We’re living in a topsy-turvy world. Chris Paul is wearing blue and yellow, the Warriors boast a deep roster, and they are — can this be right? — winning on the road.
This is a lot of change and while it’s working for the Dubs, not everyone does well with this much difference.
So I’m happy to welcome James Harden — Warriors’ villain extraordinaire — back to the Western Conference.
We could use a bit of familiarity around these parts.
After a half-decade-plus of being the Warriors’ top foil in the Western Conference (sometimes with Paul) for Houston, the should-be-two-time MVP took a three-year sojourn out East was marked by… nothing on the court.
Harden seemed to spend most of the last years of his prime disgruntled, whether in Brooklyn or Philadelphia.
Now he can be disgruntled in Los Angeles, his hometown, where he’ll join the city’s second team after the Sixers traded him away for, effectively, nothing. There were some depth players and a few pick swaps.
The deal was hardly a blockbuster, which tells you so much about Harden.
Now, the guard will join one of the NBA’s strangest teams and reunite with Russell Westbrook, his former running mate in Houston.
More importantly, he’ll play on a team that can face the Warriors four times in the regular season and could very easily meet again in the playoffs.
I’m not concerned about the Clippers reaching another level with the addition of Harden, and that has very little to do with Harden.
The issue is that after five years in LA, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George the Clippers’ two best players have played only 111 regular-season games together.
Maybe that will change this season. But probably not.
The Clippers are a mess. Add in Westbrook, who provides more harm than benefit, and now a Harden who is a diminished version of his former offensive self (and who has never had a defensive self) and you have a Clippers team that should have invested in a time machine instead of a new arena — this team would be a lot more intimidating if it were still 2018.
But maybe the same thing can be said about the Warriors. At least Golden State has done something since the Clippers began their superteam experiment in the summer of 2019.
Rivalries are what make sports great, though. And for every action (rooting for a team) there should be an equal and opposite reaction (dislike for a rival). If you have your wits about you, it’s fun.
For years, Paul and Harden were the bane of the Warriors’ existence. They were masters of the dark arts and flop artists, and their style of basketball in Houston was antithetical to the way the Warriors wanted to play.
Good prevailed over evil in those hard-fought playoff series between Golden State and Houston. The Warriors were so victorious that they were able to bring Paul to the light. (Though Chris Paul still be flopping, and I won’t ignore or condone it.)
Paul and Curry once defined the Warriors and Clippers rivalry. I don’t think that rivalry will reach old heights, but if it does return, it’ll now be Paul and Curry taking on Harden.
This has a chance to be hamfisted and lame.
It could also be epic — the stuff of superhero movies.
No matter what, it’s much better having Harden in the West.
Because if we’re being honest about why we enjoy watching these games, we also have to admit that it’s prudent to keep your friends close and your enemies closer.
» The Warriors won their third road game of last season on Dec. 18.
Monday night in New Orleans, the Warriors finished a three-game road trip undefeated.
If you’re looking for one reason to believe these Warriors are markedly better than last year’s disappointing team, that’s where you go.
For the Warriors to convincingly win against a solid Pelicans team, led by Zion Williamson, on the road, despite not having Klay Thompson or Jonathan Kuminga speaks volumes.
Rookie Trayce Jackson-Davis — playing nearly 20 minutes without Kuminga in the lineup — was immense, scoring 13 points and pulling down seven offensive rebounds Monday.
Do the Warriors finally have their Kevon Looney protégé?
» Paul has 33 assists to six turnovers in four games for the Dubs. That’s a 5.5-to-1 ratio.
I’d say he’s transitioning to the Warriors’ style of basketball just fine.