Warriors show all the essential pieces to repeat as NBA champions; now the challenge brings them together – CBS Sports

Warriors show all the essential pieces to repeat as NBA champions;  now the challenge brings them together - CBS Sports

SAN FRANCISCO — The whole thing had a kind of high school graduation feel. But instead of a 16-cent paper diploma from Kinko’s, the Golden State Warriors received championship rings — well, “medallions,” as head coach Steve Kerr called them because of their gigantic girth — complete with 16 carats of yellow and white diamonds.

One by one, the instruments of what some members of the organization called the most significant of the team’s four championships over the last eight seasons were called forward to receive their jeweled symbols of their accomplishment. As each player was announced, from Quinndary Weatherspoon to Juan Toscano-Anderson to Stephen Curry, memories of their contributions, no matter how big or small, flooded the arena. The Warriors’ motto, “Strength in Numbers,” is never more evident than on ring night.

The roll call didn’t stop there, however. While the warriors marched to a 123-109 victory over LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the Los Angeles Lakers on tuesday, the first night of the 2022-23 NBA season, every significant member of the roster hoping to hoist yet another Larry O’Brien Trophy next June got a chance to audition their skills.

First there were the vets — those whose value to the team is indisputable.

Curry got off to a slow start (by his standards), but finished with a bang, scoring 17 points in the second half on 4-of-8 3-point shooting. His shining moment came late in the fourth quarter, first with an up-down movement fake out Davis for a layup, followed by an and-one 3-pointer on the very next play, after which he lay on the floor like he did a snow angel on the hardwood.

As for the other Splash Brother, Thompson treated us to one of his vintage shooting streaks in the third quarter, scoring seven straight points in just over a minute to start the frame.

Andrew Wiggins, who received a discount on his $109 million extension because of his satisfaction with his fit and the winning culture in Golden State, hit two back-to-back 3-pointers just when it looked like the Lakers might make it late, unlikely. come back

Kevon Looney did what Kevon Looney does, putting up modest numerical stats (seven points, six rebounds, two assists), but finishing at a team-high plus-30 in his 21 minutes.

“He’s really good,” Kerr said after the game. “The first thing I said to the coaches when I looked at the box score was like, perfect line by Kevon Looney.”

And then of course there was the relationship everyone was waiting to see — the one strained relationship that threatens to derail what appears to be a strong chance at a title defense — Draymond Green and Jordan Poole. Both said Warriors watchers shouldn’t worry about the on-court chemistry between the two, and they proved it with one of the signature highlights of opening night, Poole’s picture-perfect pocket pass to Green for a layup in the second quarter.

Poole digressed after the game when asked about how their relationship had mended, or not mended, since the punch, instead saying they focused on winning the first game of the season.

Green-Poole drama aside, we know what to expect from the Warriors mainstays, including Andre Iguodala when he’s finally ready to play. What makes the advantage of this team so interesting is the cast of characters, mostly of the greenhorn variety, who were recruited to support the core characters. They, like the veterans, each had a moment in the spotlight Tuesday night.

Playing in his first NBA game since April of 2021, 21-year-old 7-footer James Wiseman used his speed and strength to throw down a two-handed dunk out of a pick-and-roll, much to the delight of the crowd. , who was still buzzing from the championship elixir.

After the game, Wiseman expressed humble gratitude to be back on the court, but now he’s tasked with earning backup center minutes that appear to be there for the taking.

“That comes with a lot of repetition,” Wiseman said when asked how he can become a regular contributor. “I haven’t played in a year and a half, two years, so it’s going to take time, but I’ll get there eventually.”

Eight-year veteran JaMychal Green, the only Warriors sub to see his 30th birthday, showed why the team brought him in this offseason by playing multiple positions and knocking down two of his three 3-point attempts, pulling down seven boards in the process.

Golden State’s other free-agent acquisition, Donte DiVincenzo, showed off his versatility in 21 minutes, but he endeared himself to the 3-point-hungry crowd when he knocked down a deep ball late in the fourth quarter on a feed from Curry.

Second-year wing Moses Moody, who almost every Warrior says is playing and acting beyond his years, looked like he was going to be the odd man out Tuesday night. Kerr said it’s very difficult to play 11 guys, and he was the 11th guy. However, when he entered the game for a few minutes in the second quarter, he scored five points and hit a corner 3-pointer.

Finally it was Jonathan Kuminga — perhaps the Warriors’ most attractive young player — who visibly struggled in his 13 minutes, which Kerr chalked up to nerves. But even without a field goal, the 20-year-old showed how valuable he can be as a defender with his athleticism and versatility.

All the puzzle pieces were exposed. The picture on the back of the box is a second straight NBA title, but the question is whether Kerr and the Warriors can get it together perfectly by the time the playoffs roll around. A team with 11 players deserving of significant minutes is a blessing and a curse, and the Warriors understand that only one game into the season.

“You know there’s going to be some injuries, you’re going to hit some rough patches, that to be able to have that many guys to throw out there, it’s important,” Curry said after the win. “It’s a great luxury to have, but there are difficulties that come with it, because people will be angry coming off the court knowing that they didn’t play that night. So you just have to be patient with it, and we have. everyone has been through it at some point in your career. “

Patience is not something you often associate with a defending champion. Generally the rotation is quite fixed, corporate knowledge locked in. These Warriors have young players and free agents off the bench that Kerr can twist and manipulate into endless combinations.

So you can expect to see different lineups and units every night, especially to start the season, as this version of the Warriors tries to build the chemistry we all witnessed a few months ago when they captured the title of the. Boston Celtics. It probably won’t be a smooth ride, but that’s what differentiates championship teams from also-rans. Figuring out the secret sauce will be the key to the 2022-23 season.

“After tonight, the journey really begins in terms of knowing you’re going to get everybody’s best shot,” Curry said. “You have some really talented teams that are going to compete for you, so we have to be ready for anything. We know it’s going to be a very long journey. But that’s why we play. That’s why we’re competitive. That’s why we work as hard as we do. us. Nobody’s just sitting there looking at that ring and going, ‘Oh, it’s over.’ I don’t think anyone is built like that.”

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