Warriors

Rewind: Opener brings painful reminder nothing's given for Warriors

Rewind: Opener brings painful reminder nothing's given for Warriors

OAKLAND – Kevin Durant drove to Oracle Arena for his Warriors debut Tuesday night, walked in feeling good and quickly got quite the horrific surprise.

The San Antonio Spurs started knocking on the door to the place and didn’t stop until they owned it.

The Spurs barged in and took what they wanted, everything from points and rebounds to wine and shaving cream. And the Warriors, as if bound and gagged, mostly watched helplessly in taking a 129-100 beating.

“A nice little slap in the face,” Steph Curry summarized.

“We got punched in the mouth,” Draymond Green acknowledged before adding the real takeaway line, “which I don’t know if it was quite a bad thing for us.”

This brutal flogging ends talk of a historically great start resembling that which the Warriors managed last season in winning their first 24 games. This puts to rest any cloak of invincibility for which they might have been being fitted, whether in their minds of those of their fans.

The Warriors were mugged on the glass, losing the rebounding battle 54-35, with San Antonio snatching 21 on offense and turning them into 26-4 advantage in second-chance points. The bigger, slower Spurs even outscored the Warriors 24-20 on the fast break.

“I’m sure we’ll be motivated for our next game,” coach Steve Kerr said. “I think our guys were embarrassed. I know I was.”

If embarrassing seems a bit strong, this surely was nothing less than a night of utter public humility. The curtain came up on opening night and there was CEO Joe Lacob shifting and twisting in his courtside seat, like a man getting teeth extracted without anesthesia, watching his Dream Team was destroyed.

“I didn’t have them ready to play, obviously,” Kerr said.

“The first game, you want to come out and protect your home court with the energy of the home opener to live throughout the game,” Curry said. “And we didn’t do anything to let that happen.”

Curry's numbers were not awful, at least not in the grand scheme of things. He posted 26 points, four assists and three rebounds – but added four turnovers.

And Durant, who started the game 4-of-4, delighting a crowd that had visions of 3-pointers raining from above, also submitted a glossy stat line, finishing with 27 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks.

But the Warriors were dragged across their own floor. Oracle Arena has been their sanctuary for two full seasons, during which they posted a 78-4 record.

The best they can do now is 40-1.

“No one is satisfied with the way they played tonight, especially myself,” said Klay Thompson, who scored 11 points on 5-of-13 shooting. “In the long run, this will benefit us. It’s a long season, and not everything is going to be perfect from the jump.”

So, no, the season is not over. Not even close. Remember, LeBron James’ debut with the Miami Heat six years ago ended with an 88-80 loss, followed by seven more losses in the next 16 games.

But it’s always alarming when someone storms into your house, looks you in the eye and takes what they want.

Opening night for the Warriors delivered a painful reminder that regardless of how imposing they might be or how many All-Stars are on the payroll, nothing will be given. Effort and desire, as they discovered, can be more than a great equalizer.

The Warriors now know that victory is not preordained, that if they want the glory and the spoils they believe to be theirs, they will have to prove it. Every night.

How Warriors gain flexibility in Willie Cauley-Stein trade to Mavs

How Warriors gain flexibility in Willie Cauley-Stein trade to Mavs

SAN FRANCISCO -- Willie Cauley-Stein walked out of shootaround, down a long corridor that leads to the Warriors' locker room in Chase Center late Friday morning in preparation for a game scheduled hours later against the Indiana Pacers. The trek marked the big man's last as a member of Golden State.

By Saturday morning, Cauley-Stein officially was traded to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for the Utah Jazz's second-round draft pick in 2020, ending his short tenure in the Bay Area. Along the way, the Warriors set themselves up for future flexibility. 

In the immediate aftermath, the Warriors shed Cauley-Stein's current $2.17 million salary and his $2.8 million player option for the 2020-21 season, while freeing up an open roster spot for this season and beyond. From a financial perspective, it sank Golden State $2.57 million below the hard cap, according to ESPN's Bobby Marks. Additionally, the Warriors have enough salary space to convert the two-way deals of either Ky Bowman or Marquese Chriss. 

Six months ago, Cauley-Stein came to Warriors in search of career revitalization. After four years in Sacramento, he demanded that the Kings rescind his qualifying offer to make him a free agent last summer. After garnering more lucrative offers from other teams, he chose to sign a one-year contract with Golden State, which included the player option. With a new contract, the center hoped to keep the Warriors' postseason streak alive while earning a payday next summer. 

However, those wishes didn't come to fruition. A week before training camp, Cauley-Stein sprained his foot, causing the center to miss the first month of the season. His injury, coupled with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevon Looney missing significant time, led to a lost season for the big man.

Nonetheless, Cauley-Stein expressed a desire to stay with the Warriors long term, citing his relationship with coach Steve Kerr. 

"He wants to build a relationship with you," Cauley-Stein told NBC Sports Bay Area last month. "I think, in the past I hadn't had a relationship with my coach. [Former Kings coach Dave] Joerger, me and him had a pretty good rapport, pretty good, like cordial, but we never had like in-depth conversations about life and stuff like that, and the first couple of conversations I had with coach Kerr was real-life stuff and that hit home with me like, 'Damn, he really tried to get to know me.' "

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Unfortunately for Cauley-Stein, he won't get to continue that relationship with Kerr.

Now, with Dallas in need of a center with the loss of Dwight Powell, his hope to find a similar relationship with Rick Carlisle will immediately start in a Mavericks uniform.

How Willie Cauley-Stein trade changes Warriors' frontcourt this season

How Willie Cauley-Stein trade changes Warriors' frontcourt this season

SAN FRANCISCO -- Willie Cauley-Stein crept into the Warriors' locker room about an hour after his soon-to-be former team's 129-118 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Friday, armed with a round of goodbyes. 

Walking near each stall at Chase Center, he said farewell to any staffer within an eyeshot, finishing with teammates Omari Spellman and Jordan Poole. As he towered over his former domain, his teammates were forced to reconcile a basketball life without the seven-footer around 12 hours before Golden State officially traded Cauley-Stein to the Dallas Mavericks. 

"It sucks," Warriors big man Marquese Chriss said. "It's hard when you're with somebody every day and you're playing games with them, and they're gone in a snap of a finger. I wish the best for him." 

Before Chriss and others bid adieu, the two-way center started for just the fourth time this season. Chriss scored 13 points, but he grabbed just three rebounds while Pacers big man Domantas Sabonis finished with 16 points and 10 boards. Along the way, Indiana outscored Golden State 56-28 in the paint, shedding light on the Warriors' frontcourt struggles.

Once Cauley-Stein officially is traded, Chriss and Omari Spellman are the only healthy big men on the Warriors' roster. While serviceable, both players routinely are playing out of position. At 6-foot-9, Spellman prefers to play on the wings, with a game more suitable for jump shots than post-ups. Meanwhile, Chriss has played much of his career as a power forward, providing a learning experience in his new role.

"Marquese was good tonight," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "Every night is a learning experience for him. He's going to be a guy that shoots a high percentage from the field because of his athleticism.

"He's going to get good experience going forward, so we're just going to keep working with him and I know he will work hard."  

As Chriss adjusts to his new role, coach Kerr said he would be open to bringing up rookie Alen Smailagic from the G League for a unit in need of improvement. Over the last two games, the Warriors have been outrebounded 92-75, including a 56-37 disadvantage in Wednesday's loss to the Utah Jazz.

That, combined with Cauley-Stein's trade, is prompting a new approach moving forward.

"Marquese and Omari will get some experience out there and we'll let Draymond play some center," Kerr said, "and then it's a matter of helping with defense with all five guys on the screen and we have to communicate."

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Cauley-Stein's departure could be the first of many for the current roster. Last month, league sources told NBC Sports Bay Area's Monte Poole that the team would be open to parting with Alec Burks in the coming weeks for the right deal.

But before the Feb. 6 trade deadline, Cauley-Stein's replacement says he's up for the challenge of filling the departing big man's shoes. 

"I've tried making a role off playing hard and doing the dirty work," Chriss said. "I'm not the guy who is going to shoot 20 shots and get you 40 points. I'm gonna try and be that guy that is down low and banging, getting rebounds and setting screens."