The Lakers as a rival is the last thing the Warriors need right now

The Lakers as a rival is the last thing the Warriors need right now

People watched Wednesday’s Warriors-Lakers preseason game imagining all the things that this series could be, starting with the one thing it never has been.

A rivalry.

Oh, there is certainly history with the Lakers, and until six years ago, every day was warm and sunny. They had only five playoff-less seasons in their first 65 years, and had all the reasons to be smug that Boston Celtics have had.

There is also history with the Warriors, and until six years ago it was gray and damp and occasionally plain old lousy. They've missed the playoffs more than they've made them, and only in the last five years have they felt like they could walk with the lower-case-g giants.

And surely there is history between LeBron James, Ltd., and the Warriors because their paths have intersected more times in a shorter time span than any time since the Celtics-Lakers first glory days in the 1960s.

But the Warriors and Lakers have never been a rivalry in any meaningful way. They have rarely been within 10 games of each other in the standings, and the Lakers have won six of the seven playoff series in which the two teams played, the last time 28 years ago. Most of the time, the Lakers were among the league’s elite, and the Warriors listed under Others.

And the Lakers didn't need the Warriors then any more than the Warriors need the Lakers now. 

But that’s only the history, and history is not what we traffic in these days. The reality is, the NBA dramatists wants this to become a thing, and it becomes a thing only at the Warriors’ peril.

The Warriors do not need a rival, not now. They own this league for the foreseeable future, and need rivals like they need blown hamstrings.

And why, you ask, sensing a round of buzzkilling on the horizon? Because the only way this becomes a rivalry is if the Warriors regress again this regular season, and if they regress again, its because they had injuries, or agendas, or internal strife, or some combination of the above.

The Lakers, you see, are not yet a 60-win team by any rational thought. They got James to stop being a 30-win team, and that mission is almost certainly accomplished. If nothing else, their time below the cut line in the Western Conference is finally at an end.

But the Warriors are not a rearview-mirror team, and if they were, the most obvious choice to be closer than it appears is Houston. Oklahoma City is still not whole even though Paul George decided to stay with Russell Westbrook. San Antonio is savaged. Utah is a tough out but an out nonetheless. Denver is on the come, but not at the same level as even the Lakers. Portland is what Portland has been for years now. Minnesota is a hot mess, and can only serve as a disruptive force if/when Jimmy Butler is traded.

In short, the Warriors are only a rival to the Lakers if something goes hideously wrong for them. Anybody up for that scenario?

Yeah, I thought not.

If the Warriors need rivals, they can surely make ones of their own. The officials come immediately to mind, as Golden State easily won the technical foul race a year ago and is already on their way in the practice season this year.

Their own attention spans were a problem a year ago, and while they swear they have figured out how to combat that, they have yet to be tested; so they’re their own rival, attention span-wise.

The looming free agencies of Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant could become an ongoing irritant if only because the questions about their pending free agency will spice up any bland shootaround presser.

But they don’t need the Lakers on their daily to-do list, not anywhere near what the Lakers need from the Warriors. True, this drama-dampening violates the First Two Laws Of Narrative World, “Reality Ain’t Got Nothin’ To Do With It,” and “The Beast Must Be Fed Every Day, Even If It’s The Same Grub Every Time.” And Lord knows their work at sucking the drama out of the story three times in four years has been pretty comprehensive; I mean, their playoff record in the last four years is the equivalent of one of the top 25 regular seasons in history.

Besides, what does beating LeBron James yet again earn them, other than more yawns about disappointing sequels? Mychal Thompson’s earnest prediction on the radio that the teams will play a seven-game series in the Western Conference Finals means that they will play 11 times this year (not including the two practice games, the second of which will be in San Jose Friday night) and will have played James 41 times in five years.

You’re probably up for that in ways that Warriors-Pistons or Warriors-Suns or Warriors-Kings fail. But the Warriors would almost surely prefer something different on the menu, and something less taxing than 11 more enervating rounds with the leviathan that never goes away.

Warriors' Steph Curry ranked No. 31 player in NBA five years from now

Warriors' Steph Curry ranked No. 31 player in NBA five years from now

Steph Curry has been one of the best players in the NBA for more than half a decade now. 

He's the only player in league history to be named unanimous MVP, has been an All-Star six years in a row,and has posted the three highest scoring averages of his career outside of that unanimous MVP season in each of the last three years, with the numbers increasing each year.

Curry. LeBron James. Kevin Durant. Kawhi Leonard. James Harden. Anthony Davis. Giannis Antetokounmpo. If you were to ask a random person off the street to rank the top five players in the game today, chances are they would all come from that list of names.

But what about the best players in the game five years from now? Will Curry maintain his lofty place among the top NBA superstars?

This week, the NBA team at NBC Sports has been counting down its list of who it projects to be the 50 best players in the NBA five years from now in the summer of 2024. Age, potential, injury history and other factors all were taken into account, and the projections have Curry lower than you might expect.

NBC Sports' Tom Haberstroh certainly feels that way, being of the opinion that Curry's No. 31 ranking is too low for the greatest shooter in the history of the sport.

"Did I miss something?" Haberstroh questioned. "I feel like the best shooter ever deserves a higher spot on this list. If you don’t think his superhuman ability to score from far away places won’t age well, consider the careers of Reggie Miller and Ray Allen, the only two players who have made more 3-pointers than Curry has in this league. Miller was starting playoff games at age 39. Allen was starting Finals games at age 38. Oh, and Steve Nash was an All-Star two weeks after his 38th birthday."

For reference, Curry will be 36 in the summer of 2024.

"Curry’s ranking suggests he’s at the tail end of his career," Haberstroh continued, "but he just increased his scoring average for the second consecutive season, averaging 27.3 points per game with pristine efficiency. After raising his scoring average to 28.2 points per game this postseason, there’s no signs of decline."

So why No. 31? What factor is holding Curry back from being ranked higher?

Haberstroh concedes that it's certainly possible Curry's injury history could rear its ugly head at some point, but even if that were to occur, he still thinks Curry is being underrated.

"OK, the ankles," Haberstroh wrote. "Yes, the ankles. There’s reason to worry that Curry’s wheels will deflate faster than the average NBA player, but even if Curry moves off the ball and becomes more of a spot-up shooter, I still think he’d stretch defenses to near half court. We’ve never seen a player like Curry who can launch from just about anywhere with the ball in his hands. 

"But even if he can’t terrorize defenses with his lightning-quick handles and crab-like lateral movement, he’ll still impact the game at a high level simply by standing there beyond the arc. Just ask Miller, Allen and Nash about how that gravitational pull ages."

[RELATED: Curry cements himself as leader for social justice in NBA]

Curry underrated? Some things never change ...

Steph Curry as MVP? Six Warriors storylines to watch in 2019-20 season

Steph Curry as MVP? Six Warriors storylines to watch in 2019-20 season

 The Warriors enter the 2019-20 season at a crossroads. 

With Kevin Durant off to Brooklyn, Klay Thompson out for an extended time and eight new faces on the roster, Golden State looks to continue their Western Conference dominance. 

To get you ready, here are six storylines to follow entering the season.