OAKLAND -- Though the Warriors tread carefully when discussing the white-hot activity throughout much of the NBA this offseason they still are keenly aware of who has moved, to where, and, moreover, why.
That’s because as defending champs that have posted the best record three years running, they have a very good view. They’re alone atop the mountain, looking down on a league scrambling about the foothills in hopes of climbing higher.
“They’re loading up,” David West said the other day as one of the few Warriors willing to go beyond the party line: we’re focusing on us.
That was before Dwyane Wade maneuvered his way out of Chicago to become a free agent so he could to join forces with his dude LeBron James in Cleveland. That move is, from where the Warriors sit, barely enough to raise their eyebrows.
Wade-to-the-Cavs is not a surprise; indeed, the minute Wade was granted his wish to be bought out by the Bulls, it was widely presumed he’d make his way 350 miles east to join LeBron. As NBA stars muscle up to dictate their movement, with James being the pioneer of this new age, a Wade-James partnership was inevitable. Even the Warriors, who were curious about Wade’s availability, knew as much.
Yet the new Cavs pose no more of a threat to the Warriors than what they’ll have to confront within the treacherous Western Conference.
No more than the new Thunder, who added Carmelo Anthony to a nucleus of Paul George -- acquired from Indiana in July -- and reigning MVP Russell Westbrook.
No more than the new Rockets, who in June traded for future Hall of Fame point guard Chris Paul to play alongside perennial All-Star James Harden.
No more than the new Timberwolves, who added All-Star guards Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague, along with respected vets Taj Gibson and Jamal Crawford, to a roster already rich with tantalizing youngsters Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins.
No more than Spurs, who always find their way to a top-four seed because coach Gregg Popovich is the best in the league.
And certainly no more than the Celtics, who after posting the best record in the Eastern Conference lost sparkplug Isaiah Thomas but added All-Stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, as well as veteran forward Marcus Morris.
Meanwhile, the Warriors brought back 12 players, including their top five free agents, to ensure their top eight players from a year ago -- in terms of minutes played -- would begin the quest for back-to-back championships.
“As you can see, the landscape of the league, it changes fast,” Warriors general manager Bob Myers said. “No one could have predicted a lot of things that have transpired.
“But for us, thankfully, we've got our core back and hopefully added some guys that can help us.”
The primary additions, shooting guard Nick Young, forward Omri Casspi and rookie forward Jordan Bell, project as upgrades over the three players -- Ian Clark, James Michael McAdoo and Anderson Varejao -- on the opening-night roster last season but have since departed.
Having retooled while so many others rebuilt, the Warriors still believe anything that might stop them, injury aside, would have to come from their own locker room.
Las Vegas agrees, placing the over-under for the Warriors at 67.5, a full 13 games ahead of the field. The Cavs and Rockets are at 54.5, while the Spurs and Celtics at 53.5. The only other team set above 50 is the Thunder, at 52.5.
If the Warriors are improved, as they believe they will be, the rest of the league merely is planning and plotting to see who finishes second and beyond.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr, looking around the NBA, noted the Cavs-Celtics trade for being the rare deal between rivals, Paul-to-the-Rockets for being seismic and “interesting,” and how Rudy Gay gives the Spurs a different look.
“Those are the ones that jump out,” Kerr said. “Beyond that, I'm mostly worried about our team and concerned with what we're doing.”
Which is watching, from afar, the front-office calisthenics of the competition.
“Those teams are amazing teams that will have great seasons I'm sure,” Kevin Durant said. “But it's tough enough to worry about yourself than worry about someone else. So I would just rather focus on us.”
That’s the luxury of being miles above, if not light years ahead.