Why Warriors’ start to 2023-24 NBA season will be pivotal to success

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Why Warriors’ start to 2023-24 NBA season will be pivotal to success originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

This summer has felt different for the Warriors. There still were fireworks with a blockbuster move, and the franchise hasn’t exactly avoided the spotlight.

The Warriors also haven’t had to deal with the distractions of a championship parade, an offseason of celebrating and going on media tours, or their schedule being thrown off by having to go to Japan for two preseason games. Has it been silent and devoid of headlines? No.

General manager Mike Dunleavy Jr., however, believes there are plenty more opportunities for symmetry this time around.

“I think one of the things that’s going to help the most really is, you always want to win a championship, you want to play deep into June, but this year not doing that gives us a little bit more time to regroup, to reset, to rethink things,” Dunleavy said to NBC Sports Bay Area on the “Dubs Talk” podcast. “And you don’t feel as rushed coming into training camp as last year.

“… There was a lot of things that sped up our process and we just were never right. We got off to a slow start to the season, ugly road trip back east, and we were just always swimming upstream as you mentioned. So hopefully just the cadence of this offseason will help a lot of that. But we’ve also recognized that as far as connecting and being more tied together, that’s something that we got to be and I know Steve [Kerr] is emphasizing that, which is great.”

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Golden State can’t afford to go through another slow start. The addition of Chris Paul will be another test to the locker room. The Warriors believe the presence of the 38-year-old future Hall of Fame point guard only will improve that area, though we’ll have to see for ourselves.

Everything starts on the road, too.

Playing the Phoenix Suns at Chase Center in the season opener on Oct. 25 will be a great test. The Warriors will be able to match themselves against a new-look Big Three in Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal. Durant finally will play in front of fans at Chase Center, Paul can exact his revenge in the first game of the season and there won’t be a shortage of storylines. The same goes for their first road opponent.

The Warriors will travel an estimated 44,000 miles in the regular season, but won’t have to go far for their first road game. They’ll square off with the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center on Oct. 27, setting up a first-round playoff rematch where Steph Curry had to score 50 points in Game 7 to lift the Warriors over the upstart Kings. That begins a three-game road trip where the Warriors also will travel to Houston and New Orleans before coming home for a game against the Kings at Chase Center.

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Then, it’s back on the road for a four-game set against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons and reigning champion Denver Nuggets. Seven of the Warriors’ first nine games are on the road. There won’t be any waiting around. The Warriors can set the tone and show the rest of the league what their spirit is going to be within the first two weeks of the season.

Once coaches and the front office had their first look at the schedule, revenge on the road was evident to everybody.

“Talking to our players, our coaches, just overall as an organization — there’s a little bit of a feel of redemption after last year’s struggles on the road, wanting to get back out there and prove ourselves,” Dunleavy said Thursday after the official schedule release. “Some people may look at it as an issue starting down the road early. You want to get off to a good start, but for us, we’re looking forward to taking the opportunity and then go for it early.

“It’s something we feel like we got to bounce back from last year, and I know our guys will be ready and motivated.”

If there was an indication of who the Warriors were going to be last year, their 0-5 road trip that happened in the first 10 games of the season should have been bolded, underlined and circled for all to see. Defending their latest title, the Warriors lost their first eight road games until taking down the Rockets a month into the season.

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Their 11-30 road record was historically abysmal, and the Warriors in their second-round playoff exit snapped an NBA record streak of 28 straight playoff series with a road win.

When the Warriors won their first championship in 40 years, they were 18-2 through 20 games. They were 17-3 through the first 20 games of their 2016-17 championship season, 15-5 in 2017-18 and 18-2 in 2021-22. Last season, the Warriors went 10-10 in that span, including going 1-9 on the road.

“Your first 20 games is a pretty good indicator of who you are,” Dunleavy said. “Once you look back at that core point in the season, I think you have a good feel and try and improve or keep it going. … It’s pretty important for us to get off to a good start, and those first 20 games are a great indicator of how you’re doing.”

That sample size lasts 5 ½ weeks. The amount of time isn’t monumental. What kind of product the Warriors show on the road is.

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