Friday, May 13, 2022

Warriors deliver discouraging injury update on Defensive Stopper

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As long as the Golden State Warriors continue to battle the Memphis Grizzlies in the Western Conference semifinals, they will do so without one of their key defenders.

A little over two weeks ago, Dubs forward Andre Iguodala was ruled out of the team’s Game 5 matchup against the Denver Nuggets because of a neck injury, specifically a spinal disc problem. Anthony Slater of The Athletic reported then the defensive specialist would be re-evaluated week by week.

Since that update, doctors have examined Iguodala twice and said twice that he is not ready to play. Slater also provided details on the latest update on Thursday, May 12, which indicated the veteran will miss even more playoff time in the future.

“Andre Iguodala to be re-evaluated in another week, per Warriors,” Slater wrote. “So this Grizzlies series is eliminated and the beginning of a (theoretical) conference final.”

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Iguodala is 38 years old and is ending his 18th season in the league. He was a key factor in Golden State’s journey to five straight NBA Finals and three titles between 2014-19. He won Finals MVP in 2014-15 when he got as close to LeBron James as is human for a defenseman at the time was possible.

Iguodala’s role has changed significantly since his reunion with the Warriors this season, playing just 19.5 minutes per game, but that doesn’t mean the Dubs won’t miss his presence on the floor. Golden State’s two biggest weaknesses are both defensive in nature — their lack of size inside and their inability to protect sport-savvy wingers. Even at his advanced age, Iguodala’s experience, determination, and guile could be used to tackle the latter.

The Warriors have struggled to lock down the Grizzlies’ Ja Morant, Desmond Bane and Dillon Brooks this series. Should they settle into Friday night’s Game 6 and advance to the Western Conference Finals, similar problems will arise in the form of either the Dallas Mavericks’ Luka Doncic or the Phoenix Suns’ Devin Booker and Mikal Bridges.

Dubs head coach Steve Kerr hinted before the start of the playoffs that he intended to increase Iguodala’s minutes to the mid-20s each night for precisely this reason, should the need arise. But with the neck issue pausing Iguodala, the Warriors have one less defensive option as they face another trip to the NBA Finals.

The loss of Iguodala for the remainder of that series and the start of a potential Western Conference Finals is compounded by the fact that Gary Payton II is also out indefinitely through injury.

Payton broke his elbow in Game 2 against the Grizzlies after Brooks took a hit to his head on a quick break, a game that earned the Memphis guard a Game 3 suspension and tensions between the teams on and off the court ever since triggered.

Payton was the Warriors’ primary defensive response to the Juggernaut Morant before suffering a knee injury in Game 3 that will likely rule him out for the remainder of the playoffs as well.

Payton and Iguodala’s absence from the perimeter will put pressure on an aging Steph Curry, an inexperienced Jordan Poole and Klay Thompson, who returned mid-season after two-and-a-half years and was sidelined by injuries of his own from being tough defensively whoever the Warriors considered could meet next.

If they can’t, Golden State will have to turn off the lights every night if they hope to play for the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy for the sixth time in modern times.

If they can’t, Golden State will have to turn off the lights every night if they hope to play for the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy for the sixth time in modern times.

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