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COHN: Warriors' hopes rest on Stephen Curry's ankle

Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry passes against Washington Wizards' Garrett Temple (17) in the third quarter of an NBA basketball game in Oakland, Calif., Saturday, March 23, 2013.

AP
Published: Sunday, March 24, 2013 at 8:55 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, March 24, 2013 at 10:01 p.m.

The Warriors have a problem. The problem is the ankle. The ankle is Stephen Curry's.

Before we get to ankle issues, here's what this column was going to be before Curry sprained his right ankle — yes, that ankle — with about six minutes left in an easy win over the Wizards on Saturday night.

The column would have been about the resurgent and reborn Golden State Warriors — all of that is indisputable fact. It was going to proclaim the Warriors are a lock for the playoffs. With a mere 11 games remaining, they are way ahead of Utah, the ninth team — the team that does not qualify. And most of those remaining 11 games are at home and many are against crummy teams. What a made-in-heaven scenario.

The column would have made more claims, bolder claims. Like the balance of power has shifted between the Lakers and Warriors. Imagine that. The Warriors are on the rise and the Lakers are declining. That certainly seemed the case, especially after the Lakers blew an 18-point lead to the Wizards on Friday night at home and lost 103-100. Afterward, Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni flipped his lid.

“I told them today, we put our hands in (the huddle) and we say, 'Championship.' And go out (on the floor). That's laughable. Championship? You got to be kidding me. Nobody understands the importance of every possession offensively and defensively. Right now, we're just making a sham mockery out of it.”

It's always bad to make a sham mockery out of something. And the Lakers, with all their talent, are shamful, not to mention shameful. And we never ever could picture Warriors coach Mark Jackson using such blunt language about his guys. It would not happen.

So, yes, the balance of power and the balance of poise have shifted to the Warriors in the ongoing struggle with the Lakers.

And the Warriors, almost surely, will make the playoffs — more on that in a moment. And if they do make the playoffs, even if they are the eighth and lowest seed — they currently are sixth — this season will be a major, whopping, pie-in-the-sky success. Imagine, the Warriors in the playoffs. And if that comes to pass — when it comes to pass — all credit to Joe Lacob, Bob Myers and Jackson.

But things changed late in the game on Saturday night. We don't yet know how much. Things changed when Curry, who was on fire as usual, stole the ball in his backcourt and started dribbling hard up the hardwood, a serious look on his face; things changed when he broke into the clear and the Wizards' Cartier Martin, not a dirty player, did the right thing, tried to cut off Curry's unobstructed lane to the hoop.

Curry, because he's creative and was feeling it, really feeling it, dribbled behind his back and veered right — such a beautiful move — and as he veered he came down on his right foot — nothing unusual about that — and the ankle bent and it looked curved, like curved rubber, not the way a flesh-and-blood-and-bone ankle should look, and Curry rolled on his ankle and fell hard to the hard floor and the look on his face was despair bordering on grief.

Why grief?

Because it was THAT ankle again, the ankle that has needed two surgeries, the ankle that gives out at the worst times, the ankle that has kept him out of so many games.

It is this ankle that defines Curry as much as his great shooting — the best in the league — and his 54 points against the Knicks. The ankle is part of him, too.

If his story were a Greek tragedy — don't laugh, there are elements from the ancient Greeks — he is like someone with a secret from his past he wants to deny, to distance himself from, to outrun. But he can't. He never can. It always is there to remind him of its existence, of his past, which is his eternal present, there to worry and pester him and bring him down. It is almost like a moral flaw, and in sports a chronic injury is a kind of moral flaw. And this is an essential part of Curry.

The Warriors say they won't know Curry's status until this morning, won't know if he'll play tonight against the Lakers — the Warriors sure could use him to maintain the new balance of power. The Warriors don't know when Curry will be himself again.

And this leads to problems. The Warriors are making a push to the postseason and for that they need Curry, the one who makes them dangerous. And they need him and his ankle to be well.

The Warriors have not played almost an entire season at the highest level to become a one-series-and-done patsy in the playoffs, or to flop before they even get there.

So much depends on Stephen Curry's right ankle. Now and always.

For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at lowell.cohn@pressdemocrat.com.

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