The Giants and A’s finished last-place campaigns just a couple weeks ago. Almost half way through the NFL season, the 49ers and Raiders are on their way to matching those results. Only the Golden State Warriors can save pro sports in the Bay Area now.
The defending champions tip off their season tonight in what should be an electric night of pro hoops. The new-look Houston Rockets will have to watch the Dubs receive their rings, which I’m sure will have a subtle design that includes no petty shots at their rivals.
Golden State could easily lose the contest — nights as emotional as tonight carry a risk for letting their guard down — but it won’t matter in the long run. (Remember when the San Antonio Spurs dismantling last year’s Warriors portended the dark days that followed? Me neither.)
The Steve Kerr-led Warriors have proven their championship pedigree. And if you ask them, all that’s ahead is taking the steps to ensure Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson earn entry into the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame.
Here are the five questions Golden State will want to resolve in its quest for three titles in four seasons:
1. What will the Disease of More look like?
The issue: Every team defending a title falls prey to the Pat Riley idea of the Disease of More — which states that after winning it all, players and coaches start feeling their owed more. A recent example: The 2015-16 Warriors overextended themselves by trying to win too many regular-season games and it cost them as fatigue and injury played factors as they fell short of repeating.
It’s not easy to predict what challenges could derail this year’s team. Durant took less money to ensure Curry became the highest paid player in the league. Green gets enough credit for his unique contributions. Thompson has never been one to seek out more attention.
Something’s out there that could potentially trip this group up. But, it’s going to require someone with much hotter takes than me to take a shot at predicting it.
How it’ll be resolved: This is where Kerr earns his keep. He’s learned from the best — Phil Jackson — on how to overcome the Disease. Issues are going to arise. It’ll be on Kerr to make sure we — the consumers — don’t find out about them.
2. Can Steph win MVP?
The issue: Curry won the top individual award two years straight. Then, the Warriors added Kevin Durant and all of a sudden Curry is the second-best player on the team.
So, Curry showed up to training camp in the best shape of his career and is ready to retake his mantle atop the league.
“Little known fact about what I did this summer: Actually, I was in the gym,” Curry joked on Monday.
Steph is more outspoken and sure of himself than he’s ever been through the preseason. That doesn’t bode well for the rest of the league, especially when you consider how dominant he was once he got used to playing with KD last season. That kind of continuity can lead to more individual honors. But …
How it’ll be resolved: Voters are over the “Steph is just like us” narrative and will stubbornly look elsewhere. It’s similar to how LeBron James has at least two too few MVP awards — voter fatigue is real, and unfortunate.
3. How does Steve Kerr manage his deepest team?
The issue: This question isn’t about personalities, it’s about the embarrassment of riches Kerr is working with. Going through the bench alone — Omri Casspi was almost too good of an addition; Patrick McCaw is playing with supreme confidence; Nick Young’s shooting ensures defenses can’t afford any letups even when the reserves are playing; Jordan Bell has already proven he has no business being left on the bench.
And each of those guys won’t get more than a dozen minutes per game.
How it’ll be resolved: Per the NBA’s new scheduling rules, Kerr isn’t allowed to bench his stars for rest anymore. I expect he’ll play the reserves for longer stretches during the dog days of the season. Fans on the road won’t be deprived of watching Curry and the stars, but there should be games where Kerr gives him a de facto break by riding the second and third-units for extended minutes.
4. Who’s the strawman?
The issue: Green and most NBA players need perceived slights to maintain their fire. Retired players saying they’d beat the Warriors is so 2016. Someone needs to emerge as a unifying force by being a point of shared disdain.
How it’ll be resolved: It’s just a matter of “when” that common enemy will emerge, not “who” it’ll be. My money is on LeBron James feeling himself a little too much in a shared press conference
with Dwyane Wade and providing the Dubs with bulletin-board material.
5. Is it possible they’ll be a disappointment?
The issue: Sky-high expectations can be a double-edged sword. The Warriors were almost average last season after Durant hurt his leg. Anything less than earning another Larry O’Brien trophy will be a massive letdown.
But, is it possible the Dubs could come up short with how well they’ve outmaneuvered the league in every facet of the game over the last half-decade?
How it’ll be resolved: It’s not going to happen unless two of their core four get hurt in the playoffs.
Contact Examiner Sports Editor Jacob C. Palmer at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @jacobc_palmer.