‘We can compete with anyone’: Don’t count out the Klay Thompson-less Warriors
In 2002, legendary boxer Roy Jones Jr. put out a song that was famously entitled, “Y’all Must Have Forgot.“
That phrase recently re-entered the atmosphere as the 51-year-old took on Mike Tyson in an exhibition match on November 28, but it’s a useful sentiment when looking at another sports mainstay looking to return to glory in 2020.
Back in June of 2019, it appeared as if the Golden State Warriors had seen their dynasty vanish into thin air in a matter of moments.
As the franchise looked to overcome a 3-1 series deficit in the NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors, tragedy struck in Game 6 of the closely-contested series.
Just one game after a courageous comeback attempt from Kevin Durant instead led to a torn Achilles, the Warriors saw another star suffer a major injury when Klay Thompson tore his ACL in the midst of what turned out to be a series-clinching Game 6.
The Warriors went on to lose the game 114-110, failing in their pursuit of a three-peat after back-to-back NBA Finals wins against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Durant took his talents to New York a month later to join Kyrie Irving on the Brooklyn Nets, and reports began to indicate that Thompson wouldn’t play at all during the 2019-2020 season.
As a result, basketball fans’ attention began to shift towards other NBA franchises, like the LeBron James-led Los Angeles Lakers, their Staples Center neighbor Los Angeles Clippers with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, and Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Milwaukee Bucks.
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The Warriors began to enjoy the underdog role that they had thrived in back in 2015, and the team’s fanbase wondered about what Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and the newly-acquired D’Angelo Russell could do on the court together.
Then, things fell apart even more. Curry broke his left hand and missed games from November until March, Green dealt with his own injuries throughout the year, and Russell was traded after just a few months with the team.
Once the dust finally cleared on the shortened, COVID-19-impacted regular season, the Warriors had the worst record in the league, and wound up with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft once the NBA Draft Lottery was completed.
On the day of the draft, the franchise found out that Thompson had torn his Achilles on his right leg after a full recovery from his torn ACL on the left leg, and it was announced that the five-time All-Star would miss the entirety of the upcoming season.
“He’s the best 2-guard in the league,” Curry told The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears. “To get that call was a gut punch for sure. A lot of tears. You don’t really know what to say because a guy like that is having to go through two pretty serious rehabs now. But at the end of the day, we have to have his back. We hope that he is around and a part of what we do through his rehab and staying connected with us.”
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Somehow, through all of that adversity and after hitting the bottom of a wild rollercoaster, the Warriors still believe they’re a team to watch out for heading into their 2020-2021 campaign.
“We know we can compete with anyone in the league,” Curry told The Undefeated. “We hear the chatter. ‘It’s the end for us. This year is a wash. What are we going to do in the future?’ But we are in the moment right now.”
While fans around the league may write Curry’s comments off as the usual positivity that every team exudes ahead of a season, and may see it as the two-time league MVP being overly optimistic, it’s not implausible to view the Warriors as a contender in 2020-2021.
Yes, the team lost one half of the “Splash Brothers” and one of the league’s best sharpshooters. And yes, Durant isn’t around to pick up any slack or divert any attention away from Curry and company like he did from late 2016 through the middle of 2019.
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But, like Roy Jones Jr. said, “Y’all Must Have Forgot.”
Y’all must have forgot about the talent that Curry has, and the rebuilding that the superstar was able to do between March and the start of the 2020-2021 regular season in December.
Y’all must have forgot about the ability that Green possesses, and how fresh he will be after a full recovery from any injuries that built up in 2019 and 2020.
Y’all must have forgot about the coaching prowess that Steve Kerr brings to the table, evident by the 337-138 record he has compiled throughout his career on the sidelines for the Warriors.
Y’all must have forgot about Andrew Wiggins, the talented, young forward that general manager Bob Myers acquired in a deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves for Russell.
Y’all must have forgot that the team landed James Wiseman, a 7-foot-1 big man that fills a massive need in the Warriors lineup, with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.
Y’all must have forgot how aggressive the front office was after the Thompson injury, acquiring forward Kelly Oubre Jr. from the Oklahoma City Thunder and going after a free agent like former Celtics guard Brad Wanamaker.
And, most importantly, y’all must have forgot that the Warriors won three titles in the last six years and appeared in five NBA Finals.
No, these aren’t the Warriors of 2014-2015 that won with Curry, Thompson, Green and Andre Iguodala at the helm.
There aren’t the Warriors of 2016-2017 that got revenge on the Cavaliers with Durant added to the mix, or the team of 2017-2018 that pulled off the repeat.
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But, with both longstanding talent and fresh faces to work with, don’t count out the 2020-2021 Warriors in their pursuit of their fourth championship in seven years.
“It’s kind of refreshing being in that category as guys that are chasing,” Curry said. “We know [the Los Angeles Lakers] are the defending champs. We got to beat them. We’re ready for it.”
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