Stephen Curry is irreplaceable, but his shoulder injury isn’t the worst-case scenario for Warriors

Stephen Curry is irreplaceable, but his shoulder injury isn’t the worst-case scenario for Warriors

Stephen Curry is irreplaceable, but his shoulder injury isn’t the worst-case scenario for Warriors

The best players aren’t always the most irreplaceable, but Stephen Curry is the rare case who falls into both, with his injury putting the Golden State Warriors in dire straits.

Curry’s left shoulder injury will cost him a couple weeks, and possibly more if the Warriors plan to be conservative with his recovery. Being the champions earns them a certain level of grace – being a dynasty gives them a little more, but they’re burning through that currency weekly.

From the preseason trip overseas that always seems to take something away from the teams going, to the league hangover that every team usually goes through, to the Draymond Green-incited event in the preseason that was sure to fatigue a group that needed fresh – this was the last thing the Warriors needed.

This injury isn’t the worst-case scenario: It’s not his surgically repaired ankles or knee that gave him trouble several years ago. No injury comes easy, but it looks like he’ll be able to hit the ground when he returns.

As inconsistent as the Warriors were, Curry was the constant, even if they hover around . 500 — 14-12 when playing, 0-3 when not. Curry’s output rivals his 2015-16 unanimous MVP campaign when the Warriors lost just nine games in seven months, and is even better than when he trailed the 2020-21 team to the play-in tournament.

Could this team be closer to the second than the first? It currently looks like this. And you can look to the Lakers for proof: a recent surge led by Anthony Davis and LeBron James that put them… 12th in the West, due to the starting ground they gave up.

There’s no real silver lining, especially since the Warriors are trying to straddle two eras, maximizing Vets while developing kids.

One thing is for sure, no one complaining about knock now will have such a complaint. They will probably all get their chances, but at least it will reveal which feelings were valid and who should be happy with their place in the hierarchy.

Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry looks on against the New York Knicks during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game at Chase Center on November 18, 2022 in San Francisco, California.

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry is expected to miss a few weeks with a left shoulder injury, putting the defending NBA champions in a precarious position. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Keeping Green busy will be a task for Steve Kerr, and Klay Thompson and the return of Andrew Wiggins will see increased roles and tries and attention from defences.

Of the next three weeks, it’s a mediocre schedule because everyone is mediocre except for a few. With Curry, they can beat anyone.

Without him, they can lose to anyone. There are 13 games between now and January 13th. The three ranked toughest as Memphis on Christmas Day, Brooklyn on Wednesday and Philadelphia on Friday.

They won’t lose them all, but it’s impossible to reinvent yourself in an attempt to mask this absence. The best they can do is unleash Jordan Poole, who has had an uneven season to date but can kickstart it better than anyone this side of Curry.

The Warriors think enough of Poole that they gladly gave him an extension that ranks him high among players in his position – and he has performed well as a starter, albeit alongside Curry.

But only Curry can drive this car, evidenced by the Warriors’ +7 net rating when playing and -11.1 net rating when seated. Nikola Jokic is the lifeblood of everything flowing through Denver, but if he were out for an extended period, one can imagine Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. commandeering the offense and keeping things afloat. It won’t look as nice or smooth or glossy, but there is the possibility of a backup plan.

If Milwaukee were to go through life without Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks wouldn’t fall for any alternative option, and they wouldn’t even be convinced of any infatuation.

But they can be “in sympathy” with a healthy Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday, they can go on a couple of meaningless dates to pass the time.

Unfortunately for Golden State, Curry is the one you can’t top and you can’t replace, one and only qualified for everything he does. Curry was exhausted after that first half at Indiana, doubled over by fatigue after scoring 27 points — only to find his team trailing by 20!

The last time such a sight had been seen by these eyes was last April, when Kevin Durant’s long arms were reaching his tired knees in Brooklyn during the Nets’ first round match at the hands of the Celtics. Durant had to put together a blitz after coming back from his MCL injury to drag that hulk to the playoffs, kicking and screaming. And by Game 3 of that series, the Nets had no kicks and no voice to scream in drag.

If the Warriors aren’t careful, the same fate could await them when Curry returns.

They’ve given away a few games in the name of saving veterans’ legs, but there are too many teams waiting to pounce, even before this injury.

We marvel at the collective talent in the NBA. Big players stay big longer than ever, producing some kind of edge, maybe even a golden era. But it also means that the youth has long been ready to take its place at the top of the mountain and is not in the mood to wait in the name of reverence.

The two stars of the 2019 draft, Zion Williamson and Ja Morant, are the respective team leaders for the two best teams in the West. Let it sink.

This is a conference with a two-time reigning MVP (Jokic), arguably one of the three greatest players of all time (James), the current four-time champion (Curry), and a two-time Finals MVP (Kawhi Leonard). Sure, it’s more layered than that, but someone will be on the sideline when it all works out.

It’s unfathomable to see a defending champion miss out on the playoffs altogether — and nobody’s saying that’s going to happen here, to be clear — but there’s a period of rediscovery that will need to happen when Curry returns.

Curry is nowhere near the Greybeards still retaining relevance, but the stress this season will put on him is bound to add some, unless something really unexpected happens in the next month.

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