To preview tonight’s matchup with the Golden State Warriors, I talked to longtime Warriors writer Poor Man’s Commish of Let’s Go Warriors. He’s in San Antonio to cover the game tonight and made some time for a few pre-game questions.
1. The early part of the NBA season is always fun, because who would ever predict the Grizzlies to be first in the West, Golden State fourth and San Antonio eighth? Is there anything at all to be read into the early results for the Warriors?
A lot of teams are inconsistent early on, with perhaps the Cavs most glaring, but then again the NBA shortened its preseason and in years past, tonight or yesterday would have been Opening Night. Although competitors generally don’t like to make excuses, the China trip took a lot out of the Warriors with all of the media obligations and the jetlag. I can tell you from first-hand experience — I went on the trip as well — that I’m still recovering from it. I got sick when I got back and am literally still not 100%. It’s also not just the physical toll. Coach Kerr said the team is experiencing some “mental fatigue” such as forgetting plays and just making stupid turnovers.
2. LaMarcus Aldridge has been the go-to Spur with Kawhi Leonard out, but Draymond Green made life difficult for Aldridge in the West Finals, and we just saw what he did to Blake Griffin. What are you expecting out of that matchup tomorrow?
Draymond is a gamer, for sure. He definitely looks forward to those challenges. He almost needs them. He just loves playing post-up defense against bigger guys. We’ll have to see if LMA brings it as well. It should be fun.
3. You are in San Antonio to cover the game. What are you expecting from San Antonio fans as soon as Zaza Pachulia steps out onto the floor?
Everyone including the Warriors and Zaza himself will be expecting a chorus of boos. If you spend enough time with Pachulia, however, you know that he’s just a physical player out there. He’s not out to hurt anybody, but let’s face it, he’s 6’11”, 270 lbs, and when he’s already in motion, he doesn’t have the agility to stop himself or change direction on a dime. I mean, Spurs fans have to realize that the Warriors paid a hefty price themselves for this when Zaza tumbled into Durant’s shin and KD was out for so long with the MCL injury — that injury could easily have been worse. Pachulia didn’t do that one on purpose, either.
4. There have been several other players on the Warriors roster making some noise aside from the usuals. What should Spurs fans know about some of the newer players, including rookie Jordan Bell?
Two words for Jordan Bell: pogo stick. He just has a knack for getting to the ball (or rim, depending on the situation). His shot needs work and he knows it, so he’ll be reluctant to shoot if the game is close, but like last night against the Clippers with the game well in hand, it was nice for Warriors fans to see him actually bury a couple unexpected jumpers. The only other “new” player of note would be Kevon Looney (Damian Jones is on assignment in Santa Cruz), and so far it’s either/or, meaning Kerr has one or the other active, but not usually both. Looney has had one break-out game against the Sixers in a comeback win when Bell was inactive. Looney was pressed into service and stepped up. He’s a long, rangy player. kind of opposite Bell’s athleticism.
5. This all comes down to a healthy Warriors team against a Spurs team without two of their best players. Having seen a few teams find some early success against Golden State, what do the Spurs have to do to pull off the upset?
It’ll be a tough one to pull off because the Warriors have seemingly turned the corner after things started to click finally against the Clippers the other night. They already know they can’t turn the ball over like they’ve been doing, even some lingering through the Clippers game, especially against any Popovich-coached club. It’s a credit to the San Antonio organization that the Warriors will already have their guard up. Non-household names wearing Spurs on their chest have, in the past, made their mark against Golden State. So the Warriors aren’t overlooking the Millses, Forbeses, or Brandon Pauls.
I just think given the circumstances, it will be even harder than usual to upset the Warriors. Then again, tons of teams this year have already risen up to the occasion and come out of the gate guns blazing. If the Spurs do that, then they’ll need to just keep it up for 48 minutes and play solid, physical defense that limits the pace of the Warriors. Also, it will be interesting to witness the Rudy Gay-LMA dynamic for the first time.