On Thursday, four members of the Golden State Warriors were named to the U.S. Men’s National Team Pool for the 2014 World Championships as well as the 2016 Olympics. The last Warrior named to an Olympic team was Chris Mullin with the 1992 team. The narrative is changing for this team. No longer are they an afterthought of the NBA with a history of horrible draft picks. Gone are the days of Nellieball and a team that was merely fun to watch but was simply treading water and not making a marked improvement each year.
With the announcement of Stephen Curry making the Western Conference All-Star team as a starter, the first since Latrell Sprewell in 1995 (gets me choked up thinking about it), there seems to be nothing but good vibrations coming from an organization that’s trying to promote success with an arena bid looming off Piers 30 and 32 in San Francisco (one that Joe Lacob still contends can happen by 2017).
Of course fans are excited about the Olympic news, it’s more exposure for a team that’s on the rise and validates fans’ beliefs that the Warriors are a potential contender. #FullSquad is the new ‘We Believe’. It’s a rallying point, defining the starting five as one of the best in the Association. But how good is this starting five, and is extra basketball in the name of the World Championships and the Olympics really what this team needs?
There’s no denying it’s an honor for a player to represent their country against the rest of the world. It’s one that comes every four years, so barring injuries it’s an opportunity many would be hard pressed to pass up. As professional athletes, they dedicate themselves to their craft and put in the extra work most of us don’t see. A majority have worked their entire lives for an opportunity such as this. To be named as part of the best by a committee rather than a superfluous fan vote which saw Kobe Bryant named an All-Star starter (an opportunity he graciously declined).
These are superstar athletes, but let’s consider the idea if this team makes an extended playoff run much like last year. With the FIBA World Championships starting at the end of August, where is the time off? Andre Iguodala’s hamstring might have something to say about that. Curry’s ankle might not hold up. David Lee was experiencing shoulder soreness that made him a game-time decision this past Friday against the Timberwolves. Injuries are already piling up for this team and the last thing they need is more time on the court than necessary.
Andrew Bogut has an open invitation to play to play for the Australian National Team, but back in November he said he was on the fence in terms of whether he would join the Boomers for the World Cup.
“The body is still a concern for me and I know how much I got out of this last off-season because of the rest and regime I put together,” Bogut said.
“My immediate goal with the national team is to definitely play in 2016 (Olympics) and anything in between is up in the air right now.”
Full squad does define this team, but at the same time it illuminates its limitations. This team is as only deep as its starting lineup, as the team’s bench is nonexistent. Jordan Crawford, although a keen pickup who was unloaded for next-to-nothing in the form of Toney Douglas, is not the answer this team needs to make a run in the playoffs, and one person certainly doesn’t make a team (though one can certainly help).
It would be naïve for me to believe that players aren’t constantly dealing with nagging injuries while on the court and playing through the pain. In the NBA, there never is such a thing as 100 percent even before the season begins. It’s a matter of a player’s ability to tolerate and fight through with a combination of courage and cortisone shots. It would also be gullible to think injuries can’t happen at any time on the court, even in practice, and the fear of an injury shouldn’t limit one’s potential on the floor. But what if? What if the Olympics put a wear-and-tear on this team to the point it’s no longer the same afterwards?
While a gold medal doesn’t come around the corner every year, neither does an NBA title. For an organization that hasn’t seen a finals appearance in nearly 40 years, this current team is the closest the Warriors have come in a long time (even though some may suggest they are still far away). Unless their lack of depth is addressed, the window for this team to win is marginally small. A catastrophic injury could mean the difference between a championship and returning to the glistening gutter Warriors fans have grown accustomed to.
The most immediate example of excessive play affecting a team’s performance on the field is the San Francisco Giants and the World Baseball Classic. Angel Pagan, Ryan Vogelsong, Marco Scutaro and Jeremy Affeldt were among those who either dealt with lingering injuries, suffered down years, or both. A lengthy championship season followed by extensive play for their respective countries reflected in their on-field performance in 2013 for the Giants.
Yes, some players do compete in winter baseball to stay loose and train in the offseason, but it’s not as deliberately competitive as is playing for the team that’s paying the bills. It’s a question of what’s more important to someone — playing for the team they’re contracted to, or the opportunity to represent their country. Truth be told, it’s highly unlikely all four players will make both the Worlds and Olympic squads, but with injuries already affecting this team, perhaps a good dose of offseason rest is just what the doctor ordered.