It was somewhat of a surprise that Steph Curry and other Golden State Warriors veterans played in Monday night’s close win over the Indiana Pacers. It was the first game of a back-to-back, on a five-game road trip that features two back-to-backs. Unlike Tuesday’s TNT game versus the New York Knicks, Monday’s game wasn’t nationally-televised. And the Warriors didn’t want to show up their future teammate, Domantas Sabonis (We kid!).
Curry playing makes more sense when you consider the NBA’s updated policy on “load management.” First, teams can’t use that term as a designation anymore; it’s just “rest” now. But the policy on rest also prohibits teams from sitting out healthy players during nationally-televised games, and also prohibits resting players on the road, absent what it calls “unusual circumstances.” Apparently closing in on a prestigious NBA record isn’t unusual enough, nor is being an 190-pound 33-year-old who’s played 26 out of 27 games so far, in the midst of his heaviest workload since age 25.
It certainly seemed like Steve Kerr was leaning towards resting Curry after the whole team looked sluggish and shot 12-48 from deep against the Philadelphia 76ers Saturday night. Tired legs are a big reason wide-open three-pointers don’t go in. Just look at any pre-Kerr-era Warriors playoff team, when the starters would play 45+ minutes and mysteriously start bricking shots in the 4th quarter, as Mark Jackson or Don Nelson refused to give their exhausted stars a breather. Per Marcus Thompson, Curry is shooting only 34% from the field in his past five games,
When asked about Stephen Curry playing Monday in Indiana or taking a night off for rest before Tuesday's visit to New York, Steve Kerr said the Warriors will "figure that out tomorrow." Golden State has two back-to-backs on this five-game trip.— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) December 12, 2021
More: https://t.co/RSkOJlCLri https://t.co/MEyFdGWEdZ
But less than 24 hours later, the tone had changed. Now “everyone” was playing in Indiana (except Andre Iguodala, who acted as an unofficial assistant coach and referee liaison). Not to indulge in conspiracy theorizing, but it certainly sounds like the Warriors got a call from the league office gently reminding them about league policy sometime on Sunday morning.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr says he expects "everybody" to play now Monday at Indiana after Golden State had weighed a night of rest for Stephen Curry before Tuesday's second half of a back-to-back at Madison Square Garden. "But we'll see," Kerr said.— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) December 12, 2021
More: https://t.co/A6ycVmnrjq https://t.co/y7sMIRQA7r
Is it fair? To the Warriors, not really. To the fans of Indiana, it’s eminently fair. Look, there’s not a lot to look forward to in this season of Indiana Pacers basketball. The Pacers are currently in the 13th place - in the East! That’s like being in 25th place in the Western Conference. They’ve put their entire team on the trading block, and since they fired Nate McMillan, they’ve fired his replacement and McMillan went to the conference finals. Steph Curry visiting Indianapolis is one of the only bright spots of being a season ticket holder, and it’s fair to ask the Warriors to rest him in front of their own fans if they’re really concerned. Think of how bummed Detroit Pistons season ticket holders must have been to miss Steph and Draymond - and then have to watch the Pistons the rest of the year.
Of course, the team’s fatigue was then compounded by the team plane needing load management.
The Warriors are stuck in Indianapolis due to mechanical issues with their plane, sources to tell me and @anthonyVslater. They are staying overnight and leaving for New York on a Tuesday morning. They are schedule the Knicks tomorrow on a back-to-back.— Marcus Thompson (@ThompsonScribe) December 14, 2021
The Warriors flew to New York City this morning, rather than last night, and Draymond was awake and tweeting at 4:00 AM Eastern time.
Player safety…— Draymond Green (@Money23Green) December 14, 2021
Flying in on game day for the second half of a back-to-back is brutal. And this kind of travel delay is exactly why the team wanted to rest their guys! Really, if the NBA is concerned with giving road fans a good product - not to mention player safety - they probably shouldn’t schedule road games like this. It’s not like Indianapolis is close to NYC!
Of course, an exhausted and slumping Steph Curry still put up a 26/6/6 line on the road. And a bone-tired Draymond Green still had a season-high 15 points and dribbled past Sabonis like he was a plastic cone. And somehow the workload doesn’t seem to affect the team’s defensive energy, mainly their shooting. It also doesn’t affect Draymond’s “light years ahead” inbounds passing genius.
So we can expect more than cameo appearances from Jonathan Kuminga (+11 in his six minutes vs. Indiana) and Moses Moody tonight, and probably a lot more Juan Toscano-Anderson, but it’s doubtful that Steph Curry sits much in Madison Square Garden. Because like Adam Silver, he cares about the fans, even on the road. And he also wants to break a historic record in front of Spike Lee. But he won’t give Spike the choke sign, because he’s too nice. He’ll just call a technical on him.