HOUSTON — The chatter has filled the Warriors’ eardrums.
The reasons do not just stem from reporters asking them about it, though. Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has reiterated in various interviews that he acquired All-Star Chris Paul as well as defensive specialists PJ Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute with a specific goal in mind. After losing to the Warriors in the 2015 Western Conference Finals and the first round of the 2016 NBA playoffs, though, the Rockets hope they have assembled enough pieces to dethrone the defending NBA champions.
“As much as he talks about it, yeah,” Warriors guard Stephen Curry said following the team’s 124-114 victory against the Rockets on Thursday. “It’s pretty cut clear and dry.”
Yes it is.
“That’s cool. Usually when you win a championship, everyone wants to beat you,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said. “We won two out of three years. He’s a smart guy. That’s probably what you’re supposed to do. Give him credit. He’s brilliant.”
The Warriors expressed universal sentiment with their awareness on the Rockets’ agenda. They have varying feelings on if they really care.
Green suggested apathy after the Warriors’ double-digit win Thursday night against Houston. It is not just because Houston guard James Harden (strained right hamstring) and Warriors forward Kevin Durant (strained right calf) were the headliners who sat out with injuries. Or that the Warriors lost their season opener to Houston. Or that the Warriors will play the Rockets (27-10) again on Jan. 20. The Warriors (31-8) simply cemented a nine-game road winning streak in early January, nearly 31/2 months before any playoff matchup will take place.
After usually becoming stoic about most topics, however, Warriors guard Klay Thompson admitted his competitive juices flowed when the Rockets bolstered their roster last summer.
“They’ve had our attention,” Thompson said. “Any time you add Chris Paul to your team, a Hall of Famer, along with the cast they already have, it not only grabs our attention, but everyone else around the league.”
Not many teams have enough to steal the attention away from the Rockets, who rank second in the NBA in total offense (115.3) and first in 3-point attempts (43.1). The Warriors, however, have fared first in total offense (115.4), in 3-point shooting (39 percent) and in assists (30.6). As Thompson summed up, “definitely a team we probably have to go through to do what we want to do” that he anticipated would happen in the Western Conference final.
“They’ve obviously reshaped their lineup and have been playing amazing in the regular season. You have to assume they’ll be one of the last teams standing in the Western Conference,” Curry said. “We hope to be there. It’s kind of hard to talk about that. There are so many different scenarios that could play out.”
Curry then ticked off other Western Conference teams, such as the dependable San Antonio Spurs, the unpredictable Oklahoma City Thunder and the developing Minnesota Timberwolves. While Curry lamented the “gauntlet” of the Western Conference, Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni lamented the Warriors’ seemingly infinite amount of talent, depth and continuity.
“You’re not going to beat these guys unless you’re smart, because they’re smart,” D’Antoni said.
Some of those improvements have entailed the Rockets bolstering their roster. The Warriors have noticed.