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Warriors Media Day: Title defense marked by rare continuity that potential free agency threatens to disrupt

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SAN FRANCISCO. Two days of training camp is already clear: the Golden State Warriors are not playing.

In each of the first two practices, the starting line-up familiar to anyone who watched the playoffs last spring—Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green and Kevon Looney—opposed the reserve squad in every bout.

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Horror fans rejoice… it was a bloodbath.

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“That’s the way it should be,” Curry said of the lopsided practice. “We know what we are doing. We have good chemistry. We just started playing in the final three months ago and also set the tone for what it means to play for this team, how we do it.”

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Patrick Baldwin Jr., a first-round pick by the Warriors, said that the stars he saw on TV as a child were “as good as advertised” in his first game against them. According to rookie Ryan Rollins, the veterans “dominated”. It would be forgivable if the Warriors came in with a slight championship hangover, especially after an off-season that was about three months shorter than the teams that missed the playoffs. Add to that the emotional nature of June’s name, which many members of the organization, including the players, called the most significant any of their four in the last eight seasons – and a sluggish grace period in the first few days of camp would have been more than justified.

But the Warriors have a secret weapon that they’ve cultivated for the better part of the last decade that allows them to hold each other accountable for anything less than total focus and effort.

Continuity.

In the so-called “epoch of empowerment of players,” changing stars has become the norm rather than the exception. Head coaches’ chairs are heating up before they can fix what’s broken. And, as we recently saw in unique situations with the Phoenix Suns and Boston Celtics, the team’s success is far from precluding major franchise changes from year to year.

Here are the Warriors nine seasons later. The same coach. Same core. The same culture of victory.

“I think organizational stability is an important factor in professional sports, but I think especially in the NBA, especially today because of the player movement,” said Warriors head coach Steve Kerr. “We have a really stable, solid organization, very successful. We worked well together. than if everything was brand new… We really see that as one of our strengths.”

If, say, Curry was feeling a little off-season and didn’t come into camp in top form, he knows he’ll hear from Draymond about it. The same is true if the roles are reversed, and that goes for the entire core, which once again includes veteran sage Andre Iguodala, who recently his best Jordan Belfort impression promising to return for another season.

While star players in some organizations spend their first few days trying to figure out the names of their new teammates, Warriors veterans look back and see a family of brothers who have been to the crest of the mountain and the hollow of the valley together. How can you not give your all when you do it for people with whom you have a real connection?

“It inspires us to continue to write our legacy, to continue to work hard every day, because there have been many great dynasties in the basketball world and we want to be part of that brotherhood. It’s just very special,” Thompson told the media. Day. “We know it’s rare in professional sports, but to have that kind of continuity, I mean, we don’t take [it] taken for granted, and we all work very hard and all lead by example.”

Another reason the Warriors may have a little more energy for a title defense this season is the uncertain future looming on the horizon. A Jordan Poole extension could be taken care of soon, but Green, who has one year left on his contract and a player option for the 2023-24 season, said on Media Day he doesn’t expect him and the Warriors to come to an agreement on an extension to the start of the season, which means he could theoretically play his final games in Golden State uniform.

The same goes for Wiggins, whose $33.6 million salary – once considered an albatross but now looks like a bargain – will be delisted next summer if he and the Warriors don’t come to an agreement before then.

Joe Lacob and a group of owners were willing to go to the tax to keep the talent, but everyone has limits. This summer they turned down the re-signing of key championship players Gary Payton II and Otto Porter Jr because the price tag was too high.

“A good organization will get these talks going,” Curry said on Media Day. “Especially with me, Andre, Draymond, we have these conversations knowing that every decision counts in terms of putting together the best team and continuing to move forward in terms of claiming the championship every year. So you want it to be the spirit of how decisions are made and, you know, we want to have the best chance of winning every year. And we prove with this team that the results were like that. So we want to keep it as long as we can. This is the goal.”

These guys have been in the league too long to be sure of anything, but especially when it comes to winning titles. When Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden led the Oklahoma City Thunder to the 2012 Finals, many assumed it would be their first of many. The team that beat them, the Miami Heat, won two titles in four years, but it looked like a disappointment after one team member predicted not five, not six, not seven — then the same player decided to bring his talents back to Cleveland.

Potential leeway aside, the Warriors saw how quickly fortunes could change when Thompson fell to successive season-ending injuries. There has been an infusion of youth over the last couple of years, but Green, Curry and Thompson are all in their 30s and 30s. This team has constantly defied convention, but history says that one or more of them will soon begin to decline.

That’s why they don’t assume that this continuity they’ve worked so hard to create will last, and why they’re coming into this season as hungry as ever, despite reigning once again as NBA royalty.

“Frankly, for us, this band, you don’t know how many opportunities you have left to do it again,” Green said on Media Day. “And so because of that, you have to take advantage of the ones you know you have. And for us, those that, as we know for sure, we have this year. You want to get the most out of the year. And obviously the most you can do is win the championship and that’s our goal and that’s our goal.”



Source: www.cbssports.com

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