It's a curious thing about the Golden State Warriors. Every year, they get their time of scrutiny, a time when fans and writers look squarely at them. That time is now.
The NFL season is over — it extended longer than usual around here, the Super Bowl and all that. And baseball has not started. Which means the Warriors move to the center of the frame. We look at them. We notice things. We take stock. They are the story.
It is a good thing to be the story, and the Warriors wish they were the story for a longer period, although it was impossible for their narrative to compete with the 49ers' in the fall and early winter.
When you are the story, it is helpful if you are telling a good story. The Warriors have told a fascinating story so far. But now they have entered the conflict, the troubling part of the tale. Every good story has conflict — it may have started when God gave Adam and Eve the heave-ho from the Garden of Eden.
For a while, the Warriors were the story of the NBA, this surprise team with maybe one superstar — Stephen Curry — and lots of eager young guys who played their hearts out. David Lee was just great and the Warriors kept beating quality teams, and you knew for a fact they were bound for the playoffs.
You also knew — and this is beyond question — Mark Jackson had become one heck of a coach. There had been doubts. In his first season, maybe you wondered if he was an announcer playing the role of a head coach in the Warriors' story. Or if he was a mannequin who posed as a coach. No way. He is the real thing and he gets his guys to play. And they play good offense and, surprise, they play good defense. And they are a delight to watch.
And this organization has done everything right. It was right to get rid of Monta Ellis for Andrew Bogut, even if Bogut is hurt right now. The Warriors were not winners with Ellis. The ceiling goes way up with Bogut. And the ownership is not cheap, and general manager Bob Myers is exceptional at what he does.
Except now the Warriors have arrived at the conflict part of the story. Bogut is not playing all the games, a novel arrangement. There is an Andrew Bogut game followed by a non-Andrew Bogut game. Hardly a way to win a championship or maybe even intrude on the playoffs.
Lately, Jarrett Jack, their jack of all trades, got hurt and hasn't played. And you realize how fragile is the Warriors' balance, very delicate. With no Bogut and no Jack they have trouble doing, well, jack. They have a four-game losing streak, games they didn't merely lose. In three of them, they got murdered. They looked like other Warriors teams we've seen and gasped at.
There are mitigating circumstances. Like the injuries. Like the four straight losses came on the road. It is hard to play on the road, especially when you play four games in five nights. A team will get tired.
And there is something else. Every team goes through a slump. It is part of the deal. For whatever reason, a team can't get it together, and then for whatever reason it does get it together. It's one of the mysteries of team sports.