I'm starting to become far more interested in the Golden State Warriors' rivalry with the Houston Rockets than whatever foolishness is going on with the L.A. Clippers: both have done their share of whining about the reigning NBA champions, but the Clippers just seem so overrated this season that I'm sort of sick of hearing about them.
There's little logic to LAC being here but not Houston https://t.co/Qh0MPcuxRX— sam esfandiari (@samesfandiari) October 27, 2015
The Clippers are starting Lance Stephenson. Remind me again why they’re ‘title contenders’?— sam esfandiari (@samesfandiari) October 28, 2015
I'm not necessarily saying that because the Rockets have a significantly better shot at beating the Warriors — I'm still trying to figure out how they'll gel — but the Ty Lawson addition is significant enough to make them an intriguing competitor whereas I still just don't see how the Clippers could consistently defend the Warriors in a seven game series deep in the postseason (though, fear not, I do have a healthy fear of Paul Pierce in postseason play).
I also sort of enjoy the ongoing exchange between Lawson and Stephen Curry, even if they're joking as multiple reporters highlighted yesterday, including Monte Poole of CSN Bay Area.
"We had great success against them last year," Curry said Wednesday, "But that's because we were focused every single night to the game plan and sticking to it.
"The only thing is I'll have to play defense this year."
Curry was joking, just barely, but that's about as far as he typically goes in his verbal response to slights. He generally makes light of them - until he steps on the court.
Maybe it's Curry who makes this rivalry really juicy because Lawson threatening to make him play defense and James Harden whining about last year's MVP award are direct challenges that will make the individual matchups and performances all the more interesting; it's not a bunch of sort of nebulous shots about how lucky they are or fights in the hallway.
The Warriors will get their first look at Lawson, James Harden and the new look Rockets' backcourt tomorrow and Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle notes that their two starting guards missed time to work together in the preseason due to injuries — Harden missed two of the team's eight preseason games while Lawson missed three. Coach Kevin McHale is right to note that they're vets who will be ready to play, it's also possible that we won't see a version of their partnership that we can take much from for future reference — as players who have been relatively ball dominant guards for teams in the past, they'll have to figure out how to play with each other on a team where star center Dwight Howard also needs to be set up for scoring opportunities as well.
Feigen succinctly articulated the problem in a blog by writing, "They will have to show that they can take advantage of the extra catch-and-shoot looks Lawson gets for Harden and still have their best player be as much of a force as he was when everything ran through him." Then there's the flip-side: what does Lawson do when Harden is handling the ball trying to make plays and needing to spot-up instead of facilitating? And given that ball movement and turnovers were problems for them last season, how much more should Lawson have the ball in his hands (or what type of sets should they run for him to facilitate) compared to Harden?
We might get a preview of that tomorrow night, but really only a preliminary glimpse — Bogut will be out, the Rockets are still a little banged up and I'm sure the Rockets will be a better team come Spring.
It's pretty hilarious how disrespected Houston is. Lac losing to an undermanned Hou was 'luck'. Y'all need to stop listening to Doc— sam esfandiari (@samesfandiari) October 27, 2015
Other news and notes from around the web
- With Andrew Bogut out due to a concussion, Dan Feldman writes that the next two games could be big for Festus Ezeli: if he wants to prove that he deserves to start, he'll get his chance to show what he can do against two of the best at his position in Howard on Friday and possibly Marc Gasol when the Warriors face the Memphis Grizzlies at Oracle on Monday.
- Paul Ladewski of the San Francisco Examiner also wrote about the whole Curry-Lawson thing and had even more quotes from Curry about it. But more importantly, he offered an update on Steve Kerr's health.
According to one source, Kerr reported continued progress and hoped to return to the sidelines as early as next week. "A lot of what Steve does is dependent on his how he’s feeling," interim coach Luke Walton said. "So it’s hard to make plans for the future because he doesn’t know how he’s going to be."
- One more Rockets thing, related to the point of them possibly needing time to gel: I think Ethan Rothstein of The Dream Shake did an awfully good job of describing their 20-point loss to the Denver Nuggets last night: "There was so much hope before the season for rings and wins and records that the Houston Rockets forgot they have to play the actual games."
- Did someone say "RINGZ"? Here's a video of the ones the Warriors had made for them.
- Justin W of Nylon Calculus published his 2015-16 preview of the Warriors on Tuesday and elaborated on something that I think others have wanted to say but have articulated poorly: will the Warriors regress to the mean this year? Or more specifically, "...they were so good last season there's a lot of room below that performance level...a number of their players had better seasons than previously expected..." so will we find out that some of those individual performances were anomalies? Justin concluded that the Warriors are still have "the best chance out of any team in the West", but did as good a job as any of elaborating on the argument that the Warriors won't repeat.
- In case you were wondering about those predictions I'm alluding to, I'll let Kazeem Famuyide of Stashed summarize them since I cannot at all claim to be a neutral observer.
Let's keep it all the way 100...The overwhelming pick from most pundits are the defending Eastern Conference champions in the Cleveland Cavaliers. The second-most popular pick seems to be the Oklahoma City Thunder, who return with the 2013-14 NBA MVP in Kevin Durant. Another sexy pick is a reloaded San Antonio Spurs team who have added David West and All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge. Hell, even the Houston Rockets and Miami Heat have been tabbed by some as the dark horse to win it all. But surprisingly, not a lot of people think the Warriors have what it takes for lightning to strike twice and go back to the NBA Finals out of the rough and tumble Western Conference.
I'm not exactly sure why.
- Cory Weinberg of the San Francisco Business Times reported on the latest on the Mission Bay Alliance's fight to deny the Warriors their San Francisco arena.
To make amends, San Francisco should pay Oakland to make up for the potential negative economic effects that the NBA champs' departure could have on the East Bay city, the Mission Bay arena opponents say.
It's one of the (farfetched) suggestions in the 2,500-page environmental impact report that was finalized last week and led to San Francisco's unveiling of a $60 million plan to manage transportation by the future hospital-adjacent Mission Bay arena.
- Henry Steckel of Vantage Sports had an interesting analysis of how Alvin Gentry might help Anthony Davis as a facilitator in addition to his considerable offensive talents otherwise. It's a scary thought and, as we consider the competition in the Western Conference, we have to remember that Gentry didn't have his full complement of weapons at his disposal on Tuesday night.
Got other cool links to share? Feel free to drop them in the comments or write up a FanPost if you have an extended thought about something.