This could be one of those seasons.
The Warriors lose Brandan Wright on a re-injury. Now, as if Murphy’s Law is kicking in, Monta Ellis gets hurt. Yes, it’s his ankle. Yes, his left ankle.
The initial report is that the injury isn’t bad. I’m told if it were a regular season game, Ellis would’ve played. Members of the Warriors organization are still hoping like crazy this is just regular sprained ankle, the kind that always happen. But with Ellis and his ankle history, there is no such thing as a regular sprained ankle when it comes to his left wheel.
NELSON: “I just didn’t want to fool around with it. He probably could have played if it was a regular season game. But why mess around. I would’ve been paranoid anyway.”
Fewer than two minutes into the game, Ellis took a baseline jumper and sprained his left ankle when he stepped on a camera man’s foot. (CORRECTION: It was on a drive to the basket. He landed in the camera pit underneath the basket) He limped down court on defense while assistant coach Keith Smart screamed for the Warriors to foul intentionally. They finally did and Ellis hobbled to the bench in obvious pain. He eventually went to the locker room, under his own power but limping, right away. Stephen Curry checked in for him.
Ellis returned to the bench before the end of the first quarter. His status was uncertain until halftime, when he was ruled out of action. Curry started for Ellis in the second half. Ellis was on the bench during the third quarter, but disappeared into the locker room to ice his ankle. He was not available for comment after the game.
Kelenna Azubuike was out with a sprained left ankle, which I’m told he sustained the practice before the Clippers game. Apparently, it was just a precaution. Ronny Turiaf (sore right knee), Devean George (sore left knee) and C.J. Watson (sprained right MCL) were all out.
It was a rigid outing for Steph Curry, who played more than 40 minutes and finished with 11 points and four assists. His shot was off (5-for-15 from the field, 1-for-5 from 3-point range) and he committed six turnovers. The Lakers roughed him up with physical defense. The help defenders were especially aggressive and physical, including Kobe Bryant.
NELSON: “He struggled. But that was good for him. Good experience.”
Curry started off distributing. He threw two behind-the-back passes in the first quarter — the latter, off a pick-and-roll, set-up a lay-up for Biedrins who was cutting down the middle.
But as the game pressed on, things got harder. He didn’t shy away, but the physicality looked to be a factor. They trapped him and body checked him as he drove to the lane and swiped at him.
Curry never really looked comfortable. He took a couple of ill-advised shots, which looks to be the norm, and looked to be settling for the open look the moment he got one. Plus he found himself guarding some pretty strong players in Derek Fisher, Shannon Brown and even Kobe.
MORROW: “It’s good he’s seeing it. That’s why coach played him so much, so he can experience it. He’ll be fine. He needed to see that, how they’re going to play him physically. I last year, I saw that a lot. … But he’s a tough kid. He’ll be all right. He’s crafty. He knows how to get his shot off.”
This is the life Curry can look forward to as Nelson said before the game Curry would be at least a part-time starter.
NELSON: “I think I’m going to, because the kid (Curry) is so good, leave that spot open and it will be a match-up thing. We’re going to have a small backcourt anyway. We might as well start that way sometimes.”
Nelson said that he wouldn’t name a fifth starter to go with Randolph, Jackson, Ellis and Biedrins. He would instead let the match-up dictate who is the fifth starter. It would be Curry unless the match-up is to demanding defensively. Then he’d go with Kelenna Azubuike at SF (and Jax at SG) or Anthony Morrow at SG.
There aren’t many teams, especially in the west, who have shooting guards who are too imposing for Monta to even line-up against. The Lakers are one. Miami is another. Orlando is another. Portland has Brandon Roy. There are assuredly a few others. The rest, Ellis will just have to survive, because Nelson sounds hell-bent on playing Curry.
CURRY: “It’s good to hear. Makes me want to keep working hard. I’m not going to get a big head or nothing. That’s why I’m going to act like I never heard it.”
The Warriors defense is so bad anyway, the Warriors might as well put the best offensive team on the court. With Curry and Ellis together, they may give up 125 a night. With Ellis and a bigger two guard, they may give up 120 a night.
In their first preseason game, the Lakers just put up the highest total of the preseason with Bryan, Odom, Gasol and Artest combining for a mere 51 points (none of them played more than 26 minutes).
Mikki Moore got banged on by Shannon Brown. It was sick. One-hand. Emphatic. He took off from pretty far. It didn’t look like he would get there. Mikki Moore tried to take the charge. I’m sure he didn’t think Brown would try to dunk it. Nor did anyone else in the Honda Center.
Somebody screamed from the crowd “Hey, Moore, you got (expletive) on!”
Moore smiled. He shrugged his shoulders and motioned his arms as if to say what can you do about it
Moore to the fan: “It happens”
By the way, no, Biedrins is not the next Oscar Robertson. I wrote in Wednesday’s paper that he had 17 consecutive triple-doubles. He didn’t. I meant double-doubles.
Morrow was uncharacteristically off on Wednesday. He was 2-for-6 in the first half, including 0-for-2 from 3-point range. In the third quarter, he missed a wide open look from the right side. Then his hoist from the top looked like one of Jackson’s bad bricks. It clanked off the backboard to the right of the rim.
MORROW: “I was open. That thing just went off to the side.”
At one point, he was 2-for-9 from the field, 0-for-5 from 3-point range.
He got going when the game was over and finished with 25 points on 8-for-18 shooting, 3-for-9 from 3-point range.
Randolph finished with 18 points, 12 rebounds, 4 blocks and 4 turnovers. At times it looked as if he was the only one playing defense.
He rejected a Kobe Bryant fast-break dunk. Kobe got behind the defense and went up for a tomahawk dunk. Randolph came from behind to swat it away at the rim. A couple minutes later, he caught Jordan Farmar’s reverse at the rim.
His biggest block of the night was against David Monds. Randolph caught it above the rim and spiked it like a volleyball. It bounced into the stands.
I told Randolph that Bill Russell would tell him to keep that ball in play and start the break.
RANDOLPH: “I know. But sometimes, you gotta let ’em know.”
Funny scene: Just in case Curry thought he was getting big time, he was reminded that he’s just a rookie today. There was one too few locker stalls in the visiting locker room of the Honda Center. So rookies Curry and Shaun Pruitt had to share. Both of their name plates was over one cubicle, which had one chair. It was right next to the shower/bathroom.