Warriors Stink Up 2020-21 Opener
(originally written 12/24/20)
Let me begin by stating the obvious: I'm grateful that the Warriors, and the rest of the NBA, are even being allowed to play basketball right now. It's not a guarantee that allowance will continue, but for now, it is fulfilling just to have the Golden State Warriors back on the court after nine months of inactivity.
(Wow, I just realized a whole person could have been conceived, carried and born during the Dubs layoff. How about that?)
When you attempt to do something for the first time in nine months, in this case play an official game of professional basketball, the attempt can turn out one of two ways. Either A) you can be energized, crisp and dominant, or B) you can be disjointed, bumbling and embarrassing.
For much of Tuesday's NBA season opener, the Brooklyn Nets (who had about three months off) looked energized, crisp and dominant. The Golden State Warriors did not.
As we hear stories of Rockets star James Harden repeatedly ignoring league protocols meant to limit COVID's spread, in a way it was reassuring to see the Warriors showing their national TV audience how to properly social distance whenever the Nets had the ball. (Thanks for that, Ryan.) On one first-quarter play, Warriors F Eric Paschall, who had a tough night defensively, pretty much ran right past Brooklyn F Kevin Durant near the corner, giving Durant a slam dunk.
The Dubs resembled a team with missing parts, with new parts such as Kelly Oubre hastily glued on. Oubre was a much improved player last season in Phoenix, but on Tuesday night didn't it seem like his goal was to bend the rim with a dunk, and little else? Although, it's been a while since I saw any Warrior besides maybe Andrew Bogut attempt dunks on three straight possessions (two were successful).
Andrew Wiggins, who's being counted on to share the scoring load this season with Klay Thompson on the sidelines, was absolutely awful. He shot 4-of-16, including many WIDE-OPEN looks that might have kept Golden State in the game early. He bricked a virtually-uncontested 1-foot banker. He botched lobs. He repeatedly travelled. I almost laughed out loud when Nets C DeAndre Jordan double-teamed him in the second quarter!
In 31 minutes, Wiggins managed TWO rebounds and ONE assist; not even garbage time could help his numbers.
Warriors G Mychal Mulder chipped in eight points during garbage time, including a pair of three-pointers.
Meanwhile, Durant and his buddy Kyrie Irving excelled. Playing a game that counts for the first time since June 2019, Durant got anywhere and everywhere he wanted to on the floor, and scored with ease. Irving routinely took advantage of mismatches and killed the Warriors from midrange and beyond. Newly-extended Joe Harris helped run the score up; just about all of the Nets' main complementary pieces chipped in to their 125-99 victory.
We fans need to not kid ourselves: this is not a championship team anymore. That ship has sailed. And I'd be saying that even if Tuesday's result was different—only three players from the last championship team (2018) will be active in San Francisco this year: Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Kevon Looney. Only Curry and Looney played Tuesday, and neither played well.
Sure, the team brought in Oubre, Brad Wanamaker, Kent Bazemore and big James Wiseman, who flashed the abilities that made him a #2 overall draft pick and finished with 19 points—one off Curry's team-high. Wiseman handled the ball, rolled to the hoop, drove to the hoop, and even sank a trio of long J's including a three. There's definitely potential in this youngster.
But the "core" of this roster still resembles the one that finished up 15-50 last season. The Dubs won't be that bad this year if (and these are two big "ifs") Curry avoids injury and Green proves to be the veteran leader he's supposed to be rather than the injury-prone hothead who can't be relied upon anymore. But that'll still put the team about two kilometers short of title contention.
For now, let's just try not to get destroyed by Milwaukee on Christmas in front of another national TV audience.
(BTW, how the hell did Curry rack up 10 assists? I recall three. Do they count hockey-style assists now?)