Two teams that have undergone quite a bit of change since they last saw each other in the NBA playoffs in April go head-to-head Thursday night when the Golden State Warriors host the Los Angeles Clippers in the first regular-season game at San Francisco’s new Chase Center.
While the Warriors will be making their season debut in the nationally televised contest, the Clippers will be riding the momentum of a 112-102 victory in their highly anticipated opener against the rival Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center on Tuesday night.
Kawhi Leonard thrilled his new fans with 30 points in his Clippers debut, leading five players in double figures, the other four of whom came off the bench.
The latter quartet included Lou Williams, who turns 33 on Sunday and already recognizes his 15th NBA season promises to be a lot different from the first 14.
“I don’t know how many cracks I’m going to have at winning a championship,” he noted on the eve of his 8-for-14, 21-point performance. “I feel like we have a really good group. I don’t want that opportunity to go to waste because our mentalities aren’t sharp or we’re not strong mentally. So I’m just doing my part to make sure that everybody is on the same page.”
Williams had 36- and 33-point explosions when the Clippers won twice at Golden State — in the Warriors’ old Oakland home — last April. But, eventually, the Western Conference’s eighth seed got worn down by a five-headed monster featuring Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala.
Three of those five won’t be in uniform Thursday. Durant is now employed by the Brooklyn Nets and Iguodala by the Memphis Grizzlies while Thompson might miss the Warriors’ entire season as he rehabs a torn ACL.
In their place, coach Steve Kerr is expected to substitute the likes of D’Angelo Russell (formerly with Brooklyn), Glenn Robinson III (Detroit Pistons) and Marquese Chriss (Cleveland Cavaliers).
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On the eve of the start of his team’s bid for a sixth consecutive trip to the NBA Finals, Kerr found himself putting out a fire he helped fan with remarks about Thompson possibly sitting out the year.
The media had confused “possibly” with “probably,” Kerr noted.
“It’s really not news. It’s more reality,” he told reporters about his update on Thompson. “We’ll leave the door open and see what happens at the end of the year.”
The Warriors played three times at their new San Francisco-based home in the preseason. They won two of the three, rebounding after getting thumped 123-101 by the Lakers on a night when Curry “christened” the building with a 30-foot airball on the first possession of the preseason.
Both teams will take the court with revenge motivation: the Clippers on an opponent that ended their season last April; the Warriors on Leonard, who denied Golden State a three-peat while leading the Toronto Raptors to the championship in June.
Like the Warriors, the Clippers won’t be at full strength for the first of four duels this season. Star forward Paul George is not expected to play until November as he works his way back from a pair of shoulder surgeries in the offseason.