Warriors Provide Disheartening Injury Update on Defensive Stopper

Steve Kerr, Golden State Warriors

Getty Head coach Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors looks on against the San Antonio Spurs in the fist half of an NBA basketball game at Chase Center on March 20, 2022 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

For as long as the Golden State Warriors continue battling the Memphis Grizzlies in the Western Conference Semifinals, they will do so without one of their key defensive contributors.

A little more than two weeks ago, Dubs forward Andre Iguodala was ruled out of the team’s Game 5 matchup against the Denver Nuggets with a neck injury, specifically a cervical disc issue. Anthony Slater of The Athletic reported then that the defensive specialist would be re-evaluated week-to-week.

Since that update doctors have examined Iguodala twice, and twice they have said he is not ready to play. Slater also provided details of the most recent update on Thursday, May 12, which indicated that the veteran will miss even more playoff time moving forward.

“Andre Iguodala will be re-evaluated in another week, per Warriors,” Slater wrote. “So ruled out of this Grizzlies series and the start of a (theoretical) conference finals.”

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Loss of Iguodala Hurts Warriors’ Ability to Defend Perimeter

Andre Iguodala Warriors

GettyGolden State Warriors forward Andre Iguodala will miss the rest of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Memphis Grizzlies with a neck injury, as well as the start of the Western Conference Finals should the Warriors advance.

Iguodala is 38 years old and winding down his 18th season in the league. He was a key factor in Golden State’s run to five straight NBA Finals and three titles between 2014-19, winning Finals MVP in 2014-15 when he came as close to locking up LeBron James as was humanly possible for any defender at the time.

Iguodala’s role has changed significantly since he reunited with the Warriors this season, playing just 19.5 minutes per game, but that doesn’t mean the Dubs don’t miss his presence on the floor. Golden State’s two biggest weaknesses are both defensive in nature — their lack of size on the interior and their inability to guard athletically-skilled wing players. Even at his advanced age, Iguodala’s experience, grit and guile could be utilized to help address the latter.

The Warriors have struggled to lock up Ja Morant, Desmond Bane and Dillon Brooks of the Grizzlies this series. Should they take care of business in Game 6 Friday night and advance to the Western Conference Finals, similar problems will present themselves in the form of either Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks, or Devin Booker and Mikal Bridges of the Phoenix Suns.

Dubs head coach Steve Kerr suggested before the playoffs began that he intended to ramp Iguodala’s minutes up into the mid-20s every night, if necessary, for that very reason. But as long as the neck issue keeps Iguodala sidelined, the Warriors will have one less defensive option as they stand on the doorstep of yet another trip to the NBA Finals.

Iguodala’s Injury Hurts More Because Gary Payton II Also Out

Gary Payton II

GettyGuard Gary Payton II of the Golden State Warriors celebrates after making a three-point shot against the Minnesota Timberwolves in the second quarter of a game at Target Center on March 1, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)

The loss of Iguodala for the rest of this series and the start of a potential Western Conference Finals is compounded in its effect by the fact that Gary Payton II is also out indefinitely with injury.

Payton fractured his elbow during Game 2 against the Grizzlies after Brooks took a swipe at his head on a fast break, a play that earned the Memphis guard a suspension for Game 3 and has sparked tensions between the teams on and off the court since.

Payton was the Warriors primary answer defensively to the juggernaut that is Morant, before he suffered a knee injury in Game 3 that is likely to keep him out for the rest of the playoffs, as well.

The absence of Payton and Iguodala from the perimeter will put pressure on an aging Steph Curry, an inexperienced Jordan Poole, and Klay Thompson — who returned mid-season after two and a half years sidelined by injuries of his own — to clamp down defensively on whoever the Warriors might face next.

If they can’t, Golden State will have to shoot the lights out every night if they hope to find themselves playing for the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy for the sixth time in the modern era.

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