Payback is, well, you know what they say…. But so is not getting a chance at it.
Make no mistake: Every team not named the Golden State Warriors is thrilled that the league's latest dynasty is no more, that on any given night this season, there will be no trace of their championship core now that two-time MVP Steph Curry has a broken left hand and 2016-17 Defensive Player of the Year Draymond Green is nursing a finger injury. It's just that they actually looked forward to facing Curry and Green without their championship brethren by their side, what with the shimmying Curry and bicep-flexing Green having had the most fun waving the Warriors' five-year dominance in everyone's face.
That was apparently far more annoying than opponents let on while it was happening, and a host of players, executives and scouts were looking forward to showing Curry and Green just how much they resented it.
"It got old with the antics," one Pacific Division player says. "Now that they've come back to reality, you want to beat the hell out of them and see Steph with that towel over his head in the fourth [quarter]. … But the team now isn't the Warriors. [You're not going to punish] Glenn Robinson III and D'Angelo Russell. This is about Steph and Draymond."
The absence of All-Star guard Klay Thompson (torn ACL), All-Star forward Kevin Durant (now a Brooklyn Net), sixth man Andre Iguodala (now a Memphis Grizzly) and super sub Shaun Livingston (retired) assured that the Warriors' run of terrorizing the NBA was over. Opponents wasted no time making them painfully aware of their new reality.
The Los Angeles Clippers christened the Warriors' new home in San Francisco, the glitzy Chase Center, with a thorough and humiliating 141-122 victory in Golden State's season opener. At one point, a Warriors source says, Clippers point guard Patrick Beverley told Curry, "The last five years were yours. The next five are mine!"
Curry responded by laughing and pointing out that Beverley was 31 years old, making it highly unlikely that he had five quality years in the league left.
The Oklahoma City Thunder, the subject of almost as much frustration at the hands of the Warriors, were equally merciless with a 120-92 thrashing three nights later. The Warriors' pride and the New Orleans Pelicans' injury-related struggles combined for a brief reprieve, but the comeuppance continued two nights later at the Chase Center against the Phoenix Suns, who at one point led 50-19.
Golden State was still down by 29 in the third quarter when Curry broke his left hand after colliding with Suns center Aron Baynes and getting his hand caught under the big man.
That left Green as the last man standing from the team's championship core to face the San Antonio Spurs, who also sent much of the Chase Center crowd home early with 127-110 win. Green had a muted version of his typically multifaceted impact: six points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Spurs forward Rudy Gay took satisfaction from all of it.