Ric Bucher has been covering the NBA for more than two decades and has gained some pretty good perspective over that time. That’s why his take on where the Warriors stand with news about Klay Thompson and James Wiseman should be taken to heart—even as he pretty brutally shreds the hopes Warriors fans might have about whether the team can contend for a championship again this season.
In fact, Bucher claims that people in the Warriors’ organization told him that after the departure of Kevin Durant, “championship expectations were over essentially and that hasn’t changed.”
The Warriors announced Monday night that both Thompson and Wiseman were making “good progress” in their attempts to return from their respective injuries. Thompson suffered a torn Achilles tendon last November and Wiseman tore the meniscus in his knee in April. Bucher took a cynical view of the Warriors’ announcements.
“This essentially a report saying both are making progress, which we would have assumed had there not been a report,” Bucher said on his podcast, On the Ball. “So, what this really means is that neither of them has had a setback. So why the need for the team to announce this at all?
“Because the Warriors are smart. Training camp starts in less than a week. Better to let everyone know now that Thompson and Wiseman will be limited in their participation, rather than have the media show up and be surprised by how limited that participation is.”
Conservative Approach on Wiseman Injury Rehab
Now, to be fair to the Warriors, Thompson was never going to be ready for training camp, and the Warriors have been consistent with that. An Achilles tendon tear can take a year to heal, so Thompson’s timeline was always going to be an early season return. Bucher is right in that the update was unnecessary, but there is no harm in putting something out on Thompson ahead of training camp—anything to give the Warriors some headlines in a city in which the 49ers are 2-0 and the Giants have been an MLB juggernaut.
Bucher sees the most trouble for the Warriors in the treatment of Wiseman. It is possible to recover quickly from a meniscus tear (as little as four weeks), if the damaged portion of the meniscus is simply removed. But if it is repaired, as Wiseman’s was, the recovery is much longer, as much as six months. This was the case with Zion Williamson of the Pelicans in his rookie year two seasons ago.
The Warriors are correct in taking it slow with Wiseman, of course, as Bucher acknowledged. But the problem, he said, is that Wiseman won’t be able to get back on the floor and win back coach Steve Kerr’s trust, “until after the season has started, and that’s when practice time becomes extremely rare. All of this is happening to a team, need I remind you that for all Stephen Curry’s wizardry, did not make the playoffs. So, I am just not clear on where the grandiose expectations are coming from.”
Warriors Made Additions in the Offseason
It is a valid point. The Warriors were 39-33 last year and lost to Memphis in the play-in tournament. They will begin the year without Wiseman and Thompson, two presumptive starters.
But then, they will have both back by Christmas. And the Warriors added veteran depth by bringing in wings Otto Porter and Andre Iguodala, plus big man Nemanja Bjelica. They also added two intriguing rookies, Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody who, they hope, will make the NBA adjustment much quicker than Wiseman has. If Curry can remain in form and Thompson is anything close to his old self, there is reason for optimism here, especially in the West.
Just don’t tell that to Bucher.
“What’s crazy is I saw a headline the other day that had someone suggesting that if the Lakers falter, the Warriors are poised to step in and win the West,” he said. “I don’t believe it was written by an unrealistic Warriors fan but it could have been. Granted, the Western Conference feels wide open, primed for some team to step up and separate itself from the pack. To think that is the Warriors is ignoring exactly where they finished last season and what they were counting on—or are counting on (Thompson and Wiseman)—to be appreciably better this season.”