It’s been just over three months since fans left the 2017-18 season and Oracle Arena with champagne fumes filling the air. But in that short amount of time, the feel of the building has changed greatly in what will be the last year here for the Warriors.
A new starting center, a new PA announcer and a new hype video has shifted what was once so recognizable. Leave it to Stephen Curry though, to bring all those familiar feelings flooding back with one pull-up 3.
Curry started the game 4-of-4 from deep and finished with 21 points in 20 minutes in his last, first game at Oracle. Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson poured in 16 and 17 points respectively, and the Warriors offense looked juggernaut-esque with 24 first half assists led by Draymond Green’s eight.
The ball movement impressed Steve Kerr, but he made sure to let them know it wasn’t perfect:
“That first half, the ball movement was fantastic, 24 assists and only I think six turnovers, so we did a good job taking care of the ball. But we got sloppy in the second half, you could see guys got a little tired… It was starting to get a little sloppy, but up until then I was really thrilled with.”
Inconsequentially, they lost to the Timberwolves 114-110. But the score matters less than how they played. It’s a new look, with Damian Jones drawing his first career NBA start at center flanked by the Warriors’ four All-stars.
It’s no shock that Jones would get the first shot at the starting center spot, as he’s the only traditional five on the roster with DeMarcus Cousins out. And the organization only has until Halloween to decide whether to pick up the 23-year old’s fourth-year team option.
Jones would finish with four points and four rebounds in 12 minutes, and kept the memory of JaVale McGee alive by biting on multiple pump fakes.
Kerr was complimentary of Jones after the game:
“I thought Damian did a good job with the starters, playing with energy and pace, and giving us that dive threat to the rim.”
Kevon Looney and Jordan Bell split minutes behind Jones at the center spot with both showing off expanded games. Looney finished with seven points, while playing impressive defense and even hitting an elbow jumper. Bell played a similar game, scoring in double-figures and swished his own elbow jumper.
Kerr said this year is important for both of them to continue to expand their offensive game:
“They are going to get that shot, they’re going to give it to them. I want everybody out there to be aggressive at all times. And this is a year where Loon and JB can both start knocking down that 15-footer when they’re given space, and we’re going to encourage that.”
The Warriors are going to depend a lot on their trio of young bigs, at least until Cousins is ready to return — and perhaps even after. That’s a lot to put on their shoulders, especially considering Bell is the oldest of the group at just 23.
But they aren’t just counting on their young centers, Jacob Evans, the rookie out of Cincinnati, will get a shot at rotational minutes right away.
He didn’t enter the game until the third quarter but finished with four points and two steals in his 16 minutes.
Evans was quick to launch once he came into the game and he said that was mainly due to being in his first NBA game:
“It’s my first NBA game, so of course I want to get my points so I can say I scored in an NBA game. But I see what I have to work on, a couple mistakes I made on defense, but all in all I feel pretty good.”
Outside of Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, the Warriors don’t really have any bench wings, which leaves the door wide open for Evans to play a major role.
But all that will get sorted out over the next couple weeks. Right now is the time to rejoice — because the NBA is back.
The Warriors continue their preseason tour with a trip to Key Arena in Seattle where they’ll take on the Sacramento Kings Friday.
Steve Kerr said he wanted to keep his starters around 20 minutes played and that’s exactly where all of them finished, with the exception of Damian Jones. … The team celebrated Kevin Durant’s 30th birthday with a cake in the locker room. He joins Curry as the oldest members of the starting lineup. …The Warriors continue to be without restricted free agent Patrick McCaw, who remains unsigned. He has the one-year $1.7 million qualifying offer on the table from the Warriors, but is apparently in no rush. In his absence, rookie Jacob Evans and training camp signee Danuel House picked up most of the minutes on the wing. … Of the Warriors training camp signees, Marcus Derrickson had the best statistical game with 10 points, but point guard Tyler Ullis was impressive with his defensive intensity and distribution skills.
Curtis Uemura is SFBay’s Golden State Warriors beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @CUemura on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Warriors basketball.