This is the sound of Adam Silver and his television friends gathering around a large mahogany desk and banging their heads against the tops to see who actually makes a visible indent first.
Stephen Curry is expected to miss two weeks, give or take a panicked moment, as a result of The Dreaded Houston Puddle Of 2016. This is the tabloid version of the wet spot on the floor at Toyota Center that caused Curry to go for an involuntary skate and first torque and then land on his right knee, and will have to do as a descriptor sufficiently outrageous to match the league’s television-driven mood.
In other words, we are about to find out just how apt the team’s marketing cry, “Strength In Numbers,” is when one of the numbers isn’t Curry’s.
The MRI showed a Grade 1 sprain, which is medical jargon for either “God, I hope this doesn’t kill the ratings,” “Klay Thompson better not have one of those spells he has,” or “Is this bad luck enough for you whiners?”
Those are the three avenues that present themselves to the Warriors. The league and its various networks have relied heavily on Curry’s cultural value to enjoy superior ratings/revenues. Thompson has to look much closer to the fellow who lit up the second half of Game 4 (and when we say Thompson, we also mean Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes and Andre Iguodala and all the other members of the orchestra).
And the Warriors will no longer be accused of being lucky.
This is the worst possible scenario for their postseason plans, with the singular exception of “he’ll need surgery,” which is not indicated. And some sour folks in other climes will decide that this is the karmic payback for all the health they had a year ago.
I mean, we all know no team stays that healthy year after year. Sports is slow-motion carnage, and always has been.
But Curry’s loss is easily the Bay Area equivalent of Buster Posey’s broken ankle in 2011; Posey lost most of a season, true, but Curry is more important to more people in terms of competitive gift and financial throw-weight.
But we’ll leave that debate to you folks who enjoy “Duck Season/Rabbit Season/Fire!” arguments. The more pressing notion is what the Warriors do about it.
In short, we will see just how firm yet supple Steve Kerr’s grip on this team is, and how well they adjust to a cricket bat to the goolies.
There’s no useful extrapolation to how a Curry-less Warrior team would function past the relative certitude that it will not suddenly make Houston a prohibitive favorite in this series. For one, the Warriors lead 3-1 with Game 5 at home, and for two, it’s the Rockets.
But suddenly every game is a serious argument rather than a fait accompli with hoops at each end, and a second-round series with the Los Angeles Clippers (if they can navigate the Portland Trail Blazers) suddenly looks much less assured. The one thing the Warriors can hope for, and almost assuredly do, is that Portland and the Clippers extend each other to seven games, which would, if the two-week prognosis is accurate rather than a glorified “Beats me” with a stethoscope, reduce the number of games Curry would be likely to miss in the second round to a workable three or four games.
That is if two weeks is a useful rather than fanciful estimate. Knees heal at their own maddening rate, and only a dope would venture a guess as to how much pain tolerance Curry possesses. He is, we know, a terrible patient and almost certainly cannot be trusted to say anything past “I’m ready to go” when asked.
But neither the coaching nor training staffs have a reputation for rushing players back, and if anything lean toward conservatism. That could well change if they are backed into a corner – say, like a Game 7 – but that, too, is based on little evidence.
We know, though, that the league will be impatient on Curry’s behalf. Their frustrations will be reduced to, again, head-banging, pacing and taking phone calls from irritated network executives (which, as we all know, is a redundancy). Everybody has a piece of the action in one way or another, and all we really can say with certitude is this:
Nobody is calling the Warriors lucky right now. They just rolled snake-eyes with big cartoon dice.