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Season opens with Warriors no longer underdogs

  • Golden State Warriors' Andre Iguodala (9) drives to the basket in the second quarter during an NBA preseason basketball game against the Utah Jazz Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Andre Iguodala, the veteran of NBA playoff battles and Olympic gold medal games, knows the challenges that lie ahead for the Warriors. He also knows his new teammates won't truly be ready until they experience taking opponents' best shots.

“It's something you've got to experience, getting hit in the mouth,” Iguodala said.

When the hits come, how will the Warriors respond? Is this group ready for the pressure that comes with being among the NBA's hunted? Can they find the extra toughness and consistency required of a true contender? Aside from health, those are the primary questions for the Warriors, who kick off the season Wednesday against the visiting Los Angeles Lakers.

Fresh from its exciting playoff run, Golden State suddenly finds itself on the flip side of the rags to riches story. Once the team seeking out NBA Goliaths, trying to earn some respect, the Warriors have become the target, a team being touted as a legitimate contender in the loaded Western Conference.

“They've got a bull's-eye on their back now,” said Hall of Famer and TNT analyst Reggie Miller, who picked the Warriors to finish fourth in the West. “There's no more sneaking up. There's no more feel-good story. ... This team has arrived.”

The hype isn't just coming from fans, some of whom are talking Western Conference finals and hoping for a run at a championship. Grantland.com, the website of noted author and sports fan Bill Simmons, pegged the Warriors as the NBA's most watchable team.

ESPN, Yahoo! Sports, Sports Illustrated, USA Today, Hoopsworld and NBC Sports all list the Warriors among the NBA's top 10 teams.

Sports Illustrated, on one of its regional covers, even deemed the Warriors “The New Showtime,” linking Golden State with the Magic Johnson-led Lakers dynasty that won three titles.

“I think the Warriors are a legitimate contender to get to the NBA Finals, but I believe there are six teams in the Western Conference that could conceivably get there,” said TNT analyst Steve Kerr, a five-time NBA champion as a player who was the G.M. in Phoenix for three years.

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