NBA: Warriors want repeat, Celtics seek redemption, LeBron eyes scoring record
LOS ANGELES – The Golden State Warriors look to add another title to their era-defining dynasty, the Boston Celtics aim to bounce back from a disappointing finals performance and LeBron James is eyeing the scoring title as the 2022-23 NBA season starts on Tuesday.
A Warriors team famous for its unity saw that tested when veteran forward Draymond Green punched Jordan Poole in the face at a practice earlier this month, an incident Green apologized for.
The notion that the altercation could do lasting damage to the team’s chemistry dissipated quickly when Poole signed a four-year extension worth up to $140 million on Saturday.
Green, a four-time All-Star, was fined but not suspended over the incident.
“He apologized and was professional,” Poole told reporters on Sunday at Chase Center, where the Warriors will raise their fourth championship banner in eight seasons on Tuesday before taking on the Lakers.
“We plan on handling ourselves that way … that’s really all I have to say on the matter. We’re here to win a championship and keep hanging banners.”
Former Knicks and Rockets head coach Jeff Van Gundy told Reuters he thought the team could move past the episode.
“I don’t think the Green-Poole incident is going to have anything to do with their chances to win the championship this year,” Van Gundy, now an ESPN commentator, said in an interview.
“More so their chances are going to be dependent on the development of Kevon Looney, Jonathan Kuminga and James Wiseman.”
The franchise hopes those three as well as Poole and Andrew Wiggins, who also signed a four-year extension over the weekend, will continue to develop as Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Green enter the back half of their Hall of Fame careers.
The Warriors were not alone in dealing with unexpected setbacks during the hectic off-season.
Celtics head coach Ime Udoka was handed a one-year suspension in September for “violations of team policies”.
Interim head coach Joe Mazzulla will now take the reins of the Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown-led team, who were two wins away from delivering the storied franchise its 18th championship in June.
“When you’re an interim coach and a young one at that, as I was at one point, you need the full backing of your team and of management,” Van Gundy said.
“I think he’s got that and he’s going to do a terrific job.”
All eyes will also be on the Los Angeles Lakers and James, who is 1,326 points away from passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the league’s all-time leading scorer – something he is forecast to do around the 49th game of the season.
James, 37, is entering his 20th season and coming off a campaign where he averaged 30.3 points per game, the second-highest of his career despite the Lakers missing the playoffs.
“He has defied age as well as anybody who has played for this long,” Van Gundy said. “It’s really something to behold, his longevity and consistency. I just wish he had a better team around him.”
Van Gundy said the Los Angeles Clippers, who will see the return of Kawhi Leonard after he missed all of last season with a knee injury, are the league’s best team but he also likes the Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks.
Still, as the off-season showed, the NBA is highly unpredictable and there are too many variables to say with any certainty who will hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy in June.
“The season is going to be difficult for everybody,” said Van Gundy. “So much is going to be based on health, other teams’ health, the bounce of the ball here or there. Trying to project too far out is too difficult.”