SAN FRANCISCO — The Golden State Warriors were disconnected, one-dimensional and eliminated from the playoffs when they last saw the Los Angeles Lakers. Five months later, the Warriors returned with a brand new look and focus.
Each team was without one of their stars for the early preseason opener: Draymond Green was out for Golden State injured and LeBron James was out for the Lakers. But the Warriors front line players outplayed the Lakers’ ones — though it’ll take some time to find a flow, the starters looked fundamentally in sync in their 125-108 win on Saturday night.
Every player suited-up got into the game.
The Warriors’ goal heading into camp was to remedy all the chemistry problems that plagued them last year. For the core of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, that meant organized all-team mini-camps with the entire team throughout the summer to get everyone on the same page and in sync once October began.
Preseason pace can’t match regular season intensity, but the new-look Warriors looked like they’d been playing together for months. With Green out, Chris Paul made his anticipated Warriors debut in the starting lineup — who only played in the first half — sharing ball-handling duties with Curry and immediately found a re-locating Curry for a 3-pointer at the top of the arc.
Paul is expected to spend a chunk of his minutes heading up the second unit, but played only with the first unit on Saturday. He had six points and five assists in 13 minutes.
Klay Thompson, starting at the four, came out firing from 3 and went 2-for-7 to start with four rebounds in 13 minutes. Thompson should play a near full-slate of preseason games in game-shape, a reversal from last season, where Thompson opted out of playing pick-up in the offseason, arrived at camp out of shape and didn’t play the majority of preseason.
With less size down the bench, Thompson will be tasked with guarding power forwards, at times, and assert himself on the boards. He was aggressive on Saturday on the glass, though half of his four rebounds were uncontested.
Jonathan Kuminga was aggressive and decisive in his minutes — he played well within the Warriors’ system during a more methodical first half and flashed some highlights in a bench-heavy second half. The 21-year-old’s team-leading 24-point night peaked in the fourth quarter with a transition dunk off a lob from guard Kendric Davis. In his 23 minutes, he went 4-of-8 from 3 wight eight rounds — though turned the ball over five times, all in the first half.
A smaller Warriors roster in need of any athleticism where they can find it could reach new heights if Kuminga takes a step in his third year.
Rookie Brandin Podziemski played point guard in the second unit and looked to have improved from a shaky Summer League showing. He had 11 points on 5-of-10 from the field with four assists and five rebounds.
Moses Moody, looking for a consistent role in the rotation entering his third year, scored 15 points with five rebounds and two assists.
The Warriors play the Lakers next Friday in Los Angeles for their second exhibition game.