OAKLAND, Calif. — Imagine rolling into the summer fresh off a Finals win and bear-hugging three Larry O'Brien Trophies. Stogies and champagne. You've got two league MVPs, the second- and third-best players in the NBA. A defensive player of the year. The two best shooters of all time. You add the league's most talented offensive big man. You're a dynasty. Maybe the best one ever.
Feels pretty good, right?
On paper, the Golden State Warriors are primed for a three-peat. But there are some moving parts that could provide challenges. Those challenges could just help inspire this team through another exhausting season, though.
Adding DeMarcus Cousins sounds fantastic, and at the mid-level exception, it was a no-brainer. But, stylistically, he clashes with the Warriors' brand. And he's coming off of a potentially devastating Achilles injury that leaves questions about how well he will play and what the team will do while he rehabs.
There's no more David West, Zaza Pachulia or JaVale McGee to soak up minutes. It's Jordan Bell, Kevon Looney and Damion Jones now. And then, of course, when Cousins gets back, the Warriors have to find a way to incorporate the lumbering, ball-dominant center into their hyper-quick motion offense.
"I think it could be an amazing opportunity in terms of something new, something fresh," Stephen Curry said at Warriors Media Day on Monday. "A chance for one of those young guys to really surprise people in terms of the work that they've put in."
But once Cousins returns, the team will again be forced to grapple with getting all the pieces on the same page.
"I have no idea [what will happen] because we've never had to do something like this before, but that makes it interesting," Curry said of incorporating Cousins into the mix. "It creates an opportunity for us to continue to evolve as a team."
The breath of fresh air could go a long way for the Warriors, who are in need of anything to keep them focused through what they hope will be another championship run. And they're hoping to channel this newness throughout the season.
"The fun part is making it work," Draymond Green said. "I think back to when KD came here. Everybody [said], 'Oh, man, they've got Kevin Durant, they won 73 games, it's over.' And honestly, the fun part wasn't winning the championship. The fun part was during the year figuring that out, how we was going to make that work. And I'm looking forward to the same thing with DeMarcus."
As much as the Warriors are the sun and the rest of the league revolves around them, that LeBron James guy moving to Los Angeles redefines the NBA. And with all this change, the Dubs are relishing their time out of the limelight.
"Everybody loves something new," Durant told reporters. "I mean, we've been here for—this is our third year together now, so you guys kind of know who we are. ... I think [Cousins] not playing early on is taking away a little bit of allure of us as a team from a media perspective, I guess. But it's the same ol' story with us, same ol' personalities, and we are who we are when you walk in here, and just having a whole new team down in Los Angeles, just gutting that whole team out and bringing in the biggest face in basketball and sports, obviously that's going to be a sexier story."
The Warriors' toughest opponent last year was their own ability (or lack thereof) to stay mentally engaged. So if they make it through those Lakers, the revamped Houston Rockets and the rest of the Western titans, they're ensured the first non-LeBron vs. Steph & Co. Finals for the first time in four years, a challenge that will require them to create a new formula to beat the champion of the Eastern Conference.
"Every season comes with different challenges," Green said. "And we won the championship three times in four years. To sit here and say, 'Oh, man, we're going to have that same excitement and enthusiasm that we had in Year 1,' it's a lie. It's just not possible."
What the Warriors have lost in novelty, they've made up for with the wisdom to find new motivations in the face of complacency.
"It's about games within a game at this point. And when you're trying to figure those things out, you get better. ... Then when you get to [the Finals], you're ready for it," Green said. "I think that's the most important thing for us, and I think those challenges will be stiff enough for us to focus on them and get those things done, and then the playoffs and all that stuff will come when it does."
Curry also shared his perspective on the upcoming campaign coming off yet another championship.
"I think we have made history, but in terms of what's in front of us, again, you've got to be able to turn the page and look ahead, and that's the opportunity that's in front of us," he said. "It gets even more, I guess, elite in terms of how few teams have accomplished the three-peat. I think only one other team has gone to The Finals five times in a row, if I'm correct. I think the Celtics. So all those things we should talk about, because it's kind of rare air. But it doesn't change our process in terms of how we go through training camp and the season and building towards that. I don't think anybody should shy away from talking about ... what this means historically. But it should be only motivation."
Even if the Warriors make that fifth appearance, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins could all be gone next year. Draymond Green is due for an extension and could be eligible for supermax money, should he win MVP or be named Defensive Player of the Year. With those contracts and the fatigue of four straight Finals runs, the Warriors, despite how they look on paper, have plenty to distract them. But they're savoring the moment and finding any opportunity to keep themselves motivated.
"None of us are ready for this run to come to an end," Green said. "So we've got to continue to approach it like we've got zero [championships]. And that's cliche and impossible to do, but you want to try to get as close to that as you possibly can. And that's my mindset always entering the season."