The ‘22-’23 NBA season will kick off in two months on October 18 where the newly crowned Golden State Warriors will be receiving their championship rings in the usual pre-game ceremony prior to their season opener at the Chase Center.
Golden State’s run to the 2022 NBA title is largely considered the most unlikely one of the four that this group has won together since 2015. Their aging core and the integration of several young players into the rotation drove doubts on their legitimacy as a contender which started from the build-up to last season and seemed to have lasted until the second round of the playoffs.
They have come full circle in their redemption arc and nothing represents this better than a match-up with the Los Angeles Lakers immediately after receiving their rings on opening night.
A year ago, the Lakers were the heavy preseason favorites to come out of the Western Conference after Russell Westbrook’s offseason arrival completed a “Big Three” with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. They had an accomplished yet elderly team littered with several former NBA All-Stars and banked on their collective wisdom outweighing their declining physical abilities.
Los Angeles was set to kick off what was expected to be a dominant campaign against the Warriors on opening night last year, but were instead greeted by their harsh reality. Golden State, perceived as the underdog heading into the contest, controlled the match all throughout to take a 121-114 victory on the strength of a Stephen Curry triple double and despite Klay Thompson still being a few months away from his triumphant return.
This kicked off a strong start to the season for the Warriors as they raced out to a 30-9 win-loss record and eventually settled with a 53-29 slate that earned them the third seed in the West. Meanwhile, the Lakers hovered around .500 for most of the year after stumbling out of the gates before they slid down the standings over the last few months of the season as they finished 33-49 and did not even qualify for the play-in tournament.
Los Angeles having to witness the Warriors’ ring ceremony will be a cruel reminder of how much they have fallen over the last 12 months and highlights the growing disparity between these two franchises. Golden State has remained loyal to its core and has rebuilt around them with patience through the draft coupled with a few shrewd moves.
On the other hand, the Lakers have tried over and over again to swing big with risky trades using a “win-now” mindset which has left them with a flawed roster and bereft of future assets.
Two months later on Christmas Day, Los Angeles may be greeted with another wake up call of their bleak future as they take on Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks. Though it has not been smooth sailing for them this past offseason, Dallas has tried its best to build a competent roster that complement’s the 23-year-old Doncic’s elite skill set–something that the Lakers have overlooked as they instead focused on past accomplishments in building last year’s team.
Golden State will also be suiting up on Christmas, facing off with the Memphis Grizzlies in a rematch of last season’s Western Conference semifinal series. Their budding rivalry has been a fascinating duel to watch between the team of the present and a group that hopes to take over from them in the not-so-distant future. These two teams are pegged to be the favorites in the Western Conference and this promises to be a blockbuster match-up if all the protagonists are healthy.
The Warriors are now reaping the rewards of their prudent team building process and all indications are that they are far from done. They are expected to continue battling on top of the West this coming season and are once again considered among the favorites to win it all. Their patience has been rewarded and it is something that Los Angeles could learn a thing or two from as they watch their state rivals put on their championship rings come opening night.