Bad games happen. But this whole series, really this whole season, paint a pretty clear portrait of a team in relative decline. Take that for what it's worth. The Warriors were so great that even a reduced version can in most landscapes be a contender. But they're going to have to change their approach.
For basically the last decade, the Warriors have operated in perma-cool mode. Turn it over a million times? Whatever. Dig 20-point deficits? Who cares. They knew they were so much better than the competition, so stacked with aces up their sleeve, that none of it mattered. And they were right.
This is not that team anymore. The margins matter. They can't lose the free-throw battle by a zillion. They can't flip the sloppy switch on and off. Can't forget how to play on the road. Steve Kerr can't decide to run pick-and-roll only in the fourth quarter -- late in the fourth quarter actually -- of Game 1 because it's a "feel-out" game, and he cannot put Anthony Davis in 24 pick-and-rolls in the first half of Game 4, then basically abandon the only action that is working in the second half. Just one of those games could've swung this series to the Warriors. But the Lakers got both.
Steve Kerr: “This series came down to Games 1 and 4. The Lakers outplayed us down the stretch.”— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) May 13, 2023
Again, the margins are tighter now. This game on Friday was over in the first five minutes. The Warriors got down 17 before they even thought about taking their cool jacket off and turning up. Too late. Can't do that anymore. Cutting the lead to five at the end of the first quarter was a mirage. This game was over basically as soon as it started. I sent this tweet before first quarter was over.
These ain’t the old Warriors who can come out like this, laying bricks, lethargic, and just dig out of a big hole. This game and season is over.— Brad Botkin (@bradbotkincbs) May 13, 2023
Klay Thompson was 14 for 56 from the field over the final four games of this series, including 3 of 19 in the closer. Stephen Curry missed 31 of his last 37 3-pointers in the series. Jordan Poole was a disaster by L.A. Fitness standards. After dominating Game 5 with his pace and offensive aggression, Draymond Green was an effective non-factor in Game 6. It's just not there every night anymore, for Green or the team as a whole. The shots that used to bail them out don't always go in anymore, and certainly not in barrages.
"To be fair I think this team ultimately maxed out," Kerr said after the Game 6 loss. "We were barely in the playoff picture most of this year ... This is not a championship team."
I thought Kerr was wrong with a lot of the decisions he made against the Lakers, but he's right about that. These Warriors were not a championship team. We just all gave them a chance on name.
Big decisions await (and we don't even know who will be making them as Bob Myers might be gone), but chances are the core of this team will remain intact for at least one more season. Thompson has one more year left on his deal at $43 million, and it sounds like Green will be back, as well.
Controlling owner Joe Lacob must green light all financial choices. He has shown to be uneasy in the past about letting the total salary and tax bill sky past $400 million. If everyone is retained, including Green, who has a $27.6 million player option, it'll stretch significantly beyond that.
But Lacob has a thirst for titles and the front office has again been reminded this season of Green's indispensable value in that quest. Lose Green and likely lose any realistic path to that ultimate goal.
It's why the Warriors intend to discuss a new multi-year contract with Green, either via an opt in and extend or an entirely new deal after an opt out, sources briefed on the matter tell The Athletic. Green has leverage: He is expected to have multiple playoff-contending teams in pursuit if he enters the open market, sources added. But both Green and the Warriors appear intent on discussing an extension to their partnership, if the price is right. He just finished his 11th season with the franchise.
It's the right move to bring Green back. He made All-Defense again this season and remains a big-time difference maker. Thompson, despite going in the tank against the Lakers, led the league in 3-pointers during the regular season. Andrew Wiggins is locked in. Moses Moody showed real promise. Jonathan Kuminga, who was relegated to garbage time vs. L.A., has to take a big step next year, but he shows promise, too.
But even with many of the same faces in the building (which is going to create), the days of this being the "same-old Warriors" are clearly in the past.
That doesn't mean they can't compete for titles moving forward. If you have Stephen Curry, you have a chance. But as currently constructed (for all intents and purposes), that's all this team has. A chance. Probably a slight one. Nothing more than any other good-on-paper team with one great player.
They have to start playing that way. Like a team that has to win the margins. Take care of the ball. Stop fouling like maniacs. The days of depending on even a player as great as Curry to put on his cape and render all mistakes moot are a thing of the past. The Warriors' collective willingness to accept that, and adjust their approach accordingly, will determine what they can be in the future.