"Don't let us win this one."
Those words famously uttered by Boston Red Sox first baseman Kevin Millar prior to Game 4 of the 2004 American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees have more or less served as a rallying cry for team's down on their luck. They've also served as an edict for those on the precipice of delivering the knockout blow: Don't let them get off the mat.
That line of thinking certainly fits with 2019-20 Warriors and those looking to take them off their perch. The five-time defending Western Conference champions will enter the season still licking their wounds from their 2019 NBA Finals loss and an offseason that saw them lose Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins, Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, while the rest of the Western Conference got stronger.
Klay Thompson will miss at least half of the season as he continues to rehab from a torn ACL, and many believe the Dubs' hopes of reaching a sixth-straight Finals are grim.
While the outlook for next year appears bleak in terms of championship potential, the rest of the West would be wise to head Millar's advice and not give the Warriors any room to breathe. While Thompson knows the road will be hard, he believes the Warriors need a is a puncher's chance.
"The West is so stacked, not just with the Lakers and Clippers but the Jazz made great moves, the Nuggets are young and upcoming, the Blazers have an amazing backcourt, the Rockets have a two-headed monster in the backcourt with two MVPs still in their prime," Thompson told The Los Angeles Times' Arash Markazi. "So it's going to be tough for us, but I assume I'm going to be on the court at some point and hopefully I'll hit the ground running and we'll be in playoff contention. That's all we need is just a shot."
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Steve Kerr will have to rely on Steph Curry, Draymond Green and D'Angelo Russell to carry the load until Thompson is all systems go. But the Warriors have the championship pedigree, and undoubtedly will be motivated to prove all their doubters wrong.
While the Curry, Thompson, Green, Russell Big Four isn't as daunting as the one that included Durant, it's still an opponent no team will want to see in the playoffs.