After a long summer of topless championship parades, free-agency meetings in the Hamptons, Snapchat mishaps, and gold medals, the NBA is finally, truly, really, almost back. The start of training camp marks the beginning of our NBA Preview.
We kick things off with Warriors Week, an in-depth look at one of the most interesting assemblages of basketball talent ever. We’ll have a different theme each week, as well as the usual league coverage. So check back often. Basketball never sleeps, and neither do we.
This is going to be fun.
Can we admit that? Now that everyone has spent the past few months turning lukewarm on Stephen Curry, declaring genuinely kind human Kevin Durant to be a villain, mocking Draymond Green for punching other men’s penises and snapchatting his own; now that Twitter has eaten itself alive making the same joke about “3–1” and the Finals, and this very website has published a screed against Riley Curry; now that we have finally, I believe, exhausted the ways in which we can hate what the basketball world once so deeply loved, let’s just pause for a minute and reckon with something: Very soon, the Golden State Warriors are going to play basketball. And watching them is going to be an absolute delight.
They probably won’t click for a little while. There’s only one basketball, et cetera until infinity. But from day one, they will have moments in each game — probably even in each quarter — that take your breath away. Steph will penetrate and kick out and the ball will rotate around the perimeter with dizzying speed. Finally playing in a system suited to his genius, Durant will show layers of his game that we’d previously only begun to see. I don’t know how many games they’ll win. I don’t know if they’ll reclaim the title that they lost to the Cavaliers last season. But watching this team push its own limits will be a stunning and fascinating joy.
The Warriors didn’t play basketball on Monday. But they did put on uniforms and answer a bunch of questions from reporters, and occasionally they dribbled for photo shoots and did various basketball-adjacent things. Here were the six most wonderful moments of the day.
Stephen Curry Reminded Us That His Memory Is Intact
It’s been a long offseason. A few things have changed. One of the top three players in the universe joined the league’s greatest-ever regular-season team. Amid all of this transition and these newer and greater levels of hype, one reporter suggested that perhaps some people had forgotten that last season ended with the Warriors coming up short. While on the podium, Curry’s eyes cut toward the reporter. He looked, for a moment, as if he’d never heard a suggestion so absurd.
“You said people forgot?” Curry asked. He chuckled. He shook his head. Curry did not forget.
Zaza Pachulia Talked About His Vinyasas
The 6-foot-11 Georgian loves yoga, apparently. He started doing it in Atlanta, and helped popularize it in Dallas, where, he said, “It was huge. We had the whole team doing it. Coaches, trainers, everybody.” Now he’s just getting settled in the Bay Area, and he hasn’t even practiced with his new team, but he’s already picked out a yoga studio. Apparently he and Steve Kerr go to the same one. Said Zaza: “You can call me yogi. I am one of the yogis.”
See? Even this team’s enforcer is lovable.
People Discussed Race and Protest Like Grown-Ups
Days after Kerr delivered a stirring defense of Colin Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the national anthem, several Warriors players addressed the quarterback’s protest with passion, nuance, and care. Curry said he would stand during the anthem but that he’d love to talk with Kaepernick and hear more about his movement. Klay Thompson expressed admiration for Kaepernick but also spoke of his own pride in spending the summer representing Team USA, ending by saying that he was unsure how he would respond to the anthem when this season begins. Most captivating, though, was Green, who seemed irked by the notion that his position as an athlete should make it important for him to speak out.
“I think it’s important for us to speak out because we’re human,” he said. “A lot of times people say, ‘Oh, they shouldn’t talk about this or they shouldn’t talk about this.’ Me personally, I couldn’t really care less about what somebody thinks I should or shouldn’t do. I am human, I have the right to speak out on whatever I choose.” Green kept going for several minutes, calling criticism of Kaepernick “ridiculous” but saying that he feels no need to perform a similar gesture when the season begins. “Am I going to kneel down and put my fist up? No, I’m not. That’s no disrespect to Colin or anybody else that’s doing it. But the point is out. Like, they’ve gotten the point across. I don’t think I need to come out and do this national anthem protest because it’s already been started. It’s already a conversation.”
JaVale McGee Was There
Remember him? Tall, talented, thoughtful, but most famous for the way the internet mocked him all the time? He’s in camp with Golden State. He didn’t address the media, but his former Nuggets teammate, Andre Iguodala, spoke up on his behalf. “I gave him a lot of praise,” Iguodala said of his conversations with Warriors management about McGee. “There’s a different kind of media with this new generation. People can have a really good view of you or a really negative view of you. He has his goofy moments, but he has a really high basketball IQ. He’s a good guy. I know how great he can be.”
Draymond Talked About Pain
Ultimately, media day is a nothing, a pseudo-event, an excuse to produce basketball content one day earlier than the day when basketball actually begins to be played. (Or, at least, practiced.) Dumb questions are asked. Thoughtful questions are dodged. Clichés are spewed. So it was refreshing, for at least 15 minutes, to sit and listen to Draymond Green hold forth. He talked about expectations and about failure. He speculated about what will happen if the team starts 19–6. “Oh,” he said, anticipating the media’s reaction. “The Warriors aren’t as good as last year. KD must be a problem.” He talked about the regular season and the chase of history, calling 82–0 “physically impossible” and saying, with the kind of candor no one else would ever give: “I don’t even want to win 74 or 75 games. It’s brutal.”
But Green’s voice was most vital when he started talking about last season, when he reflected on the Finals, and on losing, and on pain. “I don’t think that’s a pain you ever forget,” he said. “It’s easy to say we’re going to put it behind us or we’re going to hold onto it and use it as extra motivation. The truth is that’s a pain you never forget. We don’t need extra motivation. If we would have won we would still have the same goal. Saying we’re using it as extra motivation — that’s all cliché to be honest with you.”
Soon after Green came Thompson. Of the loss, he said, “It’s definitely motivation.”
We Saw That This Is Real. This Is Happening. Kevin Durant Just Joined One of the Great Teams of All Time.
Maybe it hit some people when Durant walked through the curtain and up to the podium. That, Durant said, was at least when it hit him. “I just got super excited as I was walking in here,” he said right after he sat down, a small smile creeping across his face. After all of the time spent arguing over whether he was disloyal or weak, whether he was or was not a true competitor, whether his right to happiness should trump the public’s right to insult a man they don’t know, we finally saw Durant navigating his new home. He looked comfortable. He looked excited.
The moment that struck me came away from the podium, at one of the many photo sessions that were set up throughout the day. Before Durant spoke to the press, he stepped in front of a camera next to Curry, and the two of them began to pose. They held basketballs. They dribbled. They smiled and hardened and scowled. And at one point, with a million cameras flashing and a million more cell phones held aloft, they started whispering to each other, and then they giggled, and then Curry doubled over in laughter while Durant turned away smiling with his hand to his face. They looked, for just a few seconds, enraptured and joyous. And as they and the rest of the Warriors prepare to spend this season trying to roam the limits of basketball excellence, maybe it’s time for the rest of us to share in that joy.