Charles Barkley not sold on Warriors returning to NBA title contention

Charles Barkley not sold on Warriors returning to NBA title contention

After years at the top of the NBA, the Warriors spent last season getting kicked in the stomach repeatedly. With Steph Curry and Klay Thompson injured, opposing teams lined up to dunk the former NBA bully's head in the proverbial toilet.

The Warriors' dynasty -- as it was constructed with Kevin Durant -- ended when injuries and exhaustion dealt blow after blow to Golden State in the 2019 NBA Finals. Durant left for the Brooklyn Nets, Andre Iguodala now is on the Miami Heat and the Warriors were left to reconstruct their dynasty around Curry, Thompson and Draymond Green, all of whom will be rested and healthy when they take the court again in December.

Many expect the Warriors to shoot back to the top of the NBA hierarchy. Others poured dirt on their graves months ago. NBA legend Charles Barkley knows a healthy Warriors team will be a lot better, but he's not convinced title-contention is in the cards.

"The Warriors, it depends on what they do going forward," Barkley said Wednesday on a conference call for the American Century Championship. "Obviously, they are going to have a lottery pick. They are going to have a good team. Any time you got Klay and Steph you're going to have a good team. I mean they are the two greatest shooters who ever lived. They are not going to be the same team they used to be because other teams have gotten a lot better. I mean, listen, the Lakers and the Clippers are not going anywhere, the Nuggets got a good solid team. The Lakers and the Clippers are the two teams to beat, not just this year but going forward.

"As far as the Warriors, man they are going to be competitive because of Klay and Steph. Draymond is a good little player. But the rest of the stuff is out. The rest of the jewelry is out on the rest of that team."

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After going an NBA-worst 15-50 this season, the Warriors will have a top-five pick in October's 2020 NBA Draft. They also will have a $17.2 million trade exception with which to add a veteran piece to a team that already has a nucleus of Curry, Thompson, Green and Andrew Wiggins.

A wobbly dynasty will have had close to 18 months to rest, recuperate and recalibrate. Thompson will not have played a game in 18 months by the time he sees the floor again. Curry will have played just five games in that span.

Five consecutive runs to the NBA Finals will wear on any team. The Warriors felt the burden of their dynastic greatness last June, as Curry and Green watched their run end with Thompson and Durant injured and unable to help them complete a three-peat.

[RELATED: Draymond, Warriors won't kind motivation in winning without KD]

The Western Conference has gotten a lot better since then. Of that, there is no doubt. But the emergence of the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers as legitimate title contenders doesn't mean the Warriors' road back to the title has been closed. The conference simply is more difficult than when they last conquered it. The best champions create their own path to greatness. That's the quest that lies ahead for the Warriors.

"The jewelry," as Barkley put it, is gone. But you can always go shopping, and general manager Bob Myers has a number of ways in which he can improve a team that will enter the season with a legitimate shot at the title.

The NBA's bully might not look the same, but it will rise again in December. Rested and rejuvenated with a new task at hand. Proving their demise was greatly exaggerated.

NBA rumors: Warriors could start season as late as March if fans allowed

NBA rumors: Warriors could start season as late as March if fans allowed

The Warriors last played on March 10, losing to the Los Angeles Clippers 131-107 at Chase Center a day before the NBA suspended its season due to the coronavirus.

It reportedly could be as long as a year before they get back in the win column.

While the NBA still is targeting a Dec. 1 start date for the 2020-21 season, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Saturday morning that the league could push back the beginning of next season if there was "a level of confidence that a delay would ultimately result in the reopening of arenas to the public." Wojnarowski reported that opening the season on Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Jan. 18), and potentially as late as February or March, provided "a combination of vaccines, therapeutics and rapid-response-testing" reach a point where public gatherings are possible.

Allowing fans in stadiums and arenas falls under Phase 4 of San Francisco and California's reopening plans. Neither the city nor the state has cleared Phase 2. San Francisco remains on California's watchlist, and the state became the first in the country to have over 500,000 positive tests just under three weeks after Gov. Gavin Newsom rolled back plans to reopen California's economy.

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The NBA could hold games in practice facilities if the season starts in December, and potentially neutral-site games if some cities allow fans to attend games. Wojnarowski reported that teams playing in cities that don't allow fans in the stands could even move their operations to other cities that do.

Since the NBA first suspended its season, nearly 5 million Americans have tested positive for COVID-19 and over 160,000 have died. Public-health experts and officials are concerned about the coronavirus' spread worsening in the fall as students return to schools, the weather gets colder and more people spend more time indoors and some cities and states continue not to enforce social distancing and mask-wearing.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institue of Allergy and Infectious Disease, said earlier this week the country must decrease its daily case count to 10,000 by September in order to control the coronavirus' spread. The United States had over 60,000 new cases on Friday.

"If we don't get them down, then we're going to have a really bad situation in the fall," Fauci said.

Wojnarowski reported that the NBA, as a result, is considering regional bubbles for next seasons. In one idea Wojnarwoski mentioned, teams would play in a bubble for a month, return to their own cities for up to two weeks and then move to a new bubble with a different group of teams.

[RELATED: Warriors in Orlando bubble reportedly a 'non-starter' for NBPA]

If the NBA's priority becomes a reality, the Warriors would've gone 266 days between regular-season games.

The wait to play again in front of their fans will be much longer than that, and the league seems to be bracing for that likelihood.

NBA rumors: NBPA doesn't want Warriors, non-bubble teams in Orlando

NBA rumors: NBPA doesn't want Warriors, non-bubble teams in Orlando

Here's hoping the Warriors didn't already pack their bags for Walt Disney World.

Following reports that the NBA was exploring the possibility of sending Golden State and the seven other teams that didn't participate in the NBA restart to the Orlando bubble, the National Basketball Players Association reportedly has "no interest" in the possibility.

"It's a non-starter," ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Saturday morning. "The inevitable solution for the eight teams left out of Orlando: The NBA and NBPA agreeing upon voluntary workouts in the team facilities, sources said."

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The Athletic's Sam Amick reported Friday that the NBA was looking into sending the Warriors and the seven other non-bubble teams to Orlando to hold practices and workouts at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex once the six teams eliminated from the restarted season left the campus. Amick and Shams Charania reported earlier this week that there was a "growing belief" that a second bubble outside of Orlando wouldn't happen due to the logistical hurdles imposed by the continued spread of the coronavirus within the United States.

The NBPA's hesitancy shouldn't be too much of a surprise if recent comments from one of the Warriors' biggest names are any indication.

Warriors star Draymond Green wasn't enthused about the possibility of a second bubble during an interview on "The Steam Room Podcast" earlier this week. Kenny Smith asked Green on Friday during a guest appearance on "Inside The NBA" if he would play in a secondary bubble, and the 30-year-old's response was begrudging at best.

"I'm gonna go to work," Green said, pausing. "I don't know if I'm going to play. I'm going to work."

[RELATED: How Iguodala's contract exemplifies Warriors' turnaround]

Warriors general manager Bob Myers has said the team would be "good partners" and follow the NBA's lead, but coach Steve Kerr likely is a fan of the possibility of in-market workouts that Wojnarowski reported. Kerr said in June that Golden State would be "more interested in practice time" rather than participating in something resembling the NBA's Summer League.

The coach fully expected Green, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson to be on board with a minicamp at Chase Center, too.

"Given that we would be staring at a nine-month break, I would be shocked if any one of those three guys said to me, 'No, I don't want the work,' " Kerr said in June, referring to the possibility of the 2020-21 season starting in December. "They all know they need the work and we all need the work."