Amid this season of transition and mercurial play, one question has remained at the epicenter of all things Warriors:
How open is this team’s championship window?
If you ask Steph Curry, it’s wide open.
And that’s with the Warriors as is.
Are you going to tell him he’s wrong?
I’m not. At least not yet.
Curry saved the franchise, took the team to five straight NBA Finals, has three rings on his fingers, and in his age-33 season is still playing at an MVP level. Title windows never last as long as you’d expect, but in this case, Curry deserves the benefit of the doubt when he said, without hesitation or a sign of doubt, that the Warriors are in a “good spot” to compete for future titles on Monday.
“Right now, who’s to say we can’t put pieces together?” Curry said. “I’m in the middle of my prime and thinking about all the things that we’ve gone through over the last four or five years that we can kind of build on.”
“It’s hard to say what, actually, the number [of contending years] is, but I think we’re in a good spot right now. Let’s put it that way.”
Right now, the Warriors looked destined to make the playoffs this summer, which must be acknowledged as progress from last season’s disastrous campaign.
Whether they make the real playoffs (a top-six seed) or the new play-in tournament (seeds seven through 10) remains to be seen. One day, they look like they could host a first-round series at Chase Center, win it, and be in a position to let their championship pedigree take over, not unlike in the 2019 playoffs; the next, like they might be one-and-done in those ridiculous play-in games.
To improve from that status in the years to come, the Warriors will need more from Draymond Green, whose scoring has reached a career nadir in the first quarter of this season. Curry might think that he’s in the middle of his prime — he said Monday that he feels like he’s in his mid-20s — but how long is Green’s prime expected to last after years of heavy wear-and-tear?
Do the Warriors really want to find out? The truth might be hard to stomach.
But if Green can reverse what appears to be a clear trend, the Warriors’ chances of winning a fourth ring (or more) considerably increase.
The Warriors will also need Klay Thompson to return to All-Star after two catastrophic lower-body injuries, the latest being his torn Achilles tendon. There’s optimism that can happen, given how Kevin Durant is playing for the Nets, but there are no guarantees in that regard.
There are some things that are trending in the right direction, though. The bench is in a solid, sustainable spot, Andrew Wiggins has become a steady performer and strong defender, and James Wiseman’s preternatural talent has Warriors teammates and coaches expecting the best in the years to come.
The Warriors will also add another Wiseman-level player in the years to come, thanks to landing Minnesota’s first-round pick, which will vest either after this season or next and is expected to be quite high in the order.
But everything Warriors revolves around Curry — the franchise.
There has never been a player like him in the history of the NBA, so there’s no guideline as to how his game should age. Can he keep doing these ridiculous things forever, or will his game fall off a cliff at an unforeseen juncture? It’s legitimately anyone’s guess.
For what it’s worth, Curry is betting on himself. Confidence is a necessity to be an all-time great player, but there are reasons to buy what he’s selling.
For starters, he had off almost all of last season. Curry said that was huge for getting him in a position to push again at the start of this season.
“Well, I was going to say, having come out of the five-year run, we played an extra season and a half with those playoffs, but then I got it back last year,” Curry said. “I feel like I’m in my mid-twenties right now. I don’t know what that means. Maybe I’m just tricking myself. It’s just a matter the mind having to be strong to tell your body how young you are and how young you feel.”
“I don’t have any concerns about falling off anytime soon.”
And so long as that’s the case, a full-strength Warriors should have a chance for years to come. It won’t be the dynastic highs of years past, but championship pedigree still means something. Some teams have it, some teams don’t, and the Warriors, even with plenty of roster changes, aren’t in the latter category so long as Curry is still the team’s leader.
“That’s what you play the game for,” Curry said of competing for titles. “There are things that are within your control and things that aren’t, but all the little things that you do on a daily basis, all the work that you put in, is building towards getting back to that stage.
[But] you’re living in reality. So unless you’re playing quarterback for Tampa Bay Bucs right now, there’s a fine line between when you’re at your peak and when you need to really get the most out of what you got on the court. You definitely think about it.”
Curry said that he’s taking tips from Brady, a Bay Area native and fellow Under Armour endorser, in his effort to extend that peak.
“I met him at the 2014 at the Preakness out in Baltimore. We just lost to the Clippers in the first round, so I had some free time,” Curry said. “[We] Had a fairly decent conversation. It seemed like he always just trying to pick up nuggets on guys from different leagues.”
Curry said he was taken by Brady’s competitive fire back then.
“Even his the middle of his off-season, you could see it in his eyes,” Curry said “You appreciate [that] greatness. It’s amazing, seven years later still chasing Super Bowls.”
“It’s a different sport, different position, but it’s definitely an awareness of the little things that you can do. Things that I’ve been doing, that I can do going forward to make sure your body is able to recover, able to stay in prime condition, so that you give yourself the best chance to be ready for season after season after season. And then you make the necessary adjustments at what your game needs to morph into or things like that.
The approach and the discipline that he’s demonstrated on what it means to be a professional athlete at that level with that longevity it doesn’t happen by accident. So there are things that you can do to put yourself in a position to stretch it out, even farther.”
Contributed by local news sources