Former Warrior and NBA Hall-of-Famer Chris Mullin will makehis first visit to Oracle Arena in more than two-and-a-half years, when hespart of ESPNs announcing crew for Golden States season opener against the LosAngeles Clippers.Mullin, enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame inSeptember, hasnt attended a Warriors game since his contract was not renewedas general manager in Spring 2009. Mullin played 13 of his 16 NBA seasons with the Warriors.He will be part of a three-man broadcasting group that willalso include Jeff Van Gundy and Mike Breen, which will take place on Christmasnight.
Mullin was scheduled to make his initial return to OracleArena on Jan. 20, when his No. 17 will be raised to the rafters on a night theWarriors are playing the Indiana Pacers, for whom Mullin also played.Mullin was let go at the end of the 2009 season under theprevious ownership of Chris Cohan. But shortly after Joe Lacob agreed to buythe team last summer, he made it clear he would be bringing Mullin back intothe fold.In September, Lacob announced Mullins jersey would beretired on Jan. 20. Mullin and Lacob have yet to meet face-to-face.
And with that, the Golden State Warriors are now just like everybody else.
Let that rattle around your head for awhile. Just. Like. Everybody. Else.
The Warriors haven’t been like everybody else for three years now, but with Kevin Durant’s knee going from worrisome to catastrophic in a matter of hours, they are exactly like everybody else now. They don’t get to walk on a floor and make people look forward to the next game any more.
They are now one of a select number of very good teams, with San Antonio and Houston and Cleveland and Boston and Washington and maybe one or two others. That will last apparently for six to eight weeks, give or take a week for reckless diagnosis or medical setbacks, while Durant heals from his collision with Zaza Pachulia in the second minute of the team’s loss at Washington, and that could mean anything from the end of the regular season to the first and second round of the playoffs.
In other words, it could mean an amazing triumph or a crash-and-burn, or anything inbetween. This is the unknown, right upside the head.
And since it is unlikely that the Warriors will go full fetal, we are about to see the level of their competitive character – in success or failure, in June or May.
We have seen it before, mind you. In 2013, when they broke through the zinc ceiling, we saw how they could play defense after decades of claiming it was against California law. In 2014, when they learned how hard it is to be a good team. In 2015, when they applied it to become one of the best teams in NBA history (because 83 wins in 103 games and a parade don’t lie). In 2016, when they won more regular season games than anyone else and came within five horrific minutes at the end of Game 7 of the Finals to repeating.
All these were lessons learned, good and bad. They deserved what they got, whether it was glory or gall, and they went to school on it all.
So now, without Durant for an undetermined yet worrisome amount of time, they will demonstrate how they apply all this knowledge, and how they learn to do without Durant what they did with him.
Only now they lose the margin of error that Durant gave them. While most of the other contenders shopped earnestly for four months looking to strengthen here and tweak there, the Warriors had a full pantry and didn’t shop at all. Their big acquisition is Matt Barnes, who they frantically signed Tuesday night to replace Durant.
In short, they have a four-game lead on San Antonio for the top seed in the West, but they spotted the field four months of roster improvements.
Now they can ill afford the stretches of shooting misery like the one Stephen Curry is currently enduring. Now they can ill afford Draymond Green speaking his mind so freely to people who take away games. They need health and purpose and an understanding that the turning-it-on-and-off thing they can do is no longer applicable to their situation.
They are not doomed, not by any means. Only a fool would claim otherwise, and fools come shrink-wrapped by the gross at Costco.
But they are now as San Antonio would be without Kawhi Leonard, or Houston without James Harden, or Cleveland without (and we’ll give you your choice here) LeBron James or Kyrie Irving, or Boston without Isaiah Thomas, or Washington without Bradley Beal AND John Wall, though not worse off than Toronto without DeMar DeRozan, since Kyle Lowry is already gone until the playoffs after wrist surgery.
They are Just Like Everybody Else. Well, Everybody Else Who Matters This Time Of Year. There is a parade up for grabs again, and lots of hands are reaching for it – rather than just the two hands we know best.
Programming note: Log on to the CSN Bay Area Facebook page Wednesday morning at 10 a.m when Warriors analyst Kelenna Azubuike joins "Warriors Outsiders" Drew Shiller and Grant Liffmann to bring you the latest on the Kevin Durant injury.
Kevin Durant will be out a minimum of four weeks after sustaining a medial collateral ligament (MCL) sprain and bone bruise in his left knee, the Warriors announced Wednesday morning.
The team’s leading scorer incurred the injury in the opening minute of the Warriors-Wizards game Tuesday night at Verizon Center in Washington.
The extent of the injury was revealed after the All-Star forward underwent an MRI late Tuesday night at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. Though there is no turntable for his return, but Durant is scheduled for reevaluation in the final week of March.
The playoffs begin April 15.
Meanwhile, the Warriors have agreed to sign free agent forward Matt Barnes in hopes of filling some of the void left by Durant’s absence.
The injury occurred 57 seconds into the game, when Wizards center Marcin Gortat grabbed Warriors center Zaza Pachulia and flung him to the floor. As Pachulia stumbled backward, he fell into Durant’s left knee, which was stationary. Durant’s immediate response was to grab his knee and hop away.
Durant continued for another 36 seconds, before signaling to the bench that a timeout was needed. He left the game and did not return.
Durant is the team’s leading scorer, averaging 25.3 points per game. He also leads the team in rebounding at 8.2 per game and blocks at 1.64 per game. Durant’s 53.7-percent field goal shooting ranks 12th in the league, and second among the NBA’s top 40 scorers.