Both were dealt significant blows. Up in Massachusetts, the Celtics watched as their two best players - Kyrie Irving and Al Horford - opted to sign with division rivals. The former chose the upstart Brooklyn Nets, while the latter settled on the title-contending Philadelphia 76ers, threatening to change the hierarchy of the Eastern Conference.
The Warriors also lost two of their best players, albeit before the offseason technically began. Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson both suffered injuries in the 2019 NBA Finals that will threaten their entire 2019-20 seasons, with Durant compounding matters by teaming up with Irving in Brooklyn.
Unfazed by their losses, both teams adjusted on the fly with huge point guard acquisitions. Boston replaced Irving with three-time All-Star Kemba Walker, a player near Irving’s tier on the court, and on a different (two-dimensional) planet when it comes to leadership and team chemistry. Golden State reloaded with a shocking move, managing a sign-and-trade for up-and-coming All-Star D’Angelo Russell.
Both teams were made worse - on paper - by their offseasons, though they did impressive things to minimize the damage. And still, both teams figured to be competing for a good number of wins, and jockeying for playoff position.
And then the season began. And that’s where the similarities end.
The Celtics have jumped out to an 8-1 record (all stats through Tuesday), which is, remarkably, the best start in the seven-year run of Brad Stevens. They sport the league’s second-best offense and seventh-best defense, per Cleaning The Glass, which eliminates garbage time. The lead the league in both net rating and record.
And just as you can find Boston at the top of the rankings and standings, you can find Golden State at the bottom. Their 2-9 record is worst in the league, as is their net rating. They’re 15th in offense, and 30th in defense by a margin so large that they have to squint to see 29th.
The only similarities remaining between the Celtics and Warriors are a pair of hand fractures suffered to key players, but even there the teams diverge - Steph Curry’s fracture will keep him sidelined a minimum of three months, while Gordon Hayward’s diagnosis is exactly half that time frame.
And still. Friday night’s contest between the two teams feels like an important game. There’s nothing better in the NBA than Friday night basketball, and this represents just the second Friday night game in the young history of Chase Center. It’s one of the most storied franchises against a team that has dominated this decade of basketball.
There are All-Stars - Walker, Russell, and Draymond Green - as well as exciting young talent such as Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Eric Paschall. And the Warriors, despite their dismal record, have shown the ability to hang with good teams, at least for a while.
The Warriors may not have any important games this year in terms of the standings. But they’ll have important games in terms of entertainment, and in terms of players developing and proving themselves.
This is one of them. It’s bound to be some fun Friday. And we’ll see how D’Angelo Russell can do defending one of the league’s top point guards, as well as trying to score against a strong defense. We’ll get to see Paschall match up defensively against Brown and Tatum. We’ll (hopefully) see Green locked in, trying to stop an elite offense.
Golden State isn’t likely to make much noise this year, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be a fun season. If you want to check out the behemoth scoreboard and local art of the Chase Center on Friday night - and catch a pretty good basketball game while you’re at it - you can buy tickets on StubHub here.
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