SAN FRANCISCO — Wait ’til last year.
The times have changed for the Warriors. So, too, has their place of business, but that move is only about 15 miles.
Their new location in basketball will be much farther away, out in never-ever-again-in-the-chase-land.
That’s chase, with a lower-case “c.” Chase Center, capital “CC,” is their new home and where they opened their first season on Thursday night, with a house that was packed and noisy but a team — as forecast — that was lacking. Was it ever.
Timing, they say, is everything, and indeed the timing of the shift across the Bay from the friendly, rough-hewn confines of Oracle Arena, where the championships multiplied, to the magnificent, $1.9 billion Chase, seems to be a season too late. Or half a dozen seasons too soon.
The thinking of Warriors owner Joe Lacob, we’re told, was the Dubs would win the NBA again last year and carry the glory and banner to The City. But as we know, the Warriors lost in the finals to Toronto — bummer, eh — and then lost key members from a group of All-Stars who had made it to five consecutive final rounds, Kevin Durant through defection, Klay Thompson because of injury.
So what we saw on opening night, the Warriors getting pounded by the new, popular choice, the Los Angeles Clippers, 141-122, wasn’t surprising. But to the sellout crowd of 18,064, it was disappointing. Make that appalling.
The Warriors were behind almost instantly, and depressingly, trailing 14-0 before D’Angelo Russell, the guy they got in the sign-and-trade deal for Durant, hit a jumper, three and a half minutes into the game. Now and then in the first half, the Warriors made a run, but in the second half they got run off, falling behind by 31 in the third quarter — which, of course, used to be their quarter. Sigh.
And then a great many of the fans, having seen enough of Chase Center and too much of the newly defenseless Warriors — hey, the Clippers shot 62 percent for the game — took their leave.
They grasped what was happening, or in truth what wasn’t. The Dubs seemed bewildered, as if playing in the NBA was something for which they were wholly unprepared.
“I thought we got a little demoralized in the second half,” said Kerr. As did many of the spectators.
Kerr knew what might occur and issued warnings. Warriors fans, at least the group that discovered basketball six years ago, had become spoiled. In the bad old days, the 1980s and early ’90s, before anybody decided to label them the Dubs, the Warriors had seasons when they won as few as 17 games.
With veterans such as Steph Curry (23 points), Russell (20 points) and Draymond Green (11 points) and some defense, the Warriors shouldn’t fall that far. And yet.
When Kerr, who appeared resigned to the survival test that this season is sure to be, was asked about the defensive effort in the second half, he borrowed from the late John McKay, who coached USC to Rose Bowl success and then the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers to disaster, 26 straight defeats.
“I’m thinking,” Kerr said, “of John McKay’s old line, ‘What did you think of your team’s execution? I’m in favor of it.’“
Kerr apologized. “Sorry,” he added, “Poor taste. That was bad. But give the Clippers credit. They have a hell of a team over there. They showed that Tuesday night (beating LeBron James and the Lakers; the Clippers are now 2-0). They came in here and knocked down everything.”
No, the former MVP, Kawhi Leonard, who the Clips signed during the summer after he led the Raptors over the Warriors in the finals, wasn’t the high scorer on Thursday night. That was Lou Williams with 22. Kawhi had 21 and Patrick Patterson 20.
“When you have as many young guys as we do,” said Kerr, obviously meaning rookies Eric Paschal and Jordan Poole, and second-year man Jacob Evans, “there’s going to be a lot of situational stuff they haven’t seen.
“There are going to be some growing pains. Losing stinks. It’s no fun. The last five years, we’ve been living in a world that isn’t supposed to exist. This is reality. Nine guys who are 23 and under. We’ve got to be patient.”
Tell that to the fans.