The Golden State Warriors’ hopes of clinching a fifth NBA championship since 2015 could hinge on how successfully the franchise manages the fallout from what head coach Steve Kerr calls the biggest crisis in the club’s history.
For most of the past decade, the Warriors have been a model of consistency on and off the court, a well-coached, well-run organisation that has set a standard for the rest of the league.
But Draymond Green’s practice court assault on teammate Jordan Poole means the Warriors will open the defence of their NBA crown on Wednesday with a pall of uncertainty hanging over the locker room.
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Green escaped suspension for flattening Poole with a punch that almost knocked out his Warriors teammate and is expected to start Wednesday’s season opener against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Yet whether there are lasting repercussions within the Warriors locker room over the incident — and how the team management chose to deal with it — remains an open question.
“This is the biggest crisis that we’ve had since I’ve been coach here,” said Kerr, who admits he is furious that details of the incident managed to emerge into the public domain.
The Warriors coach says he expects Green — one of his most trusted on-court lieutenants during a run that has included six trips to the NBA Finals since 2015 — to rebuild “trust” with teammates and coaches.
“Draymond and I have been together for eight years,” said Kerr.
“We’ve had plenty of run-ins, we’ve won championships together, we’ve lost championships together. We’ve been through an awful lot together.
“He broke our trust with this incident, but I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt because I think he has earned that and I think our team feels the same way.
“So he knows he needs to regain that.”
There is plenty of drama for the Lakers to contend with too, both on and off the court.
Starting with Russell Westbrook, he will still be in L.A. with the franchise failing to find an adequate trade for the 33-year-old.
There were suggestions Westbrook could be benched this season but he will be part of the starting line-up for Wednesday’s game.
A dismal 2021-2022 campaign forced the Lakers to spend their pre-season focusing on rebuilding a defence that last year leaked 115.2 points per game — the third-worst total in the league.
Two years after winning a record-equalling 17th NBA crown, last season’s Lakers regressed badly, finishing with a 33-49 record and missing out on a playoff berth.
A roster rebuild that saw the arrival of Russell Westbrook and the departure of several players involved in the 2020 title run was seen by many as the main reason behind the Lakers defensive demise.
“Defence,” was the verdict of LeBron James recently when asked what areas he hoped to see the team improve this year.
“Obviously you’ve gotta be able to put the ball in the hole for sure. You know in our league there’s teams that can do that,” James added.
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“But teams that can defend and get stops when needed — they’re just simply more successful in our league.
“The defensive side of the floor is what we’re going to be hammering home on every single day.
“Understanding that we can defend, make teams take tough shots, keep them to one shot at the goal, and then rebound and secure the ball puts us in position to be successful throughout the season.”
The other imponderable hanging over the Lakers season is the issue of whether James and Anthony Davis can maintain fitness throughout the 82-game campaign.
Davis played just 36 times in 2020-2021, and only 40 times last season.
James, Davis and Westbrook — supposed to form a “Big Three” capable of challenging for the title last year — ended up playing only 21 games together.
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