On Saturday night the much-anticipated matchup between the Golden State Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs turned out to be a complete bust hours before the game even started.
With forward Kevin Durant already on the shelf due to a knee injury, on Friday night Warriors coach Steve Kerr announced that Andre Iguodala, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson would sit out the showdown with the second-seeded Spurs in San Antonio.
Meanwhile, Spurs superstar Kawhi Leonard and forward LaMarcus Aldridge were not in the lineup either. Leonard had already been ruled out of the game after being placed in the NBA’s concussion protocol after he was hit in the head early during a contest against Oklahoma City on Thursday. As for Aldrige, he’s out indefinitely due to a minor heart arrhythmia.
Talk about a let down.
However, while Leonard’s, Aldridge’s and Durant’s absences are understandable, the fact that the Warriors decided to sit all their starters just hours before the contest is simply inexcusable.
The decision to bench star players during key games during the regular season is nothing new.
The Spurs’ Greg Popovich often sits his stars in order to keep them sharp for the grueling postseason.
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James is also notorious for resting himself during the regular season despite grumblings from fans who shell out big bucks to watch him play, only to end up disappointed.
But while it may be acceptable and even necessary for star players to take a break during the 82-game regular season – even during key games – what the Warriors did Saturday should simply not be allowed.
It’s no coincidence that Kerr’s decision came after the Warriors suffered a rough 103-102 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night. The two-time defending Western Conference champions are a complete mess right now and have been ever since Durant went down with his injury on Feb. 28.
Prior to Durant going down, the team was 50-9 and considered a sure thing to return to the NBA Finals. However, since Durant’s injury, the squad is 2-4 with loses to Washington, Chicago, Boston and Minnesota. And with no clear timeline as to when Durant could return, the Warriors’ future is suddenly murky.
But the fact that Golden State is in obvious need of victories right now, makes Kerr’s act to bench his starters on Saturday that much more reprehensible. What was he afraid of?
Could it be that he feared losing to a depleted Spurs squad? What other explanation could there be? It seems the Spurs should have been easy pickings for the Warriros even without Durant in the lineup.
As it turned out, the Spurs thumped on the Warriors 107-85 to pull within a half game of the lead in the Western Conference. I guess the Warriors can now blow off the loss and blame it on the fact that they were undermanned. What a joke.
Regardless, the decision was wrong and the NBA should step in and make it a rule that teams can no longer do this.
And if that’s not an option, then NBA fans who ponied up serious money in hopes of watching the league’s best and brightest should be given the right to either receive a refund or trade in their tickets for another game.
The NBA constantly preaches its desire to assist the communities that its teams are located in. That’s all fine and dandy, but it’s now time to start assisting fans in making sure they get what they pay for.
Dave Favila is sports editor for the Valley Morning Star. Follow him on Twitter @dfavila