Warriors Fans! The day is here!
We finally get to roll out that fancy new jersey you bought during the summer, flip on the TV, and see a real-life Golden State Warriors team, which features it's brand new paint job. Has there ever been a season in this franchise history with so much build up, so much expectation, so much...pressure?
Golden State travels up to Vancouver tonight to take on the Raptors from "The North", serving as the first test ride for Steve Kerr and his crew to try out this new squad. As a fan of this team, I couldn't be happier. As a writer for this site who thinks daily about things like "Who is going to protect the rim?", I am hesitant. I need to pump the breaks and remind myself what preseason games are and what they are meant to do. And so, as an aid to myself, the fan, and to other readers of this site, I must pass on a few helpful hints while you dive into training camp action.
Here are five major things you should keep in mind (trust me, this list could be much longer):
#1: There will be overreactions
Wait... Klay Thompson didn't pass Kevin Durant the ball for the wide open jumper? Chemistry issues. Draymond Green has a bad shooting night? He doesn't fit in this new offense. The Warriors give up 125 pts? Their defense is shot.
ESPN's Zach Lowe called this team "the traveling circus" when interviewing Steve Kerr this week (a great listen for fans btw), and he couldn't have been more right. The scrutiny, the analysis, the hot takes... they will be coming strong. And who can blame anyone? The media has more content and mileage to get out of this team than any other team (outside of Believeland or New York) in the NBA. I'm sure even fans will take the highlights from tonight's game, supercut them with some dubstep music and crown this team a dynasty for the next 10 years (actually, can someone do that for me? That sounds pretty fantastic actually...).
How to avoid this: Just take in the game for what it is — a preseason game. The players don't care if they win or lose, so the fans should not either. They are just going out and getting their reps, so avoid jumping on any narrative about player cohesion and the meshing of the roster. Also don't freak out if a rookie or a bench player has a good game. Remember this roster is top heavy with about 8-10 players, so if you think Elliot Williams will get some crunch time minutes because he hits a few threes, you are wrong but I like your spirit.
#2: There will be misses
I know a lot of fans last saw this team when they were playing in the 2016 NBA Finals. Or maybe you watched a little of the Olympics (or every minute of it). You are used to seeing your team crisp, making shots, running their offense. Well, tonight will not be that night. Many of these players have been sitting around going to art shows or hanging by the pool for the last few months. They just got back on the court less than a week ago. They will be rusty when the actual game starts to play.
If a few shots are missed, that's okay. Even the Warriors, with some of the best shooters on the planet, will probably miss some shots. Well, I expect them to miss less shots than other teams, but hey KD — if you want to take some extra crazy jumpers, go ahead. Steph, if you want to whip out that behind the back, no-dribble jumper from the right block, go ahead. I wont judge you. And plus, James Michael-McAdoo needs to practice getting rebounds anyway.
How to avoid this: There is no way to avoid this. Maybe by game three or four in the preseason (also known as the "is this a real game?" period), the offense will start to look crisp. But until then, prep yourself for the worse and be surprised when they go in.
#3: There will be funky lineups and rotations
I'm going to give you a hint - there will be very few times in the regular season when a lineup for the Warriors, in a non-blowout situation, features any less than two of the big four. Kerr is going to use his minutes and matchups to keep one of our all-star scorers on the floor at all times, and Draymond Green is the cornerstone of this roster.
With that said, the preseason will not be many of these times. I actually beg for Steve Kerr to use the funkiest lineups he can possibly think of. So you want to go Ian Clark at point with JaVale, Kevon Looney and Patrick McCaw? GREAT! So you want KD in with four D-Leagers so he can get some shots off? Whatever works, I'm all down. All I care is that the starters don't get too much wear and tear and this game has the feeling of a glorified practice. I don't need Kyle Lowry lowering his head and getting to the hoop. I want soft screens set, uncontested layups and outside jumpers.
How to avoid this: Let the starters get about 15 minutes of play tonight; except for you Zaza. I want you on the floor for 30 with Coach Adams yelling in you ear the whole time "Bogut would have blocked that! ROTATE ZAZA!!!".
As for the rest of the roster, just look at the numbers. About 6-7 guys are fighting for 1-2 spots. Only about 2 of them have a realistic chance, and one of their names is JaVale. The rest of you are playing for that Chinese contract, and I send you the best of love. Enjoy the jersey while you can.
#4: The rookies will shine, but don't get too excited
Kevon Looney might as well be a rookie. He was a project when we drafted him, and he still is a project. He can hit a jumper, but the guy can't play NBA defense yet. When you see him putting in a good run against scrubs, notice it's different to cover the 14th guy on the Raptor's roster vs. covering Blake Griffin. The NBA is about a well-rounded complete game, and Looney will still need another year.
Patrick McCaw looks solid, and he can help run the second unit. He can hit some threes. We will all be excited about his ability to take over minutes that were previously Leandro Barbosa's. Patrick McCaw is not a proven one-on-one defender in the NBA. He needs more time with the roster to develop his skills before he can take up big minutes. If he does get heavy minutes, the team will have to live with the rookie mistakes he is bound to make.
The point is that tonight will be a good chance to see the young guys go (except for Damian Jones - get well soon big guy). We will see flashes, but a reminder that like Summer League, preseason is just a tune up.
How to avoid this: Use the footage to help build Kevon Looney's mix tape, but don't use it as a case of why he will be the next Joe Smith.
#5: Get Back to Loving Basketball with No Pressure
Hey guys! Tonight's game means nothing! If we lose, we don't blow a 3-1 lead. We aren't needing this win to set a wins record for the preseason in the history of the NBA. We aren't out to prove the critics wrong and we aren't looking to make a statement. We are playing in the preseason, in a city that doesn't even have a basketball team, in front of a crowd that will likely have a large Warriors contingent. It will be on national TV in high def, and you don't even need to go to a busy bar or have an NBA Finals party to watch it. If the team loses by 20 and doesn't get anyone hurt, juice boxes for everyone.
How to avoid this: Put on your 2015 NBA championship commemorative t-shirt, or your newly minted Kevin Durant Run-TMC throwback (that jersey will be pure gold, gotta get me one). Kick your feet up and watch one of the least-stressful games of the season. Enjoy watching a defense play "pick your poison" as Durant gets the ball in the post, commands the double team, and kicking out creates the "ring around the perimeter, who gets the wide open three this time" game. I promise it will be fun, and I promise that you won't miss Harrison Barnes for one second...