OAKLAND – The Warriors on Tuesday made the expected announcement that forward Harrison Barnes won’t play in the season opener Wednesday against the Lakers, or on Thursday when the team travels to Los Angeles to face the Clippers.
It stands to reason that Barnes would not be available, since he has neither played nor practiced since Oct. 7, when he left a preseason win over Sacramento with what the Warriors described as inflammation in his left foot.
The second-year player’s absence is significant on several levels, the first being that it puts additional stress on the starting lineup. The team’s most explosive player, Barnes likely would have been a starter if not for the ailment that now lingers into its fourth week.
The starting lineup as announced by Jackson consists of Andrew Bogut at center, David Lee at power forward, Andre Iguodala at small forward, Klay Thompson at shooting guard and Stephen Curry at point guard.
"That’s going to be our starting lineup, moving forward,’’ Jackson said, indicating that once Barnes recovers, he will return as the sixth man.
With Barnes sidelined, the coach doesn’t have a choice. Six players clearly are superior to the others, and Jackson is playing the best available five. Barnes is the sixth. And as long as he’s out, Iguodala and Thompson can expect to play more minutes than they normally would.
The key reserves are center Jermaine ONeal, power forward Marreese Speights, swingman Draymond Green and point guard Toney Douglas. It could be debated that all but Speights are better on defense than offense.
The takeaway? The Warriors will open this season of great expectations with their most explosive player unavailable, their budding star, the 3-point artist Curry, still looking for his shot (36 percent in the preseason), and a bench that is suddenly much thinner than it was at the start of camp.
Because of that, the opening weeks of the season are going to be more challenging than generally perceived by outsiders, if not the Warriors themselves.
"We are just going to have to focus on the journey, focus on each game, game by game. How can we get better?" Iguodala said. "We’re at an advantage because we’re going to be a whole lot better toward the end of the year than we are now just because we have so many different guys who are getting used to one another. The talent is there."