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Adversity can’t keep Warriors out of top spot in the West standings

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The champs are somehow at the top of the West despite not having their full squad.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

“I’ve had a dream run for four and a half years. We’ve had such a charmed existence the last four seasons. This is the toughest stretch we’ve been in.

”This is the real NBA. We haven’t been in the real NBA the last few years. We’ve been in this dream. And so now we’re faced real adversity and we got to get out of it ourselves.”

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr to ESPN

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Los Angeles Clippers
Steve Kerr knows more than he’s letting on...
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

The Warriors have played 35 games.

  • Face of the franchise and greatest point guard alive Stephen Curry has missed 11 of those games.
  • Defensive phenom and team assist leader Draymond Green has missed 14 of those games. He’s also shooting a putrid 22% from beyond the arc in the games he’s played in. He also cursed out Finals MVP Kevin Durant on national television and was suspended a game.
  • Olympic Gold Medalist big man DeMarcus Cousins has played 0 games as he is still a few weeks from completing the rehabbing on his injured Achilles.
  • 7-foot big man protégé Damian Jones played 24 games before suffering a possible season ending pectoral injury, severely compromising the team’s big man depth.
  • Undersized and youthful center options Kevon Looney and Jordan Bell have been thrown into a baptism by fire as they wrestle with taller, heavier giants on a nightly basis.
  • I just looked at sharpshooter Klay Thompson’s three-point stats. He’s attempting just over 7 three-pointers per game and bricking 5 of them. So far, it’s his worst shooting season of his career.
  • Newcomers Jonas Jerebko and Alfonzo McKinnie are being forced to play important minutes in the name of depth and learn the Warriors vaunted system on the fly.
  • The Warriors have been blown out by the Bucks, Lakers, Thunder, and Raptors on the hallowed ground of Oracle.

And as of the morning of December 27th,2018, the champs have plummeted all the way down the standings to…first place in the West with a 23-12 record? They have the second most wins in the league behind the Toronto Raptors?

A dose of gold-blooded perspective

THIS IS “REAL ADVERSITY”?! Winning 65% of your games and leading the West (universally regarded as the toughest conference) despite an injury-ravaged depth chart and new faces taking on large supplementary roles?

If this was happening to the Pelicans, this might just be the greatest season in the history of their franchise.

But because it’s happening to the world champs, the hand-wringing from some folks in Dub Nation and the salivating from the desperate enemy hordes is approaching “Rockets take 3-2 lead over Warriors” intensity. Why so serious?

NBA: Preseason-Golden State Warriors at Los Angeles Lakers
Only one of these Finals MVP’s is in first place in the West right now
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Think about this my friends...the Cleveland Cavaliers fan base will spend the rest of their lives swearing they would have won the 2015 Finals if they had their All-Star point guard and power forward healthy. Our equivalent at those positions, Curry and Green, have combined to miss 25 of 35 games since October. Should I start swearing we would be 32-3 if those guys had been healthy?

I get it though. The defending, reigning, back-to-back world champion Golden State Warriors just took a whupping at home, on Christmas, to a Lakers team made up of youngsters and grizzled mercenaries. The legendary LeBron James didn’t even play much of the second half due to a painful groin injury. The Warriors four All-Stars were playing and got downright embarrassed.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Golden State Warriors
Two superstars who have battled groin injuries this season
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

But in the grand scheme...does it really matter? Do dynasties with “greatest-of-all-time” potential really get rattled by regular season losses? Did you know Michael Jordan’s Bulls lost to the Utah Jazz twice in less than two weeks during the 1997-1998 season?

“(Utah has) proven they can beat us in our building and they’ve proven they can beat us here,” Jordan said after losing to Utah for the second time in 10 days. “We lost our serve and we’ve certainly lost our set. Hopefully, we won’t think about that if we have to face this team again in the playoffs.”

I wish there were some Chicago fan comments I could pull up from that second loss to Karl Malone’s Jazz. I bet there was a ton of “Phil Jackson needs to realize that the league has caught up to the Triangle Offense” bemoaning going on. Also, that season ended with the Bulls sixth championship, and our coach Kerr was a vital contributor to that squad.

I’m pretty sure he understands what it takes to maintain a dynasty.

Keep your eyes on the prize, Dub Nation

The champs are gunning for a fourth title in five seasons.

Here’s where we are today: a second consecutive season of nagging injuries and inconsistent play pulling the Dubs from regular season overlords to mere elite status. Last year, it all ended in a victorious NBA Finals sweep. This year the Warriors are biding their time, quietly waiting to form what could be the greatest starting five in NBA history.

You probably wouldn’t know this from the angry “Fire Kerr” mob that rises up every time the Warriors take a double digit loss, but the Warriors offense currently is the most efficient in the entire NBA. This is despite the injuries and inconsistency...and without Cousins.

We also know Kerr doesn’t spam the Warriors best play, the Curry-Durant pick-and-roll, basically until the playoffs. We understand why too! Kerr has referenced this repeatedly, especially during the 2017 run. Here’s the quote he gave to Scott Davis from Business Insider:

“The thing for me, philosophically, we could do Steph-KD pick-and-rolls all season long and get open shots, and I understand that. But that’s, think about our team — if we were built like Cleveland, and we had Kyle Korver and [Channing] Frye and [Kevin] Love, that makes perfect sense. Now you got the floor spaced and you just have three-point shooters everywhere. But we have playmakers everywhere — Draymond Green, Shaun Livingston, Andre Iguodala. I want those guys making plays. I want them with the ball in their hands.

”I learned this with Phil Jackson and the triangle. When everyone is involved, touching the ball and cutting and screening, there’s a magic that happens, there’s something special where guys feel empowered, their defense gets better because they’re involved. And so I think, what’s important for me as a coach is to play the style we do.”

And then he reiterated it to Drew Shiller for NBC Sports:

“But for the people who say, ‘Just give it to Steph every time and let him go,’ well now you’re alienating Draymond, you’re alienating Andre, you’re alienating Shaun. You’re basically telling them to be spotup 3-point shooters,” Kerr continued. ”And now I think you’re losing a lot emotionally from what makes the team tick, and you’re taking away the energy that Draymond gets from being a playmaker and getting 8 or 10 assists.

”So that’s the balance we always try to find with our group -- get everybody involved and energized.”

Translation: Kerr isn’t willing to sacrifice team chemistry (or give any opposing scouts extra film on the Curry-Durant action) for the sake of a few extra regular season wins. You know, those same wins we found out were relatively meaningless during the 73 win season when we blew the 3-1 lead?

The “Real NBA” is the Warriors trudging through the regular season grind with one arm tied behind their back, saving their best offensive strategies, educating the supporting cast on how to deal with adversity, patiently waiting for Boogie Cousins to return to any semblance of his dominant form. That was the mission from the get-go this season, and so far it’s relatively on schedule.

It’s all about the playoffs, baby. Until then, I guess we have to settle for first place in the West and some annoying losses occasionally. Let’s appreciate the big picture as we wait for Loon and Bell’s growth, and the return of Thompson and Green’s respective jumpshots.

P.S. It would also be great not to get blown out again by the Lakers. You know, just so their resurrected fans can stop flooding my damn inbox.