Grant Cohn: Warriors rolling along but the real tests will begin in April
The NBA's 82-game schedule is one long preseason, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
Especially for the Warriors.
Thursday night they beat another team that poses no threat to them. The Clippers. All credit to the Warriors for winning a game they're supposed to win, having a great regular season and getting Kevin Durant.
But Thursday night, like every night in the regular season, meant nothing. It was just a pretty prelude to the real season which starts in April. The Warriors played hard for one quarter - the third quarter - when they outscored LA 50-26. That was the game. Good night and thanks for coming to another exhibition.
Highlights from this pointless contest include: Durant dunking after taking four steps and no dribbles. Did he get called for traveling? No, because it's the regular season.
Other highlights: Draymond Green starting a verbal fight with Paul Pierce, who didn't play. Sat on the bench.
Green starting a verbal fight with a referee, who called Green for a common foul. Durant had to pull Green away. But the ref gave Green a technical foul anyway - Green's 12th in 54 games. He had 13 technicals in 82 games last season. So, he's making progress.
Green walking to the bench after the technical and starting a verbal fight with his coach, Steve Kerr, who was just standing there. It is always interesting to see Green self-destruct.
Green is free to act insane in February. But it will be interesting to see how he and the rest of the Warriors act during the playoffs when they'll be tested in ways they weren't tested Thursday night and won't be the rest of the season.
The playoffs separate the winners from the folders. The Warriors were folders last year after having a great regular season - better than the one they're having currently. Will they fold again this year? How will they handle pressure?
Will they pull together or will they yell at each other?
They yell at each other even when nothing is on the line. I'm not putting them down. I'm just saying, Durant and Green got in a fight on the bench last week in Sacramento. Durant was having a bad game and Green yelled something at him during a timeout. So, Durant leaned into Green - inches away from his face - and yelled something back. This exchange lasted about 15 seconds.
Green yells at everyone. He yells at Curry, the two-time MVP, who just rolls his eyes and walks away from Green. This happens when regular-season games get tight. How will the Warriors get along with each other when the playoffs are on the line?
And how will Green act? His yelling isn't the biggest issue. It's his kicking and punching opponents in the groin that's problematic. Green was groin-obsessed last season, repeatedly hitting people below the belt until he got suspended for Game 5 of the Finals. If he continues this pattern and gets suspended this year during playoffs, the Warriors will fold.
Green has a reputation for getting under the opponents' skin and inside their heads. That's nonsense. He gets under his own skin, gets inside his own head. Psyches himself out. Takes himself out of the game. Will he do that two years in a row?
And what about Durant? He has a reputation for being an all-time great player who transforms into a common scrub the final five minutes of games. That's a big reason he hasn't won a championship, a big reason the Thunder blew a 3-1 playoff lead to the Warriors last season and were the second-worst fourth-quarter team after the All-Star Break, as well. Durant became passive under pressure and let Russell Westbrook take over. Will Durant be passive again this year and let Curry take over?
And what about Curry? He has a reputation for spraining his ankles and knees when no one touches him. He also has a reputation for making horrible one-hand passes that fly out of bounds or into the hands of players on the other team. Will he be careless and passive in the playoffs? Will he defer to Durant while Durant tries to defer to him?
And what about Kerr? He has developed a reputation for being a premier coach. But in the fourth quarter of Game 7 in the Finals last season he was a mere spectator. Watched his team score just two points during the final 5:37 of the game.
Kerr didn't call a play. He didn't call a timeout, either - he had two he didn't use. He just sat on his hands and let his players do whatever they wanted. So, they lost.
Will Kerr actually coach this year when the playoffs are on the line? Or is he unwilling to call plays under pressure? Is he afraid his plays won't work? Is he afraid Green will yell at him in the huddle?
No idea if these warning signs signal doom. Everything is still to be determined. The answers will come when the real season begins.
Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the “Inside the 49ers” blog for The Press Democrat's website. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.