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Warriors news: Golden State's chances without Stephen Curry, Draymond Green's will and the heart of a champion

With Steph Curry's MRI results coming in yesterday afternoon, the Warriors are no longer the consensus favorites to repeat as champions. Other things happened this past week too, so let's get to our links.

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

As just about every NBA fan knows by now, Golden State Warriors superstar suffered a low-grade MCL injury against the Houston Rockets on Sunday and will be out at least two weeks.

And while waiting to hear what the actual diagnosis was, I — and perhaps many other fans — were simply sitting with our fear fueled by the uncertainty of it all.

Zito Madu of SB Nation hit on something that made the experience of Curry's injury particularly sobering for me: the thought that at some point, his ability might finally truly succumb to injury.

"There's an extra morbidity to Curry's injuries. Given the severity of his previous ailments and the history of promising NBA careers cut short, the fear that Curry will never be the same is the giant elephant in the room. We try to banish the thought, but it never fully goes away. It's only human to be distracted every time we see him crumpled up on the floor. The rest of the Warriors feel this same dread at an even higher level."

Unfortunately, things are still not entirely certain even after knowing those MRI results.

As Tim Grover of The Vertical described, it's hard to know just how long Curry will be ready to play — or more significantly, ready to dominate — until we hear more about exactly what he's doing during that period of time.

If he can't do anything, if activity is limited to rest, ice and compression, then those two weeks become even longer.

For Curry to make a successful return to playoff-caliber basketball, his rehab will have to restore his timing and conditioning because his game involves so much quick change of speed and direction; his style of play requires an extremely high level of agility. He's not explosive like Russell Westbrook, but he'll beat you with quickness, both physically and mentally, not just up and down the court but in all directions, at all speeds.

It won't be enough for him to receive the inevitable verdict that he's been "cleared for basketball activity." There's basketball activity, and then there's Steph Curry.

Grover makes a number of good points in the article, including the impact of the ankle injury on creating the conditions for the knee injury. But the main point is pretty much what Warriors general manager Bob Myers was trying to emphasize in his press conference yesterday: the bottom line is two weeks is just a broad framework and the actual amount of time that Curry misses could vary.

Believe it or not, Grover's comments were actually somewhat similar to what TNT commentator Charles Barkley noted last night about how conditioning might affect Curry's recovery.

Barkley, of course, brings up the other big question on everyone's mind: can the Warriors still when the championship without Curry on the floor?

How far can the Warriors go without Curry?

(Note: this article was written prior to Chris Paul's injury in Game 4 of the Clippers' first round series against the Trail Blazers. As with many other fans across the league, we were sad to hear the news and wish him a speedy recovery).

Most people assume that the Warriors can finish off the Houston Rockets even without Curry — in the words of Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post, the Rockets just seem like "a lifeless group of zombies."

In theory, the Rockets could find encouragement in their Game 3 win. Coach Nick of BBallBreakdown did an excellent breakdown of the crazy finish between the Warriors and Rockets in Game 3 on Thursday, which is interesting to review now as it's a demonstration of how the Rockets could possibly beat the Curry-less Warriors — James Harden is always a threat to go off and hit big shots. Forget the matter of uncalled fouls: the Warriors can't give this typically lifeless opponent any type of life by letting Harden get comfortable in Game 5, even if the Warriors are playing at home.

Yet, the reality is that it's hard to ever tell if the Rockets have the ability to turn on a switch and keep it on in the way they'd need to stay alive even through Game 5 at Oracle Arena. Jesse Blanchard of BBallBreakdown summarized that nicely with a quote from Rockets veteran Jason Terry.

Does Houston have the resolve? After the game it was telling that Terry said, more than once, that he could only speak for himself.

"It helps me, but I don’t know about these guys in this locker room," Terry said, when asked if they could draw upon last years comeback from down 3-1 against the Los Angeles Clippers for strength. "Again, after what I’ve seen out there tonight, it’s hard to figure out."

If Terry can't even figure his own teammates out, we're definitely going to have a hard time doing so.

So the question is how far the Warriors can go when if they do in fact advance to the second round to face the L.A. Clippers or Portland Trail Blazers. And that gets a bit more complicated.

ESPN's Kevin Pelton broke down the Warriors' performance without Curry on the floor and determined that they'd still be an elite team and would have a good chance of beating either the Blazers or the Clippers in the second round.

RPM suggests the Warriors are 1.6 points per 100 possessions better than league average on offense without Curry. That rate would made Golden State about the NBA's eighth best offensive team (tied with Houston).

On defense, the Warriors would rate third in the league, at 4.4 points per 100 possessions better than league average (behind only San Antonio and Atlanta)...Even without Curry, the Warriors would be heavy favorites over the Blazers, who had a plus-0.5 net rating during the regular season...The Clippers' plus-5.6 net rating this year was similar to our estimate for the Warriors, suggesting the teams would be close to even on a neutral court. Fortunately for Golden State, they'd have the home-court advantage in the series. As a result, I estimate the Warriors would beat the Clippers a little less than 60 percent of the time.

If you don't have Insider and want the basic statistical breakdown of how the Warriors have performed without Curry, I recommend the simple point-by-point breakdown for Peltons' ESPN colleague Micah Adams. Adams also made some interesting points about how the Warriors style of play will change in Curry's absence based on past performances.

With Green and Thompson on the floor without Curry, the Warriors post-up nearly twice as often as they do with all three on the floor. The 28.2 posts per 100 possessions with Green and Thompson on the floor without Curry would rank second in the NBA.

Green turns into a post-up machine in those situations, averaging 14.2 post-ups per 100 possessions, which would have ranked 11th in the NBA. That’s nearly twice as many post-ups per 100 possessions as he averaged overall in the regular season.

But none of that changes the fact that the Warriors are no longer the favorites to win the title with Curry missing an uncertain amount of time due to injury — as ESPN's David Purdum wrote, "The Spurs are now the favorites at 3-2, followed by the Warriors at 9-4 and Cleveland Cavaliers at 3-1."

"Never underestimate the heart of a champion"

However, what all these numbers and odds can't measure is heart and, as cheesy as that sounds, it's hard to be a Warriors fan right now without allowing some room for faith in this team's character, chemistry, and sheer will.

Zito Madu expressed this perfectly in his aforementioned article, noting that the Warriors are "love in action" — I mean, that's a 30 for 30 episode that almost writes itself. He had more to say in a collaborative article with SB Nation's Mike Prada.

ESPN's Ethan Strauss also nicely put the will of the Warriors in perspective in his article looking back at how the Warriors still managed to beat the Rockets even with Curry out, making a great distinction between players and fans: "That they were able to on Sunday says something about the difference between athletes and fans. Fans were bereft when Curry slipped at the end of the half. The injury made for a sickening sight, but Golden State’s players kept their stomachs in order. They responded, with force."

FanPost of the Week: Why hasn't Draymond Green's milestone season gotten more attention?

More than anything else, it seems that people who are quick to count the Warriors out are forgetting that this team has Draymond Green at their disposal. As Pelton and Adams describe in their aforementioned articles, the Warriors are still elite with Green and Thompson on the floor and Green in particular is having a monster season, as noted in Eric2m's FanPost on Saturday.

And it's a little bit late now, but to the point of Eric's headline there, Vantage Sports even selected Green as their Defensive Player of the Year based on tracking stats.

...while gumming up the offensive flow of an opponent is important (and Leonard is second to none in that area), Draymond Green remains the best shot defender in the whole league (ranked 1st in Points Against per Shot) and the most versatile (1st in Switch%). Being able to guard every player on the court, and guard him well, makes Draymond Green this season's best defender once again.

In other words, the Warriors still have a lot going for them.

It would be silly to guarantee a championship at this point, but as a fan who has followed the team this far I also think the end of the season is going to be something more satisfying than anything we can measure in standard achievements.

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 almost been so much great content in the community sidebars and I'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.