Four keys to Warriors’ immediate, long-term future

How things end is always important. For the Warriors, it’s likely that what happens in the next two months or so will determine how they go forward as a franchise. Technically, Golden State’s dynasty still lives, but if you’ve been watching you know that we’re in perilous times with this thing.

What if the Warriors miss the playoffs and play-in completely? Would that mark the end of this glorious run? What about if the Warriors win a round or two? Or what if, though it’s hard to believe, they get to the postseason and run the table? Will the Warriors have to run it back again?

This could go any number of ways and they all are fascinating. The way I see it, there are four keys to Golden State’s immediate and long-term future. Here they are:

Stephen Curry and Andrew Wiggins status: Curry is injured and will miss at least the next two games, but likely more. With just 22 games remaining, it’s imperative that Curry play in as many as possible. Can Curry play 16 of the final 22? If so, I think you’d take that right now if you’re a Warriors’ fan. But what if Curry needs to miss eight or 10 more? Can the Warriors hang in this thing if Curry misses half the remaining games? Great question.

Wiggins has missed the past three games because of personal reasons, and there is no timetable for his return. Wiggins is the Warriors’ most important perimeter defender and key part of the offensive pecking order. If Wiggins gets back soon, he can help mitigate Curry’s absence. If Wiggins can’t get back soon, the Warriors will have an uphill battle getting into the postseason — which would set into motion lots of unknowns.

Bob Myers fate: President of basketball operations and general manager Bob Myers is working without a contract for next season. Myers has been the architect of this dynasty, and it’s hard to calculate how he’d be missed if he doesn’t return.

Hard to believe the two sides didn’t work out an extension after last year’s championship, but here we are. While many believe this is owner Joe Lacob’s decision to make, the reality is that a lot of this now is on Myers. Is he ready for a little time off after this 10-year run? Perhaps. Myers almost walked away after the 2019 season, but changed his mind. The reality is, with the run coming to an end sooner rather than later, this might be the best time to part ways.

Draymond Green’s opt-out: While the circumstances aren’t exactly the same, Green finds himself in a similar position to former Warrior Kevin Durant. Green can opt-out of his deal after the season and become a free agent. Sound familiar?

That was Durant’s M.O. while he was a Warrior, and Green never liked that uncertainty. Yet here Green is with a similar decision and nobody knows what he is going to do. The difference between him opting in and opting out is staggering. Green holds many of the cards regarding the future of the Warriors … and he ain’t telling.

Steve Kerr’s looming decision: The Warriors coach is under contract for 2023-24, but how much does that mean? If Myers chooses not to come back, that most certainly would affect Kerr. The two have become close friends, and they almost seem like a package deal.

If the Warriors were to falter down the stretch, perhaps Lacob would view it as the perfect time to move on from this era. He could jump-start that by allowing Myers to walk and then bringing in a new coach to take over for Kerr.

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Warriors thoughts

Long as I’ve started back to writing about basketball, might as well weigh in a little bit on the Warriors. They lost to the Lakers last night, and are now 29-30 and in 10th-place in the Western Conference.

Two schools of thought have emerged about this year’s team and it’s immediate future: One is that their championship pedigree will kick in at some point, the Warriors will get into the postseason, and once there, it’s possible they could run the table; thought No. 2 is that the Warriors are done … “cooked,” as Charles Barkley said.

Some quick thoughts, and I’m sure we’ll get to them on today’s show:

–Looking at the standings, it’s appearing more and more clear that the only seeding the Warriors are playing for is seeds No. 7 through No. 10. Right now, Dallas is No. 6, and you’ve got to figure they’re on the upswing rather than downswing. The Lakers are behind the Warriors right now, but with LA healthy and the Warriors without Stephen Curry and Andrew Wiggins, how much longer can it stay that way?

–Nobody will ever say the Warriors have a Steph Curry problem, but maybe they have a Steph Curry dilemma. Look, when Curry is on the court, the Warriors can beat anyone. We know that. The problem is, as he nears his 35th birthday, that Curry is playing less and less.

Curry has played in 38 of 60 games this season, good for 63 percent of his team’s total. Last year, Curry played 64 games, good for 78 percent of his team’s total. Year before that, Curry played in 63 of 72 games, but keep in mind he had missed all but five games the previous season. Curry missed 13 games in 2018-19 and 31 games the year. before that.

As Curry gets older, you can’t expect him to play night in and night out. But if Curry can play only a portion of his team’s games, how can the Warriors be better than just an average team in the standings? So they’d be looking at what feels like a longshot run for the next few years. Not sure what the solution is, either.

–Jonathan Kuminga has a ton of talent and will likely be a nice player down the road. But at this point, is he consistent enough to the first big off the bench on a title-contending team? When Kuminga is good, he can guard on the ball and finish around the rim. But there are too many games where Kuminga doesn’t make an impact, and the Warriors aren’t good enough to live with that game in and game out.

–On any other team, Klay Thompson’s drop-off defensively wouldn’t be that big of a deal. But Thompson always has been the most important defender on this team, with the exception of Draymond Green.

At his best, you could put Thompson on the other team’s point guard or best backcourt player and he would turn that player most nights into a volume shooter. Since his injury, Thompson has slipped defensively, which is likely age too. Hey, it happens.

The Warriors can’t/don’t put Thompson on those players anymore; instead he guards small forwards and bigger players even. But Thompson is a significantly better on-ball defender than off-ball so when he guards those players, it’s not his strength. The only way the Warriors have a run in them is if they can begin to contain dribble penetration. That used to be Thompson’s forte.

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Gilbert Arenas

Gilbert Arenas was a piece of work. He was also a hell of a player who got his start with the Golden State Warriors. Of all the players who came through the Warriors’ locker room over the years, few were as colorful, volatile, talented and immature as Arenas.

Arenas was gifted with immense ability and a gym-rat mentality. He wasn’t just athletic, he was explosive, with a quick first step and the dexterity with both hands to finish at the rim. He had a solid — sort-of set-shot — perimeter “jumper,” but it was what set up his offensive game.

At 6-foot-3, Arenas was considered a “tweener” back in the early 2000s — not all the way a point guard but not all the way a shooting guard, either. He was a second-round draft pick, didn’t play a ton as a rookie, then burst out in 2002-03.

Early that season was when I started to realize just how interesting and unusual Arenas was. The Warriors were in Dallas in early November, and Arenas committed two turnovers in three possessions midway through the first quarter. Coach Eric Musselman called a timeout and replaced Arenas with a player named Dean Oliver.

Arenas was irate.

The Warriors lost 107-100, and afterward I approached Arenas, who finished 6-for-16 from the field that night. I asked him a question that I can’t remember, but it doesn’t matter anyway because Arenas had his own thing to say.

“Take this down,” Arenas said to me. “We lost the game tonight because I was pissed off that the coach took me out in the first quarter after those turnovers. I was mad, because I thought that was bullshit, and I really didn’t feel like playing after that.”

Blown away, I wanted to make sure I heard him right. Arenas, 21-years-old at the time, repeated what he said about being mad at Musselman and not feeling like playing after that. Boy, did I have a hell of a quote.

The only problem was that Chris Mills, one of Arenas’ teammates, was nearby and said: “Do not put that in the paper!” I asked Mills why not, and he said Arenas was young, didn’t know any better and didn’t really mean what he was saying.

I shook my head, and began walking toward the locker room door. “Hey, don’t put that in the paper,” Mills said again. As I walked out, I really didn’t know what I was going to do. Mills was serious.

I was well down the hallway, when Arenas came sprinting after me. He stopped next to me and said: “OK, this is on the record. You have to write it when I say that, right? We lost the game tonight because I was mad at Musselman for taking me out, and didn’t feel like playing after that. Got it?”

I can’t remember if I used the quote or not, to be honest. If I didn’t, it was because I was scared of Mills, and it turns out I should have been. Google Chris Mills and Portland Trail Blazers bus and you’ll see why.

As for Arenas, in my book he’ll go down as one of the most notable Warriors of all-time.

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