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Warriors look to cement a spot among immortal NBA champions

  • Written by Jim Slater
  • Published in Basketball
  • Read: 296

WASHINGTON -- Golden State will begin the chase for a third NBA title in four seasons and a place among the league’s most legendary dynasties when the Warriors’ 2017-18 campaign opens Tuesday.

Kevin Durant, who joined the Warriors last season after leaving Oklahoma City, realized his dream of an NBA crown last June, joining Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and and a stellar supporting cast for a record 16-1 playoff run, downing Cleveland in the finals.

“You can’t win anything, you can’t be successful unless you have a great team around you -- a great group of people that you rely on, that you learn from,” Durant said. “We’ve got a number of those guys in this organization.”

In the off-season the Warriors spent nearly $330 million on new contracts for Durant, Curry and starting big man Zaza Pachulia plus key reserves Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston.

Georgian center Pachulia warns the Warriors have a chance to fine-tune an already formidable squad.
    
“I think we have a luxury and an opportunity to pay attention to the small details so we can move to the next level,” Pachulia said. “We already know each other. We already know what to expect from each other. Just makes me so much more confident to be back and to come in every day and practice.”
    
They also added free agents Nick Young and Omri Casspi to a formidable lineup, living up to their Strength in Numbers motto.
    
“This year reminds me of two years ago, with the continuity, almost the exact roster coming back, having all of those guys comfortable with what we’re doing already,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said.
    
The Warriors raise a second championship banner in three seasons and their fifth overall on Tuesday when they open the season at home against Houston.
    
Golden State seeks a fourth consecutive berth in the NBA Finals and 10th trip overall. Only the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers have reached more finals and only they and Michael Jordan’s 1990s Chicago Bulls have captured more crowns.
    
“I think mentally it’s really going to test us,” Iguodala said. “How do we respond to, I wouldn’t say adversity, but just defending the championship again? There’s always a lot of noise surrounding us and we have to continue to be resilient through the noise, because it can weigh on us sometimes.”
    
The only teams to reach at least four consecutive finals were Boston in the 1960s, the 1980s Lakers and Celtics and LeBron James-led Miami from 2011-14. But the only team to have the best regular-season record those same four years was the Celtics more than a half-century ago.
    
Durant averaged 25.1 points, 8.3 rebounds and 4.9 assists last season while Curry, who led the team in scoring for a fifth consecutive campaign, contributed 25.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 6.6 assists a game and Thompson produced 22.3 points a game.
    
Curry says having so much talent doesn’t cause a problem with keeping everyone involved in the attack.
    
“The way we play, everybody touches the ball. Everybody is involved,” Curry said. “Everybody should be a threat when they’re on the floor. And with the high IQ guys we have on this team, we just find a way for it to blend and work.
    
Durant barely had a chance to grip his first NBA championship trophy in Golden State’s victory celebration last June before rival clubs were moving to challenge the Warriors “superteam” for supremacy.
    
Now the NBA’s 72nd season opens Tuesday with a fistful of clubs having assembled three or more stars, uniting to stop Durant, 3-point sharpshooters Curry and Thompson and forward Draymond Green from bringing Golden State a third title in four campaigns.
    
NBA 2017 Most Valuable Player Russell Westbrook welcomed Carmelo Anthony and Paul George to Oklahoma City while Houston added Chris Paul and tough defenders to NBA assists leader and number two scorer James Harden with Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward joining Al Horford in Boston.
    
And the Cavaliers, with four-time MVP LeBron James bidding for an eighth consecutive trip to the NBA Finals, added his pal Dwyane Wade, oft-injured  Derrick Rose plus Jae Crowder and Isaiah Thomas in the deal that sent Irving to Boston.
    
In all, eight players with a total of 45 All-Star Game appearances switched teams.
    
“Just because you compile a team of superstars don’t mean it’s going to work, because it’s a lot of ego,” Green told GQ magazine.
    
Las Vegas oddsmakers agree.
    
The Warriors are a runaway favorite to repeat as champion at about 2-1 with Cleveland  next at 4-1  ahead of Boston at 10-1 with Houston and San Antonio at 15-1 just ahead of Oklahoma City at 16-1.
    
It’s the NBA version of a nuclear  arms race, complete with a fistful of teams stockpiling top talent and  legend Michael Jordan, a  six-time NBA champion with Chicago who owns the Charlotte Hornets, warning of mutually assured destruction.
    
“I think it’s going to hurt the overall aspect of the league from a competitive standpoint,” Jordan told Cigar Aficionado magazine.“You’re going to have one or two teams that are going to be  great, and another 28 teams that are going to be garbage. Or they’re going to have a tough time surviving in the business environment.”