Steph Curry threw his head back from the seat on the bench and let his gaze fixate for a moment on the fans sitting behind him, perhaps to relieve his eyes from the mess unfolding in front of him.
Two seconds remained in the third quarter, but the Warriors’ second consecutive blowout loss at home was in the bag. The New Orleans Pelicans were sinking wide-open 3s, making a mockery of a feckless Warriors defense. Fan boos grew louder as the deficit grew larger and the reality of this season once again set in.
Curry flipped his head forward again and shook his head. The game was over, but the countdown to the trade deadline has begun. Sure, Chris Paul and Draymond Green’s absences are felt, and their returns could at least shore up the communication on defense and tighten the screws on offense. The question this front office faces before the Feb. 8 trade deadline is if those impending returns will be enough to climb up the Western Conference ladder.
Curry was up front about his take asked if the team has enough time to prove to the front office this roster should stick together: Things must change.
“We have a standard,” Curry said after the game. “It’s pretty evident that when things stay the same — that’s the definition of insanity, right? Keep doing the same thing expecting a different result.”
Generously interpreted, Curry is not only conceding that this roster isn’t up to snuff — injuries and all — but challenging the front office to make some changes. In the wake of Green’s indefinite suspension a month ago, general manager Mike Dunleavy made clear the organization still sees Curry as a superstar that can carry a team to a title while also conceding his team needed 15-to-20 games to assess the roster.
After Curry, the roster falls short up top. Not only has Green been absent for more than half the games, Andrew Wiggins hasn’t performed to the standard he reached during the 2022 championship run. The Warriors have been outscored by 179 points when he’s on the floor and he’s done little to bump his way back into the starting lineup job he lost early last month. Kevon Looney has taken a step back on both ends and his minus-67 total is second worst to Wiggins. The Warriors are built to get production from the starting group that’s now a void.
Thompson is improving, shooting 39.9% from 3 in 20 games since his crunch-time benching in Phoenix last month. But the dominoes fell once the traditional starting five of Curry, Thompson, Wiggins, Green and Looney lost its touch, spacing and viability. Since then, coach Steve Kerr has been on a desperate search for the right lineup and come up short.
“We’re all over the place with lineups,” Kerr said. “We’re trying to find different combinations. Whereas a lot of teams, like New Orleans, are really rounding into form, they know exactly who they are, we’re scattered.”
That noxious blend of desperation, lack of confidence and loss has spawned a team that often plays downright insane. From an ownership perspective, the product is far from worth the hefty price tag. From Curry’s standpoint, there’s pride worth protecting.
“As players, what we can control is our effort, focus, competitiveness,” Curry said. “Like every NBA season, every organization, that stuff works itself out. You can’t allow yourself to get distracted by that. because whether you’re at the top of the standings or the bottom, there’s always rumors swirling, always conversations. Just part of the business. Until anything happens, you can’t get caught up in it.”
What that means as the deadline approaches is to be determined. Names will fall on the trade block. Golden State needs a secondary scorer, preferably in the front court. They could use more size on defense and athleticism on the perimeter.
The Warriors have assets to give from their depth on the bench, such as Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody. They have optionality in the books — Chris Paul and Thompson have movable contracts. Wiggins signed a team-friendly extension that can be moved. They have future first-round picks to sell, too.
Curry and his teammates will use these next few weeks to keep searching for something that clicks. It’s all they can do. But Curry made it known he doesn’t plan on going insane.