Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE
As we often do, in advance of tonight's clash between the Clippers and the Warriors I exchanged questions with Nate Parham from SB Nation's Warriors blog Golden State of Mind (one of the few NBA blogs that has been around longer than Clips Nation). Good news/bad news for the Clippers -- no Andrew Bogut tonight, which deprives fans of a chance to see a very good player, but greatly increases the Clippers' odds of winning.
Steve Perrin: How healthy is Bogut? How did he look in the first couple games? He was looking like the second or third best center in the NBA before this latest series of injuries. Is he going to be able to get back to being that player again?
Nate Parham: All Clippers fans need to know about his health right now is that he will reportedly not suit up for tonight's game in Los Angeles. I'm not reading too much into that though - it's the back end of a back-to-back and they've been capping his minutes so it's very likely simply a matter of giving someone who has had about as many games as practices as a Warriors player a chance to ease back into NBA game shape. In the limited minutes we've seen him in he's as good as advertised defensively - great feet, directing traffic, excellent in help. Offensively I think he's still finding his rhythm with a new team, but it's hard to find a rhythm when you're not in the game for many consistent minutes. It's just too early to say what his ceiling is, but his defensive presence is a welcome sight on this team.
SP: On a scale from 1 to 100, where 1 is he'll never miss another game because of his ankles and 100 is his ankles are clearly made of tooth picks and popsicle sticks, how worried are you about Steph Curry's future going forward?
NP: 110: A Jenga tower already missing a couple of blocks bound together by a piece of scotch tape. Or at least that's how I feel when I watch him do advanced movements like running forward on a basketball court.
In seriousness, I've gotten to the point where my anxiety levels spike whenever he makes a cut, defensive slide, or drive aggressively. There has to be a clinical diagnosis for this sort of fan psychosis - 110 is a completely irrational place to be, but after seeing how he's injured it in the past it's hard to just pretend I'm not scared of it happening again.
SP: Is it my imagination, or is this Warriors team both talented and deep? I'm looking at the Western Conference, and seeing key injuries on teams like Minnesota and Dallas, and thinking the Warriors have a real shot at a low playoff seed. What are the key things that have to go right for the Warriors to end their playoff drought?
NP: Well, they just took a major blow last night with Rush going down against Memphis - I'm hoping for the best, but expecting that he'll be out for an extended period of time after that nasty incident. So the number one thing that has to go right now is for Harrison Barnes to adjust to the NBA rapidly and become a consistent contributor, especially on defense - a starter perimeter trio of a rookie wing, Curry and Klay Thompson is not exactly imposing. Rush was sort of the go-to guy to defend last season and now he's gone. One guy most of us at GSoM have been keeping an eye on even before Rush's injury is undrafted rookie Kent Bazemore, who we're hoping can develop into a defensive presence (MOAR BAZEMORE!).
But the bottom l line is that this season really comes down to the health of Bogut and Curry. Those two need to play at least a combined 130 games to even have a shot at competing for a playoff spot and after seeing what the team looks like without Bogut on the floor - quintessential Warriors "defense" - I'm not sure they can make it if those two miss games regularly.
SP: What should I know about Harrison Barnes? I'm a little surprised to see him starting. Is he ready to be a starter on a solid NBA team? Does getting him in the draft make all the tanking from last season worth it, or do you feel a little dirty every time you watch him?
NP: Honestly, I'm probably not the best one to ask about Barnes - I was not wild about selecting a college scorer who did so somewhat inefficiently in college after all that tanking (which was downright unwatchable). To his credit, he has improved dramatically since folks last saw him playing for UNC in almost every aspect of his game and I think a lot of that comes down to shot selection rather than scoring ability; like many rookies he's a work in progress. I didn't see him as a starter before the Warriors drafted him or afterward, but his work ethic is encouraging and I could see him getting there by the end of the season.
Regardless, with Rush's injury and the choice coming down to Barnes or Richard Jefferson, the question of whether he should start is sort of moot - he just has to be ready now. But what this team really needs from him - or anyone on the wing - is the ability to defend. It's going to be really hard to win games consistently even with Bogut around if the Warriors can't defend the wing.
Thanks for the great answers Nate. Sorry about Rush's injury -- his brother Kareem suffered an ACL injury while with the Clippers a couple seasons back, so we know the feeling. And I'm especially sad that we won't see Bogut tonight, though not too upset about what it says about the Clippers chances in this game.
Citizens of Clips Nation should be sure to stop by Golden State of Mind to check out my answers to Nate's questions as well (he asked some good ones).