clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:


ANYONE WHO WORKS or plays for the Golden State Warriors these days has to be wondering what is going on. Whether they walked under a ladder or stepped on a crack in the sidewalk. Whose mirror they broke. What they did in a previous life to deserve living in this one.

For three seasons, the Warriors have been the NBA's own personal Titanic. They've launched with high hopes but sunk in mid-voyage, taking a whole lot of bodies with them."I've never been involved with a team like this," sighed Golden State coach Bob Lanier, after absorbing a 121-102 loss to the Jazz, Thursday night. "There's a white cloud over this team."

Whatever is lurking over the Warriors, it's been there a long time. They've been living in a state of disarray for three straight seasons. They've collected an impressive level of talent but each year climbed into the car, only to find oil leaking, the brakes gone and the battery dead.

"I'm sure other teams must have been through this," said trainer Tom Abdenour, trying to sound optimistic. "Hopefully this is for a good cause."

If the Warriors are looking a little shellshocked, they can't be blamed. Their fortunes have been as ill-fated as the DeLorean. That's them jumping out of their skin when the phone rings. The guys reading up on ways to reverse witchcraft, bad karma, hexes, voodoo and evil spells.

After three seasons of the same disastrous problems, it's gone from surprise to dismay to outright numbness. "Our injuries," continued Abdenour, "have been absolutely incredible."

So far this year, Warrior players have missed a league-high 289 player games due to illness and injuries. Thursday night, the roll call was, well, typical. Center Rony Seikaly, who was supposed to be the answer to Golden State's long history of problems at center, sat on the bench in street clothes, having missed 40 of the team's last 44 games with ankle tendinitis. Victor Alexander, another inside presence, was nowhere to be seen, sitting out the last nine games with damaged ankle ligaments. Guard Ricky Pierce was absent with an inflamed plantar fascia in his right foot, having missed 21 straight and 25 of the last 30 games. Guard Tim Hardaway is gone for the year with torn ligaments in his wrist.

If it was just your normal, run-of-the-mill basketball injuries, maybe the Warriors could chalk it up to chance. But now they're dealing with some other, well, weird injuries. Swingman Chris Gatling sliced open his wrist while opening a box with a knife, missing 13 games. This week he underwent surgery to have inflamed hemorrhoids removed.

One can only wonder when they'll all come down with bubonic plague.

If the Warriors are troubled by their run of bad luck, at least they're not surprised. In 1992-93, coming off a 55-win season, hopes were high. But Sarunas Marciulionis went running one day in his homeland of Lithuania and came back with a fractured right fibula and dislocated ankle, missing the first two months of the season. Billy Owens underwent knee surgery, missing 45 games. Starters Chris Mullin, Tim Hardaway, Owens and Marciulionis played a grand total of two minutes and 37 seconds together all year. The Warriors led the NBA in player-games missed at 312.

They knew a cloud was gathering when a member of the club's dance team went down with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

Last year the totals were down to 209 player-games missed. Still, Marciulionis and Hardaway missed all season with injuries and Mullin skipped 20 games with an injured finger.

So it was no great surprise that this year was accompanied by the usual collection of disasters. So far they've had 12 healthy players in just five of their last 62 games. Consequently, they have won only 25 games all year.

It isn't as though the Warriors haven't tried to overcome their run of bad luck. After the awful 1992-93 season, in which they dropped to 33 wins, then-coaches Don Nelson and Gary St. Jean consulted a fortune teller before the NBA Draft, hoping to rid the team of its bad vibes and provide luck in the draft. The Warriors ended acquiring Webber, who immediately clashed with Nelson.

This is a team that gets along like the Jacksons. The 1994-95 season began with Nelson still feuding with the impertinent Webber, eventually trading him to Washington for Tom Gugliotta. The Warriors then sent Gugliotta to Minnesota for Donyell Marshall.

Worn down by pneumonia and the constant bickering with Webber, Nelson raised a white flag on Feb. 13 and resigned. "I have basically done a lousy job this year and I definitely deserve to be replaced," he said.

Meanwhile, Seikaly, who wanted out of Miami, complained after being traded to Golden State that he is lonely and lost in California. Guards Latrell Sprewell and Hardaway have clashed, admitting they don't get along. Also, Sprewell was recently suspended for two games after skipping a madatory team trip to Marine World with fans.

"It's like, to put it cynically, you get up and say, What's coming today?" Abdenour added.

Through it all, Abdenour, who spent eight years as trainer at Weber State, has worked like a forklift. He's the first guy on the scene when a knee goes out or an ankle pops. The guy with a hotline to San Francisco General. The guy trying to get a group discount with the ambulance service.

"You've got to put all that stuff behind you," he said resolutely.

So the Warriors continue on, looking forward to the end of a dismal season, wondering when their run of bad luck will end.

And hoping when they walk out the door they don't get hit by a falling piece of Skylab.