In the 1960s, Laurence Olivier was headlining a production of Strindberg’s The Dance of Death when he was struck with an appendicitis, forcing his understudy to take center stage. The understudy’s name — Anthony Hopkins. As many of you know, Hopkins would go on to become one of the world’s greatest actors.
So the story goes, as circumstance opens opportunity for the up and coming, stars and careers are born.
Monday night’s walloping of the Golden State Warriors by the Denver Nuggets wasn’t a night of destiny for any particular Warriors’ newbie, but it was definitely one of our best extended looks at a number of exciting young players.
With the Warriors’ starters struggling to bring up their defensive intensity and the Nuggets putting together a historic shooting night, it took less than three quarters for Steve Kerr to pull his stars. With only 11 players active for the game, Warriors’ newbies — Damian Jones, Kevon Looney, Patrick McCaw and Briante Weber — were suddenly gifted with significant playing time.
While everyone on the Warriors’ squad has seen action this season, the younger players are oftentimes inserted at the end of games of no consequence. For the Warriors, that usually means a game in which they’ve blown out an opposing team and the only job for the reserves is to not give the game back.
Monday night, however, was a rare instance where the Warriors were the ones being blown out. The young players were inserted with a single goal: learn.
With a lot of minutes up for grabs and nothing to lose, the bench squad performed admirably. They cut a 26 point deficit to single digits with more than seven minutes left to play in the fourth quarter. The Nuggets would ultimately pull away but the opportunity for these young stars was a golden one.
Weber hounded the opposing guards. Jones worked on the pick-and-roll. Looney crashed the glass. And McCaw was particularly impressive as he penetrated the Nuggets’ defense multiple times on his way to 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting.
They were by no means perfect. Defensive lapses led to wide open transition buckets for the Nuggets and there were several moments where players were out of position on offense and defense, forcing Kerr to call timeouts and dole out instructions.
But during a particularly inspired 15-2 run to begin the fourth quarter, the young Warriors did their best impression of their big brothers on the team. They deflected passes, clogged the lane, blocked shots and forced turnovers. Offensively, they attacked the paint and moved the ball around to find the open man.
There is no question that playing in the Warriors’ system has been beneficial for the development of these young guns. It’s a testament to the organization and how they’ve set up the team for future success.
In the end, the Warriors took a loss and there’s a lot of work left for the whole team as the season marches on. Jones, Looney, McCaw and Weber aren’t stars (yet?) but based on what they showed Monday night, Dub Nation definitely has cause for hope in these young players.