The Warriors are scoffing at tanking, for now

The idea of the Golden State Warriors tanking was unfathomable in June.

They might have lost Klay Thompson to a knee injury and Kevin Durant to a ruptured Achilles tendon, but they were still the Warriors. Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Steve Kerr, Bob Myers. The championship DNA was still there.

By the end of the summer, though, Durant was in Brooklyn, Iguodala was somewhere between Memphis and purgatory, and Livingston had retired. Curry, Green, Kerr and Myers were trying to learn all the new names and faces of the young players who would be joining them at their new home in San Francisco.

Words like "reload" and "reset" were casually tossed around by Warriors players and staffers. Maybe they'd be a 7- or 8-seed in the playoffs, instead of No. 1 or No. 2.

Even when the team began this season by getting blown out by the LA Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder in its first two games, it still seemed a bit rash to suggest they'd miss the playoffs altogether.

But after Curry went down with a broken bone in his left hand Wednesday night, the Warriors must now consider the possibility not just of missing the playoffs, but of tanking. They're 1-3, currently holding the third-worst net rating in the entire league.

With both Splash Brothers on the injured list for the foreseeable future -- team officials were preparing to be without Curry for a month or two, although an exact timeline won't be established until after he has a CT scan and an MRI -- the quickest way to get back to their former glory might be to bottom out this year.

And it might just happen now, whether they encourage it or not.

Golden State has nine players on its roster 23 years old or younger. The team is very high on several of them, especially D'Angelo Russell, Eric Paschall and Jordan Poole. They'll play a lot with Curry and Thompson out. But if the first four games are any indication, there will be plenty of growing pains along the way.

Warriors owner Joe Lacob scoffed at the mere suggestion of tanking late Wednesday night, and that's admirable.

"It is against every single thing I and we stand for," Lacob said.

"We will fight like hell. Develop our young guys. Learn to win," he continued. "You don't get better by trying to lose. Our entire organization is about winning. And we will win. Some bumps in the road, perhaps. But we will never accept losing."

But the Warriors might no longer have a choice in the matter. They already were in for a tough year with the youth, inexperience and injuries on the roster.

With Curry out for a while and Green already nursing a sore back and elbow, the wheels could fall off quickly -- making the top-20 protection they placed on the first-round pick they owe Brooklyn as part of the Durant-Russell sign-and-trade deal very important.

Their flexibility to improve the roster midseason is already limited by the hard cap that applies after the sign-and-trade move that brought Russell to San Francisco this summer. If the Warriors' hole gets too deep too quickly during Curry's absence, they could decide to rest the already-ailing Green and lean into playing their inexperienced youngsters more.

It would be a staggering change for a franchise that has been to five straight NBA Finals and was hoping to at least put on a good show in its new state-of-the-art arena in San Francisco.

But this happens in sports. The Warriors were flat-out exhausted at the end of last season.

"The most common conversation I had with everybody was that we were just out of words, we were just out of emotion," Myers said at his end-of-the-season news conference. "As a human being, you can only process so much."

He was referring to the devastating injuries to Thompson and Durant in the Finals, as well as the loss to the Toronto Raptors.

But mostly, he was just giving voice to how much a run like this takes out of people.

Before the season opener last Thursday, Warriors assistant coach Bruce Fraser put it like this: "I don't even play; I'm just a coach. But I could feel my body was depleted both physically and mentally."

In many ways, the Warriors are still paying off the debts they took on during their run over the past five seasons.

Reloading would have been more graceful. But now a full reckoning is upon them.