LOS ANGELES –Unlike when they won four NBA championships in six Finals appearances, the Golden State Warriors could no longer solely rely on Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green to compete for an NBA title.
With the Warriors laboring through a 122-101 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 6 of their second-round playoff series on Friday, Golden State lost a playoff series outside of the NBA Finals for the first time under head coach Steve Kerr.
Yet, the Warriors strongly dismissed whether this could have marked the final game that Curry, Thompson and Green will play together.
“Our core guys have plenty left to offer. There’s still plenty in the tank there,” Kerr said. “I thought they all had great seasons. It may not have ended on a high note. But all three guys are still high-level players. I still feel like this team has championship potential. We didn’t get there this year. But it’s not like this is the end of the rope.”
Nonetheless, the Warriors will weigh various decisions this offseason that could influence whether that hope becomes a reality. There are no doubts about the 35-year-old Curry’s future entering his 14th NBA season. He has cemented himself as the NBA’s best all-time leading shooter and he has two years under contract through the 2025-26 season. Thompson, 33, has one year left on his contract entering his 11th NBA season. But he has expressed hope to sign an extension before the 2023-24 campaign. Green can exercise a $27.6 million player option for the 2023-24 season or opt out to become an unrestricted free agent in July, but he plans to consult with his agent, Rich Paul, before finalizing his decision.
“I want to be a Warrior for the rest of my life,” said the 33-year-old Green following his 11th NBA season. “I want to ride out with the same dudes I rode in with. We put the work in to make that happen.”
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Green was not just referring to Curry and Thompson, all of whom have played together in Golden State for their entire NBA careers. Green was also referring to Warriors general manager Bob Myers, who may leave the organization this summer if he doesn’t agree to a new contract extension. Green conceded Myers’ future could influence his.
“He means the world to me,” Green told Sportsnaut. “Working with him has been a complete honor. He’s great. He knows the business and I learn from him. To say that doesn’t matter, it’s a lie. Of course, it matters. But there’s a bunch of things to take into account. Yes, that is one of the things that matters. All right? But ultimately, I can’t hinge my whole decision on that. But f— right it matters.”
Green also stressed that Myers’ future matters to Curry, Thompson and Kerr. Not only have the Warriors credited Myers for the organization’s success in the NBA Draft and in free agency. They also have praised Myers for how he manages personalities and collaborates while still respecting boundaries.
“He’s an integral part of everything that we do,” Kerr said of Myers. “I rely on him for a ton. So I hope he’s back. He’s a great friend. He’s a hell of a GM. He’s responsible for a lot of what has happened here. So hopefully he’s back, but he’s got to figure that out.”
Warriors majority owner Joe Lacob has typically shown a willingness to spend on moves that will significantly help the team’s chances to win an NBA championship. It helps that the Warriors have become a valuable franchise partly because of their championship equity and privately-funded arena in San Francisco. But with the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement imposing harsh luxury tax penalties for teams that go over the salary cap, the Warriors plan to remain deliberate with their spending and calculated with which moves will improve their chances to win another NBA title.
Green argued that Myers falls under that category. Green credited Myers for instructing him to sit in the final 10:40 of Game 6 after nursing right calf tightness, while the Warriors faced a 92-80 deficit. Green also expressed appreciation for Myers even during sensitive situations, including his one-game suspension in 2019 for an on-court argument with Kevin Durant and for staying away from the team temporarily after punching fourth-year guard Jordan Poole during training camp.
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“He’s always seen the good in me and appreciated what I give to the table and coached me through some of the roughest moments in my life,” Green told Sportsnaut. “For that, I am forever thankful and am forever indebted to him. You don’t find genuine people who care outside of what you bring to your life. He is one of those people. No matter what, no matter of anything that is going on with me, if it puts him in a bind, that was never his priority. His priority was for me and for my well-being. And for that, I’m forever indebted.”
After the Warriors won an NBA championship last season against the Boston Celtics, Kerr contended that the current group “is not a championship team.” Kerr cited the team’s 11-30 regular-season road record. He described the season as “long and difficult” that included the fallout from Green’s training-camp fight with Poole, overlapping absences to Curry and Andrew Wiggins as well as season-long inconsistency between Thompson and Poole.
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The Warriors have also pivoted away from some of their young players. In a multi-team trade, they dealt third-year center James Wiseman to Detroit and acquired veteran guard Gary Payton II from Portland. Poole and second-year forward Jonathan Kuminga faced limited playing time amid their inconsistent play. Moses Moody represented the lone young player that Kerr trusted with consistent minutes.
As for the Warriors’ three core players? Curry shot consistently, but the Warriors lacked dependable secondary scoring. Green defended consistently, but the Warriors stayed in the middle of the pack defensively in the regular season (11th) and playoffs (seventh). And in his first full season since recovering from two season-ending injuries to his left ACL (2019-20) and right Achilles tendon (2020-21), Thompson faced season-long inconsistency before averaging 18.5 points on career-low marks overall (38.8%) and from 3-point range (36.8%) during the playoffs.
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Nonetheless, the Warriors argued the front office should focus on building around their three core players instead of breaking them up.
“No matter how different it looks, I think we understand each other and what we all bring to the table and the trust that we’re just going to compete until the wheels off,” Curry said. “That is not something that should be taken for granted in this league. We have proven that we can do it. We feel like we can come back.”
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