One thing that became clear in the past few days: The Warriors really wanted a veteran addition to the team.
That veteran was supposed to be point guard Jose Calderon. But after Kevin Durant suffered a hyperextended left knee on Tuesday night against the Wizards that will keep him out at least four weeks, the Warriors changed course.
Now they are expected to wind up with small forward Matt Barnes, who had been waived by Sacramento. A couple of days ago the Warriors cut promising guard Briante Weber, who was on the end of his second 10-day contract. He was quickly snatched by Charlotte.
Whether it was going to be Calderon or Barnes, the Warriors clearly wanted a player they could ostensibly trust if they got into the difficult position of having to play deep into the rotation come playoff time. The thinking perhaps speaks to how confident the Warriors’ front office is in young players such as Patrick McCaw, James Michael McAdoo and Kevon Looney.
Calderon is 35 and Barnes will turn 37 in a week. The question becomes: How much is Barnes going to help? Well, first of all he’s going to help in the immediate future by gobbling up a chunk of Durant’s lost minutes. That’s important when you think about it because you certainly don’t want Andre Iguodala absorbing a lot of them at this point. Think of him as a long reliever out of the bullpen.
He also gives the Warriors an element of defensive toughness on the perimeter, though in fairness, Draymond Green and Iguodala aren’t slouches when defending threes. But Barnes hasn’t shot the ball well from beyond the arc in the past two years — hell, from anywhere on the floor, really — so it’s easy to envision him getting shots — which probably isn’t a good thing for the Warriors.
In the past two years, Barnes is shooting 38 percent from the field and 32 percent from 3-point range.
Barnes also gives the Warriors another volatile player, someone with a quick temper and who has been known to mix it up now and again. Will he have Green’s back or will the two bring out worse in each other?
Barnes is a charismatic guy, and over the course of his career his teammates have liked him. No doubt, he can be a good guy to have on your side. By the same token, adding Barnes brings an unknown to the Warriors’ equation.
–This, of course, is Durant’s first significant injury since joining the Warriors but it’s certainly not his first significant injury. It would be unfair to call Durant “injury prone,” but it is fair to say he’s not an Iron Man. It would figure. After all, Durant is on the thin side in a league of players mostly much thicker than him.
If Durant misses the remainder of this season, it will mean that he will have played in 158 of 246 games over the past three years — or 64 percent of the regular season. You can think of that any way you want … that maybe it’s a small sample size. But you could also look at it like: What if this guy is missing every third game from here on out?
The point is this: When it’s time to try to re-sign Durant, you’ve got to take into account his propensity to get banged-up and miss games.
–One of the more pertinent questions coming out of the Durant injury is what it may do to the Western Conference pecking order. Right now the Warriors (50-10) are four games ahead of the San Antonio Spurs (45-13) in the battle for the best record in the NBA — but that’s only three in the loss column.
If Durant were to miss the rest of the regular season, it’s possible San Antonio could catch Golden State. Or, perhaps we could see Durant return for the final four or five games of the year, with the Warriors forced to win games to stay ahead of or keep apace with the Spurs.
The problem the Warriors have is that they play the Spurs two more times, both in San Antonio, both on the second night of a back-to-back. In other words, if Spurs coach Gregg Popovich really wants that top seed, he may have a chance to make a run at it.