Sustained excellence is hard. So even while they pursue their fifth consecutive trip to the NBA Finals, the Golden State Warriors have begun to cut some corners. Defense is way down, rotations are funky, and the results have fallen below expectations.
But if you are sitting there telling yourself that the blowout win over the New York Knicks doesn’t really mean anything because it’s not the tier of opponents that Golden State is worried about? Now you know how the Warriors feel.
“This isn’t the halfway mark”
Klay is as efficient with his words as he is at scoring the basketball. But when he talks, the words carry the weight of Thompson’s unusual, Zen-like insight.
Klay Thompson: “This isn’t the halfway mark. It’s a third for us.” pic.twitter.com/mTC7Sb5njb— Drew Shiller (@DrewShiller) January 9, 2019
While a lot of the press is going to focus on his scoring output, or how little he had to dribble to get his points, I think this postgame quote is more interesting. Because of the timeline, you see?
We have been judging this team all wrong so far. This is not, in fact, the halfway point of the season. Klay isn’t being pithy here, he’s accurately talking about what the players consider the “season” to be.
They aren’t playing for regular season dominance, they’ve already achieved that. This team has broken records, only to come back later and break them again. At this point, there’s no reason to chase regular season perfection. Just like Kevin Durant didn’t “give no damn about Drake night,” this team isn’t measuring themselves against the old metrics. It’s like if you Googled “Warriors NBA standings” and it just returned a picture of Klay Thompson sipping a beer during his post-game interview.
Perceived weakness may actually be a strength
We’ll have a full write up of it later, but Steph Curry penned an amazing retrospective article over at the Player’s Tribune where he introduces the idea of running camps for the three star recruits. But it’s the second line here that is germane to this Warriors season so far.
And so that’s the idea behind The Underrated Tour: to create a basketball camp, in partnership with Rakuten, for any unsigned high school players rated three stars and below. A camp for kids who love to hoop, and are looking for the chance to show scouts that their perceived weaknesses might actually be their secret strengths.
So yes, the Warriors have not looked like themselves so far this season. Other than this recent blowout win over the lowly Knicks team, it has mostly looked like the Warriors’ margin for error had mostly evaporated - mixed into the again core and improving NBA, the swagger has been dilluted.
Or has it?
Because these are the same players that have won three Championships in four years; the same guys who’ve been to the Final in four straight seasons. Oh, and did you hear? Demarcus Cousins is about to return.
This squad is not measuring themselves against this win over the Knicks, nor are they especially concerned when Thompson goes through an extended shooting slump, or we lose our starting Center and throw our entire rotation out of whack.
This team isn’t at the halfway point of their season.
And that’s an important reality to understand.