SAN FRANCISCO — Post-championship hangovers are real.
The Warriors, having won four titles since 2015, know this as well as anyone.
And a big part of the hangover is how little time there is between winning that title and starting the defense of it.
It seems as if the NBA Finals just ended in Boston — Steph Curry’s “Petty King” summer tour is still in full swing — but on Saturday, the Warriors will officially practice for the first time in preparation of their 2022-23 season and a chance to repeat at champions in nine months.
For the Warriors’ veterans, this experience is commonplace.
But this go-around should be quite different for the Dubs.
Last season, the Warriors were had “two timelines” — young and old.
It was tough to manage, though Golden State did it in the best way possible — winning it all.
So why not add another? This season, the Warriors will be managing three timelines.
There are the grey hairs: the Warriors’ 30-something core players. Then there are the experienced guys: players in the middle of their careers that are well established in their roles. Finally, the Warriors have the kids: players unestablished in this league and, in some cases, not allowed to legally drink.
It’s a strong formula, no doubt, but it’s a strange brew, too.
“I think what makes this [title defense] different is the prevalence of youth on our roster,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Thursday. “After you get past our first six, plus Dante and JaMychal, you’re really looking at a young group — basically first- and second-year guys, which is exciting, but also daunting because you don’t just show up in this league and win.”
The Warriors, of course, did just show up and win for years. At points, they were so much better than every other team, they saw little need to prove it on a nightly basis outside the playoffs.
There will be no such coasting this season.
“There’s a lot of competition out there,” Kerr said. “We’re one of the teams that’s in the mix, and that’s exciting, but we got to start over. It doesn’t just automatically happen from one year to the next.”
And a huge part of that work will be with the young and even younger players.
Are you ready to feel old?
The Warriors have five players born this century expected to make their regular-season roster. These kiddos make Jordan Poole — 23 and in his third year in the league — look like an old, grizzled veteran.
“This is not 30 years ago where Patrick Ewing places for years at Georgetown or Tim Duncan plays four years for Wake Forest… guys who are ready to roll right away,” Kerr said of the youth on this Warriors’ team.
Some of those Warriors youngsters are NBA champions themselves. Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody played in the NBA Finals last season, albeit sparingly and mostly in blowouts.
Kerr isn’t concerned about that milestone getting to the duo’s heads.
“I think players are all very aware that within the team goal of winning a championship, there’s the individual career path. And it’s something that we try to really harp on, the more that you do for the team, the more the game rewards you,” Kerr said. “It’s not an easy lesson to learn as a young guy, especially if you’re not playing a whole lot. It’s a little bit of a paradox, too. People get paid in this league for playing a lot of minutes and scoring a lot of points… But there’s no doubt that the experience of last year: going through the playoffs, getting some playing time for Jonathan and Moses, feeling it on the court but also observing the whole process of getting through the journey. It will all be very helpful.”
Then there are the true rookies — Patrick Baldwin and Ryan Rollins — and the team’s sort-of rookie — James Wiseman.
The 7-footer — the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft — has played 39 NBA games, all in his rookie season. The Warriors need to find out what he can do in this campaign. He’ll be given ample opportunity to play.
As for Baldwin and Rollins, their roles are to be determined. Warriors general manager Bob Myers said Thursday that he expected Baldwin to spend plenty of time with the Warriors’ minor-league affiliate in Santa Cruz, but that could change before the start of the season.
“Steve’s gonna probably play a lot of guys,” Myers said. “And there’s after the sixth guy… it’s kind of who takes it. Is he going to take it? I don’t know. But there’s an opportunity for him, if he can take advantage.”
But even with the Warriors’ brass’ well-founded confidence in their new kids, the overarching truth remains that if Curry, Klay Thompson, or Draymond Green want to take a night off — literally or passively — there’s no massive safety net for the Dubs.
Talent? The Warriors’ depth has that in spades. Experience? Not so much.
And you have to put the two together to win in this league.
“Steph, Klay, it took those guys a few years to really learn how to win. They will be the first to tell you that. I think our young guys have a lot to learn,” Kerr said. “There’s going to be some learning curve for sure… It’s not going to be smooth sailing all the time.
Contributed by local news sources