The Golden State Warriors have been hovering at or around .500 all season long. In 2020 and 2021 you could chalk it up to injuries and the reloading process. That championship hill their overwhelming talent allowed them to ascend is starting to appear too steep for their core to climb on its own. A decade ago Steph Curry emerged as a scene-stealing superstar by dropping 54 on the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. They’ve bolted the nexus of wisdom and peak athleticism. In NBA dog years, a decade is a generational shift and the Warriors are beginning to discover their first gray hairs.
Since winning their fourth championship in eight years, the Golden State Warriors have found themselves plucking grays out left and right. It’s not all old age. On the road, they’re weighed down by their bench rugrats. By contrast, the five-man lineup consisting of Klay Thompson, Curry, Kevon Looney, Draymond Green, and Andrew Wiggins is still the league leader in net rating. They’re stuck in a race against time squeezing them on both ends. The Warriors odometer serves as an unofficial barometer of time and the mileage is racking up.
They definitely aren’t geezers yet, but the Splash Brothers are Splash Seniors. Green is on the verge of becoming a valuable relic as he plays out what could be the final year of his Warriors contract. The happy-go-lucky Warriors of the mid-2010s accelerated the NBA’s shift in offensive philosophies. Their verve, energy, that sparkle in their eye, and the avant-garde floor spacing their motion offense provided, has dwindled as has their advantage over the rest of the league. Instead, they just seem burdened these days.
‘This ain’t 2014 no more’
Green’s beard is more salt than pepper every day and he’s already begun planning his post-career endeavors. Curry relies more and more on his old man strength he’s earned by bulking up his frame. A week ago, Curry drove his shoulder into Chris Paul’s chest and muscled through him for a baseline drive and score before cameras caught him mouthing, “This ain’t 2014 no more.”
In a vacuum, it was harmless trash talk. Everyone knew it wasn’t 2014 anymore, but Curry instinctually referenced decade-old wars with superstars encroaching on 40, radiating oldheads recollecting at the cookout vibes. Thompson is 33 and Curry is 35.
Following Golden State’s victory over the Houston Rockets on Tuesday, Thompson couldn’t help but opine on the development of Houston’s young whippersnappers, the passage of time, and how the space Houston’s arena sits on used to be a forest. OK, he didn’t say that last part on the record, but he did go on an unprompted flashback.
“It is strange looking over there how young their team is,” Thompson explained during his presser. “The Rockets I used to play in the 2010s were seasoned vets, all littered throughout that roster.”
Curry’s newfound old-man strength aside, he’s still performing at a peak level. His perimeter-oriented game was always more conducive to aging well. Off the court, he’s leading the charge on some California NIMBYism. If real estate fires you up, congrats, you’re an old fogey.
Alternatively, Thompson has manifested ways to cook younger defenders since recovering from devastating injuries suffered in 2019 and 2020. He’s just gotten more ornery than ever. In the final seconds of Golden State’s blowout loss to the Memphis Grizzlies last week, an angry Klay Thompson, tabulated the number of titles he’s won to the Grizzlies’ bench with his fingers. He’s done that sort of thing before.
Klay could use some advice from Progressive’s Dr. Rick
Klay sounds like he needs Progressive Insurance’s Parenta-Life Coach Dr. Rick to keep him from spouting dad-isms or bragging about cleaning his trash can. In November, Ramona Shelburne published a glowing ESPN profile on Thompson and how his love of boats served as a distraction during his comeback from a torn ACL and ruptured Achilles. He even has different multiple names for his boat, calling it the Nordic Knife or Splash Express. Where’s Dr. Rick and his v-neck sweater offering stern advice when you need him?
During the Warriors 2021 Media Day, Thompson even volunteered an explanation of his boat names to NBC Sports Bay Area’s Kerithe Burke.
“She was made in Finland, so that’s Norwegian I think. She cuts the water like a knife, so I call her the Nordic Knife. People are like ‘why would you name your boat after a weapon?’ I’m like ‘it’s not a weapon it’s just the way she rides.’ It’s so fast. Then Splash Express is when I’m carrying my friends on board and we’re commuting.”
Steve Kerr’s innovative offense is still razor-sharp, but defenses have compiled the personnel and switchable defenders to blunt their proficient execution. Green is still an elite two-way point center, but his career mortality is more precarious than Steph and Klay’s.
Watching them mature with me through my adult years has me waking up every morning wondering when my first gray hair will grow in. 10 years from now? Five years? Next week? And where? Is it already peeking out? Will it start with a sprinkle in my head? Chest? From a nostril?
Golden State has had equivalent questions all season. Andre Iguodala has been a glorified assistant coach for two seasons. Can Green cover ground as well as he did a half-decade ago? Probably not. Will Curry suffer a third major injury this season? Hopefully, not. How much longer can they commit to Thompson given his contract expires after the 2024 season? Is Bob Myers moving on? Possibly.
The glimmer of hope is that the dynasty they succeeded was able to stave off time longer than most teams of yesteryear have. At the time of their final championship in 2014, San Antonio’s Big 3 of Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, and Tim Duncan were 36, 32, and 38, respectively. Curry, 35, Thompson, 33, and Green, 33 are on borrowed time, but they’ll need one of the young bucks to pick up the slack ala 2014 Kawhi Leonard. Maybe these Warriors will rediscover the fountain of youth in the postseason and rip off a run or rebound in 2024 when Jonathan Kuminga makes his next quantum leap forward, but until then their cracked hourglass is running out of sand.