SALT LAKE CITY — Oh, how the mighty have fallen!
Yes, I’m aware it’s a well-worn cliche, one that can be found back in Biblical references all the way up to today’s vitriolic political climate.
But, man, it certainly seems to accurately sum up what’s happened to the Golden State Warriors this season.
Indeed, the once-mighty Warriors, who reached the NBA Finals every year over the past five seasons and won three championships during that span, have fallen on mighty tough times, dropping more rapidly than Mitt Romney’s popularity among Trump-loving Republicans.
After Saturday night’s loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Warriors’ record stands at 12-41 — the worst of all 30 NBA teams. In fact, the Utah Jazz swept the season series with Golden State, 4-0, and with those 41 losses, Golden State has already lost more games this season than it did in the 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons combined (39).
Of course, the reason for the Warriors’ sudden demise is obvious — they’re really not the same Warriors ballclub that terrorized the NBA for five years running.
It certainly seemed that injuries, defections or dissension would be the only thing that could bring down this new-age dynasty. And sure enough, that’s precisely what happened.
First, two-time Finals MVP Kevin Durant, a four-time NBA scoring champ and 10-time All-Star, tore his Achilles tendon in Game 5 of last year’s NBA championship series, then packed up his free-agent bags and decided to take his sizable talents to Brooklyn.
Yep, Brooklyn. And when he heals up completely — he has yet to play this season, but is reportedly getting close to being healthy again — he’ll be no doubt burning up the nets for the Nets.
Second, Golden State shooting guard Klay Thompson, a five-time All-Star who averaged between 20- and 22-plus points per game over the last five seasons, tore his ACL in Game 6 of last year’s Finals.
Like Durant, he, too, has not been able to play this season and almost assuredly won’t be back on the court until next season starts.
If that wasn’t enough to derail the Warriors’ winning express, two-time league MVP Stephen Curry, a six-time All-Star who has averaged between 22.9 and 27.3 ppg over the past seven seasons, suffered a broken left hand in the fourth game of the season and hasn’t played since.
Thus, Curry and Thompson, the irrepressible Splash Brothers, have become the Gashed Brothers this season. And these two tremendous players, who are to outside shooting what Krispy Kreme is to donuts — they’re arguably the greatest shooting pair of teammates in NBA history — have been forced to sit and watch, unable to prevent their team from taking an inevitable downward spiral.
After all, what team could sustain the loss of not one, not two, but all three members of its Big Three and not take a tumble into mediocrity — or worse.
Picture the current Utah Jazz lineup without the services of Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert and Bojan Bogdanovic over an extended period of time.
Yeah, you get the picture.
Curry was supposed to be sidelined for at least three months, and thus he may be getting very close to a return. But with his team buried in the Western Conference basement with no real chance of a playoff spot, as great as Curry is, he and the Warriors will be relegated to the unfamiliar role of spoilers down the stretch once he does return.
Of course, at the risk of sounding insensitive or callous, let’s face it — nobody outside of the Bay Area and bandwagon fans across the country are feeling sorry for Golden State, and certainly not Jazz fans. Heck, this franchise was on top of the NBA world for the better part of five straight seasons, so it’s actually kinda nice to see Golden State struggle like this for a change.
In 2015-16, the franchise set an all-time record for regular-season success by going 73-9, only to somehow lose in the NBA Finals against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, thanks in part to a foolish flagrant foul by Golden State’s Draymond Green, which helped ignite the Cavs’ valiant comeback from a 3-1 deficit to win it all in a dramatic Game 7 showdown.
The next year, the Warriors blazed an unprecedented 16-1 trail through the playoffs en route to the title. Their record-setting postseason run included a 4-0 sweep of the Jazz in the second round. Then they claimed the crown again in 2018 before injuries and Kawhi Leonard finally caught up with them in last year’s Finals.
Five straight trips to the Finals and three titles? Geez, how would it be?
So Jazz fans, and the rest of the NBA for that matter, can be forgiven if they don’t feel too sad about what the Warriors are going through this season.
And all those former Los Angeles Laker fans who’ve been wearing Warriors gear for the last five years can dig their Laker jerseys back out of the back of the closet and start wearing it again. At least for the time being.
Besides, Curry and Thompson are coming back someday, and it’s not like the Splash Brothers are gonna forget how to splash, are they?
And after being assured of a high lottery pick by this season’s dismal showing, it probably won’t be long before the Warriors are riding high and might and romping past opponents again.
So let’s enjoy this while we can.