After five straight runs to the NBA Finals, injuries and roster reconstruction forced the Warriors into a gap year.
The rest and recalibrating were welcome after half of a decade battling in the most intense arena the game has to offer. One year away from the title fight was acceptable. It was clear that two years as a championship afterthought was grating on the proud champions.
Draymond Green was uninterested and unmotivated by the NBA play-in tournament. Only Steph Curry's legendary run at the matchup with the Los Angeles Lakers seemed to fuel him the way championship runs of the past have.
Curry was sensational in his return to the stage. But the team around him looked nothing like the ones that helped him lead five straight Finals runs. Green was still a wrecking ball on defense and a play-making maven, but his scoring ability has dipped in recent years, something Green knows must improve next season.
Klay Thompson spent his second straight season in street clothes, watching his Splash Brother face double-, triple- and quadruple-teams with inconsistent offensive help from those around him.
The Warriors' season ended in disappointing fashion. After a heartbreaking loss to the Lakers in the seven-eight matchup, they returned home to Chase Center and were bounced by Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies, sending Golden State hurtling toward a critical offseason.
Green has said he will be involved in the Warriors' offseason plans. There's no doubt Curry will be asked for his input, as well. Anything to give him some breathing room would be welcome.
Curry and Green are champions and legends. They showed patience fighting through a season with a different set of role players, most of whom weren't molded by the championship cauldron. But with Curry at 33 and Green and Thompson both 31, they know their title window and primes are shrinking.
The shadows are longer than they have ever been. The sun is setting, and the Warriors know the importance of doing everything they can to help Curry, Green and Thompson ward off the night for as long as possible.
"I suppose, I think or at least I know in my conversations with them, they know we want to win," president of basketball operations Bob Myers said Monday in his end-of-season press conference.
"I think we've earned that trust over the time with them, and they know we will do everything we can. And clearly, with what our owner has spent, it's obvious he wants to win too. But, how do you accomplish that, right? I think there's a lot of players in the NBA that want to feel like they are getting the most they can out of their rosters, and obviously those guys do too. But it's not contentious, it's not, 'You should have done this or that' or 'We need to do this, I didn't like that.'
"I met with Steph for an hour on Saturday, met with Draymond for just an hour-and-a-half just now. When you've been lucky enough to do what we've done, you don't rest on your laurels, but you do have equity in those in those relationships. It's like working with someone for 10 years. If anything is meaningful, you're going to succeed together, and you're going to fail together. Those guys, we can call this year whatever you want, but we've had some great success, and we've had some great disappointment. Everybody wants to win, and the point is that as long they think we are trying to do that, then everyone is OK. I've never had a conversation with either of those guys, even in the last two days, where they have said, 'You better do this or we should have done that.'
"That's just now how the relationship works, but at the same time, I may initiate it and say, 'Maybe I should have done that.' And that's why you get a situation where you have the same players in an organization now, which is almost impossible now where you get a like Steph for 10 or 12 or 15 years, or Draymond or Klay, they all want to leave or do leave. So that's a testament to going through it with somebody. But it doesn't mean anybody is happy right now. We don't want to be sitting here watching the playoffs."
It's hard to characterize this season for the Warriors.
They had a top-three MVP candidate in Curry and a top-three Defensive Player of the Year candidate in Green. They came on down the stretch, a level of play that Steve Kerr believes wasn't a fluke.
And yet, they did not make the playoffs. Even if they had, they weren't a realistic title threat.
In one sense, the Warriors' growth as a unit was encouraging and was, in some regards, a success. But missing the playoffs entirely in a year where Curry was unquestionably the best player on the planet is an impossibly tough pill to swallow.
So, the Warriors' offseason quest to keep the long night at bay begins.
Expect countless moves to be made by Myers, with getting Curry, Green and Thompson back to championship contender status being the only goal that matters.
And expect at least two of the core three to have significant input in what those moves are.
"The guy has never not been involved," Myers said with a chuckle when referencing Green saying he'd be involved in the Warriors' offseason. "He's not capable of not being involved. Which I value and I encourage. And Steph and Klay. Klay's not that involved because that's not how he thinks as much. But I will tell you Draymond and Steph have never not said -- and we like that partnership. I mean, those guys are more important than I am. Their opinions matter. They are harder to find than somebody like me. So, I love them weighing in. We just talked half an hour ago and he has thoughts and opinions, which are great.
"[Green's] very smart, Steph too. Welcome that. Always have and always will."
Twenty-three months ago, the Warriors were playing in their fifth consecutive NBA Finals with a three-peat in their sights. In the grand sense of time, that's not a long absence. But in terms of an NBA star's prime and quest to build a legacy, two years is a lifetime.
Patience and trust are virtues, but the sand is draining from the Warriors' hourglass and it can't be refilled.
Myers, Kerr and the Warriors know they can't let another year of Curry, Green and Thompson's prime wash away without giving them everything they need to contend before the sun sets on the last homegrown championship core in the NBA.
Curry, Green and Thompson know that there is more time behind them than in front. They will, as all great athletes do, fight to stave off Father Time for the foreseeable future, believing they can keep the sun from disappearing beyond the horizon.
But they'll need the Warriors' help to stave off the long night for as long as possible.