It was a glimpse of what could be.
Early in the first exhibition game of the NBA season, the Golden State Warriors against the Toronto Raptors in Vancouver on Saturday, Kevin Durant corralled an offensive rebound and palmed the ball out to Steph Curry, who rotated it over to Klay Thompson. The three-pointer was inevitable.
But on Saturday it was only a glimpse of what could be one of the great teams in NBA history. Last June, the Warriors were one win away from back-to-back championships and then, in July, added Durant to their roster.
Saturday was ragged. There were plenty of sloppy turnovers. Durant missed most of his shots. Thompson had an impressive 11 three-point shots – but made only an ordinary four. Curry was one for five from three. Everything was a little off.
The sense of mission, however, was palpable. Durant is chasing his first NBA championship. Curry, Thompson, and other Warriors are after their second – and seeking redemption. Last season, they were the first team to win 73 games in the 82-game regular season and the first to blow a 3-1 lead in the NBA final. In some ways, a Curry-Durant Warriors championship looks like a certainty but no team is unbeatable, and the Warriors, as stacked as they might be, know it.
Curry spoke of the “nine-month journey” on Saturday. Coach Steve Kerr talked about the first of “100-plus games” and of the crush of attention the team will see, “a travelling roadshow.” For Durant, who just turned 28 and is on a new team for the first time in his NBA career, it starts as simply as fitting in.
“Coming in here, and seeing how they operate, I can see why they’ve been so successful, just because they really and truly and genuinely have fun with the game,” Durant said. “It’s been cool to see. I’m just looking forward to plugging myself into the equation.”
Fun is a word Kerr likes to invoke. Last season, the chase for 73, to win one more in the regular season than the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, became a grind. This season’s Warriors fend off any talk of 74 wins. An NBA title is the goal.
Draymond Green, the fourth power in what some have dubbed the Death Star Warriors, said last week he doesn’t even want to win 74 – calling the effort required “brutal.” Kerr did his best to spike the narrative. He knows 72 and 73 well: he was on the Michael Jordan-led 1995-96 Bulls who won a record 72 – and then won the NBA championship.
“Seventy-four is not only brutal, it’s incomprehensible,” Kerr said. Too much has to go right, he said. “I don’t care if we added KD or Wilt Chamberlain or Michael Jordan.”
The Warriors do aim to win a lot. Kerr said the team wants home-court advantage in the playoffs, so it looks to lead the league in regular-season wins.
On Saturday, it was a loss. The Raptors squeezed out a 97-93 win in front of a raucous sellout crowd of 19,000. The Vancouver crowd, in recent years, has been dominated by Raptors fans. This year, a Warriors contingent was strong. Durant and Curry were amply cheered – but Durant, when he had the ball, heard boos from Raptors fans. “If they cheer or they boo, it’s all good,” Durant said afterward.
The loss is irrelevant. Kerr rationed his stars, who appeared only in the first half.
Keeping up with the Warriors will be a trial. One potential weakness may be uncertain roster depth. Golden State lost several names in order to sign Durant.
“They’re a team like any other team,” the Raptors’ DeMarre Carroll said. “Can’t look at them no different. They’ve added a superstar in KD but you’ve got to think, they lost great, true role players.”
It’s a reach. The Warriors played incredible basketball last season and the hype around this team is all about what’s possible. After Durant signed, there were ill feelings about his move in some quarters. In the summer, Durant talked about pure basketball – and how beautiful it can be.
“We’re kind of in unchartered territory with this team right now,” Warriors president Rick Welts said of the attention and potential.
But at the beginning, 31/2 months after losing Game 7 of the NBA finals, making uncharted territory feel normal is the task.
“Just be ourselves,” Curry said. “Our identity hasn’t changed. The way that we play is all the same. Hopefully we win a lot of games in the process.”Report Typo/Error