You can see it in the Warriors’ faces on the bench.
They know that this team’s run of greatness is over.
They know that the question in front of the team is now whether it can return to respectability.
They know the benefit of the doubt — the earned deference to this core’s championship pedigree — has been erased.
And while they might not be able to put a date on it, I can:
They know that this team has two weeks to find that respectability, save the season, and prolong this dynastic core’s time together.
If this team’s vitals haven’t returned to normal levels by the end of its Jan. 27 game, at home, against the Lakers, the front office needs to blow it all up.
And make no mistake about it: This is being respectful to the greats.
Lesser teams and weaker organizations would have already crumbled amid the kind of run the Warriors have been on the last few weeks.
With other teams, it’d be straightforward and fair to point out that the team’s superstar player appears to have lost a step.
It’d be stating the obvious to note that the team’s two top veteran wings — in this case Klay Thompson and Andrew Wiggins — are disappointing, with Wiggins performing at a downright (emphasis on down) bizarre level.
There certainly wouldn’t be flowery prose written about the team’s enforcer “learning his lesson” after he rambled for 45 minutes in a press conference amid a massive, critical suspension.
The booing would have started well before the last two games.
And, let’s be real, the coach would have been fired by now.
“We can’t keep going this way,” Kerr said. “Two straight games being non-competitive at home. We have to find some fight. We may have to resort to some different tactics.”
Luckily, the Warriors built up an immense amount of goodwill over the last decade-plus.
But they’re finding out there’s a breaking point for everything. All that hard-won favor can be lost shockingly fast even in a forgiving market like the Bay, even for a fanbase as smitten as “Dub Nation.”
There is, fundamentally, no excuse for how poorly the Warriors have played this season, and in particular over the past week.
This is the most expensive roster in the history of the NBA. They’re playing like a mid-tier market squad in a down year. They’re looking up in the standings at the Utah Jazz and Houston Rockets. They barely beat the Pistons last week.
Injuries happen to everyone. Suspensions like Draymond Green’s don’t, but they can’t be considered surprises. No one was truly expecting Thompson to return to his pre-injury form. The team went months last season without Wiggins, though his disappearing act on the court might be more detrimental than last spring’s borderline truancy.
Stuff happens. But we can all agree that the Warriors should be better than this.
If the Warriors don’t start living that truth starting Friday in Chicago, there’s no good reason for the organization to continue on with the current roster.
And no, it won’t be a “re-tool.” It’ll be something far more severe.
“The definition of insanity … doing the same thing and expecting a different result,” Curry said Wednesday after the Pelicans ran the Dubs off the floor.
Rises are slow. Falls are fast.
It really only does take a few months, perhaps weeks, to undo years of good work.
The Warriors get eight more games to stop the free fall.
Again, eight games is being generous. No one else would get this kind of rope.
But the Warriors have earned the right to see if Green returning to the fold changes anything.
It doesn’t bring back Chris Paul or Gary Payton II from injury, but it should provide some solid runway to re-establish rotations.
It gives Wiggins a chance to show up for not just a game, but a stretch. (The Warriors might take a quarter at this juncture.)
Or perhaps this leeway is being given because the only viable alternative to the current state of affairs is blowing it all up — a decade undone in an instant.
But this team has a heavy payroll.
I don’t care how deeply you believe in taxing the rich, we can all agree that the Warriors’ luxury tax bill for this season — estimated by ESPN to be $192 million — is absurd.
It’s a number so high it sounds like fake money.
And while Joe Lacob and the Warriors’ ownership group isn’t hurting for cash, paying $5 on every taxable dollar is untenable business. Fans can only pay so much for a beer and fried chicken sandwiches.
Former Warriors general manager Bob Myers said in October 2022 that he would worry about the Dubs’ luxury tax bill “next season.”
Then he dipped. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.
The Warriors are $72 million over the salary cap, $43 million over the luxury tax line, $36 million over the first luxury tax apron, and $25 million over the second, per Salary Swish.
This team doesn’t need a new center or upgraded wing — it needs an accountant.
The last time the Warriors were awful, when Curry and Thompson were hurt in 2019-20, they were able to dip under the luxury tax line and reset their “repeater” status. Those moves set the team up for success two years later.
But with even more punitive luxury tax rules set to kick in starting with the 2025-26 season, the Warriors can’t afford to wait and see if this season will amount to anything.
Winning is worth the cost. But this team isn’t winning.
If the Warriors are going to balance their books, they need to do it now.
Trading Wiggins seems like an obvious move, save for the fact that there’s nowhere obvious to send him. The Warriors would be selling Wiggins at an even lower price than the clearance rate at which they acquired him – an absurd fact given how instrumental he was to this team winning a title.
And sure, the Dubs can waive Paul this upcoming offseason, knocking $30 million off the books, and let Thompson walk ($43 million this season), but that would barely get the Warriors under the salary cap, leaving them little wiggle room to replace those veterans.
The Warriors might want more from Thompson and Paul this season, but I’m not sure they can afford to move forward into the 2024-25 with less.
Whatever the Warriors can get for Paul or Thompson now is almost guaranteed to be better than what the Warriors can replace either with this summer.
Trading either or both before the trade deadline would not only help the bottom line, but it could also provide an asset or two for the Dubs to use amid the team’s inevitable rebuild. (Albeit one that will, ostensibly, revolve around Curry.)
And that would likely only be the start of a massive shakeup.
(But hey, the shakeup might be more entertaining than the basketball the Dubs have played this season.)
The NBA trade deadline is Feb. 8. That’s 11 days after that aforementioned game with the Lakers.
That’s enough time to dismantle what was built by one of the greatest dynasties in professional sports.
Is eight games enough to save it?
Dieter Kurtenbach www.thereporter.com Golden State Warriors,NBA,Sports
2024-01-11 19:27:33 , Golden State Warriors – The Vacaville Reporter