Warriors discuss reality of no longer being NBA championship favorites


SAN FRANCISCO -- Twelve months ago, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and DeMarcus Cousins gathered together in the Warriors' Oakland facility for a picture that documented perhaps the best starting five of all time. 

Similar sights were few in far between during media day Monday afternoon. Gone was the Oakland facility, replaced by the new Biofreeze Center tucked inside the Chase Center. Gone was Durant, who helped Golden State to three Finals appearances in the last three years. And gone was the foregone conclusion that Golden State will be the last team standing in June. 

"I think there's definitely a lot of unknowns," Warriors forward Draymond Green admitted during media day. "But it is exciting."

In front of a similar white backdrop Monday, Green posed alongside a slightly different crop of All-Stars. Cousins and Durant were replaced by D'Angelo Russell, acquired in the sign-and-trade that facilitated Durant's departure. Russell -- who averaged 21.1 points and seven assists with the Brooklyn Nets last season -- is among eight new additions to the team. 

Posing just to the right of Russell was Thompson, who tore his ACL three months ago and doesn't expect to return until at least around the all-star break. Adding to Golden State's conundrum, the team announced Willie Cauley Stein -- the only traditional center on the roster -- would miss a month with a foot strain

Golden State's injury woes have been compounded with an influx of youth. Of the Warriors' eight summer additions, just three have postseason experience and two are over the age of 26. Over the last five years, Golden State has entered the regular season the prohibitive favorites to win the title. This season, most observers don't believe the Warriors can reach a sixth straight Finals, some are writing off a postseason appearance. On Monday, Green defiantly dismissed the notion Golden State wouldn't be a factor. 

"I think it's definitely fun," he said. "It's exciting. I don't really pay as much attention as I used to because I realize how many people don't know what the hell they're talking about when you start talking about basketball.

I've got my own motivation and things that's going to push me," Green added. "To listen to some people who don't really know what they're talking about at this point, it really don't matter anymore."

Golden State's changes as the league it once dominated has retooled. The Lakers added star big man Anthony Davis, while the LA Clippers acquired all-star wings Kawhi Leonard and Paul George and the Houston Rockets reunited guards Russell Westbrook and James Harden. 

"Every year since we've been at this stage, every team is trying to get the better -- to knock us off when we won or just retool to win a championship. That's what everybody is in this business to do. You know, look at every era of basketball, for a team to sustain this type of level of play and this greatness, it doesn't happen that often, and when you need to retool, it may look different, but the great teams, great players figure it out as they go." 

The key to Curry's season will be his health.

Over the last two seasons, Curry has missed a combined 44 games due to injury, including 31 during the 2017-18 season. Last season, it was a non-contact groin injury that forced the guard to miss more than two weeks. The season before, a series of ankle injuries undermined one of the best statistical seasons of his career, as he missed the most games since 2012 when ankle surgery ended his season. While Curry said he doesn't plan on resting.

"I don't know what it's going to look like, how many minutes I'm going to play. We haven't really honestly talked about it that much, but it's just an opportunity to take another step and evolve. I'll put the work in and we'll continue to do that for as long as I can."

Monday marked the first view at the new-look Warriors, one that didn't include the built-in assumption that a title awaits, a notion that's new territory for most. 

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"Stuff has kind of just been status quo for the last few years and just kind of knew what to expect going into it, and it's pretty much just been that," Green said. "It's a new challenge now, which as a competitor is very exciting. We've been to the mountain top with the previous group, and we know how that feels. Now, can you do it again? Can we bring this team together and get back there? I think that's the most important thing, and I think that will be our focus moving forward."

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