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.

Steve Kerr 'playing with house money' in World Series bet with Steph Curry


Steve Kerr 'playing with house money' in World Series bet with Steph Curry

Steve Kerr is a big Dodgers fan.

Steph Curry is a big Red Sox fan.

The Red Sox will host the Dodgers on Tuesday night in Game 1 of the World Series, and Warriors coach and star player do have a bet on the outcome, as The Athletic's Anthony Slater chronicled:

Work logistics won’t allow them to attend in person. But both will be locked in from afar, already trading some trash talk, agreeing on a wager — “Can’t reveal the stakes,” Kerr said

Kerr spoke with Damon Bruce on 95.7 The Game on Tuesday and once again declined to share specifics of the agreement between he and Curry.

[RELATEDSteph Curry breaks his own NBA 3-point shooting record vs. Suns]

Golden State's head coach did, however, reveal that he is "playing with some house money" because he won a bet with Kevon Looney based on the result of the NLCS.

Looney grew up in Milwaukee, and the Dodgers beat the Brewers in seven games to advance to the Fall Classic.

Note to all San Francisco Giants fans out there -- don't be mad at Kerr for his allegiance to the Dodgers. The guy grew up in Southern California and loves baseball. End of story.

Besides, as he told Bruce -- the Warriors have won three NBA championships over the last four years, so he's doing something right ...

Drew Shiller is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders. Follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller

Two positives, two negatives from Warriors' 123-103 thrashing of Suns

Two positives, two negatives from Warriors' 123-103 thrashing of Suns

OAKLAND -- The Warriors looked like the champions they are in a 20-point thrashing of the Phoenix Suns on Monday. Nothing is better for a team’s peace of mind than a blowout at home.

Here are two positives and two negatives culled from the easiest win of this season:


Jones passes another test

The biggest question entering the season for the Warriors was related to Damian Jones. Is a 23-year-old center that had never started an NBA game ready for a full-time role with the league’s elite team?

Four games in, and against impressive competition, Jones generally has been good. Not exceptional, but nothing less than satisfactory.

The 7-footer finished with 13 points (5-of-5 from the field, 3-of-5 from the line), four rebounds and one block.

Going against Suns big man Deandre Ayton, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft, Jones made an early statement with 9 points (4-of-4 from the field), four rebounds and a block in the first six minutes.

“This is why we have to have Damian,” coach Steve Kerr said. “If you think of the past week: Steven Adams, (Rudy) Gobert, (Nikola) Jokic and now Ayton. You have to have that kind of size to deal with the position.

“Now there will be smaller matchups as well. But he passed this week’s tests with flying colors.”

Second-quarter brilliance

The Warriors took control early, going up nine (32-23) after one quarter. It was in the second quarter, though, that they really took off.

Klay Thompson scored 11 points and Stephen Curry 10 as the Warriors demolished any and all semblance of Suns defense, shooting 73.7 percent and going 4-of-5 on shots beyond the arc.

What was the key? The Warriors defended well enough to disrupt Phoenix’s offense, getting three steals and blocking a pair of shots to help post a 9-0 advantage in fast-break points for the quarter.

The Warriors won the quarter, 38-24. Moreover, they posted their only double-digit advantage in 16 quarters this season. Not bad for a team on the second night of a back-to-back set.


Thompson’s search continues

Klay Thompson is one of the best 3-point shooters in NBA history, coming off a season in which he posted career-high accuracy. He’s one of three players to have made more than 250 triples in multiple seasons.

He made one Monday night. He missed five.

In four games this season, Thompson is 3-of-22 beyond the arc.

Most of his misses have been short. Some have been rushed. But an inordinate amount of his shots from deep have been on relatively clean looks.

Thompson is the only person not named Stephen Curry to make at least 200 3-pointers in six consecutive seasons. He’s a certified specialist. He’s going to keep shooting them, as he should, because they’re going to start dropping. Probably soon.

Backing away from the glass

Rebounding has not been a source of strength in recent seasons, but the Warriors through the first three games did a decent job. They opened the game as if they were determined to make a point on the glass.

They did. Outrebounding the Suns 17-6 in the first quarter, the Warriors piled up 15 fast-break points in the first 12 minutes.

And then, they simply started backing away. The Warriors were outrebounded 8-6 in the second quarter, 14-5 in the third and 17-12 in the fourth. They went from plus-11 in the first quarter to minus-5 for the game.

The most aggressive rebounder was Alfonzo McKinnie, who attacks everything visible to the naked eye. He grabbed a team-high seven in 18 minutes.

No one else had more than five. Part of the reason for the diminishing hunger is, of course, that the Warriors never seemed to be threatened. Cruising is not, however, a habit they want to develop.

How did they get away with it? By forcing 21 Phoenix turnovers (off which they scored 29 points), outshooting the Suns 51.1 percent to 45.3 percent and outscoring them 42-27 from beyond the arc.