The Warriors are at the beginning of a new era as they enter the 2019-20 season. Besides getting acclimated to their new home in Chase Center, the team’s roster is seeing a transition from one filled with experienced veterans to youthful, dynamic talent. Remaining with the squad through this transition though are some of the longest-tenured Warriors in the franchise’s history: Stephen Curry (entering his 11th season), Klay Thompson (ninth) and Draymond Green (eighth). But even as they remain as cornerstones of the team, their role is in the process of making one of the largest changes in their careers as they assume the roles of teachers and leaders for the younger Dubs.
Head Coach Steve Kerr was among the first to note the need to draw from the trio’s experience during the Warriors’ Media Day back on September 30.
“We'll rely on those guys… just to try to teach everybody, all the new people here what we're about. Not only plays and schemes and that kind of stuff, but just our culture and our feel… [They] will play a huge role early on in camp as we're trying to establish kind of a sense of who we are.”
A time of seismic changes may worry some — from the players to coaches, even Dub Nation — but for All-Star guard and new Dub D’Angelo Russell, there is nothing but positive vibes with the evolving team. “Man, I'm so excited,” he said.
Russell continued: “I'm trying to act like I've been here before, like I'm -- like this cool, 10-year vet. But no, this is so cool to me to play with Steph, Klay, Draymond, all those guys, to be able to be around Steve Kerr and his coaching staff, as well. I think it's just a luxury.”
That luxury includes the opportunity to learn from seasoned vets and a coaching staff that, at its core, has been together for five-plus full seasons and made it to the NBA Finals each time. The knowledge and experience that comes with that is not something easily found.
The 11 incumbent Warriors on the preseason roster — Russell, Willie Cauley-Stein, Alec Burks, Glenn Robinson III, Marquese Chriss, Omari Spellman, Jordan Poole, Eric Paschall, Alen Smailagić, Juan Toscano-Anderson, and Ky Bowman, — have a combined 25 NBA seasons under their belt; that sum equals that of Curry, Thompson, and Green together.
The sentiment from Media Day was that the cumulative experience and knowledge possessed by the three long-time Dubs, along with their ability to teach the newest members of the squad, will help the team succeed.
As Russell said: “For any young player coming into the league, I think it's a luxury to have guys of that caliber to just learn from, kind of just to watch and just pick their brains any time. It's a luxury to have because you can easily come into the league and not have that. I think that's an advantage.”
Though the team will lean on its veterans to push the team forward into the new era this season, Draymond Green sees little change coming in how the team operates.
“Just like any other year, I don't think there's just going to be one person who leads this team,” Green said. “I lead in the way that I lead, Steph leads in the way that he leads. It may not seem like it, but Klay leads in the way that he leads.”
But can they succeed in taking on these new roles and helping the team? Green simply stated: “I have no doubt in my mind that we will, and we'll be just fine.”
Some of the teaching started early this summer, well before before the preseason. Such was the case for 2019 All-Star Russell. After joining the Warriors, Russell said he reached-out to Curry to begin working together, telling him: “’I want to pick your brain, I want to get on this as soon as possible. We're teammates now, so let's collab as soon as we can.’”
And Curry's reply?
"He opened doors with open arms and invited me to where he was training,” said Russell.
Allowing Russell into his training facility was a friendly gesture from Curry, for sure. But the invite was more than a chance for the two to bond: it was among the first steps Curry has taken to start embedding the spirit and mentality of the Warriors on the younger Russell.
As Curry said at Media Day: “Obviously we have a lot of new guys, a lot of young guys, myself, Klay whenever he comes back, Draymond, Kevon [Looney] able to help set the tone for what our DNA is here, how we do things, our championship kind of mentality. But at the end of the day… it's just a level of awareness and trying to be as proactive as possible trying to make everyone comfortable building chemistry and leading by example.”
Though the team of veteran Warriors are stepping into a new role in their careers, the legacy of team leaders is nothing new to the squad. It was just last season when Curry, Thompson, and Green were still learning from Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston. Green said of the former Dubs: “Whatever it was, we could turn to [Livingston and Iguodala] for anything.”
“We don't really have that anymore. We'll have to be those guys,” continued Green. “It'll definitely be different. We've got a lot of new blood… But I think that's fine. You know, you get a chance to know these young guys, mentor them, kind of show them the way. I'm excited about it.”
But the role may go beyond just teaching skills on the court if the new, young Dubs are anything like Curry, Green, and Thompson in their first years with the team; according to Draymond, there were times Iguodala and Livingston had to keep the three of them in check: “Steph, Klay and I were running rampant and they'd just come in and calm us down.”
Warriors President of Basketball Operations and General Manager Bob Myers said of the Curry-Thompson-Green core: “I think leadership will be huge for those guys,” as the squad heads into the 2019-20 season.
“We will be tested, and they're going to have to lead through adversity, through youth. They're going to have to tolerate some inexperience. They're going to have to tolerate not having the wise old Shaun and Andre… That's a new challenge. I think they'll embrace it, and they're fully capable, but they haven't done that yet. We couldn't probably ask for better guys to do that, and they're different personalities, so I think we need both to lead.”
To the Dubs trio: welcome to the role of big brother. It is now time for a new group to set an example for the Warriors on and off the court.