Closed my eyes for a minute, opened ‘em and — voila — I am back in the glory days of Golden State Warriors. This is some Rip Van Winkle stuff.
(Not to confused with Nick Van Exel stuff. No glory days with Nick the Quick in Oakland.)
It’s nearly 2022, sports fans. A new era. No more “Chase Center Curse”. No more “The Warriors are dead” talk. The Warriors are not only alive, Gary Payton 2 just pogoed by asking for a high-five on his way to the rim.
The Warriors are 10-1. Last time they did anything close to that was January 2019, when they won 11 in a row.
Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins were playing during that win streak.
Jordan Poole, Damion Lee and Nemanja Bjelica are playing during this run.
The common denominator, of course, is the intergalactic talent that is Steph Curry — but still, to say this level of comprehensive team play and efficiency is surprising is to say Andrew Wiggins gently tossed down a couple of put-backs on Karl Anthony Towns Wednesday night.
This year’s Warriors were going to be good, yes. Vegas had the over-under at 48.5 wins. That’s a nice win total. Conventional wisdom had the team at a 4 or 5 seed, and the more optimistic among us thought that the return of Klay around Christmas/New Year’s could have the team browsing in the aisles of the Western Conference Finals come springtime.
But right now, without Klay (and James Wiseman), the Warriors are already playing like the best team in the league. They’re #1 in defensive efficiency in the NBA. They’re #2 in offensive efficiency in the NBA.
Look at the array of offerings the first 11 games have brought us: On Opening Night in L.A.. six players scored in double digits to beat the Lakers. The Warriors went three straight games without Curry scoring in the fourth quarter — and won two of them. Curry has had nights of 45 (win over Clippers) and 50 (win over Hawks). Damion Lee scored double digits in each of the first six games. Jordan Poole led the team in scoring against the Hornets (31), Rockets (25) and Pelicans (26). Any worries over Andrew Wiggins’ qualms about vaccination disappeared with a bang — or two of them — against his old mates from Minnesota.
And then there’s Young Glove.
Gary Payton II’s arrival as an in-your-jock defender and chest-at-the-rim dunker is as symbolic as any of the return of ‘Strength in Numbers’. Like, literally, Payton was the 15th man on the Warriors roster when he signed. And when your 15th man is producing at the rate Payton is, you have defined ‘Strength in Numbers’. Somewhere, Leandro Barbosa and Mo Speights are pumped.
Of course, of course, this comes with a caveat. There is no Jock Blog without a warning. The schedule, the schedule, the schedule — I hear the cynics crowing. The only potential playoff teams the Dubs have faced are the Lakers, Clippers, Grizzlies and Hawks. Feasting on the Thunder and Rockets and T-Wolves will make any Jock Blog happy, right?
So guess what. The Warriors are not going 73-9 this year. But north of 50 is well on the table. We’re not even to Thanskgiving, and the Warriors are flying high. Who’d have thunk it?