Warriors face steep climb to second ring
It’s easy to look at the petty feud between the Clippers and Warriors and get a lustful urge to root for Golden State to repeat.
They’re still a terrific team, to be sure, though winning another championship is never a sure thing. Even for a team with a developed core, perimeter talent like the league has never seen, and the league’s best defense.
This is also the most heavily-worked team in the league after playing halfway into June and starting training camp in late September. So how will the Warriors remain fresh through another 82-game regular season and three-month long playoff stretch?
Bob Myers didn’t seem particularly worried about fatigue when he told NBA Radio:
“The difficulty is looking around the west, and watching your competitors get better. And knowing that is your competition, in an already loaded conference. … If you’re not getting better, then you’re probably getting worse.”
The Warriors have been questioned on a lot of things since winning a title. The one thing that always pops up is how extraordinarily competitive the Western Conference is, not the fact that the Warriors were one of the healthiest teams in the league last year, despite several important members with a lengthy medical report.
Curry hasn’t been hurt much since he missed the better portion of the 2011-2012 season with a right ankle injury. He’s only missed 10 starts in that span.
Andrew Bogut, slimmed down and doing everything he can do ensure there’s nothing extra that can hurt him, has missed 30 games over the last two seasons.
Klay Thompson has been an iron man, missing only six games over four seasons. That same type of consistency, though, means still more wear and tear on ligaments and cartilage.
Andre Iguodala shared thoughts on being the hunted, rather than the hunter:
“I think it was starting to happen last year towards the end of the season after how we started out. Definitely after solidifying our stand on the league, as far as winning a championship, we’ll be the targets. I don’t know if I can say what it will be like because the season hasn’t started.”
“It can be sustainable, we just got to do the right things, as far as stay healthy mentally and physically, and stay hungry.”
The Warriors don’t have championship-tested veterans coming in for lower salaries than they might get elsewhere, like the Spurs have with Tim Duncan for $5 million.
Golden State just agreed to pay forward Draymond Green roughly $75,000 for every pound he weighs this season, $14.2 million, and guard Klay Thompson $15.5 million. The core is intact, the same starting five that has been among the best in the league for two seasons, while the bench appears ready to lead the league as well.
Looks can be deceiving, though, especially when forward Harrison Barnes bruises his knee during a preseason game as his backup, Iguodala, is proceeding through his early thirties.
At 30, Bogut isn’t done yet by NBA standards, and he’s three years older than the next Golden State starter, Curry. Thompson and Green are 25, and Barnes is 23. That’s a significant luxury.
That’s not the only thing.
Though even if Thompson proves to be a drop off in talent, it’s not major. And the others, the unheralded yet severely important pieces to the championship run remain on the team’s roster.
A minor setback due to injury is not the end of a season, or even the postseason. Clearly, though, the extended absence of any starter could bring down the Warriors’ record enough to fall from top seed into the middle of the pack.
Only utter catastrophe seems a legitimate reason for the Warriors to fall from grace like the 49ers have over three seasons. Curry wrecks his knee again. Bogut’s size-related woes and a hip pointer that hobbles Draymond Green for a month or two. These are major, season-threatening risks, yet unlikely, if recent history is an indicator.
And fatigue is something that this team can handle. The bench is solid enough for Golden State to hold starting minutes down, give players nights off, and ensure that the reigning champions remain fresh.
James McAdoo is in the mix again, along with Barbosa, which will help the starters remain fresh. Ian Clark has become the 15th man on the roster, one of the only roster changes for this new season.
Brandon Rush returns, though his role was minimal last year, and there’s no sign that will change.
A few significant changes are present, though, Steve Kerr is not the head coach to start the season, dealing with some health issues of his own, and the Warriors are on their third head coach to open three straight seasons.
Clearly this time is different, nobody was fired, and the Dubs are more than pleased by the performance of their staff. It still remains a metaphor of sorts for the challenges to be faced this season.