Mercy is in short supply -- at least for now

Clay Kallam
Photo by(Clay Kallam)

There are flecks of grey in Draymond Green’s beard.

Klay Thompson, once a cold-eyed assassin who demolished opponents without a twitch of a facial muscle, now must rely on emotion to rise to his previous heights.

And the seemingly ageless Steph Curry just fell victim to the bane of the old, an unexpected injury.

No, these are not the Warriors of the glory days. These are not the young and hungry, ready to prowl through the NBA jungle, eager to take on the biggest and baddest. In fact, more than a third of the way through the season, the Warriors only have a half-game’s breathing room for the final play-in spot – meaning Golden State looks a lot more like prey than predator.

But even so, these old lions are worth watching. The demolition of the Celtics last week is a reminder that the claws are still sharp, even if they a take a little longer to slash, and the teeth can still dig deep into the flesh of the unwary.

Draymond will still glower and flex, using his sharper-than-a-serpent’s-tooth brain to anticipate the moves of those quicker and faster. Klay is still 6-6, with that quick, smooth stroke, and still capable of a 30-point night or a 12-point quarter.

Both would be welcome on any contender, both would play big minutes for even the strongest team, and both know exactly what it takes to win.

Steph, of course, has morphed into an alien, capable of embarrassing the quickest young buck who’s ready to take him down. You can see the confidence in the young guy when the game starts. After all, he’s bigger, younger, brimming with testosterone and out to break down this old guy, just as he’s done to old guys all his life.

And then Curry hits a three. And then Curry goes past him. Goes past him again. Finishes while the younger leaper flails at air, mesmerized by moves he’s never seen before. Oh, then there’s another three after a defensive lapse that lasted maybe a millisecond.

Sadly, though, that millisecond is also missing from even the remarkable Curry. He’s a decent defender, but the explosiveness of the young is a problem – as it is for Green and Thompson. The head may know where the ball is going, but the legs get the message half a heartbeat too late.

And bad things happen to a defender who doesn’t react: 1) A basket; 2) A foul; or 3) both. The Warriors, not coincidentally, lead the league in fouls, and that’s not because the refs don’t like them. No, a team that fouls is a team that’s slower than its opponent – it’s the last resort of a struggling defender, with hopes that maybe the ref will let it go. So when the whistle blows, it’s not part of some anti-Dub conspiracy. It’s just a sad consequence of being a little bit older and little bit slower.

Which is why all the Warrior defensive stats are so dismal. Which is why, after more than a third of the season, Golden State is barely hanging on to the last play-in spot. And now, to top it off, Curry is out for weeks.

So what does that leave for the Warrior fan who’s grasping for hope? There’s this: The games that matter are in May and June, and last I checked, it’s December. The teams that are rolling now are not necessarily going to be rolling later. That sterling starting lineup today may just be a shell of itself after the inevitable injuries strike. (If Curry has to get hurt, now is actually a really good time.)

And these old lions still can draw blood. As the Celtics’ game showed, when the stars align, nobody will want to play the Warriors. Come postseason, how excited would you be, as a Phoenix fan, say, to see Curry, Green and Thompson stroll into the arena? How confident would you be that the one-time lords of the jungle are ready to just roll over?

Of course, the present may be the best predictor of the future, and it could be that the Warriors’ dynasty has already been toppled from its throne. But even though it’s winter, these are still lions, red in tooth and claw – and it would be both foolish and dangerous to forget that. Even for a millisecond.

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Clay Kallam is a lifelong East Bay resident who spent several decades in local journalism -- and still writes for Diablo Magazine (among others). Over the years, he has covered just about every aspect of life in the Bay Area, from rock-and-roll to the arts to political coverage to food to sports. On the food front, he does not claim to be a critic, but rather someone who enjoys a good meal, a well-made drink and a nice red wine. As for sports, he has written for national publications (including Sports Illustrated and Slam) and covers girls' basketball across the nation for MaxPreps. He is a high school coach and a serious fan of the local teams -- and savored every minute of the Giants' and Warriors' championships. He graduated from Acalanes, UC Santa Barbara (ancient history) and Cal (philosophy). He lives in Walnut Creek with his wife Maggi, who takes many of the food photos. He appreciates his readers and is always happy to talk about anything he's written. His food experiences can be found at #dishdining on Instagram, and emails can be sent to

Walnut Creek, CA

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