— Ryan Gorcey (@RyanGorcey) November 2, 2019
CHASE CENTER — Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry underwent surgery on Friday to repair a broken second metacarpal in his left hand. He will miss at least three months — well over half the NBA season.
According to hand surgeon Dr. Daniel Osei of the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York — who has operated on several NBA players, but who has not examined Curry — surgery on a broken second metacarpal indicates a displaced fracture, which takes longer to heal. Still, the recovery time is usually between five and eight weeks.
The Warriors indicated that they will only provide an update at three months — not that Curry will be back on the court by then — meaning that Golden State is either acting out of an abundance of caution, or that the injury was that severe. In either case, Curry will miss at least 44 games, giving an organization in the midst of a transitional year a clear direction early in the season.
“The objectives don’t change. The object is still to win, is still to prepare, is still to compete,” head coach Steve Kerr said. “The expectations change. I think there’s an awareness of where we are.”
Curry — a two-time MVP and the face of the franchise — tumbled over the hip of Phoenix Suns center Aron Baynes while driving for a layup with 8:31 to go in the third quarter of a loss on Wednesday night. Curry braced himself with his left hand as he fell to the floor, and then he and Baynes then fell on top of it. After a Thursday CT scan, Curry underwent surgery Friday at the Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles, performed by hand specialist Dr. Steven Shin.
“It sucks,” said forward Draymond Green. “It’s tough. A lot of people care about the basketball side of it, and the team being without Steph, obviously it gets way harder without Steph, and I worry about the Steph that can’t pick up Cannon, the Steph that can’t toss Riley and Ryan around, the Steph that can’t pass Ayesha a pot. That’s the Steph I worry about.”
After winning three NBA titles in five straight trips to the NBA Finals, Golden State lost Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and Kevin Durant this offseason, and Klay Thompson was sidelined with an ACL tear until at least February. Without much of its championship core, the Warriors’ ceiling this year was low — maybe a first-round playoff series win — and that was if Curry and Green could stay relatively healthy, at the very least.
Realistically, a roster with nine newcomers — eight of them 23 or younger — had to be near-perfect, multiple late picks and castoffs would have had to played above their heads, Curry would have have another MVP season, and Green would have to play at a Defensive Player of the Year level in order for the Warriors to even sniff the postseason late enough that Thompson could return to power them down the home stretch.
“It’s a lot to deal with, as good as we were,” Green said. “The attention, all the press that you’re getting, everywhere you go, that’s a lot to deal with, so you’re dealing with all of that. You’re not looking forward to the bad times. They’re going to come at some point. You don’t look for that, but somewhere in the back of your mind, you know it’s not going to be that way forever.”
With no room to add any veterans thanks to a hard cap created by the Kevin Durant-D’Angelo Russell sign-and-trade, Green will be Golden State’s elder statesman.
Curry’s injury, and injuries to rotation players Jacob Evans and Kevon Looney mean that two-way players Damion Lee and Ky Bowman, second-year post Omari Spellman, wing Glenn Robinson III, rookie guard Jordan Poole — who will start in Curry’s spot in the early goings until Evans returns — and Eric Paschall (who scored 20 points on 7-of-8 shooting Wednesday) will be given an entire NBA season to develop into competent (and maybe even good) rotation pieces, with room to fail safely. Once healthy, 19-year-old Alen Smailagic — currently on the shelf with an ankle injury — will almost certainly get heavy NBA minutes before he’s ready.
“You’re not excited to have everyone hurt … but I am excited from the standpoint of some new challenges, some different challenges,” Green said before the Curry news broke. “Even more importantly, these young guys get an opportunity to really try and make a name for themselves.”
The Warriors are now set up much like the 1996-97 San Antonio Spurs (the current iteration comes to Chase Center on Friday night), who, after losing David Robinson to injury, won just 20 games, finished with the No. 1 overall pick and selected Tim Duncan. Two years later, they won the first of their four NBA titles in a nine-year span.
The first-round pick that the Warriors included as part of the Durant-for-Russell sign-and-trade with the Brooklyn Nets is protected if it falls inside the top 20, which, without Curry, it is almost sure to do. While the 2020 draft doesn’t have any generational, incandescent talent, it does have several players — Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman and LaMelo Ball — who have the potential to be stars.
Golden State could very well package that pick with Russell to bring in an All-Star-caliber player (like Giannis Antetokounmpo), or keep it and add a future franchise building block in 2020-21, to go along with a rested Curry and Thompson (who will have no need to rush his rehab to play a handful of games with a lottery-bound team), plus Green, a 24-year-old Russell and 26-year-old center Willie Cauley-Stein.
It will help that, next summer, the Warriors will no longer be hard capped, and will have both the mid-level exception and the $17 million trade exception from dealing Andre Iguodala to Memphis.
That team would not be the title favorites the Warriors were over the last five years, but Golden State would almost certainly be a title contender just one year after what now looks to be their worst season since 2011-12 — Thompson’s rookie year and Curry’s second, and the year they drafted Green.
“It is about next year,” Green said. “But, last year was also about last year and the year after that. You’re always building for the now and the future.”