After posting the last entry I sat down to watch the last quarter of the Warriors’ last game of the season in peace. I did not realize it at the time, but after a year full of injuries and replacements and more injuries, the W’s were essentially playing with 5 guys. They had started the game with 8, but Anthony Morrow and Ronny Turiaf had already declared their seasons over and were only there because you are required to have 8 players in uniform. Chris Hunter sustained a knee injury early in the game, leaving Coach Don Nelson with no choice but to keep the 5 remaining ambulatory blueshirts in the rest of the way.
Then, about halfway through the 4th quarter, one of the stranger series of events I’ve ever seen in a basketball game began to unfold. It went something like this:
4:47 left: Devean George picks up his sixth foul. Normally, this would mean he was out of the game. But Don Nelson doesn’t want to put in any of the three players remaining on the bench, all of whom are injured. A lengthy discussion between Nelson and the referee ensues, wherein Nelson argues that because he has no healthy subs, the obscure rule I mentioned in the last post — which was invoked for the first time in 30 years or so during a previous Warriors game this year — should go into effect. The TV broadcast puts the rule up on the screen:
Each team shall consist of five players. No team may be reduced to less than 5 players. If a player in the game receives his 6th personal foul and all substitutes have already been disqualified, said player shall remain in the game and shall be charged with a personal and team foul. A technical foul also shall be assessed against his team. All subsequent personal fouls shall be treated similarly.
Still 4:47: Nelson loses the argument and Chris Hunter wraps his injured knee and re-enters the game. Nelson screams at the ref for risking his guy’s health.
3:45: After gimping it up and down the court to the best of his ability—and even blocking a shot—though clearly in pain, Hunter is pulled from the game. I can’t remember ever seeing the refs force a clearly injured guy to play this way. Turiaf, who also has a bad knee, dons a bulky brace and replaces him. Nelson argues, again in vain, that Turiaf is hurt, but by rule if you’re active and haven’t been injured in the game, you have to play.
3:38: After limping past halfcourt, Turiaf immediately commits an intentional foul on Patty Mills and declares that he is injured. Turiaf sits down and Anthony Morrow, the last guy on the bench, takes his place.
3:29: Monta Ellis commits a foul, forcing a stoppage of play, whereupon Morrow declares that he too is injured. Devean George re-enters the game with his six fouls. Nelson gives the refs an earful just for the heck of it.
A few minutes later, it was finally all over. And I’ll be damned if the Warriors didn’t win, with Curry going for 42 points, 9 rebounds, and 8 assists and Ellis chipping in 34.
And just like that, it’s the offseason, the best part of the Warriors’ year, when we are free to be hopeful again without ugly reality intruding. Suddenly the cloud lifts and I find myself thinking, hey, when we get back Kelenna Azubuike, Anthony Randolph, and Brandan Wright, and Andris Biedrins and Turiaf and C.J. Watson are healthy again, and we add a draft pick and/or a free agent and/or make a trade, we’re going to be pretty good maybe. And so the whole cycle starts itself up all over again.
Do you want Nellie back?
That was a great ending to Nellie’s career. Bizarre, funny, and unique.
Back when Nellie cared, maybe the 80s?, he intentionally lost games at the end of seasons to get better draft picks. This year? The Ws start winning with S. Curry playing great and D Leaguers playing like All-Stars.