In less than 24 hours, the NBA season finally tips off. Included in the opening-day slate are the Golden State Warriors, who host the new sexy Western Conference darling Los Angeles Clippers on Christmas evening.
Sadly, however, Santa Claus has apparently deemed Stephen Curry to be a naughty little bugger, as the Warriors point guard is currently listed as questionable for opening night: He is still healing his right ankle, which he sprained in the team's last preseason game last Tuesday against the Sacramento Kings. According to CSN BayArea, Curry is unsure if he will be able to play in Sunday's contest against the Clippers.
And considering that this injury is to the same ankle he had surgery on this past offseason, the Warriors may opt to wait until Curry is fully recovered before he steps onto the court.
It's no secret that Curry is one of the most important pieces to the Warriors' dream to return to the postseason. The third-year point guard is one of the spiciest passing-shooting dual threats in the league, and his presence in the lineup is critical to the Warriors' up-and-down-and-up-and-down offense.
But it's also no secret that Curry has some of the more malleable ankles in the NBA, as he has tweaked, sprained, turned and twisted both of his numerous times in his short basketball career. Last season, he missed eight games due to multiple ankle sprains.
Again, his ligaments in his right tire were damaged enough that he opted to add more air, having it surgically repaired back in May. Evidently the surgery did not strengthen his ankle enough.
It's this vulnerability to further harm that should signal to the Warriors coaching staff that Curry should rest until he is 100 percent healthy. With an abbreviated 66-game season that includes several games in more compressed time frames, teams cannot afford to have players hobbling through games. The potential to further injure themselves will mean more games missed than in a regularly scheduled season.
This year, there will be stretches where the Warriors will play five games in a week, and 10 games within two weeks. Right out of the gate, Golden State have eight contests in 13 days. And the multiple games obviously mean that there are fewer rest days in between. Thus, for players who are trying to regain their health, there's not really any time to do so. And for the Warriors to have any chance at a postseason run, they need Curry to be fully rested and healed.
This is particularly important in the newly wide open Western Conference.
What has always been the more competitive region in the NBA has become even more unpredictable as a result of the widespread epidemic of player movement. The Clippers' acquisition of point guard Chris Paul makes the perennially moribund franchise legitimate contenders to reach the playoffs.
Additionally, last season's ninth-place team, the Houston Rockets, always play hard and will fight until the end. The Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz are veteran teams that Golden State will have to compete with for the final playoff spot. Needless to say, there are at least a dozen teams that could make some noise in the fight for postseason.
The Warriors themselves have made transactions this offseason that they hope will round out the make up of their team, adding Kwame Brown and Dominic McGuire to help shore up their defense. But it behooves the young Warriors to be at full strength in order to be taken seriously in their quest to the playoffs. Especially since they are under the guide of a first-time head coach, Mark Jackson.
And that is why it's imperative that Curry be at his absolute strongest physically and mentally. As the floor general for a squad that has not had a lot of time playing together, Curry needs to be on the court in his healthiest condition. Otherwise, the offense will have to rely on some unproven and inexperienced rookies and backups to tide the team over for longer periods during the season.
Missing the first few games of the season would be disappointing for both Curry and the Warriors. But given the fragility of his ankles, the potential to lose him for more games later on in the season will do more damage to the team and their aspirations of reaching the playoffs this year.
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