To say things have not gone to plan for the Golden State Warriors in recent weeks would be putting it lightly. Klay Thompson tore his Achilles tendon during an offseason workout, Draymond Green and James Wiseman tested positive for COVID-19 during training camp and they’re off to a 2-3 start.
Green, who injured his foot after being cleared from the COVID-19 protocol, finally returned to the floor on Friday night for his season debut. But even with their spiritual leader and defensive savant back in the lineup, things still didn’t go so well for the Warriors. Green finished with zero points, four rebounds and four assists in a 25-point loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.
While Green wasn’t too worried about the result — “I think every team is a work in progress” — he did address his struggle with conditioning multiple times when speaking to reporters on Saturday.
“My conditioning just kind of sucks from being off the court for the better part of a month,” Green said. “Which is kind of frustrating because I was coming into camp in probably the best shape that I’ve came in since maybe my fourth year in the league. So, it kind of sucks.”
“I felt like I was starting to find a rhythm yesterday, but then I got taken out in the third quarter,” he continued. “I just need to continue to find my wind.”
Warriors coach Steve Kerr also made note of the issue.
“He looked like a guy who missed training camp and has been working his way to get onto the floor,” Kerr said after Friday night’s loss. “He got a really tough break coming into the season with the COVID protocols, and so it’s going to take him some time. I’m glad to have him back, and he needs a few games under his belt to get that conditioning and that rhythm, but there’s no question it’s going to take some time.”
On the one hand this is all quite obvious and not very interesting. Green hadn’t played a real game in nine-plus months, and wasn’t able to properly train or practice for the last month or so of that time. It’s always going to take a while to get back into game shape after that kind of layoff, and that doesn’t even take into account his battle with COVID-19. We don’t know exactly how severe his case was, but we do know that it can impact your lungs even if you don’t feel that sick.
But there are other, more subtle ways Green’s lack of conditioning can hurt the Warriors beyond just the fact that he might not be able to play for long stretches, or at peak effort for a while. Hidden in Green’s comments on Saturday was a lament that he didn’t talk enough on the defensive end in his debut.
Some of that might be a lack of familiarity with some new teammates, but the more likely explanation is that he was just too tired. It’s a lot harder to yell and direct your teammates when you’re gasping for air. So now, not only do the Warriors not have Green at his physical peak, but he isn’t bringing the same kind of intangibles either.
The good news for Green and the Warriors is none of this is unfixable, and eventually he’ll be back to his old self again. When that will be, however, remains to be seen.