It’s difficult to have sympathy for Golden State , especially here in Boston, where the Warriors won their fourth title in eight years just five months ago.
Fast forward to this season, and the Warriors are a mess. They are 0-8 on the road. Stephen Curry has been a one-man team because the veterans aren’t providing support and the youngsters who have been prepping for their moment to shine for two years aren’t ready.
The latest distressing news is the demotion of former second overall pick James Wiseman to the G League. Wiseman missed last season recovering from a torn meniscus and was expected to make a significant impact in the frontcourt. The result was a major struggle when given a primary role and eventually Wiseman lost the confidence of coach Steve Kerr.
The Warriors wanted Wiseman to take minutes away from athletically limited Kevon Looney but he couldn’t. Meanwhile, Kerr hasn’t fully trusted Moses Moody and Jonathan Kuminga, the other two lottery picks expected to be the Warriors’ next championship-caliber core.
Moody and Kuminga are role players who have yet to solidify spots in the rotation, putting more pressure on aging veterans Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. Green has caused no controversy since he slugged Jordan Poole and has played decent, but not impactful, basketball.
Thompson has been slow to regain form in his first full season since missing two years with a torn ACL and Achilles. He is shooting 35.1 percent from the field and 33 percent from the 3-point line, well below his career averages. And his defense has suffered because of those leg injuries.
What’s more, the Warriors are 29th in the NBA in points allowed (118.3) and are getting into shootouts they can’t win. They used to when Thompson was splashing threes and the supporting cast would help Curry. But Curry’s brilliant season (32.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 6.4 assists) is being wasted.
“We’re never going to panic,” Kerr said. “There’s no point in panicking. What we have to do is stay with it and find it. But in order to find it, we have to get everybody on board, on the same page in terms of just worrying about winning. For right now, we’re just scattered.”
The Warriors will elicit no sympathy from the rest of the NBA. And they’re still only four games back of the top spot in the Western Conference. And despite their 6-9 record, the Warriors’ point differential is still just minus-0.8, meaning they’re losing close games.
But the question is whether the Warriors still have the personnel to get better. Thompson, 32, looks as though age is kicking in while Green, also 32, was in decline before this season. The Warriors need the young players to respond and adding another rim-protecting big man wouldn’t hurt.
Opponents are capitalizing on the Warriors’ lack of size, and small forwards are beginning to target Thompson defensively.
The Warriors prepared for this moment. General manager Bob Myers traded for draft picks, They made shrewd free agent signings. They gave Thompson and Curry time to recover from injuries to secure their long-term impact, but it hasn’t worked.
“It’s a pickup game out there, no execution at either end,” Kerr said. “No commitment to the group to get two stops in a row. It obviously starts with me, I’m the coach of the team. So I have to figure out a way to get that production, that sort of commitment to the team and to each other that it’s going to require. I saw a lot of hanging heads. I think we’re feeling sorry for ourselves.”
The Warriors’ championship window is closing. Management knew that Steph, Draymond, and Klay would eventually show decline, but they believed they had the depth to eke out another championship run.
There’s too much season remaining to count out the Warriors, but they do not look like the cohesive team that took the title away from the Celtics in June. And it will take more than a barrage of Curry threes to bring them back into serious contention.Check back in a few months to see if they are really in trouble.
Young Pistons are taking their lumps
The Pistons, who were 3-14 entering the weekend, hoped for better. They have been stacking lottery picks and making trades to build a good young core. The Pistons basically told point guard Kemba Walker they didn’t need his services even though they lack a productive point guard.
The franchise expected to take a step forward this season. Cade Cunningham enjoyed a solid rookie season. Saddiq Bey is a strong complement and Celtics fans are still lamenting their club passing on him for Aaron Nesmith. Isaiah Stewart has developed into the workmanlike center Detroit folks love, reminiscent of the Bad Boys days.
So why isn’t it working? The Pistons have not learned how to win, a difficult hurdle for young teams to clear. On Nov. 12 against the Celtics, the Pistons had a chance at an upset but broke down in the fourth quarter. They have been beset by injuries — Cunningham is out with a shin injury, while Marvin Bagley III and Alec Burks have missed considerable time.
But in a league in which Indiana, Sacramento, Utah, and Oklahoma City are taking steps to respectability, the Pistons are again headed for the lottery. And they really don’t need a lottery pick not named Victor Wembanyama.
The Pistons can’t score. They are 29th in points scored and 30th in field goal percentage. Bey, considered a 3-point specialist, is shooting below 30 percent beyond the arc. Cunningham is at 28 percent. Rookie Jaden Ivey is at 32 percent. Without a dominant scorer in the post, the Pistons are at a major disadvantage.
Cunningham is considered a point guard but lacks a true position. Ivey is a keeper, evidenced by his career-high 26 points in that loss to the Celtics. But former seventh overall pick Killian Hayes is struggling, shooting below 30 percent from the field and 3-point line. Don’t let his two standout games against the Celtics fool you, Hayes has not adapted well to the NBA.
On defense, coach Dwane Casey’s specialty, the Pistons are 27th in points allowed and 22nd in field goal percentage allowed.
“I love our young guys,” Casey said. “But with youth comes a lot of mistakes. . . . The game is so fast and when you’re playing guys and you’re giving them time to learn to grow, [mistakes] multiply. It’s hard. That’s one of the reasons why you’re going to see young teams at the bottom defensively. That’s the hardest thing to get a feel for, the physicality.
“Boston [in the first meeting Nov. 9] put on a clinic as far as escorting us, being physical with us, getting us off our route. And we have got to combat that on the offensive end and on the other end we have to do it to them.”
Rebuilding is tricky. Young teams are going to lose because they’re inexperienced. But franchises don’t want youngsters to get accustomed to losses or develop a losing mentality. So Casey has to preach trying to win, knowing his team is likely to lose most nights.
“You always have great expectations going into every game,” Casey said. “But one thing you have to do is continue to let them know that it’s a growth mind-set. It’s so much to learn with young guys.
“Measuring success by growth, not necessarily by wins, that’s what a rebuild is. It’s not beautiful . . . We want to build winning habits, but it’s a dreaded process of getting there and unfortunately this league is an unforgiving league for young players getting experience and they don’t feel sorry for you.”
Brown has thoughts on Irving
It appears Kyrie Irving is ready to return to the Nets for Sunday’s home game against the Grizzlies after serving a suspension for initially refusing to apologize for posting a film with antisemitic tropes on his Twitter page.
The question is will anything ever be the same with Irving in Brooklyn and what accountability does owner Joe Tsai have for placing stringent conditions on his return.
While the NBA Players Association released a memo to its players expressing satisfaction with the situation, Celtics forward Jaylen Brown said many players were concerned about the perception of those conditions. Irving did apologize on Instagram but afterward, Tsai told the New York Post that Irving “still has work to do” before he returns.
Many players, including Brown, felt Irving did not need to take extra steps after his apology.
“[Tsai’s] response was alarming to me,” Brown said. “I tweeted it out, he didn’t say the organization was looking to get Kyrie back on the floor. He said he had more work to do. Our society has more work to do, including Joe Tsai.
“It’s 2022, it takes 10 minutes of time to see who these business owners, corporations, etc., who they’re doing business with, who they’re associated with, who they’re affiliated with.”
While the consensus was that Irving was wrong for posting that tweet and delaying his apology, he met with NBA commissioner Adam Silver and Tsai, and each stated publicly they didn’t believe Irving was antisemitic. Yet, he was having to jump through hoops to return. So Brown asks, if Irving is not antisemitic, why is he being forced to meet these demands?
“I’m the vice president of the union and it’s part of my job to protect the players,” Brown said. “To see [Nike president] Phil Knight first come out and condemn Kyrie and also see Joe Tsai say he had more work to do, I think it’s time for a larger conversation. Adam came out and made a statement that he doesn’t believe Kyrie Irving is antisemitic, yet he’s still suspended indefinitely. Those are my thoughts.”
The NBA and Players Association have to devise an agreement for conduct on social media when posts may be negatively impactful or potentially offensive. There is currently no such agreement, so it’s difficult to determine a penalty.
“It’s unchartered territory,” Brown said. “I think there’s no distinction on what somebody says and what somebody posts. I guess that’s what they’re trying to figure out. The terms that the Brooklyn Nets instituted for his return, I voiced my discomfort, some of our players, some people in the media voiced some of their discomfort for that and we’re yet to hear the latest with that situation.
“It’s still an indefinite suspension. How many games is he going to continue to miss? Is there a different situation there? Is there a larger situation going on there? Is there another conversation that needs to be had? We’ve yet to find out.”
Brown is correct. This is unprecedented and hopefully in the future there can be clearer guidelines for social media activity and statements. Perhaps Irving isn’t the shining example of player expression given his personal issues with past teams but the question is whether NBA players are allowed to express their beliefs, even if they are unpopular?
“I don’t think we’ve ever seen anything like this before in our league,” Brown said. “So to say this is needed for somebody to return, we just thought that was excessive. I’m not sure if that’s something that will be a CBA negotiating point or talking mechanism. I just know that the sensitivity on both sides need to be addressed and I’m looking forward to the union and the NBA and the Brooklyn Nets coming to a solution in the near future.”
Should the NBA respond to public outcry on player expression? There is a general fatigue with Irving because of his past statements and beliefs, but he has raised a legitimate point for the future as social media becomes the main source of expression for players born in the 2000s.
“Asking for the need to satisfy the common public and I’m not sure that is something Kyrie is looking to do,” Brown said. “[Posting it] came off as insensitive to a lot of people. Adam came out with a statement that they don’t believe Kyrie Irving is antisemitic. Joe Tsai came out with a statement that he doesn’t believe [Kyrie] is antisemitic. Those are their words. He’s already apologized formally through his IG post. He said he supports all walks of life but the comment that Joe Tsai made that I felt like bothered a lot of people that he has more work to do. What does that mean?
“Our society has more work to do, including Joe Tsai. So I’m curious to know what that is, what that means. Everybody is tuned in and watching the situation.
“This is our league. We are all basketball players but we are all human beings as well.”
Kawhi Leonard returned to the Clippers on Thursday after a prolonged absence while recovering from ACL surgery. He played 25 minutes in the Clippers’ win over the Pistons and finished with 6 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists. Leonard is key to the Clippers’ trying to make a run at the NBA Finals, but he hasn’t been fully healthy in nearly two years. The Clippers, currently ninth in the Western Conference at 9-7, have been carried by Paul George. With the addition of John Wall, the Clippers have had trouble finding playing time for key players such as Lowell native Terance Mann, who experienced a breakthrough in 2021-22. It seems coach Tyronn Lue is still trying to figure out rotations and roles, which has been a primary reason for the slow start . . . A coach to watch on the hot seat is Houston’s Stephen Silas. The Rockets were expected to take a step forward with their young talent but have the league’s worst record and worst point differential. A schedule that had the Rockets on the road for 11 of their first 15 games hasn’t helped a team headed for yet another lottery appearance. Houston is painfully young with Eric Gordon as its lone veteran, but more was expected out of a team loaded with lottery picks . . . Look for the Hornets to start preparing for the long-term future with trades that could procure draft picks and young veterans. The club would love to find a taker for Gordon Hayward, who has never been able to stay healthy during his tenure in Charlotte. He has one more year left on his contract at $31 million, which could be attractive to a playoff contender. Kelly Oubre Jr. and Mason Plumlee are also free agents after this season and could be attractive pieces. The Hornets have been cursed by injuries and an unfortunate situation with rising star Miles Bridges, who pleaded no contest to domestic assault. The franchise appears to have no desire to bring him back. Meanwhile, point guard LaMelo Ball has had left ankle issues all season and is out indefinitely after reinjuring it in last week’s loss to Indiana.