It’s not easy being a Golden State Warriors fan. The history of non-playoff seasons (13 straight until 2007, none since), the draft pick busts (Todd Fuller?), the carousel of head coaches (11 in 17 seasons) and the choking both on the court and off.
Every time there’s any glimmer of momentum or confidence or optimism, it quickly disappears into the atmosphere, never to be seen again.
Which is what makes 2012 so lamentable for a die-hard and dedicated Warriors fan base. There was an air of hopefulness, as a rejuvenated Golden State employed Hall of Famer Jerry West as their special adviser and Mark Jackson as their new head coach.
A revamped regime was sure to instill invigorated new energy, the result of which would expectantly be a return trip to the playoffs in a strike-shortened season where anything could happen.
Unfortunately for the Warriors, the only things that have happened are the same song and dance routines that occur each and every year for this perennially moribund franchise. There were high-class victories early on over the Eastern Conference elite Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat, which gave fans the impression that the Warriors were strong enough to contend in the Pacific Division.
Sadly, for the rest of the season, the Warriors have not been able to use that momentum as a vault into the playoff picture, ensuring that those remarkable wins were mere aberrations.
Instead, this year’s Golden State squad has turned back into the Golden State team that Warriors fans all know and (sort of) love. Injuries have riddled the starting rotation, as star point guard Stephen Curry has missed 12 games this season due to various ankle sprains. This has proved to be detrimental to a ball club searching for continuity and leadership from its young roster.
Meanwhile, the longest tenured Warrior, center Andris Biedrins has completely evaporated from the basketball court. His performance has been absent all season, and this has led to difficulty for Jackson in establishing a consistent starting lineup and a solid rotation off the bench.
But the real disruption all season, however, has been the incessant trade rumors surrounding the Warriors backcourt of Curry and Monta Ellis. From the very beginning of the abbreviated preseason, Golden State has made sure that its name has been thrown into the hat of trade talk.
The new Warriors brass has been clear that they want be a competitive franchise sooner rather than later, and the best way for them to reintroduce themselves to the rest of the league as legitimate contenders is to become involved in a blockbuster deal. Naturally, this would have to include either or both of their two biggest stars, Curry and Ellis.
This is a bittersweet idea for Warriors fans, who have come to crush on their dynamic, pint-sized backcourt. Both are ridiculously talented, scoring, passing and making big plays. Unfortunately, their coexistence has panned out in terms of wins.
And it has been made clear by the Warriors front office that one of them is likely to be moved in order to bring in the right personnel to make the team viable again on the court.
The Dubs have made all kinds of outlandish efforts to bring in a big man, even nudging their way into the Dwight Howard auction—a notion that would never be considered prior to this season, especially considering how lowly Golden State is perceived throughout the league.
The fact that the Dubs are even mentioned in the same sentence as a potential Howard destination is an indication of how serious the organization is to return to relevance. But the negative effect is that the players on the team remain unsure of what is happening to its roster.
The fact that both of their star players are amid the rumor mill is distraction enough, but to be unsure which of them will be traded—if not both—makes for some big-time drama within the locker room.
Is Ellis going to Orlando for Howard? Is he going to be sent to the Atlanta Hawks in return for shooting guard Joe Johnson? Will he be traded to the Chicago Bulls? There are so many possibilities that it has to have Ellis’ head swirling.
And Curry has also been spinning through the NBA rumor mill. Curry has been linked to the Boston Celtics, who were reported to be interested in ridding themselves of Rajon Rondo. Curry’s name has been tossed around as a potential candidate to bring a center or another big man to Golden State.
Will he be let go by the trading deadline? Can he regain his health enough and in time to be considered a bargaining chip for the Warriors?
With all these off-court questions abound, the Warriors have been unable to keep focus of the task at hand: winning basketball games on the court. Frustration, confusion and desperation have taken its toll on a ball club that is still searching for its identity as a defensive-minded young team under Jackson.
Meanwhile, the season keeps slipping away. The Dubs have fallen all the way down to the 13th spot in the Western Conference, four games out of the final spot for the playoffs. But it has not been easy to ascend the standings and overtake the teams that are ahead of them—and it will only become more difficult in the second half of the season.
If the Warriors are going to make any noise, they will have to face one of the toughest remaining schedules in the league.
That is why the team must make a trade of either Ellis or Curry fast—if only to restore some focus throughout the clubhouse. With such uncertainty of not only where Curry or Ellis will land, but also which one of them will depart, the Warriors have spiraled further and further out of control. They seem to be going through the motions, unsure of what the point is this season.
As long as the team doesn’t or isn’t able to pull the trigger on a high-profile trade, the Warriors are simply temporary players trying to feign significance.
Either the Warriors front office performs a full-court press on one of the potential suitors or it makes it clear to the team that neither Curry nor Ellis will be moved before the end of the season. Otherwise, the team will lose more than just the remaining games on its schedule this season—they’ll also lose respect for their own franchise.
Follow me on Twitter: @nathanieljue.