It’s one preseason game. An exhibition. It’s important not to overreact.
But after watching the Warriors play Monday night in Portland, it’s hard to not be excited about the team’s possibilities this season.
This team looks significantly better than last year’s operation. Lightyears ahead, perhaps.
Last season, the Warriors spent months looking for its identity. It stumbled upon a small-ball, five-out look because of injury. It worked exceptionally well for the last few weeks of the season.
Going into a new season, it would have been fair to wonder if the Warriors would abandon that small-ball look.
But that late-season effort was not made in vain.
This team looks like the old Warriors — the 2014-15 Warriors that captured the attention of the Bay Area, the NBA, and the world en route to the team’s first title in 40 years.
They also look like they could start the season tomorrow. The Warriors added new players into the fold to fit the team’s small-ball vision, and their integration seemed seamless. The rotations appeared solid, Draymond Green is in shape, and there wasn’t an ounce of clunkiness to the operation.
The only question is if these new players and this style are good enough to compete for a title. Making the playoffs — health permitting — should never be in the question. Not with what they put on the floor Monday.
Yes, the Warriors have hit the ground running, so it only took a few possessions to see that this 2021-22 season could be an absolute blast to watch.
“We’re chasing wins this year,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said after the game, a cheeky play on his infamous statement to the contrary during the nadir of last season.
Now, Jordan Poole looking like the third splash brother — he had 30 points in the preseason opener Monday — was obviously a critical aspect of the Warriors’ success in Portland. Poole thrived in the latter part of last season and was rightly slotted in as the Dubs’ two-guard next to Steph Curry again Monday. That’s his job until Klay Thompson returns (and perhaps for a while after that, even). Poole had a few defensive mistakes Monday, but he has also improved enough on that side of the ball since his mid-season G-League stint that he should also be part of the Dubs’ closing lineup — even with Thompson in the fold.
But one young player having a great shooting night — while replicable — is not the foundation of the Warriors’ good vibes.
No, it was the ball movement.
My goodness were the Warriors whipping around their new friend Mr. Wilson on Monday. (The NBA has a new ball this year, made by the Chicago sporting goods company.) Golden State had 32 assists to 12 turnovers as a team — their rotation players had 26 of those assists during meaningful minutes.
“This is going to be a really fun team to coach — they’re unselfish and understand the game really well,” Kerr said. “It’s a chemistry that’s tough to deny.”
“The style is fun to play,” Otto Porter said. “I’ve played in this kind of offense before, in college — Princeton offense, moving, cutting… That’s the game.”
The result of the spacing and the pace — of both of people and passing — was that the Warriors did something that they have never done in a regular-season game — they shot 69 3-pointers in a game.
Yes, it was preseason, but they were chucking. And the vast majority of the looks were totally justifiable, if not wide-open.
The NBA record for 3-point attempts is 70.
“We’re going to take a ton of 3s this year,” Kerr said. “I haven’t said one word to the team about how many 3-pointers were trying to take… we just have a roster with a lot of floor spacing and are moving the ball, getting open looks, it’s fun to watch.”
Fun, unselfish, deep, dynamic?
It’s been a while since we’ve heard those words about the Warriors, even the Kevin Durant teams lacked a certain verve.
Yet they were all dropped on Monday.
There’s a long way to go and a million ways this could fall off the rails. It’s important to note that Portland is an egregious defensive team — one of the worst in NBA history last year. But there’s no doubt in my mind that the Warriors are on the rails before the season even starts.
That’s a great start. A welcome surprise.
And the fact that they also look like they have greased lightning in the engine?
Well, that’s even better.