The Golden State Warriors are not used to this. Not at all.
That specific loss dropped the Warriors to 1-3, and on Friday night, the San Antonio Spurs became the latest team to rout Golden State at the new Chase Center, putting the Dubs at 1-4 in what is now a lost season.
Just fading memories of what once was and what will probably never be again.
Such is the life of NBA dynasties, not just in November 2019, but in general.
The Warriors have gone from being the toast of the league, one of the best teams to ever grace the hardwood, to becoming bottom feeders within the blink of an eye.
From 2015 through 2019, Golden State went to five straight finals and won three championships. Two of those titles came with Durant aboard, as the Dubs had a fearsome foursome of Durant, Curry, Thompson and Draymond Green, not to mention stout role players such as Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston.
They were unbeatable. Invincible. They were “ruining the NBA.”
But last autumn, things began to unravel.
It all started when Green and Durant got into a heated on-court confrontation that carried into the locker room, where Green apparently called Durant the “B word” and essentially told him that the Warriors didn’t need him.
Probably not a wise decision with Durant’s impending free agency looming.
Durant played out the rest of the season in Oakland, and even with the obvious friction in the locker room and the constant peppering of questions about New York from the media, Golden State remained title favorites.
Then, during Game 5 of the Warriors’ second-round playoff series against the Houston Rockets, Durant suffered a calf strain, an injury that would not prevent Golden State from winning that series but would ultimately prevent it from winning a third straight title.
Durant remained sidelined through Game 4 of the finals before attempting to make a return with the Dubs trailing the Toronto Raptors 3-1 heading into Game 5, but in the second quarter, Durant tore his Achilles, ending his season and his incredibly successful—but brief—tenure with the Warriors.
Thompson proceeded to tear his ACL in Game 6.
A whirlwind that the Dubs had never experienced during their historic run had swept the team into a dimension it had never known, and it proved to be more than enough to thwart their dynasty.
Durant proceeded to leave the Warriors for the Brooklyn Nets this past summer, clearly in search of an organization where he actually felt valued and would not be called pejoratives by his teammates.
Thompson is on the road to recovery from his ACL tear, and while the prognosis from such an injury is generally favorable, we don’t really know if he will ever be the same again, and if he does reach that level, it certainly won’t be this season.
The Warriors also sent Iguodala to the Memphis Grizzlies as a cost-cutting move, and Livingston retired.
Bob Myers and Co. tried to patch up the holes by signing free agents such as Willie Cauley-Stein, Alec Burks and Omari Spellman, but for a Dubs team that is used to having the best of the best, that isn’t exactly an enviable cast of characters.
Of course, Golden State pivoted as well as it possibly could from the Durant fallout by plucking D’Angelo Russell in a sign-and-trade with the Nets, but Russell alone is not enough to keep this Warriors squad afloat.
Then, to put the cherry on top, Curry, the face of the franchise who will probably have a statue outside of Chase Arena someday, broke his hand, and now, he is out for a minimum of three months.
Any hope Golden State had of making the playoffs this season has now been dashed, and while the future certainly isn’t beyond repair, it’s a far cry from what the Dubs have become accustomed to.
In a span of five months, the Warriors have gone from the clear-cut best team in the NBA to among the worst.
It can happen just like that for an NBA franchise. One day, you’re on top of the world. The next, you’re trying to fight your way out of the cellar.
While Durant’s departure certainly signaled an end to Golden State’s dominance, I don’t think anyone expected this.
Whether it’s guys leaving in free agency, injuries or whatever, the shelf life of an NBA dynasty is not nearly as long as you think. Many people thought the Dubs would be winning titles into the mid 2020s with their roster, neglecting the fact that sometimes, bad things do happen.
Naturally, you can’t plan for stuff like this.
You don’t expect Green to blow up on Durant in an otherwise meaningless regular-season game in November and for that to have significant ramifications on Durant’s free-agent decision.
You don’t anticipate Durant tearing his Achilles. You don’t think Thompson, a guy who had never had a severe injury in his NBA career, is going to tear his ACL in the deciding game of the finals. You don’t expect 260-pound (at least) Aron Baynes to land on Steph’s hand.
These specific incidents are unpredictable. But destructive things occurring in any NBA franchise are not, because they happen regularly.
Some teams just avoid them for longer stretches than others, and that was what the Warriors mostly represented for the better part of five years. Sure, there was some isolated drama along the way, but as a whole, Golden State appeared invulnerable.
But now, the Warriors are discovering what it was like for many other teams in the NBA since 2015.
Just like that.