SAN FRANCISCO — Before fans could settle into their seats, Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry thought of something that would keep them standing. He would heave a long-distance 3-pointer to open the game.
Curry has made those enough times during his 10-year NBA career. So why not try to rile up the crowd that way? When Curry launched a 31-foot runner only 22 seconds into the Warriors’ first game at Chase Center, however, the shot hit nothing but air.
“I was going to shoot it up and christen Chase Center the right way,” Curry said with a grin afterwards. “Obviously, I don’t want to airball. But I thought it was fitting to take a wild shot like that and get everybody excited.”
Steph Curry really pulled up from 45 feet for his first shot attempt at Chase Center ???? pic.twitter.com/q5lQOaKvDb
As the Warriors discovered in their 123-101 preseason loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday, the fans’ excitement often depended on the Warriors’ play.
The Warriors’ lineup introductions mostly sparked just golf claps until the public service announcer yelled out Draymond Green's and Curry's names. Those represent the Warriors’ two remaining stars after Kevin Durant departed for Brooklyn and Klay Thompson remains sidelined with an injured left knee.
In related news, the Lakers stormed out to an 11-0 lead while the Warriors missed their first 10 shots. The crowd muttered occasionally with disgust. Otherwise, they sounded mostly subdued. That changed when the Warriors prompted the Lakers to call timeout after trimming their lead to 45-41 with 3:53 left in the second quarter. Then, the Warriors crowd acted like they were at Oracle Arena, the venue the Warriors played at full-time since 1971.
“When we had a couple of runs, it was awesome,” Warriors president & chief operating officer Rick Welts told USA TODAY Sports. “The runs you can really feel it. That’s what we hope we feel. I think it’ll get better from here. That will be the logical thought.”
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Welts planned to talk with other team officials following the Warriors’ preseason opener. They have done that plenty of times since the Warriors broke ground nearly 2½ years ago to build a privately financed area budgeted for $1 billion. The Warriors eventually spent $1.5 billion, thanks to majority owner Joe Lacob and co-owner Peter Guber refusing to spare any expense.
Some of those items? Chase Center has the NBA’s largest scoreboard that fully retracts into the ceiling and displays various statistics and replays from different angles. Chase Center has more suites (136) than Oracle Arena (84), including theater boxes (60), courtside lounges (32) and suites around the lower bowl (44). And the arena has a sound system that can accommodate concerts, which have included Metallica, Elton John, Janet Jackson, Dave Matthews Band and Eric Clapton.
“Players are genuinely excited to be here for basketball,” Welts said. “That’s great that Elton John loves the building. But we need our fans, Steph Curry and a few others to love the building.”
Seemingly on cue, Warriors general manager Bob Myers then walked past Welts near one of the entrance tunnels. Myers yelled out to Welts and a reporter, “I think it’s great! I think it’s the best!”
Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry warms up before the game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Chase Center. (Photo: Kyle Terada, USA TODAY Sports)
Not everyone seemed ready to give the Warriors’ new arena an immediate five-star rating. Just like the Warriors experienced with their play in the preseason opener, they have a few adjustments to make with the new arena.
Before almost every game at Oracle Arena, Curry completed a shooting routine that included more than just hoisting 3-pointers, mid-range jumpers and free throws. He often ended his workout by tossing shots from the players’ entrance tunnel, which was parallel to the Warriors’ basket. At Chase Center, the Warriors have all of their entrance tunnels on each corner of the building.
“The only thing for me is the tunnel shot,” Curry said. “That was fun. So I have to figure that out.”
Kerr joked that he's struggling to figure out directions and traffic patterns during his commute from his San Francisco home to Chase Center. "I got Waze going on my phone and I have no idea where I’m going,” Kerr said. He's also struggled figuring out how to navigate the arena himself.
Before Saturday’s game, Kerr had trouble finding his assistant coaches. He also conceded that “the first night here felt strange” sitting in the Warriors’ new press conference room.
“We haven’t found our rhythm yet or our routine,” Kerr said. “That will take some time.”
The Warriors’ scoreboard occasionally posted wrong statistics. When the arena DJ played songs from Oakland-based rapper, Too $hort, the crowd barely reacted. The Warriors initially did not give fans much to cheer about with their play, either.
No wonder Lakers coach Frank Vogel joked, “I liked the old building better.” Yet, those words captured some truth. The Warriors and their opponents remembered Oracle Arena more for how it sounded and less for how it looked. The Warriors left Oracle Arena because they wanted to open up new revenue streams and moved out of a building that remained outdated with its upkeep and amenities.
“Just the noise. The fan support they got there in an older arena sounded different when they were going on runs,” Vogel said. “You couldn’t really hear yourself or think or talk or anything like that. It’s tough to communicate with your players.”
The Lakers had no problem communicating with each other against the Warriors on Saturday. Partly credit Lakers star Anthony Davis for finishing with 22 points on 9-of-16 shooting and 10 rebounds in only 18 minutes – all in the first half. Partly attribute the Warriors for not having the same roster that won them three NBA championships in the past five years. Beyond losing Durant and fielding an injured Thompson, the Warriors have a few other glaring absences. They traded veteran Andre Iguodala to Memphis because of salary cap restrictions. The Warriors’ other trusted veteran, Shaun Livingston, retired. They also enter training camp without a definitive center because of injuries to Willie Cauley-Stein (left foot) and Kevon Looney (right hamstring).
Welts noted that about 45% of fans have used public transportation to ease congestion. Nonetheless, the Warriors built an arena that would make it more difficult logistically and financially for Oakland residents to attend than it is for the tech investors around San Francisco.
“It’s always good to upgrade. But I just feel for Oakland,” said Lakers guard Quinn Cook, who played for the Warriors in the previous two seasons. “I felt for that building because I watched my whole life great moments in the NBA, great moments in that building. Obviously they built it for the better. They did a great job.”
Incidentally, Warriors players and officials alike noticed immediately the similarities between Chase Center and Oracle Arena. Both venues have the same court, the same lineup introductions and the same game operations. So even if the Warriors wanted to construct a modern arena that could host 200 events per year, including concerts, political conventions and an eventual NBA All-Star game, the Warriors admittedly wanted to keep some traces of Oracle Arena.
“We all cherish the atmosphere that we’ve had there,” Welts said. “The more we could bring the best of what Oracle had and then add a lot of experience that people couldn’t have there because of limitations of the arena.”
As the Warriors and Lakers built an on-court rhythm, they soon appreciated what the arena offered. Warriors guard D’Angelo Russell described Chase Center with having a “brand new smell” and observed that “the rims felt like they were brand new.” Green liked that the Warriors placed their lockers next to a weight-training room. Kerr observed the Warriors’ circular locker room provides a more intimate setting for players.
Just like the Warriors anticipate improvement with their play, they also sense they will become more comfortable with their arena as time passes. With a Central Subway System planned to be complete in January, Welts has maintained optimism that traffic congestion will improve continuously. Just like most teams treat preseason games, the Warriors plan to showcase more undisclosed features once the regular season starts.
“We have everything we need here in terms of pregame prep. When we practice here we have all the bells and whistles to get ready for games,” Curry said. “Fans will get used to Chase Center. So, the energy and noise will get comparable to Oracle, if not louder. So I’m excited about that.”
To ensure that happens, it would not hurt if Curry nails that long-distance 3-pointer. Warriors fans will readily cheer for that regardless of the setting.
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