The regular season can’t get here fast enough for the Golden State Warriors, if for no other reason than to save them from themselves. They’ve looked at times bored, disheveled and listless through three exhibition games and far too full of themselves at other times. They’re clearly missing Steve Kerr, who’s been absent due to complications from back surgery (he explained that a spinal fluid leak has led to painful headaches), and substitute teacher Luke Walton has been unable to keep the inmates from running the asylum. They haven’t looked the part of graceful and regal defending champions at all, and the only defensive thing about them so far has been the rabbit ears and thin skin they’ve shown in constantly being baited to respond to things that should be beneath them.
So what if Doc Rivers called them lucky for avoiding the Clippers and the Spurs last playoffs? That’s what he does. It’s his move. Dignified champions consider the source and dismiss his nonsense revisionism and transparent attempts to psych them out. The Spurs would’ve rolled their eyes at this stuff and told everyone they don’t care, but that’s not how the Warriors went about it.
Klay Thompson talked, mocking the Clippers for blowing a 3-1 series lead in the Western semis to the Rockets and referencing Golden State’s head-to-head success in the regular season against L.A. Draymond Green talked, comparing nebulous “haters” to “scorned women” and “bitter females,” and as one would expect, that went over as well as a fart in church.
(And the timing of those comments was interesting given the drama from Thompson’s personal live becoming public.)
Andrew Bogut went so far as to reveal on a KNBR 680 podcast that he’s getting his championship ring fitted for his middle finger “so they can kiss that one.”
Even Stephen Curry, the one guy on the team you’d have bet would be above all this muck, couldn’t help himself, though at least his response had more wit to it.
“I apologize for us being healthy,” Curry quipped. “I apologize for us playing who was in front of us. I apologize for all the accolades we received as a team and individually. I’m very, truly sorry and we’ll rectify that situation this year.”
Yes, that was absolutely a shot at James Harden in there, for continuing to publicly grumble that he should’ve been named Most Valuable Player last season.
Maybe — though it’s a long shot — Kerr could’ve nipped some of this stuff in the bud if he’d been around. Maybe he could’ve implored his guys to understand that responding to Rivers, feeding the media that raw meat, is just playing into his rival’s hands.
Most of this stuff isn’t their fault. The national writers need something to talk about because LeBron James didn’t switch teams again this offseason. The Warriors infiltrated the champions club, far ahead of schedule, with a young team and a fresh, exciting, telegenic style. They’re ripe for the picking for loaded questions and the “what do you think of what so-and-so said about you?” questions because they don’t know what they don’t know.
A veteran club with experience in defending their title would’ve handled the offseason and the run-up to the regular season better. They’d have been prepared to deal with the questions and scrutiny. They’d shrug their shoulders at the “Were the Warriors lucky or not?” think pieces and have a more streamlined battle plan for their present and future. Gregg Popovich would probably respond to the luck question with a quick and short affirmative, pointing out how healthy his team was and the like, while making it clear that every champion in every team sport has had some degree of luck. He’d throw cold water on the whole thing and made sure his players didn’t engage in our silliness.
Their whole offseason has had a ragged, ominous, throw-stuff-on-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks feel to it. They literally fixed what wasn’t broken by replacing their training staff. They drafted a kid, Kevon Looney, who wound up needing hip surgery which casts his rookie season in doubt. They’ve brought in Steve Nash as a consultant, ostensibly to coach up one of the top three or four players in the league. They replaced David Lee, which was necessary with cap reasons, for someone in Jason Thompson who’s almost as overpaid and has been demonstrably worse throughout his career. They signed and waived Ben Gordon in short order after two preseason games in which he made 1-of-4 shots over 16 minutes. Harrison Barnes turned down a monster extension and has subsequently looked far from stellar in camp and the preseason games, and he suffered a bone bruise in his knee during their most recent game against Denver. His makeup is different from Green’s, and it’s hard to envision him holding up well emotionally in a contract drive. He’d be better off agreeing to a deal and having the weight of that off his shoulders.
The Warriors have looked bad against the Blazers and Nuggets, the two squads who figure to bring up the rear in the Western Conference. It doesn’t really mean anything at all, but there’s just something off about them right now; a glaring lack of focus and purpose. Maybe the return of Kerr will fix it all, or just the prospect of having real games to win, but they’re certainly not giving off the aroma of confident title-holders right now. They won it all last year and now nobody seems to know what to do next.
We really need to keep in mind that these guys have been the Warriors a lot longer than they’ve been the champs.