The Golden State Warriors were going to be worse this season. That's been clear since, oh, at whatever point last season you gave in and adopted as fact the very many rumors that Kevin Durant, the all-everything forward who'd joined their budding dynasty in of 2016 and made it invincible, would be leaving over the summer in free agency. No basketball team, not even a theoretical one, could lose Kevin Durant and not get worse.
Maybe, like me, you formed your idea of the Warriors as an unstoppable juggernaut prior to Durant's arrival—when they only went 140-24 over two seasons, set the single-season record for wins, went to the Finals twice, won the 2015 championship, won two MVP trophies for Steph Curry, and revolutionized the sport—and thought you knew how this would go. Without Durant they'd still feature a cartoonishly overpowered core of talent, but one now looking to prove itself again, one that would take savage delight in reasserting the buzzsaw style of play it established before his arrival. Curry would win another scoring title; a fit and demonically focused Draymond Green would lead a ferocious defense; at a handful of vulnerable-looking moments, Klay Thompson's eyes would roll over and he'd vaporize some poor opponent (the Wizards, surely) with, like, 11 threes in one half. D'Angelo Russell, acquired in the sign-and-trade that sent Durant to Brooklyn, would find himself in Golden State's brainy, decentralized system and have the best season of his career feeding threes to Curry. Maybe the 2020 Finals wouldn't be their sixth straight, but whichever West team did make it would have to go through them, for sure.
Then Thompson blew out his knee in the Finals, wiping him off the active roster for up to all of this season. Then stalwart veterans Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston departed over the summer. Then they got blown out by the loaded Clippers and the shitty Thunder to start the season, allowing a disgusting 261 points in the pair of losses. Somewhere in there, they announced Thompson would miss the entire campaign. Okay, so maybe the road to the Finals wouldn't go through the Bay Area. But dammit, Steph Curry, Draymond Green, and any plausible rotation of six or seven other pro-grade players would be enough to cobble together 43 wins and a shot at the playoffs, once they got it together. And of course they would. These are the frickin' Warriors we're talking about, here!
Let's skip ahead to the good shit. This past Saturday night, at home against the miserable Charlotte Hornets, the Warriors started a lineup of Willie Cauley-Stein, Glenn Robinson III, and people named Jordan Poole, Ky Bowman, and Eric Paschall. (That last one's my favorite, the name conjuring a sacrificial slaughter, a burnt offering.) (They lost.) Curry's hand is broken; he's out three months. Green has a torn ligament in his left index finger; he's out at least the next few games. Russell has an injured ankle. The Warriors are 1-5; only the New York Knicks have a worse record. They're the worst defensive team in the NBA. By net rating (minus-11.5), only the tanking, teen-led Memphis Grizzlies (minus-11.7) are less competitive. The Warriors may well be the worst team in the NBA.
Until this past Wednesday, I worked at Deadspin. No one need tell me that shit can indeed go real bad, real fast—that professional misfortunes do not care about evenly spacing themselves across the calendar. Still, this is a remarkable collapse for one of the greatest squads in NBA history. Not even six months removed from the last time they looked like prohibitive favorites to win another championship, they suck incredible ass. They are not even a speed bump. They are a flattened squirrel mummifying on the roadway, grey and ragged, long dead; the Portland Trail Blazers will pass over them tonight with nary a thump to mark the occasion.
Were this playing out in front of any notable remnant of the franchise's longtime, devoted Oakland fanbase, it could almost be sad. But it isn't, and therefore it extremely fuckin' isn't! In fact it's the best story of the NBA season. Trophy-lusting owner Joe Lacob moved the team across the bay this past summer, to long-awaited, fancy new digs in San Francisco's Mission Bay neighborhood, to accommodate the very many very rich vampires, loathsome technolibertarian scum, and venture capital bros who discovered their enthusiasm for basketball during the team's nigh-unprecedented five-year run of dominance. It was as explicit a grasp at class ascent as an owner could attempt. And wouldn't you just know it, the fancy new audience in the fancy new building is going to get this. San Francisco thought it was getting a winner, but it only got the good old Golden State Warriors.