Short-handed Warriors play out preseason with one week to go
Green still "away from team" and Thompson still ramping up
I’ve got a lot of family in Portland, so the Trail Blazers have always been something of a second team for me. Add in their newly acquired ex-Warrior, Gary Payton II, and it means that this is an outside team that has captured the hearts and minds of Dub Nation. I mean, we still want to wipe the floor with them, even in the preseason, but as nicely as possible.
With just two games remaining before the regular season opens next Tuesday, it may be time for coach Steve Kerr to pull back minutes for some of the main players. That said, Golden State is still holding Klay Thompson in reserve as he slowly rounds back into basketball shape (not literally). On top of Thompson’s slow return, the ongoing saga of Draymond Green continues to vaguely keep him away from the team - but it’s not a suspension!
Forget about all that though, because tonight is very much about who is on the court; not who isn’t. Jordan Poole is looking fantastic, and there’s plenty to be excited about as James Wiseman, Moses Moody, and Jonathan Kuminga all appear to be on an upwards trajectory.
WHO: Golden State Warriors vs. Portland Trail Blazers
WHEN: Tuesday October 11, 2022 // 7pm PDT
The youth brigade and Jordan Poole as next-gen leader
One of the coolest aspects of rooting for one team for so long is that we truly get to appreciate the distinct eras and feels of each iteration of these rosters. It’s not just that Thompson and Green are out. The former is missing time due to issues associated with his surgically repaired body, the latter is out due to issues with his behavior. Neither concern is particularly ephemeral - if anything, they can be expected to get worse.
Thankfully, the timing for all of this to come to a head seems to be working out to a degree. Stephen Curry will continue to be the primary engine that drives this team, but - partially because they simply aren’t around, and partially because the next generation is ready to step forward - there’s a power vacuum in the locker room helping to push everything towards the future.
With this shifting framework of personnel, there comes a renewed life to the roster. Sure, the top eight spots (or so) are mostly set in Kerr’s rotation, but the permutations - who works best with who (and when) - is still very much in flex. Even in these “meaningless” preseason games, Golden State is busy building the foundations.
Kuminga and James Wiseman are two of the most physically gifted young athletes in the NBA. The Warriors are blessed enough to have the luxury of flexibility. The more they can get out of these guys, the better - but it’s an edge detail rather than a prerequisite for success.
In the previous game, Kuminga put up a well-rounded stat line of 12 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 assists. Though there are still some ugly bumps in his game, he does a lot right and is going to be one of the team’s more fascinating players to watch as the season unfolds.
Wiseman is a work in progress too. With an uneven impact but an improving overall vibe, it’s not hard to imagine a breakout year for the highest Warriors draft pick since they drafted Joe Smith at #1 way back in 1995. To say the expectations are heavy is an understatement. Especially with all the injuries he’s suffered early in his career, there’s some very real pressure on Wiseman and the Warriors to turn in a fair amount of good, impactful basketball as soon as possible.
I’m far from the first to make this observation, but man oh man - if Poole and Wiseman are routinely paired off against opposing team bench units…
As the first game that will be broadcast on CSNBA, this could be many folks’ first extended look at this season’s roster in action. This is going to be as close to must-see as possible for a preseason game anyways. The first return of Gary Payton II against his old squad, and the always entertaining duel between Curry and Damian Lillard ensures that. And even when it gets late in the game and it’s the fringe players, there’s still plenty that’s undecided.
I know it’s not specifically Music Friday, but I’ll be missing part of tonight’s game because I’m seeing Bad Cop / Bad Cop - probably my favorite modern punk band. Come out to Ivy Room tonight and I’ll buy you a beer! (or you can buy me one, I’m not particular)