Don’t worry Warriors fans. Reinforcements are on the way.
Despite the team’s March morass, there’s plenty of reason to remain hopeful about Golden State’s postseason bona fides, considering the talent expected to return as soon as next week.
First on everyone’s wish list is Draymond Green, the sparkplug centerpiece who’s targeting Monday’s matchup with the Wizards for his return. If that comes to pass, he’ll have missed 30 games and the Warriors kinda tanked during his absence. Especially recently.
Green broadcast his intentions the other day on his budding podcast, via the Volume platform, saying, “That’s the date I’m targeting. I’m excited as hell.”
So are we, Draymond. It’s been kind of painful to watch this team play defense without you.
Steve Kerr refused to break out the party hats, but he sounded encouraged.
“It looks like it. We’ve known the last couple of weeks that there was kind of a general timetable of right around that date anyway, but now it’s been pinpointed,” said Kerr, before Tuesday night’s matchup with the Clippers. “We’ve watched him ramp up the activity and improve his conditioning. He’s feeling better each day. He’ll scrimmage tomorrow and get some live work in and hopefully, the rest of the week goes really well and he’s back on that Monday.”
Next up on everyone’s wish list would be James Wiseman, the ever-promising, rarely delivering young center, who’s missed every game this season. As in all 65.
Wiseman had a decidedly inconsistent rookie campaign last year, especially for someone who was the No. 2 pick in the draft. He showed flashes of brilliance, but often looked confused on defense and never seemed to fully grasp Kerr’s complex systems.
But, if we’ve learned anything in the past month or two, it’s that the Warriors could use some size. Teams stacked at center (Phoenix, Denver, etc.) have feasted on the Warriors weak interior defense, especially with Green out.
Many fans hoped Golden State would pick up a big man at the trading deadline, but that’s just not their style. They rarely make a move mid-season, and would’ve had to give up something precious, such as everyone’s favorite rookie this season, the high-flying Jonathan Kuminga. They also had the second-best record in the league at the time.
So, Golden State checked their hand, hoping Wiseman would return and give them some quality minutes in the paint. That remains to be seen. First, he has to get back on the court.
The team put out a statement Tuesday saying the second-year pro, who had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee, had been “cleared to progress to the next stage of his rehabilitation. Wiseman will play in a pair of upcoming Santa Cruz Warriors games — at Stockton on Thursday and against the G League Ignite at Chase Center on Sunday.”
Those are usually the last steps before a player returns, so Green could have company next week.
“Well, he’s been scrimmaging with the team here the last few weeks and the next logical step is live action in the G League,” said Kerr. “I don’t know of any other options other than to put him into one of our games and we feel like it makes a lot more sense for him to get some action and play a lot and get a lot of rhythm and conditioning before he plays for us.”
Expect Wiseman to work his way into the rotation very slowly. And it’s no guarantee he’ll be part of that rotation in the postseason, when the bench gets a lot shorter.
But you never know. Depending on who the Warriors draw in April, the opposing roster could force Kerr’s hand. Wiseman will have to prove himself over the last month of the season to earn time, but that’s why he’s coming back. It’s time. It’s time for the entire team to fine-tune for the playoffs.
That brings us to Andre Iguodala, who would be the icing on Golden State’s roster. The beloved veteran earned a place in Warriors’ fans hearts with his Finals MVP performance way back in 2015. (Can you believe that was seven years ago?)
Some fans might not even realize he’s still on the roster. But he is. And he’s also getting healthy, overcoming nagging back tightness that has kept him in the training room for most of this season.
“Draymond and Andre are both doing well, and James is doing well,” Kerr said. “That’s three of our most athletic players. In Draymond’s case, our most important defensive player. In Andre’s case, one of our best overall players. Both Draymond and Andre will be able to handle some of the point forward duties that Steph (Curry) is accustomed to them handling, and he can play off the ball, and we can get back to playing our usual style. I’m looking forward to it.”
Problems solved? Not so fast.
“But we can’t just sit here and think that’s going to solve everything,” said Kerr. “We’ve got a lot of things to clean up, and that’s what we’re working on now.”
Roger that, coach. In Kerr we trust.
Editor’s note: The Arena, a column from The Examiner’s Al Saracevic. explores San Francisco’s playing field, from politics and technology to sports and culture. Send your tips, quips and quotes to email@example.com.