NBA: Golden State Warriors launch title defense as new season tips off
LOS ANGELES – The Golden State Warriors will be chasing their fifth title since 2015 when the new NBA campaign tips off on Tuesday after one of the most turbulent off-seasons in years.
The Warriors, who returned to the pinnacle of basketball in June with an NBA Finals series victory over the Boston Celtics, open the defense of their title in San Francisco against the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Celtics, meanwhile, host the Philadelphia 76ers in the other opening fixture of the 82-game regular season that reaches its conclusion next April.
The Warriors embark on their campaign under a cloud of locker-room discontent.
The franchise was plunged into turmoil earlier this month after it emerged that defensive star Draymond Green had punched out teammate Jordan Poole in practice.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr says the bust-up is the biggest crisis of his reign as coach, and uniting the locker room following the controversy is his priority.
Warriors talisman Steph Curry, meanwhile, helped broker clear-the-air talks between Green and Poole.
“How we handle this situation is important,” Curry said.
“How Draymond responds to the space that he needs to come back with the right frame of mind on doing the work, coming with the right energy, making it about the team — all those things are important.”
Off-season turmoil has been a feature of several of the franchises who might normally expect to be challenging the Warriors this season.
The Celtics’ pre-season preparations were upended by the stunning one-season suspension of coach Ime Udoka last month.
Udoka, one of the brightest coaching talents in the NBA, was suspended after reports of an improper intimate relationship with a female staff member.
The Brooklyn Nets, meanwhile, head into the new campaign with unease surrounding the status of Kevin Durant.
Durant requested a trade in June while US media reported that the 34-year-old, 12-time NBA All-Star had given team owner Joe Tsai an ultimatum — either fire Steve Nash and general manager Sean Marks, or let him leave the club.
The standoff appeared to have been resolved in August when the Nets said Durant would remain with the team following talks with management.
“Families go through things like this,” Nash said in September. “You go through adversity. You go through disagreements.”
Back in the Western Conference, meanwhile, turmoil has also gripped one of Golden State’s biggest rivals, the Phoenix Suns.
Last year, the Suns ran away with the conference, stitching together an impressive 64-18 record before once again falling short in the playoffs.
Their off-season has been overshadowed by the uproar surrounding team owner Robert Sarver after the league released results of a 10-month investigation which alleged workplace misconduct including sexual harassment and using racially insensitive language.
Sarver was initially hit with a one-year ban and a $10 million fine, but later said he would sell team and sister WNBA franchise the Phoenix Mercury.
Other franchises, meanwhile, have hit the reset button, revamping rosters with both the long- and short-term in mind.
The Utah Jazz — who boasted the best record in the league two years ago — parted company with coach Quin Snyder in June while linchpins such as Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell have been traded away.
The Los Angeles Lakers, meanwhile, will hope to hit the ground running under new coach Darvin Ham, who replaced the fired Frank Vogel in June.
The Lakers will hope 37-year-old LeBron James and Anthony Davis can maintain fitness over the course of the grueling regular-season schedule, while the arrival of Patrick Beverley and Germany’s Dennis Schroder should help shore up a flimsy defense.
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