San Francisco Chronicle
Warriors’ homestand promises to be captivating
Forget what LeBron James says for a moment — the final two weeks of the regular season will be captivating for the Warriors because of the NBA’s introduction of the playin tournament.
The Mavericks, Lakers and Trail Blazers have all but locked up the Western Conference’s Nos. 57 seeds, which used to be good enough to make the playoffs and why James is whining about the rules now.
But, as part of a collectively bargained agreement, the regular season’s seventh and eighthplace teams will play for the No. 7 seed, and the loser will play against the winner of the game between the ninthand 10thplace teams for the No. 8 seed.
“Whoever came up with that s— needs to be fired,” James said this week.
At least that’s what most Warriors fans must have been thinking as the team boarded its final flight of the regular season late Tuesday night, sitting in a tie for the eighth spot with a sixgame homestand to close the schedule. They now sit in ninth place after the Grizzlies’ win over the Timberwolves on Wednesday night.
“Six games at home to finish the season is nice, but that can kind of be a trap, though,” Warriors guard Stephen Curry said. “You can let your foot off the gas because we’re comfortable being at home and seeing our families. You’re in familiar territory, but you’ve got to stayed locked in mentally on the task at hand of finishing out the season strong.”
Although there’s a valid argument that an 82game season (or 72 games during a global pandemic) should define a conference’s eight best teams, there’s no disputing that resting and load management likely will become a nonentities in the final two weeks because of the playin tournament.
After their 108103 loss at New Orleans on Tuesday night, the Warriors were tied for eighth place with Memphis. San Antonio sat just a game back in 10th, and the Pelicans were still lurking in 11th.
Just imagine how excited the NBA executive office in New York would be to get one of its biggest stars — Curry — in a playin game against one of its rising stars, either New Orleans’ Zion Williamson or Memphis’ Ja Morant.
The imagination doesn’t have to flutter far.
In fact, it will happen during regularseason games that have playin ramifications.
Among the Warriors’ closing homestand are matchups against New Orleans (May 14), and Memphis (May 16).
“We have to have the mentality that our backs are against the wall and it’s kind of like doordie,” Warriors forward Juan ToscanoAnderson said. “It’s yes or yes. There’s no other option, regardless of whether we were on the road or at home for these last six games.”
The Warriors knew they would play the entire season without Klay Thompson (Achilles) and the final six weeks without James Wiseman (knee). But the injury report has bloated with Damion Lee (health and safety protocol), Kelly Oubre Jr. (wrist), and Eric Paschall (hip).
For most of this week’s 22 road trip, the Warriors made do with only eight healthy players.
Head coach Steve Kerr said he would talk soon to general manager Bob Myers about whether it makes sense to fill one or both of the team’s empty roster spots with a freeagent signing for the final two weeks.
“It doesn’t matter if it is (unsustainable) or not,” Kerr said. “All you can do is play with the guys who are here. I’m really proud of the group. I mean, you’ve got guys just putting everything out there on the line. Night after night. Being shorthanded, it does put a lot of pressure on those guys, but it’s the way it is.
“So, they’ve got to just keep going.”