By C.J. Peterson
Special to S.F. Examiner
OAKLAND — For the third time in four years, the Golden State Warriors will open the season as champions. From raising a new championship banner to receiving “obscenely beautiful rings,” according to head coach Steve Kerr, Tuesday will be a special night for Golden State.
“Tomorrow will be fun. It’s a huge night, an emotional night and a night to celebrate,” said Kerr after the team’s Monday practice. “But then you have to tip it up right after. And that’s the challenge. You’ve got to make that transition from celebrating to competing just like that.”
What the Warriors have going in their favor on Tuesday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder — aside from the absence of Russell Westbrook — is the fact that they’ve been through this same scenario twice before.
In 2015, Golden State opened their season against the New Orleans Pelican with a 111-95 victory at Oracle Arena. Last year, the Warriors were edged by the visiting Houston Rockets — a team purpose-built to defeat them — in a 122-121 thriller. The two teams would meet again in the Western Conference Finals.
“[The pregame] is a distraction from the game itself.” said Warriors All-Star forward Kevin Durant. “It’s a great distraction, don’t get me wrong, but when you’re trying to play a basketball game, right before you have to focus on something else, It’ll throw you off a little bit.
“But especially if you’ve experienced it more than once, I think guys know what’s coming and are ready for the moment.”
This year, the Warriors will welcome Durant’s former team, the Thunder. Westbrook, Oklahoma City’s starting point guard, will not play due to a nagging knee injury that’s kept him sidelined for the entire preseason.
Without one of the league’s most dominant and polarizing players on the floor, some believe that things may be shaping up for a textbook trap game.
“I don’t think so,” said Kerr at the thought. “I think that’s more of an issue in the regular season, maybe you’re in the meat of the season. Opening night, there’s always extra energy, and ring night, even more so. It shouldn’t matter who’s out there [for the other team].”
As the Warriors get ready to open the 2018-19 season with a three-peat aspirations in mind, getting past the actual game itself will be the first hurdle to get over while still enjoying the moment of celebrating as champions.
“That’s probably the last time we’ll openly celebrate that championship like that because it’s a new season,” said Durant. “But you have to lock back in really quick and we’ve got a lot of smart, high-IQ players, a lot of geniuses on this team that can snap back really quick.”
– The Warriors ran a full practice on Monday afternoon with 100-percent participation. The only player listed on the team’s injury report was backup point guard, Shaun Livingston (foot).
According to the team, Livingston is listed as questionable for Tuesday and will likely be a game-time decision.