Second-year forward Harrison Barnes will miss at least the first two games of the season, coach Mark Jackson announced after Tuesday’s practice.
The left foot inflammation that has kept Barnes out of the last three weeks is still bothering him. Jackson said he’s made progress, but not enough to play.
“He’s doing things now without pain,” Jackson said. “But we want to get closer to when he was 100 percent healthy — practicing, running with no issues. There are some restrictions right now and, because of that, it makes no sense to throw him out there tomorrow night.”
The team hasn’t revealed the details of Barnes’ injury — such as what’s causing the inflammation, how it happened, how its being treated or how long Barnes could be out — which is usually up to the player. But it’s serious enough to keep him on the shelf, which is unnerving news for diehard Warriors fans.
Tuesday, Barnes could be seen smiling, shooting free throws and walking around without a limp. Jackson said Barnes, who missed just one game last season as a rookie, is making progress but some movements still cause him pain.
When and if Barnes does return to action, he will do so as the sixth man as Jackson also announced Klay Thompson will remain a starter.
Jackson previously said he was deciding between Thompson and Barnes. The first two preseason games, Jackson brought Thompson off the bench to see how it would work. Jackson never got a chance to see how Barnes fit off the bench, but he’s seen enough.
So your Golden State Warriors starters: Thompson, Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, David Lee and Andrew Bogut.
“That’s my starting five,” Jackson said. “I don’t want to cheat those guys. They’ve earned it.”
Barnes — being dubbed a rising star after his breakout playoff performance — didn’t make a strong case to be a starter. Hobbled by an ailing left foot, he totaled just 34 minutes of action in two games, checking out for good in the first quarter of a home game on Oct. 7. In his short stint, he managed just 10 points on 3 of 18 shooting with five turnovers.
Thompson, who came off the bench in three of the seven exhibition games, led the Warriors in scoring during the preseason. He averaged 16.9 points on 44.5 percent shooting.
“It’s just a role I’m comfortable with,” said Thompson, who has started 121 “It’s just basketball. Coming off the bench or starting, it doesn’t matter. I know me and Harrison can help the team win and be successful. So I’m not too worried about it.”
That leaves the Warriors bench with some serious holes, especially for the first couple games. With no Thompson or Barnes coming off the bench, the second unit will be short offensive punch.
Jackson said he didn’t know who would get the minutes. That, he said, would be determined by the situation.
“It depends on the flow of the game,” Jackson said. “Who I think needs a breather or who I think would help us in that juncture of the game. Normally when we’re healthy and whole, it would be Harrison. Right now, it could be anybody between Jermaine (O’Neal), Draymond (Green), Mo (Speights), Toney (Douglas). It just depends on the flow of the game.”
Perhaps the most likely scenario is heavy minutes for the starters. Instead of playing four reserves with one starter, Jackson could just mix in a reserve or two here and there with the starters. That keeps his best players on the floor.
That’s merely a stop gap, though. Even when Barnes returns, there are questions about how effective he can be coming off the bench. The former high school sensation and North Carolina star has never been a reserve. And in his short career, he’s had bouts with consistency.
Will coming off the bench, and being the top option of the offense, be a position he can thrive? Or will his confidence take a hit from the demotion?
“Harrison will look to build on a standout rookie year and embrace the role,” Jackson said. “I truly believe he can flourish in that role.”