Last night, I spent a few hours on the phone with my good college buddy Dyon, a citizen of Charlotte and a big time Hornets fan. He was driving home from the Spectrum Center after Charlotte pulled off a nailbiting victory over the visiting Chicago Bulls in the battle for Michael Jordan’s heart.
As I absentmindedly pored over some of the rough plus/minus numbers for the Warriors, Dyon’s voice boomed through the speakerphone, rattling off the exploits Charlotte’s promising young players.
It's probably too early in the day for wonky NBA content but was looking at our depth charts and holy hell is the Warriors' roster a dumpster fire after the top ~5 players. https://t.co/bW4qOKCLWZ pic.twitter.com/PuMANXqyB3— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) October 18, 2019
This wasn’t the first time I’ve heard him jubilant about his team’s hopes on Opening Night; for several years I’ve listened to him gush over the potential of random mediocre players, only to see that excitement buried in January by a pile of losses.
“Whooo boy!” he took a breath from regaling me with the story of P.J. Washington's greatness. “Are you going to Opening Night for your Warriors?”.
“Yea buddy,” I responded, already calculating whether it’d be faster to take BART or drive in hellish traffic from the East Bay.
“Y’all playing the Clippers, right?” he said with a chuckle. “Y’all are in TROUBLE!”.
I gasped from the sheer audacity and brazen temerity. This Hornets’ fan was telling me, a scribe of the Golden Empire, that MY squad was in danger?
Then... my eyes darted back to that plus/minus spreadsheet. I remembered the warning signs posted by several journalists during the preseason, like Bleacher Report’s Will Gottleib reflecting on Coach Steve Kerr’s tall task of figuring out what this sudden youth movement is capable of:
“We have to work harder than we have in the past to forge a [defensive] identity and figure out what that identity is, because to be perfectly honest, I don’t know what it is,” Kerr said before the preseason finale last Friday against the Los Angeles Lakers.
But forget trying to get all the new, younger players up to speed or the loss of Durant’s scoring and consider the pure basketball IQ the Warriors lost. Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, even Andrew Bogut and Zaza Pachulia will be missed.
Or ESPN’s Nick Friedell piece entitled, “For the first time, these Warriors have more questions than answers”:
Acclimating new, younger faces to a team fresh off a run that included five straight NBA Finals and three championships won’t be easy. But other issues -- lack of depth in the paint, questions on the wings, Thompson’s uncertain return timetable from a torn ACL -- leave Golden State in uncharted territory as the franchise moves across the Bay to San Francisco’s Chase Center.
There’s buzz surrounding (Steph) Curry to deliver an inspired performance this season. The lead Splash Brother, though, is no cure-all for what ails this version of the Warriors.
And one of my favorite writers Monte Poole setting the grim tone with “Warriors will take break from greatness after years at top of NBA”:
This is the season for which the rest of the league has been dreaming. After being bullied for five years, they realize the Warriors are more vulnerable than they’ve been since the 2011-12 season -- the last time they missed the playoffs -- and want their piece of the franchise that has enjoyed more June champagne than any other since the Shaq-Kobe Lakers at the turn of the millennium.
Thursday: Kawhi Leonard vs Warriors’ hollow wing spot. Montrezl Harrell + Lou Williams vs thin, inexperienced bench. Warriors debut Chase Center against the opponent they probably match up most unfavorably against.— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) October 23, 2019
The writing literally appears to be on the wall: the Golden Empire is turning to ash before our very eyes. The last five years represented near-certain hopelessness for Dyon’s Hornets and everybody else’s team. Currently, the league is supposedly free from the grip of the Warriors. No wonder Dyon was politely salivating over the alleged death of the Dubs.
For rival fanbases, the depleted Warriors fighting to make the playoffs is a big joke, a fall from grace. But for Warriors fans who have endured the lean years and celebrated the champagne era? This is yet another opportunity to enjoy the process of triumphing over daunting odds.
I get the feeling that the Warriors, much like a belligerent drunk hovering over the divebar jukebox at 2AM, don’t know it’s time to meekly give it up. I can’t wait to see Curry and Draymond Green, two future Hall-of-Famers, rage against the dying of the light with a squadron of hungry youngsters in tow.
Maybe it’s a byproduct of my GOLDEN STATE OF MIND or the chip on the shoulder I carry as a son of Oakland but...I can’t wait to root for the underdog Dubs. I’m already pumped imagining the spilled beers and high fives in Chase Center as we cheer the growth of the youngsters, while Green roars to triple-doubles and Curry goes nuclear.
Sure, there will be times when the Dubs look clueless on D and give up 140 points as Green gets ejected and Curry goes 6-for-19. That’s just the way the game goes when you lose most of your team and have to figure it out on the fly.
But I don’t think the man who once promised Dub Nation success during the franchise’s darkest hours has any intentions on letting the franchise crumble on his watch.
Promise to all the Warrior fans...we will figure this thing out...if it's the last thing we do we will figure it out— Stephen Curry (@StephenCurry30) November 12, 2009
So, I responded to my buddy with the taunting air of an Uno player holding a Wild Draw 4, “Are you really betting against Steph?”.
“I ain’t saying that!” he laughed. “I’m just saying, this year is gonna be different.”
How different remains to be seen...that is why they play the games after all.
Opening Night, should be a fun one for the team’s youngsters, get your popcorn ready. BRING ON THE CLIPPERS!
(And no matter what happens, please nobody get injured lol).
How worried should the Western Conference be about the Warriors this season?
This poll is closed
Not worried at all, Dubs are washed
Moderately nervous, Dubs have potential
Skyrocketing anxiety, Curry is unleashed