SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The defending champion Warriors’ focus heading into the new season changed quickly when Draymond Green punched teammate Jordan Poole during practice.
Suddenly, Golden State is in crisis-management mode with the opener quickly approaching.
The big right hook by Green that sent Poole slamming into the baseline wall on Oct. 5 is likely to have lingering effects.
Green has taken a leave of absence, saying he wants to return a better person.
“It won’t be an easy process, nor should it be, nor do I expect it to be,” Green said. “But I also look forward to continuing to better myself and my emotional state and how I deal with my emotions. I think that one thing that I lack is how to let emotions out.”
Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and the Warriors dealt with minimal drama during their run to four championships since 2015. Until this dustup that left everybody stunned.
The champs are about to find out whether the fight will be too much for even this tight-knit group of stars to overcome.
“It’s also something that we feel will not derail our season and what we’re trying to build, and that’s with Draymond as a part of that,” Curry said.
Thompson returned at a high level for the second half of last season and the team’s playoff run after missing more than 2 1/2 years with two devastating injuries. Now he can’t wait to show what he can do with another full year.
Playing alongside two-time MVP Curry, Green and Andre Iguodala again means so much to him given their history of success since capturing the franchise’s first championship in 40 years in 2015.
“It inspires us to keep writing our legacy, keep going hard every day because there’s been a lot of great dynasties in the basketball world, and we want to be a part of that fraternity,” Thompson said. “It’s just very special.”
He averaged 20.4 points playing 29.4 minutes over 32 regular-season games last season then helped Golden State reach its sixth NBA Finals over eight years.
Thompson is the one who declared in November it was “championship or bust,” then helped deliver a fourth title for this core group.
“I think back to my rookie season, and if you would have told me in 10 years I would have the opportunity to win five championships with the Warriors, I would have laughed in your face,” Thompson said. “To be here and heading into the season healthy with this opportunity, I get chills thinking about it every day.”
CURRY IN HIS PRIME
Curry is 34 and still in top form entering his 14th NBA season. The reigning NBA Finals MVP wants to take advantage of it.
Just last December, he passed Ray Allen to become the NBA’s all-time 3-point leader. The previous season he led the league in scoring at 32.0 points per game, his second career scoring title and first since 2015-16.
“For me, it’s the genius question about where you are in your career and really reestablishing what is it to be in your prime and maintaining that level of play for as long as you can,” he said. “And then also feeding into the fact that everybody on our team is in a different situation and has to embrace whatever that is for themselves and bring their best self every single day.”
Curry has joked about playing until he’s 40. He will turn 35 in March.
“He can do it as long as he wants. Steph works so hard. He’s in great shape, and he really just loves the game,” Thompson said. “He’s extremely competitive. So I think Steph can do this until he’s 40. I mean, his game is suited for it. He’s not a power player. He’s powerful, but his game is based on more finesse.”
Center James Wiseman’s return after he missed last season recovering from right knee surgery that cut short his rookie campaign will be one of the biggest story lines early on.
This marks his first year even having a training camp and summer league. He and Thompson spent time rehabbing together and Thompson will be one of Wiseman’s biggest supporters in his comeback season.
“I’m just blessed to be out there playing, like, just playing. It’s been such a hard process for me,” Wiseman said. “Now that I’m here I’m just grateful to be back on the court again.”
Iguodala nearly retired this summer then decided to play one more season with the Warriors and chase another championship — with a little push from his coaches and teammates to play a 19th season. He signed for the veteran’s minimum of $2.9 million.
Iguodala has a hybrid role, as he has taken on mentoring young players like Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody.
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