Before I hit the limelight with Ghana’s leading hoops portal aka Basketballghana.com, I worked as a freelance journalist fresh out of College trying to make a mark in the extremely competitive world of sports journalism. In one of my earlier triumphs as a blogger, my piece on the Golden State Warriors made its way to websites other than my blog.
Now, a few days shy of the one year anniversary of my article, Why The Warriors Won’t Repeat As Champions, I listed, then elaborated, on reasons why then NBA Champions Golden State Warriors wouldn’t be successful defending its title mainly due to injuries suffered by the team’s opponents en route to its first title in 40 years.
Injuries to conference semifinalist Memphis Grizzlies, conference finalist Houston Rockets and main finalist Cleveland Cavaliers plus squaring off against the limited New Orleans Pelicans, made the journey to the Larry O’Brien trophy less arduous.
It happens I predicted rightly and though the Warriors made it to the final game of the season again and held a 3-1 series lead, it couldn’t finish off Cleveland this time around. A new season brings optimism, a clean slate and even though pretty much everyone knows where teams fit on the food chain, every team looks the part of a champion.
The games are mere hours away from tipping off and in what looks likely to be an annual session, here is my take on how things will pan out this season for the winningest side in the history of the NBA regular season the Golden State Warriors.
For starters, and a bit of an anti-climax really, don’t expect the Warriors to win over 73 games even after adding Kevin Durant. The capture of the former MVP and multiple leading scorer in the league by the already insanely good Warriors offense guarantees them nothing at surpassing the record 73 wins it scooped up last season.
Not that the side isn’t capable of doing it, but because they are not motivated to do so. After seeing their regular season record rendered virtually useless after collapsing in the finals, Coach Steve Kerr has pointed out his side was mentally and emotionally drained from beating the record set by Michael Jordan’s 1996 Chicago Bulls team.
Plus there is the need to manage minutes of players to ensure the side recaptures the healthy bill it had during the 2015 Championship run. In the lead up to the finals series against Cleveland, star player Steph Curry picked up ankle, sheen and elbow injuries along the way which rendered him a step below his usual best form.
Arenas will be packed anytime the Warriors play. In a short stretch of time, the improved play of Golden State from an NBA abyss to a fertile and prosperous destination has culminated in the Oracle Arena’s transformation into the loudest and arguably most intimidating places to play. So you definitely know its always going to be packed.
But away from home, fans can expect an improved version of what transpired last season as Curry’s pregame shooting session of scoring baskets from half court among other factors including the pursuit of the record wins, sold out tickets when the Warriors walked into a different arena. But in the wake of Kevin Durant’s acrimonious departure from the Oklahoma City Thunder to team up with Steph, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green and subsequent shady comments about his old team and teammates, have turned the Warriors into the most hated team in the league.
Add Green’s whirlwind offseason posturing where he fought in public, posted nude photos of genitals on instagram and his not so subtle words about his views on Durant’s departure, means Golden State is no longer the team neutrals rooted for rather the one team everybody wants to lose much like LeBron James’ Miami Heat era.
And expect the Warriors to face a familiar foe in Cleveland Cavaliers at the NBA Finals for the third straight year because no team looks the part of seriously knocking off those two off the perch. A critical look at the rest of the field leaves one in little doubt last year’s finalists and the year before, will have a third taste of each other in basketball ‘s showpiece event.
The Thunder lost superstar scoring machine Kevin Durant to the Warriors, San Antonio Spurs lost Tim Duncan, Memphis Grizzlies paid big money for Chandler Parsons, whose health issues leaves him far from a sure bet to be counted on to help the team climb up the ladder. And there is the unpredictable Los Angeles Clippers who still have three of the best players in the league present (Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Chris Paul) yet can’t put it together to reach the Western Conference Finals.
Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks are too loaded on the offensive side yet thin on the defensive side too matter in contender’s conversation. Over in the Eastern Conference, the Cavaliers mightily wield the sword over all teams in that part of the NBA world. With LeBron ably flanked by the ever improving Kyrie Irving and the excellent yet polarizing Kevin Love, none in the conference matches up to the side from Ohio.
Thankfully the Rio Olympics did ease the pain of NBA followers as the summer games basketball event featured several players from the league but that lasted little more than a fortnight. So with Adam Silver’s balls whiskers from swishing through rims, buckle up and enjoy the ride.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah