After a seemingly mythological season, it is the ultimate irony that the fate of the NBA season may now depend on the ankle of its greatest Warrior. This past weekend, the reigning MVP, Stephen Curry, was sidelined with an ankle injury during a first round game against the Houston Rockets. The severity of the sprain has been played down in the media as a conservatively managed day-to-day injury by the Warriors front office and Curry himself.
However, the reality is that Steph has notoriously battled ankle issues in the past and is still experiencing enough pain to sit during three postseason games thus far. The true answer to how hurt Steph Curry really is could not only completely transform the playoff’s landscape, but could also diminish the legacy of this year’s historic Warriors team.
As they have demonstrated against the Rockets with Curry on the bench, the Warriors are still an excellent team and still capable of winning an NBA title. They have the experience, leadership, and depth to take it all the way. They have proven time and again during the regular season that they have the ability to repeat their playoff success, blowing teams off the court and breaking records left and right. Throughout the season, the Warriors have been able to take out their starting lineup by the fourth quarter, giving players like Curry the chance to recover while enhancing their second-string.
But without their best player, or even a healthy semblance, the Warriors will have to be on their A-game as the playing field becomes far more even. In fact, the San Antonio Spurs, who practically went unrecognized for a season with six just fewer wins than the winningest team of all time, will become the dark-horse favorite to replace the Warriors as NBA Champions. The Cleveland Cavaliers, who were limited by their own injuries last season, also have a chance to capture the title. Thus, an injured Steph Curry shifts the playoff predictions from being surprisingly predictable to complete anarchy among a handful of elite NBA teams.
The significance of the 2016 Warriors’ historic season could also be at stake. Right now, they are on pace to be the greatest team of all time, completing a record-setting 73-win season along with their second title in a row. However, if they were to lose, they would go down as the greatest NBA team, and perhaps professional team in general without a title. A championship loss this monumental would serve as a huge roadblock to an organizational dynasty in the mid 2010s. More importantly, it would make a record that was once considered virtually unattainable, like DiMaggio’s 56-game hit-streak or Kareem’s scoring record, essentially meaningless. Hopefully, Steph is just playing it safe against a below average Rockets team. But if he’s not, his injured ankle could be the 2016 Warriors’ Achilles heel.