Courtesy of Ivy Chen/JCon Taiwan
After five decades of playing basketball mostly in Oakland, the Warriors are hosting games in San Francisco for the first time since 1971.
A glistening new arena isn't the only thing different about Golden State. The roster contains many new players and there are some big questions that have yet to be answered as the team embarks on the 2019-2020 campaign.
The main question is, how far will the Warriors go this season?
In the new $1.4 billion dollar Chase Center, the house that Stephen Curry built, will Curry be the only scoring threat for the Dubs?
Coach Steve Kerr thinks Curry is already in midseason form.
"Steph, our very first game looked like he was in better shape than anybody”, said the Warriors head coach. “All in all his conditioning is great. He's in a really good place. I think he's ready to have a big year."
The two-time MVP point guard has averaged 23.5 points and 6.6 assists since that first title in 2015.
His career best is 30.1 PPG set in 2015-2016. That team was loaded and finished with an NBA regular season record of 73-9 but fell short of the Larry O'Brien trophy, losing to the Cavaliers in seven games.
This year, the starting five consists of guards Curry and newcomer D'Angelo Russell in the back court. The front court are forwards Draymond Green, Glenn Robinson III and the man in the middle is Kevon Looney until center Willie Cauley-Stein returns from the injured list. That's hardly the "Hamptons Five" from 2016 when at their peak, the starters were Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, and Durant.
But without Thompson, who is out with a ACL reconstruction on his left knee, for possibly the entire season and with the departure of Kevin Durant to Brooklyn, and the trade of Iguodala to Memphis, how many points does Curry need to score on average?
Another nickname for the Dubs was "Strength in Numbers" which was quite accurate given their bench depth. But in the offseason, Warriors fan favorite Shaun Livingston retired. And Andrew Bogut, who was acquired for the playoff run in March, returned to the Sydney Kings of the Australian Basketball League to honor the second year of his two-year contract.
So far, the team doesn't have a marketing slogan but I guess they don't need one when they have a shiny new building located at 1 Warriors Way at the corner of Third Street and 16th Street. Kerr says he hasn't noticed much of a drop off from the raucous atmosphere that the team enjoyed in Oakland.
"The vibe in our building is great”, Kerr said. "Some new arenas lose the noise and the atmosphere and I don't sense that here at all. I think our fans have been loud in the preseason. The building was constructed in a way that it seems to keep the noise in and it looks like the fans are close to the action. I've really enjoyed the home court and hopefully we'll give our fans something to cheer about."
Curry says it's early but Chase Center doesn't yet have the same home court advantage as Oracle Arena.
"There's still some time to figure out what the atmosphere's like." Curry said. "It still has a new car smell and that's a good thing because it's still building excitement for that first game on Thursday but just from my perspective, ten years in one spot that's not something you just turn the page on. I can shoot in any gym but it's still weird.
"But we hope that our fans come out on Thursday, all of Dub Nation with that same passion that we've been accustomed to feeling and created a true home court advantage. You can have the nicest building in the world but you want that soul and that spirit and what's made our fan base what it is and that part I'm excited to see."
After making five consecutive appearances in the NBA Finals with three championships since 2015, even the most ardent fan can't argue that this squad will be hard pressed to win more than 45 games.
My friend and colleague Wen-Chieh Chan covers the Warriors for JCon Taiwan. Chan believes if the Warriors don't suffer any more significant injuries and can remain healthy, he believes Golden State can win 48 games.
I'm not so sure. The Warriors will need a strong year from D'Angelo Russell who has averaged 16.5 points in his four year career. However, in the last two seasons with Brooklyn he averaged 19 points. Last season was his best yet as Russell started 81 games and averaged 21.1 points with 7.0 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game.
"I think we've got a lot to work to do to be honest," Russell said after the team's final preseason game against the Los Angeles Lakers. "We're still figuring each other out. For us (the preseason) we need that time to build on the good things and the things we didn't do so well. But I'm ready to start the season for sure. You're playing against guys you're used to playing against and we're getting into real schemes and coverages and scouts so I'm looking forward to that."
Even with Curry and Russell at their best, I predict 42 wins. So if you take the average of our two totals, you get 45 wins which will likely put the Warriors at a seventh or eighth seed for the playoffs. Chan hopes the Warriors can be at or better than .500 with a record of 25-25 sometime in January.
One change with the Warriors, since they're seemingly no longer the favorites to win the NBA Title, is that Green noticed a much smaller media turnout after Wednesday's practice.
"There's like ten of y'all right here and in seasons past it would have been 80 so there you have it." Green said with a laugh. "For us obviously it's exciting. Having a new challenge and only having ten of y'all here is exciting because it means someone is doubting and someone doesn't hear what we have to say but there'll come a time where they'll be right back."
But it all starts for real tonight and Kerr says Opening Night is always special.
"For all of us, opening night is special even if you've been in the league a long time there's just a different vibe when it actually counts so everybody's excited. Opening night is special every single season and then you finish and you've got 81 more (games). You can't get too high or too low but you can't help but be excited."
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Oklahoma City Thunder Point Guard Chris Paul after their 100-97 win over the Warriors at the Chase Center on November 25, 2019.
Portland Trail Blazers Point Guard Damian Lillard after their 127-118 loss to the Warriors at the Chase Center on November 4, 2019.
Los Angeles Clippers Forward Kawhi Leonard after their 141-122 win over the Warriors in the first-ever regular season game at the Chase Center on October 24, 2019.