The defending champion Golden State Warriors tip off their bid to repeat Tuesday night against an opponent that knows a little about going back-to-back when they host the Los Angeles Lakers in a nationally televised NBA opener.
The Warriors had the third-best record in the Western Conference in the regular season before veterans Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala led a 16-6 playoff run to their fourth title in eight years.
Curry earned Western Conference Finals and NBA Finals Most Valuable Player honors, capping a season in which he overtook Ray Allen for the all-time lead in 3-pointers.
The Warriors, who put together back-to-back titles in 2017 and 2018, will begin their quest for five titles in nine years against the same opponent they saw on Opening Night a year ago. Last time, the game was played in Los Angeles, where Golden State ignited an 18-2 start to the season with a 121-114 victory.
The Warriors took three of four from the Lakers last season, including a two-game home sweep after Klay Thompson returned from a 2 1/2-season absence due to knee and Achilles injuries. Thompson, a Los Angeles native, had 33 points in each of the wins at home.
Golden State returns most of its championship cast, including all five starters from its title-clinching win at Boston in June.
The most significant losses are Otto Porter Jr., the team’s second-leading rebounder, and Gary Payton II, who led the club in steals.
The Warriors have filled those two roster spots with free agents Donte DiVincenzo and JaMychal Green.
Golden State is coming off an action-packed preseason in which Draymond Green took a leave-of-absence from the club after punching Jordan Poole during a practice.
Poole and Andrew Wiggins were given four-year contract extensions. Green also has requested an extension on a deal he can void after this season.
Warriors general manager Bob Myers seemed to indicate last week that he’ll deal with Green’s request at the end of the season.
“We have to take it year to year,” Myers said of his club’s ballooning payroll. “If you asked me a year ago if we were going to pay Poole and Wiggins this, I would not have believed you.”
While the Warriors got their money’s worth from their high-priced talent last season, the Lakers surely didn’t. Like Golden State and eight other teams, Los Angeles was over the NBA’s luxury-tax threshold last year, getting stuck with the penalty despite missing the Western playoffs with a 33-49 record.
Much of the Lakers’ decline from a 42-30 team one year earlier was blamed on injuries — LeBron James and Anthony Davis missed a combined 68 games — as well as the club’s inability to mesh Russell Westbrook with his superstar teammates.
Coach Frank Vogel was fired in April and replaced with former Milwaukee Bucks assistant Darvin Ham.
Davis insisted during training camp that he and his teammates will relish being outside the spotlight – “we’re the underdogs,” he said — to open the campaign despite the presence of James, whose Miami Heat club was the last NBA team to repeat in 2012 and 2013 before the Warriors did so in 2017 and 2018.
The Lakers won successive titles in 2009 and 2010, as well as their “three-peat” of 2000-01-02. They also won it back-to-back in 1987 and ’88.
With 17 NBA titles – most recently in 2020 – Los Angeles matches the Boston Celtics. The Warriors’ seven titles ranks third among NBA franchises.
“We’re the underdogs,” Davis boasted. “The world is looking to see what we do. They’re not talking about us, and that’s fine. We’d rather be under the radar.”
The Lakers hope to have strengthened their backcourt in the offseason with the additions of veterans Patrick Beverley and Dennis Schroder, and rookies Max Christie and Scotty Pippen Jr. Schroder, however, will miss 3-4 weeks following thumb surgery.
–Field Level Media