WHAT THEY TRIED IN 2017-18
To win another championship: Golden State’s standing couldn’t help but resolve itself in 2016-17 with the addition of Kevin Durant, the resultant title defense was only in place to prove the team wasn’t lazy. The Rockets annexed Chris Paul and OKC took a chance on Paul George, the West was going to be different and daunting and GSW had to run with eyes glued to the tack. With Durant made re-aware of his coltish capabilities, professional ease would set in. The court would surely return a sanctuary.
WHAT HAPPENED IN 2017-18
58-24, No. 2 in the West, edged Houston to win the West, swept Cleveland for its title.
Golden State took it all but not without complication, the sparkling gametes meant to announce Durant’s eventual swim into 2019’s free agent ocean were instead released deep into this regular season. The Warriors didn’t build on it, preferring instead to fall back on most of a gameplan in the postseason — politely easing past San Antonio before correcting the Pelicans and outlasting the Rockets. It wasn’t an ugly title, the NBA has seen those before and Golden State’s triumph deserves no side-eyes. A champion got to where it needed to go, its own way, and man a lot of that time it was beautiful, this is a beautiful basketball team.
OFFSEASON INS AND OUTS
Here: Damion Lee (free agent), DeMarcus Cousins (free agent, a year at $5.3 million), Alfonzo McKinnie (free agent), Marcus Derrickson (undrafted free agent), Jacob Evans (No. 28 pick in the NBA draft), Jonas Jerebko (free agent, a year at $2.2 million).
Gone: Chris Boucher (Raptors), David West (basketball retirement), JaVale McGee (Lakers), Nick Young (is 33), Zaza Pachulia (Pistons).
PLAN FOR 2018-19
Win another title, this team is as deep and talented as any group in history and the Western Conference didn’t become any more hazardous during the offseason. The Warriors are still full of unexpressed opinions and coach Steve Kerr (who agreed to a contract extension over the summer, he’s going to make sure this lasts) will be charged with ensuring that this tickles his players, rather than sending them on a tizzy. This generation doesn’t want to see anything destroyed in its wake, and with little animosity to count on elsewhere Kerr’s challenge will be modifying each emerging fissure to appear as if it was delivered specifically for whomever coach decides was its intended target.
HOPE FOR 2018-19
The team trades off target practice from night to night, but nobody’s shooting with their left hand to beat the ennui, no Warrior is seen shouting down the other team’s coach in a fit of MJ-sized psychopathy. The good midrange between cliche and charade becomes familiar, the team relies on its best to win its inordinate slate of TNT games without resorting to phony shots at relevance: Golden State is already significant, it doesn’t have to answer to the NBA’s latest headline on every stop of the tour.
FREAK FOR 2018-19
The real fear comes in what Kerr knows the NBA capable of: Golden State can lose four games in seven tries against a real good team in spring, it’s just a matter of that week and’a half actually happening.
We’ve no reason to believe it should, not with this many game-winners on one club, Golden State can thrive under the same aberrant set of circumstances because this team runs so deep. A single attitude won’t bring this tent down, and I remain to be convinced that a cellar full of carping would have the same effect.
It’s either injuries, or the best basketball another team is ever gonna play in its life. This doesn’t mean life isn’t a gas, right now, the sun still shines on GSW’s backdoor.
COME ON MAN LOOK AT
I’ve always maintained Draymond Green is the only Warrior that would have stood a chance of making the starting lineup of the 1988 Celtics or 1984 Pistons or even the 1983 Los Angeles Lakers.
C: Damian Jones — garbagetime king (174 career minutes entering the season) who will jump tip. Hit all the right spots during exhibition season.
PF: Draymond Green — barely crept over 30 percent from long range in both 2017’s and 2018’s campaigns, probably time to take the backpack off.
SF: Kevin Durant — next step is to appear as if he is incapable of delivering anything less than a Five Star performance in every contest, possible even in this culture.
SG: Klay Thompson — surely your favorite player.
PG: Stephen Curry — free throw earnings went up last season, by a lot, our pal is getting angry.
THERE WILL BE A BENCH
C: DeMarcus Cousins — nothing will be established this season, Boogie will still be a unanswered question in 2019’s autumn, but that doesn’t mean this run can’t ring true. DeMarcus doesn’t have to make a breakthrough, he just has to make the minutes his.
F: Alfonzo McKinnie — Chicago native is a fabulous story and outta this world dunker.
G: Damion Lee — started 11 games for the tanking Hawks last season and he wasn’t bad, the 25-year old never passed to any of his Atlanta teammates so you can be assured of his good taste.
G: Shaun Livingston — every reclamation project guard with size has an NBA team willing to give him the Livingston Look-Over, and that’s fine, it means second and third jobs for tall men. The trick here is the superior touch and vision that Livingston developed long before he had to re-learn how to make a living at this.
F/C: Jordan Bell — pogo-stick did it all for the Warriors in his rookie year, 56 blocks in 809 minutes, he even passed a ton.
F: Andre Iguodala — it’s very I don’t even own a TV to remind, but worth restating: Golden State’s biggest problem will be replacing Iguodala, not Durant, because Durant’s most persuasive presence hits when he approximates Dre. Fear of Iguodala’s decline is what drove everything in 2016, it’s why the Warriors were laughing while we talked about Durant’s “superfluous” free agent hiring.
G: Quinn Cook — performed well in super-pressurized air during last spring’s postseason, Quinn disappointed from long range (7-31) in the playoffs but he’ll get those shots back.
F: Marcus Derrickson — big former Hoya is here to hit all the open three-pointers that Patrick McCaw argued his way out of.
G/F: Jacob Evans — Warriors needed another bad guy, the good kind, this Cincinnati Bearcat product could scratch at a few posts this rookie season.
F: Jonas Jerebko — Golden State will soon learn that they won’t get the ball back after passing it here.
F/C: Kevon Looney — it’s hard out there for a big man these days, but Looney will get there.
64-18, tops in the West.
LET’S WATCH THIS
Latrell Sprewell and John Starks yell at each other, Felton Spencer tries to kill Starks with a screen and Charles Oakley responds by calmly explaining Spencer through each of the different styles of slow murderin’ Oak has in store for the GSW center.
That’s the last time I spend a Thursday in San Jose.
Next up: Orlando
Previously: CLEVELAND, INDIANA, MINNESOTA, MILWAUKEE, MEMPHIS, OKLAHOMA CITY (free!), SAN ANTONIO, NEW ORLEANS, DETROIT, LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS, LOS ANGELES LAKERS (free!), DALLAS, CHICAGO, ATLANTA (free!), PHOENIX, UTAH, PHILADELPHIA, SACRAMENTO, CHARLOTTE, TORONTO (free!), HOUSTON, BOSTON, NEW YORK.
(More to come.)