SAN FRANCISCO – Preseason basketball largely is all about young players looking to establish themselves and those fighting for back-end roster spots. First, all eyes were on a 38-year-old point guard to begin Saturday’s opener, a 125-108 Warriors win against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Chris Paul received a warm welcome from Warriors fans and quickly showed what they can expect out of him this season. Paul played 13 minutes, all in the first half, and filled up the box score. The pass-first point guard had six points, five assists and four rebounds his first time in a Warriors jersey.
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He was joined by Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins and Kevon Looney in the starting lineup. Curry (eight points) and Thompson (10 points) combined to score 18 points and each played 13 minutes. There has been an emphasis on Thompson to make rebounding and crashing the glass more of a priority, and he finished with four rebounds, which essentially is what he averaged last season.
LeBron James and Austin Reaves both were unavailable for the Lakers.
Here are three takeaways from the Warriors’ preseason opener.
Golden State Warriors
It didn’t take long for Paul to prove what kind of immediate impact he will have on the Warriors’ offense. His first shot attempt? A signature mid-range jump shot that went through for two points. His first assist? That came off pushing the pace from a Looney steal and finding Curry for a fastbreak 3-pointer.
Paul’s five assists accounted for 13 Warriors points. Three of his five assists turned into 3-pointers, two by Curry and one by Wiggins, and three overall ended in made buckets by Curry.
What his role will be when the Warriors are fully healthy likely won’t be what it was in his first game for his new team. But the extra work Paul and Curry have been putting in after practice carried over to the court, and it’s clear how much more reliable the non-Curry minutes should be with the ball in Paul’s hands.
A Better Podz
Worries and question marks surrounded the Warriors’ first-round draft pick following an uninspiring summer league showing. Surrounded by NBA talent, Podziemski eased the tension in his preseason debut.
Steve Kerr during his pregame press conference referred to Podziemski as someone who will “connect lineups” once he gets his feet under him in the pros and praised his feel for the game. Kerr’s assessment was seen soon after Podziemski first checked in with six minutes remaining in the first quarter. In the first quarter alone, Podziemski scored four points off two crafty layups, plus had one steal, one assist, one rebound and took one charge.
Though Podziemski won’t have to carry the same load he did as a sophomore at Santa Clara, he very well can contribute in multiple ways when given opportunities like he did in his final season in college. He played 26 minutes and scored 11 points on 5-of-10 shooting, along with five rebounds, four assists, one steal and one block. Podziemski also dove for loose balls and picked up Lakers first-round rookie Jalen Hood-Schifino full-court.
This was an impressive first showing for Podziemski and should help ease the tension after an up-and-down summer league.
Strong Second Unit
With Draymond Green rehabbing his sprained left ankle and Paul in the starting lineup, Kerr rolled out a set rotation after the first six-plus minutes of the first and second quarters. In came Podziemski, Moses Moody, Jonathan Kuminga and Dario Šarić to join Wiggins. Gary Payton II quickly replaced Wiggins both times.
That group looked comfortable together after sharing the floor frequently in scrimmages leading up to Saturday night. The addition of Green, and even Cory Joseph, will change things but the second unit had the kind of connectivity that Kerr is wishing for.
The Warriors are hopeful for third-year breakouts from Kuminga and Moody alike. Kuminga scored a team-high 24 points on 8-of-14 shooting, and Moody was second on the Warriors with 15 points. They also combined to come down with 13 rebounds, eight by Kuminga and five from Moody.
From the veterans to youth, there were plenty of positives from the Warriors’ opening preseason victory.