The Warriors display all the vital pieces to repeat as NBA champions;  now the challenge is to put them together

The Warriors display all the vital pieces to repeat as NBA champions; now the challenge is to put them together

SAN FRANCISCO — The whole thing had a sort of high school graduation feel to it. But instead of a 16-cent paper diploma from Kinko’s, the Golden State Warriors received championship rings — well, “medallions,” as head coach Steve Kerr dubbed them because of their gargantuan girth. – with 16 carats of yellow and white diamonds. .

One by one, the instruments of what some in the organization have called the most significant of the team’s four championships over the past eight seasons have been called upon to receive their ornate symbols of their accomplishments. As each player was announced, from Quinndary Weatherspoon to Juan Toscano-Anderson to Stephen Curry, memories of their contributions, big or small, flooded the arena. The Warriors’ motto, “Unity is Strength,” is never more evident than on ringside night.

The roll call didn’t stop there, however. As the Warriors marched to a 123-109 win over LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday, the first night of the 2022-23 NBA season, every significant roster member who hopes to hoist yet another Larry O ‘ The Brien Trophy next June had the chance to audition their talents.

First there were the veterans, those whose value to the team is indisputable.

Curry started slow (by his standards), but finished with a flurry, scoring 17 second-half points on 4-for-8 3-pointers. His moment of glory came late in the fourth quarter, first with a up and down movement to fake Davis for a lay-up, followed by a 3-pointer and one on the next play, after which he lay on the ground as if making a snow angel on the hardwood.

As for the other Splash Brother, Thompson gave us one of his vintage third-quarter shooting flurries, scoring seven straight points in just over a minute to start the frame.

Andrew Wiggins, who took a discount on his $109 million extension due to being content with his form and Golden State’s winning culture, hit two 3-point dagger dropbacks just when he seemed that the Lakers could make a late, unlikely return.

Kevon Looney did what Kevon Looney does, posting modest tally stats (seven points, six rebounds, two assists) but finishing a team-best plus-30 in 21 minutes.

“He’s really good,” Kerr said after the game. “The first thing I said to the coaches when I looked at the box score was like, Kevon Looney’s perfect line.”

And then, of course, there was the connection everyone had been waiting to see – the one strained relationship that threatens to derail what looks like a strong chance of defending his title – Draymond Green and Jordan Poole. Both said Warriors watchers needn’t worry about the on-field chemistry between the two, and they proved it with one of the opening night highlights, the pass from perfect pocket from Poole to Green for a layup in the second quarter.

Poole deflected after the game when asked how their relationship had mended, or not, since the punch, saying instead that they were focused on winning the season opener.

Green-Poole drama aside, we know what to expect from Warriors stalwarts, including Andre Iguodala when he’s finally ready to play. What makes this team perk so intriguing is the cast of characters, mostly of the greenhorn variety, who have been enlisted to support the main characters. They, like the veterans, each had a moment in the spotlight on Tuesday night.

Playing in his first NBA game since April 2021, 21-year-old 7-footer James Wiseman used his speed and strength to throw a two-handed dunk off a pick-and-roll, much to the delight of the crowd, who was still buzzing with the elixir of the championship.

After the game, Wiseman expressed his humble gratitude to be back on the pitch, but he’s now tasked with earning backup center minutes that look like they’re there for the taking.

“It comes with a lot of reps,” Wiseman said when asked how he can become a regular contributor. “I haven’t played for a year and a half, two years, so it’s going to take time, but I’ll get there eventually.”

Eight-year-old veteran JaMychal Green, the only Warriors sub to turn 30, showed why the team brought him on this offseason by playing in multiple positions and knocking down two of his three attempts at 3 stitches, knocking down seven boards in the process.

Golden State’s other free agent acquisition, Donte DiVincenzo, showed off his versatile skills in 21 minutes, but endeared himself to the 3-point crowd when he knocked down a deep ball late in the game. fourth quarter on a feed from Curry.

Second-year winger Moses Moody, who almost every Warrior says is playing and behaving beyond his age, looked like the odd man out on Tuesday night. Kerr said it was very difficult to face 11 guys, and he was the 11th. Yet when he entered the game for a few minutes in the second quarter, he scored five points and hit a 3-point corner.

Finally, there was Jonathan Kuminga – perhaps the Warriors’ most attractive young player – who visibly struggled on his 13 minutes, which Kerr attributed to nerves. But even without a field goal, the 20-year-old has shown just how valuable he can be as a defender with his athleticism and versatility.

All the pieces of the puzzle were exposed. The photo on the back of the box is a second consecutive NBA title, but the question is whether Kerr and the Warriors can perfectly put them together by the time the playoffs roll around. A team of 11 players deserving of major minutes is a blessing and a curse, and the Warriors only have one game in the season.

“You know there’s going to be a few injuries, you’re going to have some tough times which, to be able to have that many guys to throw in there, that’s important,” Curry said after the win. “It’s a great luxury to have, but there are difficulties that go with it, because people are going to be pissed off walking off the pitch knowing they didn’t play that night. So you have to be patient with that, and we’ve all been there at some point in your career.”

Patience is not something you often associate with a defending champion. Generally, the rotation is quite defined, business knowledge is instilled. These Warriors have young players and free agents on the bench that Kerr can twist and manipulate into endless combinations.

So you can expect to see different formations and units every night, especially to start the season, as this version of the Warriors try to build the chemistry we all witnessed a few months ago when they ripped off the Boston Celtics title. It probably won’t be a smooth run, but that’s what separates championship teams from teams as well. Finding the secret sauce will be key for the 2022-23 season.

“After tonight, the journey really starts knowing that you’re going to get the best shot of everyone,” Curry said. “You have really talented teams that are going to shoot at you, so we have to be ready for anything. We know it’s going to be a really long journey. But that’s why we play. That’s why we’re competitive. That’s why we work as hard as we do. Nobody’s just sitting there looking at that ring and going, ‘Oh, it’s over.’ I don’t think anyone’s built like that.”

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