Warriors off to shaky start despite historic Durant acquisition
With the 2016-17 NBA season only a few weeks old, lack of chemistry has become an issue for numerous teams across the league. Take none other than the Association’s newest villains, the Golden State Warriors.
Last year, Golden State began the season by winning 24 consecutive games before losing their first game on Dec. 12. Their next loss came 31 games later on Dec. 30 against the Dallas Mavericks.
This season, however, the Warriors are writing a much different script. They lost their opening game to the San Antonio Spurs and their second game against the Los Angeles Lakers. Previously, the Warriors only lost twice by more than 20 points in their 82 games during their 2015-16 campaign, but have now matched that total in six games thus far.
Although Golden State fans are still in great spirit, the team’s rough start is a shell of what many have come to expect from them. One reason is that the Warriors dramatically changed their team makeup to accommodate for their blockbuster offseason signing of Kevin Durant. The Warriors paid a lot for Durant in the form of Leandro Barbosa, Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut, the source of Golden State’s longevity during their record-setting season.
Needless to say, it will take some time for Golden State to build up the chemistry they once had.
One of this season’s most anticipated matchups occurred when Russell Westbrook and Durant faced off after spending almost a decade playing together in Oklahoma City.
Westbrook entered Oracle Arena in Oakland rocking a bright vest that read “official photographer,” most likely mocking his former sidekick’s photography hobby. The two did not greet each other prior to tip-off and enjoyed emphatically rejecting each other’s shots during the game.
OKC center Enes Kanter let Durant know he did not appreciate the departure, as the two exchanged pleasantries, with Kanter snarling from the bench.
Durant had the last laugh as he lit up the Thunder defense up for 29 points in the first half and 39 overall while shooting seven of 11 from 3-point range. Westbrook scored 20, dished out 10 assists and corralled six rebounds but struggled from the field, only converting four of his 15 field goal attempts.
Durant will make his return to OKC on Saturday, Feb. 11, anticipating an earful from one of the loudest crowds in the NBA that are still fuming from the team’s recent plays.
Elsewhere in the league, the New York Knicks are also trying to reconcile weak team chemistry after an offseason filled with acquisitions. The starting five played their first minutes together against the defending champions and were dismantled in the second half when LeBron James decided to up the ante.
Since then, New York has made encouraging strides on the offensive side of the ball but not yet on the defensive side. Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis and Derrick Rose will find a way to make it work offensively with or without the system everyone loves to hate, the triangle.
However, the miscommunication and lack of cohesion on the defensive end has been concerning. The Knicks have a former defensive player of the year in Joakim Noah, a 7-foot-3-inch giant in Porzingis and a sound defender in Courtney Lee—it is only a matter of time before the rotations, switches and trust become natural.
Still the New York bench has been unstable up to this point in the season. While Ron Baker, Justin Holiday, and Brandon Jennings have impressed, Maurice Ndour, Kyle O’Quinn and Lance Thomas have disappointed.
The organization re-signed Thomas to a 4-year, $27 million contract with high hopes of him returning to his peak, where he was effective from a 3-point range and was a great defender. So far, Thomas has looked out of touch on the defense and has struggled with his shot, shooting fewer than 40 percent from the field.
The defending champion team, the Cavaliers, are off to a great start. They are headlined by King James, who, along with his team, has continued the Cavaliers’ winning streak from the NBA Finals. They expect to repeat as champions for the first time in franchise history.
As legends like Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, and Kevin Garnett hung up their jerseys before the start of the season, everyone is wondering who the next group of NBA stars will be. One of those future stars is rising in Phoenix.
Devin Booker enters his second season in the desert as one of the most promising young players in all of basketball—a steal in last year’s draft as the 13th pick. The former Kentucky Wildcat recently became the first Phoenix Sun to score at least 38 points in consecutive games since Tom Chambers in 1989-90.
Booker can shoot the lights out from almost anywhere on the floor, is crafty in the lane and has shown the ability to find open teammates. Keep an eye on the Suns’ shooting guard as he is an up-and-coming star in the NBA.
As for the Warriors, the rough start is by no means a precursor for the rest of their season. This team has some of the best talent in the league, and it is only a matter of time before the Warriors are back on the winning track.