The Golden State Warriors have already hit a rough patch during the 2011-12 NBA season. They’ve encountered a trying time, one that will test their mettle early on and have undergone a series of player transactions in order to find equilibrium in their vacillating season thus far.
First, during a January 4th matchup against the San Antonio Spurs, starting point guard Stephen Curry went down with an ankle sprain, and he has yet to return to the lineup. Prior to his injury, Curry was averaging 15.2 points and 5.6 assists per game.
To make up for Curry’s indefinite absence, Golden State signed free agent Nate Robinson for about $1 million to help fill the vacancy at the point guard position. Robinson has sparked some energy off the bench, averaging 14.5 points and 4.3 assists per contest.
However, another major setback for the young Warriors squad arose when center Kwame Brown tore his right pectoral muscle in last Tuesday’s contest against the Miami Heat. Though he underwent surgery to repair the muscle, Brown is expected to miss at least three months while recovering. This is terrible news for Golden State’s front court, as Brown was signed on as a free agent during the offseason in an effort to bolster the team’s interior defense.
Brown had created a respectable tandem at the center position with Andris Biedrins, manning the middle while the rest of the team shouldered the offensive responsibility. However, Biedrins himself has not been at full strength, having missed three games due to his own ankle sprain and toe infection.
Obviously, the real infestation in the locker room is that of the injury bug.
Though Biedrins returned to action in Thursday’s clash against the Orlando Magic, the Warriors were without another starter, Dorell Wright, who suffered a knee contusion against the Heat. That makes four of the Warriors’ five starters who have missed a game so far this season (Monta Ellis missed a game earlier while attending a family funeral.)
Needless to say, the Warriors’ transaction wire has been rather busy in their first month of the NBA season. Moreover, first-year head coach Mark Jackson has had to shuffle his personnel on multiple occasions already. In 10 games, Golden State has featured six different starting lineups. This has been quite a challenging task, considering the Warriors bench is quite untested and inexperienced.
In fact, part of the reason the Warriors welcomed Robinson was to bolster the backcourt. And now, Golden State faces the reality of filling Brown’s roster spot in order to strengthen the frontcourt.
CSNBayArea.com reports that the Warriors are on the verge of signing free agent Earl Barron. The seven-foot center was waived earlier this offseason by the Portland Trail Blazers. Barron brings with him five years of experience with five different teams, and career averages of 5.1 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. He is expected to back up Biedrins at center.
To make room for Barron, Golden State waived backup point guard Ish Smith. With Robinson solidifying his status as the sixth man, Smith’s minutes looked to be non-existent. He appeared in six games, but saw little action since Robinson’s signing and fell behind Charles Jenkins in the rotation.
In the wake of all of the injuries and resulting lineup changes, the Warriors have played small ball in an effort to outrun their opponents. The loss of Brown is hurtful on the defensive end, and Golden State will need to play more zone defense to confound the opposition. On the offensive side, look for Brandon Rush and Dominic McGuire to provide more contributions.
But certainly, until Curry returns to action, everything—both offensively and defensively—will fall in the hands of Ellis. He'll have to carry the load night in and night out.
With all the health turmoil off the court, the Warriors have staggered and limped to a 3-7 record on the court. Here’s hoping they can find some consistency the remainder of the season.
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