Defending the ‘Ship: A Warriors 2015–16 Opening Night Retro Diary

Photo | Ben Margot

Photo | Ben Margot

By Josh Hunsucker | @jphunsucker

Let the games begin. Last season, I got to see the first Warriors title of my life. I’m still thankful and have to keep pinching myself to make sure it's still real. One thing I didn’t anticipate as fan of the WORLD CHAMPION GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS was, for how great it was to win the title, no one in the media or on a team that has never won anything, let alone was even good enough to face us (yes us) in last year’s playoffs, can’t wait to discredit our (yes our) title as less than a true World Championship. Let’s make it clear, WE ARE CHAMPIONSHIP. Does it take a certain amount of luck to win any title? YUP. Can a title be won on luck alone? NOPE. Did WE earn that title? YUP. Are we Championship? YUP.

The best part of all of the Warriors title undercutting is that it has given the Dubs plenty of motivation not to be complacent with just winning the 2014–15 title. Last year the Warriors couldn’t win by going small. Now, they are the de facto faux-champions in an alternate universe where LeBron won the series but somehow lost the title, or vice versa? 

No way. Now, the title defense maybe means a little more to the Warriors as a collective group. Klay and Bogut are clearly pissed. Even the generally middle of the road MVP, Steph Curry gave a great “apology” for winning the title. I can’t wait for these guys to defend the title.

And I can’t think of a better way for me to do my part to defend the title than to pump out an unnecessarily long retro-diary of opening night! WE GON’ BE CHAMPIONSHIP 2.0 starts tonight. STANCE!

Photo | Scott Strazzante

Photo | Scott Strazzante

Pregame

Pump-up Video: I am a sucker for pump-up videos. If you remember the 2008 Celtics Finals pre-game video, that is the gold standard with a maniacal Kevin Garnett inexplicably yelling at everyone in the Garden.  It’s hard to do a championship pre-game video, so much to fit in but you have to keep it tight. I give this one a B+ mostly because I have no other one to compare it to but because the great “Strength in Numbers” motto was shadowed by some Joe Lacob “look at me, this lonely banner, look at what I did, I said I would bring a title to Golden State and I did” self-aggrandizing opening shots.  And in his defense, he did do all of that and I am very thankful for him but just leave it out of the pump-up video. Other than that nice overview of the season, it was fairly accurate showing the Dubs only making threes and dunks (one Curry reverse lay-up), and a solid recap. EVERYBODY GET GOLDEN!!

Ring Ceremony: Does anyone find it weird that we include the Philly Championships? Golden State has two titles if you ask me. When you have to immediately question the “4x Champs” post-title t-shirts there is something wrong. 

Adam Silver is awesome. Short sweet speech and the reason the NBA is on the way up and the NFL is on the way down.

God I am excited for the abbreviated Luke Walton era! The crowd is already on his side. Bill is a phone call away for sage advice and I’m sure Bob Weir is too.

Bogut with the middle finger fitting! He wasn’t lying!

Wait, how was Curry not given his ring last? Alphabetical order? Come on Warriors, I know that you haven’t won the title in 40 years but let’s not burry the lead. AANNNND to wrap it up BRRRRAAAAAANDON RUSH and KLLLLAY THOMPSON! 

Photo | Ezra Shaw

Photo | Ezra Shaw

Banner Raising: Steph for president 2016! The guy gets it. I thought his parade speech was great but he just killed it again! Freddie Mercury blasting…goose bumps. That banner is beautiful. 

[TNT cuts to commercial] In my mind, smash cut to Coach Luke “OK guys lets get out there and have a day!!” and the team just looks glazed over from the pregame hoopla. I want to know the record of NBA champs in their title defense home opener after all of the pre-game (earned and justified) self-agrandizing? It can’t be good. Remember the Steph MVP playoff game? They played in a post-coital daze. Can’t wait. Actually, who cares were are the champs!

RIP FLIP/Anthem: Nice touch to honor Flip Saunders. As a KG lover you have to tip your cap to Flip. Naya with the PIPES. USA! Let’s go! God, Alvin Gentry wants to kick our ass tonight.

Photo | Noah Graham

Photo | Noah Graham

1st Quarter

12:00: Dear God, C-Webb is the color guy are they trying to do some weird Don Nelson curse? What’s happening? Very happy to see the Dubs didn’t get crazy with the championship opening night unis. Simple Larry O’Brien trophy and gold number outline, classy. 

11:34: No, no, no…Draymond! How many Draymond “I got this” opening three point misses did we have last year? Need stats on the percentage that landed and our win/loss record. 

10:55: Bogut with a prayer pass that landed, awful defense by Nate Robinson. Steph is so damn smooth. The crowd is officially hyped the DEFENSE chant is palpable on my TV with the volume only at 10 because everyone is asleep.

9:14: Steph 3-pointer no.1.

8:55–8:39: C-Webb (and America) astonished the Kendrick Perkins looked competent on offense. No hyperbole that was the best Perk move of all time. Maybe the Pelicans won’t have to go to Anthony Davis 99.99% of the time tonight to get buckets. “Here we see Hakeem, I mean Perkins.” C-Webb playing loose tonight.

6:50: Steph 3-Pointer no. 2.

6:19: So much for not coming out fired up. These guys came out guns blazed. “You talking rings?”

5:45: Loving the Steph v. Perk scoring battle. This is what the NBA wants.

5:02–4:38: Steph 3-Pointer no. 3. Shouldn’t Coach Gentry know that you have to pick up Steph at half court? Uncontested 3’s will be wet. SPLASH. Steph looking determined to eviscerate the Pelicans and the NBA. I’m sure the Clippers think the Dubs are lucky for not drawing them on opening night. Cant’ wait.

3:56: Steph 3-Pointer no. 4. Heat check time. Ish Smith ankle check time. Am I in basketball heaven?

3:15–2:45: I AM in basketball heaven! This possession is the epitome of why we won the title. Teamwork, hustle, unselfishness, a little luck, great ball movement, give up good shots to get great shots [thank you Jalen], and Steph Curry with the shot. The roof is coming off and we have 40 more games at home.

37.7: I know Harrison Barnes was working on his post game this offseason but Jesus, please pass the ball when the defense rotates. How is a person name Ish doing this to us? Good timeout by Coach Luke. Running out of steam and then Steph gets and easy bucket.

16.2: The bench is call James Michael.

0:00: Steph goes for 24 in the first. Poor closeout. I hope we didn’t blow our wad.

Photo | Ezra Shaw

Photo | Ezra Shaw

2nd Quarter

10:51: Jesus the second squad looks rough. What the hell is going on out here?

10:10: Spare me with the 3D Silicon Valley game viewer glasses. Just stop it.

8:42–7:31: Anthony Davis is pressing. Forcing shots. This is good. Mo Buckets taking charges, blocking shots, and missing bunnies. Mo Buckets doing Mo Bucket things in his first action back since missing that dunk in the Finals. This second quarter has been the crème de la crap. This is looking more like the uninspired and limp post-championship celebration performance I expected. Finally we see Steph Curry and Draymond Green in the second quarter.

5:53: Anthony Davis looks awful. Can’t make free throws, traveling. He has to be pressing. Too much ownership given by Coach Gentry?

5:30: Is Coach Luke the NBA version of Tom Blackwood with these mad genius inbound plays? 

3:50: Wonderful pass by Steph on the flex cut to a trailing Bogut. Svelte Bogut looks quick and springy.

3:30: Draymond goes temporarily insane. T, well deserved.

46.8: Somehow we are up 8. Getting good looks and just not knocking them down.

11.0: That was a clean swipe by the Brazillian Blur. On a side note, how much is Anthony Davis’ unibrow really worth in terms of branding? I’m sure there is some unaffiliated t-shirt company in NOLA has made some dollars off of his brow’s likeness but has Davis? I don’t know but wouldn’t you rather look good? It’s not like the unibrow is getting a national following. It’s not the new beard or even ironic mustache. Who is his PR team?

0.8–0:00: Steph just unstoppable. 29 after 24 minutes. Sick. 59-49 Dubs.

Photo | Ezra Shaw

Photo | Ezra Shaw

3rd Quarter

11:11–10:48: Curry to Bogut is going off. The Pelicans are terrified of Steph. Putting Nate Robinson and Perk in the pick and roll will always be successful. Crowd ready to collectively wait or Perk at the buses after he tried to decapitate Steph.

10:18: Is there anyone more disliked by other teams’ fans than Draymond? Think about it, who would be public enemy number one for Dubs fans? Chris Paul? Blake Griffin? I mean across the NBA I feel like the general fan base of each team probably dislikes Draymond and boos him whenever he gets the ball. God I love that guy. He plays so damn hard and antagonizes the other team. I think Anthony Davis just gave him a “don’t you know who I am” look after Draymond took that offensive foul and Draymond just bounced up and smiled. What an asshole, he is my asshole.

Yay more tech stuff. The Bay Area is soooooo techy.

8:29: Pelicans looking like they are barely hanging on and the Dubs looking like they are back-to-back 3s away from making this a 20+ point blowout.

7:30: Interesting early takeaway from the season. Teams are going to try and deny Steph the three point line, in addition to the ball. Dubs look like they are countering with running a four high set and having Steph back cut with the rim protectors sucked put by our bigs. Coach Luke!!

7:12: Bogut just got smacked in the face. Reverse headbutt. Stitched, right?

6:55–6:24: FESTUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Anthony Davis tell me how my ass tastes. JESUS. Davis goes right back at Festus and forces a bad contested shot. Jesus, Festus on the back cut for the dunk. [Coach Luke’s cell phone “DAD: Throw it Down FESTUS! I haven’t seen a force of nature like that in Oakland since July 24, 1987 when the original Dream Team, Dylan and the Dead, played a show at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum like this world had not yet seen. “And the saviors who are fast asleep, they wait for you. And I wait for them to interrupt me drinkin’ from my broken cup, and ask me to open up the gate for you” FESTUS. I love this game. I am your father].

5:00: Alonzo Gee could probably start at outside linebacker for the Niners. That dude is an athlete.

3:23: Steph Curry 3-Pointer no. 5. 40-points. Time out NOLA. They are lucky he hasn’t hit at least 8 by now.

1:59–1:25: There’s Barnes. Big 3. Let’s close this quarter out! Let’s not give Ryan Anderson a fade away 3-point play.

34.2–0:00: C-Webb is bored. He hasn’t spoken in about 3 minutes. Marv doing everything he can milk something out of him. Yeoman’s work in this 19-point blowout.

Photo | Ezra Shaw

Photo | Ezra Shaw

4th Quarter

12:00: Obligatory Craig Sager-Coach Luke interview (welcome back Craig!). Clearly he did not go to the Coach Pop school of interview. A bit rambly and over gracious. The NBA moves fast Coach Luke!

10:28: If it looks like leather, smells like leather, feels like leather, it’s going up. That has to be a tattoo that Mo Buckets has. Two awful shots in a row. 1-for-2 and Coach Luke yelling at him. C-Webb even woke up to make a comment.

9:25–8:40: Anthony Davis 1-for-20. The guy just looks awful tonight. Barkley was right, he looks like Michael Jackson playing with a bunch of Titos. Aaaand Draymond picks Davis’ pocket, followed by a gloriously awful slow break.

8:39–5:10: Ho hum. Ho hum. We just witnessed the dictionary definition of crap basketball by both teams. Warriors 0-for-11, Pelicans 2-for-something high.

5:02: FESTUS with the double clutch hammer! [Coach Luke’s cell phone: DAD: As I take in the Alpine breeze, high atop the Sierra Nevadas, I think of the great warrior-poet Ernest Hemmingway. “Courage is grace under pressure.” From the outermost cosmos of the universe to the deepest seas, here, on our mother Earth. As Hemingway penned those inimitable words he must have imagined a young Festus Ezeli, running jumping, dunking. Free like Neil Young’s heart of gold, free like a Bird, Larry Bird, flying. When music hits you, you feel no pain and I am the luckiest man in the world to have seen that grace from Festus Ezeli. Throw it down! Luke, it is…and I am…YOUR FATHER.]

4:36–51.7: Basketball operations have effectively stopped for both teams. The game is effectively a Summer League/Pre-season game.

0:00: Dubs win 111-95. It looks like there is a chip firmly on the Dubs’ collective shoulder. No ugly ring night tonight. No getting lucky. Coach Luke 1-0. Steph rolled to an easy 40-point night. Let the title defense begin. As the MVP said, “we’re off and running.”