 drills during Wednesday morning’s shootaround.
Although we haven't had quite as much news about Iguodala, Simmons reported before Friday's game that he's progressing well though he's not ready to return soon.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr says Andre Iguodala is still "a ways away from playing" and Festus Ezeli is "progressing nicely" & playing 2-on-2.— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpearsESPN) March 27, 2016
FanPost of the Week: Is Klay Thompson playing the best basketball of his career?
Klay Thompson is on quite a tear right now, having hit 28 of his last 45 threes (62 percent!!!) during the Warriors' four games this past week. And having just hit 40 points in consecutive games, it's looking like he has to be a front-runner for Western Conference Player of the Week.
Along those lines, GSoM community member CurryUpOffense wrote a great FanPost (again) about Klay Thompson creeping up the rankings among the league's all-time best 3-point seasons. As he wrote, "There's also a strong chance that Klay will be in the top 2-4 spots of the all-time leaderboard for threes made in a single season in the league history." Think about that for a moment: it was just four years ago when Ray Allen had the record for threes in a season (269) that nobody else in the modern era could seem to touch; now the Warriors have two players who might break that barrier in one season.
As CSN's Monte Poole reported, the Warriors are now on pace to hit over 1000 threes this season, yet another NBA record that they could obliterate. Although there are some doubting whether this is good for the game — as described at length by Bethlehem Shoals at GQ — it's nothing but fun to watch the Warriors rain threes on others.
Draymond Green's 12th triple-double
Draymond Green recorded his 12th triple-double of the season against the Sixers yesterday, which just extends his franchise record.
Draymond Green now has 12 triple-doubles this season, improving on a franchise-best for a single season pic.twitter.com/1BVhxWsZYq— GSWStats (@gswstats) March 28, 2016
Although many people try to dismiss the value of triple-doubles as an arbitrary statistical marker, Shoals also wrote at length at SB Nation about what they mean when they become as routine as they have for elite players like Green or Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook.
...in very different ways, these players -- like Robertson -- can take over a game so comprehensively that the box score practically bursts at the seams. The triple-double may be a crude metric but when it happens as a matter of course, it's a qualitative marker of how these athletes thoroughly take over games on any given night. There's a difference between the positivistic "triple-doubles just sort of happen" and "triple-doubles just sort of happen for Russell Westbrook."...The more integral Draymond Green becomes to the very structure of the Warriors -- the more he both dictates the system and feasts on it -- the more triple-doubles we see. Green isn't getting better, he's getting more important.
On their own, the detractors are right: these things are meaningless. But when you average one every six games — as Green has this season — it does speak volumes about how impactful a player is.
Sports, politics, and the social responsibility of athletes
Speaking of Green, he also had an interesting week off the court.
In the middle of all the hubbub about a video of him driving over 100 miles per hour (h/t GSoM user NBAChamps for the FanPost and poll about the matter), a #Lean In video with other NBA players and Spurs assistant Becky Hammon about the importance of actively promoting gender equality. While I don't think there's much value in weighing the two against each other, I do think it's worth taking time to recognize those athletes who are willing to use their platform to either raise awareness of a specific problem or promote a cause of importance.
We could spend all day debating the significance of Green's appearance in an ad, but in a society in which presidential candidates feel the need to debate whether other candidates or their wives meet an arbitrary beauty standard, any corrective response is better than silence.
However, there is a difference in picking one's positions and being forced to take a position unexpectedly, with the latter almost always being the more difficult task mid-season for an athlete whose primary job is to maintain a mindset that will contribute to his team's success.
And Steph Curry has found himself in both positions this season, choosing to participate in a gun sense ad earlier this year and sort of being forced to take a position on North Carolina's recent legislation banning anti-discrimination laws at the local level in response to a Charlotte ordinance (as I and others have discussed in another thread).
In case you're wondering why North Carolina is relevant to a national sports figure, Charlotte is slated to host the 2017 NBA All-Star Game, which put the NBA in a position to take a stand. The NBA has made a statement saying they'd consider pulling out of Charlotte and Jeffrey Morton of Denver Stiffs wrote a piece explaining why the NBA absolutely should take an aggressive stand against North Carolina's legislators by leveraging the economic boost a national event would bring in the interest of defending human rights.
But Steph Curry has been thrust into this debate for reasons specific to him: he grew up in North Carolina, continues to be a visible figure in the state as a Carolina Panthers fan and figures to be the highest profile player at an All-Star Game in Charlotte. As Ray Ratto wrote for CSN, Curry doesn't really have a choice but to say something, but his response might have been too measured.
A statement was demanded of him, and he chose to be as careful as he could without actually being forced into an actual commitment for or against the proposition.
In other words, he decided to let the NBA do what it will do about House Bill 2. He decided not to become the guy who gets yelled at to "stick to sports." He decided to bide his time on actually expressing a direct opinion. He decided, in sum, to be neither silent nor vocal, and while the short-term value in that is obvious, the longterm danger is equally evident. At some point, a person of his throw-weight has to stand for something and do it where others can see, or forever be branded as someone who ducked his duty.
Of course, as Ratto notes, all of that is complicated when one becomes a public figure with corporate interests. And with Curry in particular, you have to wonder how his own religious disposition — and awareness of those in his home state — might figure into this. But the reality is that it's not everyday that we actually have an opportunity to grease the wheels of change in any way by simply engaging in a speech act. So I happen to agree with Ratto's sentiment here: Curry has that chance and when faced with the opportunity to influence something important, the bar is raised a bit higher.
There are certainly other links, tweets, vines, and videos that I have missed, so feel free to drop links from this morning in the comments, create a FanShot with links that we can share on our social channels, or write a FanPost if you have a longer commentary to share with the community. There has been a lot of great content posted in the community sidebars and we've been trying to just refer you there during rather than making these posts any longer with them — please rec the ones you really like so we can promote the best ones to the front page.
And since Kurt Rambis has reminded us all that people other can actually view your "likes" on Twitter, feel free to check up on what I've been keeping track of during the week by following me at @NateP_SBN and letting me know what I've missed.