Our short, local nightmare is over — the Golden State Warriors are in the win column.
After two nights of embarrassment, it was reassuring to see the Warriors take care of New Orleans in a 134-123 win that wasn’t as close as the final score. Then again, the Pelicans were down three of their top five players and neither of Golden State’s season-opening losses were as close as their lopsided scores either.
It’s not surprising that two guys who spent the last three years on a virtual Dream Team — Stephen Curry and Draymond Green — took a minute to remember the level of focus and intensity most NBA teams require to compete. Even after Monday’s win, Draymond said, “We still not very good … We still have a LOOOOTTTT [emphasis his] of room for improvement … but we plan on doing it.”
The Warriors may not achieve “very good” this season, but it’s hard to draw too many conclusions at this point. When all you’ve seen are the extremes, how can you know where the final product will settle?
There is one thing I’m prepared to say about the 2019-20 Golden State Warriors, and sometimes one thing is a lot…
The Warriors are fine.
Fine as in, “You’re going to be fine, it’s just a scratch.” It may have been tough to avoid thinking the Warriors might lose 50-plus games when they were trailing the Thunder by 40, but we should have known not to overreact.
The members of this team with championship pedigree have to adjust to an entirely new reality. Aside from Curry and Green, the only other men over 23 who have played a minute so far are Glenn Robinson III and Damion Lee.
When Steve Kerr told us there would be more ugly losses after the hideous Chase Center debut, it wasn’t because he thinks his team is terrible. It certainly wasn’t because he expected it to be even uglier in Oklahoma City.
It was because he knows he doesn’t have a lot of guys he can count on to be consistent. That’s the nature of a young team, but it’s a youth movement the Warriors were forced to commit to by virtue of Klay Thompson’s injury and Kevin Durant’s departure.
There will surely be more growing pains, but this is not the post-LeBron Cavaliers. It’s fine.
The Warriors are fine.
Fine as in not very good, not very bad — just fine. This is only disappointing relative to the last five seasons; compared to the entirety of Warriors’ history, this is exciting.
There’s no promise of playoffs, and certainly no expectation of a sixth straight Finals appearance, but there’s a lot to like and even more to learn over the course of 82 games.
Only a fool could have believed that this year would be anything like the last few, and frankly it’s hard to imagine that any long-suffering Warriors fans — veterans of the 20-win seasons — would be too down on the current roster.
They still have a two-time MVP, a former Defensive Player of the Year and multiple-time All-Star, a budding All-Star in D’Angelo Russell and a handful of intriguing youngsters — most notably this year’s rookie class of Eric Paschall, Jordan Poole and (soon) Alen Smailagic.
It’s a testament to the brutality of the Western Conference that they were largely projected to finish between sixth and 10th, but that is quite literally the middle of the conference. Middling teams lose some ugly ones, and they’ll likely get to a point where they win some you weren’t expecting.
That’s what happens when you’re just … fine.
The Warriors are Fein.
Fein as in former TNT/NBA TV broadcaster Marc Fein, who I met years ago and bring up only because of his diminutive stature. Not unlike Mr. Fein, the Warriors’ lack of height will make success tougher to find.
Despite cruel and unnecessary shots from minor sports columnists, Marc Fein didn’t let his vertical challenges stop him from becoming a highly-respectable national basketball broadcaster. The Warriors should be similarly undeterred from their hunt for a highly-respectable lower seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
If there was a takeaway from Monday’s turnaround it may be that leaning into their lack of size is the best option. Starting Draymond Green at center seemed to energize the team from the jump, and forcing teams to match down to their size is probably a better option than trying to squeeze extra minutes out of Omari Spellman and Marquese Chriss.
With any luck, both Willie Cauley-Stein and Kevon Looney will be back soon; with a little more luck they will shore up the size issues. For now, though, the Warriors’ best available players are all 6-foot-7 or shorter and there’s not a lot they can do about it.
You don’t have to be Kevin Harlan to have success, though. It’s okay to be Fein.
The Warriors are [need to] fine [each other].
“Fine” as in take away a hopefully non-substantial amount of money via kangaroo court. The kangaroo court is a common locker-room tactic in baseball, wherein players tax each other relatively small amounts for buffoonery and shenanigans of various kinds.
These Warriors need to scold each other for on-court sloppiness, ideally in a way that’s more fun and less demoralizing than Draymond just screaming at everyone that they suck.
Jordan Poole and Russell could use a financial reminder that contested pull-up threes are not the best option with the shot clock at 20. Curry deserves a nominal charge for every ill-fated, one-handed, cross-court pass. Chriss owes for over-passing when he’s two feet from the basket and Draymond gets dinged for failing to bring his signature intensity.
This team has to be vigilant with their focus. They’re simply not good enough to compete on a nightly basis if they are sloppy or lackadaisical. Lollygagging is death.
It’s time to fine.
Bonus: The Warriors are fine!
Fine as in when Mos Def and Talib Kweli say, “Damn she’s fine!”
Try looking into Wardell Stephen Curry’s eyes without swooning, I dare you. Don’t sleep on Klay’s bench fits, either.
In the fine-al analysis, the Warriors are probably what we thought they were — a team that has a chance at the Western Conference playoffs if they can stay healthy and bring the necessary focus on a nightly basis. Maybe they can make some noise in the playoffs if things really go well with Klay Thompson’s rehab.
Ultimately, though, it’s going to be a learning experience and likely a rollercoaster. What it is not likely to be is a series of miserable blowout defeats like the first two, or some sort of negative referendum on the viability of Curry and Green as team leaders.
It’s going to be ok. The Warriors are fine.
Matt Kolsky is a sports media professional (or something like that) and lives in Oakland with his wife, son and an aging Shih-Tzu/Schnauzer mix. You can hear him on the Bay Area sports radio station 95.7 the Game, 2p-6p every weekday evening alongside Damon Bruce and Ray Ratto. You can listen to his podcast, The Toy Department, on iTunes or wherever else fine podcasts are free. You can find him on Twitter @thekolsky to share your personal feelings about this article or any other topic, he will respond to most tweets that do not contain racial slurs.