Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.
1) Warriors season was already broken before Stephen Curry broke his hand. Now the path forward is clear. Before this latest in a string of unfathomable injuries, Golden State’s season was already broken.
This is a team that already didn’t look near the class of the Clippers, then lost by 28 to a team that traded away Russell Westbrook and Paul George last summer, and had already given up a 30-1 run to upstart Phoenix. The plan of just holding on until Klay Thompson got back already looked doomed — the Warriors weren’t winning, and it’s unlikely Thompson is back anyway.
Then this happened.
A CT scan will determine if Stephen Curry will need surgery, or if he just goes in a cast. Either way, this likely sidelines Curry for at least a couple of months. Think after Christmas, closer to New Year’s Day (and surgery could mean a longer time away).
The basketball gods have unleashed their wrath on the Warriors.
Maybe, however, this is exactly what the Warriors need. It forces an adjustment they were not ready or willing to make.
Golden State is a lottery team now. They already were — based on early season results — but now there is no escaping it. By the time Curry returns, the Warriors will be in a hole they cannot dig out of. Not in a deep West.
Golden State is not going to tank — owner Joe Lacob already pushed back on that idea. Golden State has a new building to sell out. Thing is, they don’t have to try to lose, this is already a team of questionable construction that needed everything to go right to make a playoff push (did you really think Alec Burks, Omari Spellman, and Jordan Poole were going to step up?). Obviously, things have not gone right, going back to the Kevon Looney injury.
The pressure is off the Warriors now, the expectations are gone. Don’t sit Draymond Green if he’s healthy, but make sure he gets and stays healthy (he had an elbow issue suffered against the Suns). Make sure Looney gets right.
Turn D’Angelo Russell loose and let him run the show, watch him rack up numbers, then if teams start calling before the trade deadline next February, listen. See if there is a more natural fit next to Curry and Thompson.
If the losses pile up, so what? Get whatever the lottery ping-pong balls give you — this is not the same situation as the 1996-97 Spurs (the Tim Duncan draft), it’s a very different lottery and league, but you never know. Add a quality young player. Retool for next season when Curry, Thompson, Green, and Looney are healthy and there can be a young core around them that is a little more seasoned and fits better.
These Warriors were already broken. Watching them made that clear. Curry’s broken hand forces them into a new reality, but a path that ultimately should be better for the Warriors long term.
2) Joel Embiid and Karl-Anthony Towns throwdown on the court, get ejected, then carry fight to social media. This did not all start Wednesday night, Joel Embiid and Karl-Anthony Towns have been taking jabs at each other for years.
Wednesday night, those jabs turned into a fight.
Embiid’s team was winning comfortably, he was home in front of his people, and he lives for this kind of spotlight, so of course he egged the crowd on and then soaked it all in.
Both players were ejected — so they carried the fight over to social media.
And then it was on. Rudy Gobert summed it up for the rest of us:
It turned nasty. Entertaining, but nasty. KAT mocked Embiid for crying after a second-round playoff loss, Embiid noted Towns has never been to the second round, and it went from there. Because￼ someone has to show some restraint, I’ll just say you can check the players out on social media if you want to follow along.
Multi-game suspensions are coming for both Embiid and Towns, and the social media sparring is not exactly going to invite leniency from the league. Maybe Towns gets one more game than Embiid — he appears to be first to escalate this from just a shoving match — but both are going to be out for games. Plural.
There are also questions about whether Ben Simmons will get suspended, or if anyone left the benches, or anything else that could lead to suspensions and fines.￼
Both teams have been off to a hot start, and both are going to feel the pain from this fight because they will be without their best players for a while.
3) James Harden drops 59 and Rockets still only win by one. This ended up being the third-highest scoring game in NBA history — a history that includes Doug Moe’s Nuggets teams. This was a throwback, defense optional, shootout for the ages.
James Harden’s 59th point came on a free throw with two seconds left that won the game for Houston over Washington, 159-158. Here’s the foul that led to those free throws — it’s vintage Harden in that he creates contact then sells it to make sure the call comes.
Clint Capela had 21 for Houston, Russell Westbrook 17
Harden, however, proved to be too much.
The Rockets are going to be in a lot of games like this during the season — they can score with anyone, but they don’t have a defense to match.