After all the talk about whom they faced — or more importantly, whom they didn’t face — en route to their NBA title, the Warriors finally get to let out their pent-up frustration on the court Tuesday in their regular season debut as champions.
They’ll have to endure their first test of the season without their head coach, as Steve Kerr is still recovering from complications from offseason back surgery and will miss at least the first game.
Luke Walton is at the helm in the interim but has said Kerr continues to improve and make appearances at practice:
“He’s been coming around more and more each day, it’s great having him around, the energy level is awesome, he knows the perfect thing to say when it needs to be said.”
Walton has had a busy summer as he was the head coach for the Warriors summer league team, then was promoted to lead assistant taking over for the departed Alvin Gentry on July 29, and now leads the defending champions in their first game.
Even though everyone knows that Kerr is eventually going to come back, Walton knows he has to exude authority in order for this team to work:
“I feel like the real coach right now. It has to be that way. The players have to look at me as the real coach and I have to act as if I’m the real coach because that’s the only way to get things done that need to get done in this situation that we’re in.”
Curry admitted that not having Kerr on the bench is going to be a tough test for a team that has been criticized for not going through many last year:
“It’s just going to be different, like when you’re used to something, change is kind of difficult to deal with. Obviously it’s temporary but you’re used to a certain flow in games and used to hearing his voice. But it doesn’t affect our effort on the court, it doesn’t affect our competitiveness and it doesn’t affect our execution, we just have to take that to another level and as players be mature about the process.”
Not only do the Warriors start their title defense without their head coach, but they will square off against the now Gentry-led Pelicans, and star Anthony Davis.
They will also be getting their championship rings before the game, which Curry said will be a hard emotional turnaround:
“It’ll be tough to be in the moment…You want to enjoy that and take it in for what it is because that’s a huge moment and a huge accomplishment and then five minutes later you have to turn it on and remember your preparation for the Pelicans, and try to get your first win at home. We didn’t have a good experience game two of the Memphis series after my MVP thing so hopefully we learned how to quickly get our engines back going.”
It’s good that they’ve experienced something similar because they can’t afford to get off to a sluggish start. Golden State’s first five games are against Western Conference playoff teams, capped by a November 4 matchup with the Clippers, a game both teams most likely have circled.
Draymond Green said they are aware of what getting off to a good start means for the team:
“I think that’s one of the things that was great for us last year is we got off to a phenomenal start and the rest of the year everybody else was playing catch up. So its definitely important to get off to a good start, you don’t want to fall in a hole and be battling back uphill, it’s important, we got a tough, tough, tough schedule to start off.”
The start to their first season as NBA champions may be off to a rocky start, especially with an uneven preseason, but the Warriors couldn’t be more eager to begin their title defense and try and prove everyone wrong. Again.