SportsPulse: Trysta Krick tries to make sense of what we saw over the course of six games between the Raptors and Warriors and how it will have an echoing affect going forward. USA TODAY
OAKLAND, Calif. – The season couldn’t have ended any worse for the Golden State Warriors.
Forget the loss to Toronto in the NBA Finals. Yes, that hurts. But the serious injuries to All-Stars Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, combined with uncertainty in free agency, raises considerable issues for Golden State and its future.
Durant (Achilles tear) and Thompson (ACL tear) can both be free agents, and both will be out potentially a season, dimming the excitement of free agency this summer and making it more unpredictable.
While Thompson is more likely to remain with Golden State than Durant, neither will be playing games when Golden State’s $1.4 billion Chase Center opens for the 2019-20 season.
It leaves Golden State in a predicament. Are they going to try and sign two players to max contracts and eat up significant salary cap space even though they may not play next season?
The entire series went awry for Golden State, from the end of their championship streak to the three losses at Oracle Arena to the Kyle-Lowry-Mark Stevens incident to gut-wrenching injuries to Durant and Thompson.
“What I’ve witnessed as their coach over the last five years is just an incredible combination of talent and character and commitment to each other,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “This just doesn’t happen. A group of guys like this doesn’t come around together and do what they did over the last five years. And I’ve been lucky enough to be their coach. That’s what I told them in the locker room. I can’t tell you my gratitude in terms of just being put in this position to be with this group and to coach them and to help them.”
Where do the Warriors go from here?
“Everybody thinks it’s kind of the end of us,” Draymond Green said. “But that’s just not smart. We’re not done yet. We lost this year. Clearly just wasn’t our year, but that’s how the cookie crumbles sometimes. But, yeah, I hear a lot of that noise, it’s the end of a run and all that jazz. I don’t see it happening though. We’ll be back.”
By all indications, they want to bring Durant and Thompson back. Even if that happens, they’re facing lengthy absences. Timelines for ACL injuries vary, but Derrick Rose, Jabari Parker and Kristaps Porzingis all missed at least a season’s worth of games.
Stephen Curry and Green are back next season, along with Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Damian Jones, Alfonzo McKinnie and Jacob Evans.
DeMarcus Cousins, Kevon Looney, Jonas Jerebko and Andrew Bogut are free agents this summer, and Quinn Cook and Jordan Bell are restricted free agents.
General manager Bob Myers has work to do regardless of Durant and Thompson. The Warriors need upgrades on the edges, but they don’t have salary cap space to go after big names other than their own free agents.
But it starts with Durant and Thompson, and no matter how that unfolds, Golden State can begin repairing.
The Warriors can still be a very good again, but when? Next season is going to be difficult in the Western Conference, where many teams see an opportunity to end the Warriors’ run of five consecutive Finals appearances that includes three titles.
It goes back to something Kerr told USA TODAY 5½ years ago when discussing Miami’s attempt at a three-peat in what turned out to be its final season with LeBron James.
Kerr played for the Chicago Bulls’ three-peat teams in the 1990s.
“Think about the accumulation of the wear and tear, emotionally and physically, and you’re doing that year after year and you’re playing two extra months of games that are the highest-intensity games possible,” Kerr said then. “You do that three years in a row, and it wears on you. While that’s going on, everybody is plotting to beat you. They’re building their rosters around guarding you. They’re scheming to find your weaknesses.
“Over the course of a few years, it just gets harder and harder.”
The Warriors have played more games than any team in the past five seasons with their 104 playoff games. That’s another seasons-plus of games squeezed into those five seasons.
Teams wear down, bodies don’t hold up and other teams are ready to capitalize.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt