And now the Golden State Warriors’ playoff run has its defining narrative: How much Stephen Curry they can do without.
First, his right ankle, now his right knee – it is now the mantra that serves as the bass line to whatever the Warriors are going to achieve this spring.
Game 4 of this Western Conference quarterfinal turned out as expected, scoreboardically (yes, I want this to be word) speaking, with Estado Dorado beating Houston, 121-94, and breaking their own record playoff for 3-pointers with 21, but as the Warriors’ chances and presence are defined by Curry, the worst-case scenario has just presented itself, namely thus:
That Andre Iguodala will compare a neck adjustment to a colonoscopy on national television.
No, no, not that. I meant to say Curry.
Curry has played the equivalent of one normal game in the Warriors’ first four – 38:24 of 192 minutes – and his health is now going to be a constant second sentence in every verbal meander until they either win a second title or shatter in the attempt.
Whatever Steve Kerr may say about character being revealed (as it as in Game 4 when the Warriors played without Curry and the foul-plagued Andrew Bogut), character doesn’t make for narrative. Narrative is something thinner and less valuable, as it is a story line imposed from outside by people who need it for work planning purposes.
In other words, narratives in sports largely stink.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Warriors run away with Game 4 after Curry's injury]
But they also make for easy digestion, and despite the fact that Game 4 was just that – easily digested – Curry’s newfound fragility is now the designated narrative.
Curry’s health had always been the one caveat for those who didn’t want to anoint them champions for a second year, and it wasn’t because he had become injury-prone. It was because smart folks always leave themselves an out in case the unthinkable becomes first thought and then deed. All careful analysis began with “Barring an injury . . .” and Curry’s name was implied in every retelling.
Now it is a real thing, and there is no commensurate dirty play by the Rockets to distract anyone. He turned too sharply to injure his ankle, and slipped on a wet spot to sprain his knee. File under “Happens, S---.”
The intriguing thing about the Warriors now is that their depth will be tested in a way it hadn’t to this point. It isn’t just that Draymond Green and Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes have to “step up” (Handy Pundit Cliché No. 2) or that Bogut must “stay on the floor” (HPC No. 6) or that Shaun Livingston’s and Andre Iguodala’s particular forms of veteran savvy must be brought to bear (HPC Nos. 3, 5 and 9), but that Curry’s minutes must be translated to Leandro Barbosa and Festus Ezeli and Marreese Speights and Ian Clark without discernible dropoff.
There is no reason to that this cannot be done – Game 4 showed that in the affirmative just as Game 3 showed that in the breach. But the key here to the Curry-free Warriors is how many players were named in the above paragraph. The Warriors without Curry, for as long as that is a reality, will not be the force of nature that made them a national curiosity, but they are still formidable.
(Disclaimer: We know it’s the Rockets, okay?)
But if nothing else, the first question Kerr or Curry or Bob Myers or Jerry West or the training staff or any of the players will hear between now and golf season will be about health.
Currys’ health. His ankle. His knee. His other ankle and knee. His digestive tract and his pulmonary system and his frustration about his health and his frustration about being asked daily about his health and his frustration about being asked daily about his frustration about being asked daily about his health.
Every single day. The narrative for the Warriors’ postseason has been assigned, and it must be fed. Every single day.
Now, back to Iguodala and what he thinks a colonoscopy feels like.