MIAMI — Pat Riley played alongside Jerry West and Gail Goodrich, the guards whose exploits from the early 1970s still have the Miami Heat president saying they were the best backcourt he ever saw.
His rankings might be changing.
From Riley, these are ultimate compliments — comparing anyone to West and Goodrich, or one team to that 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers team that won 33 consecutive games and rolled to the NBA championship. But that's the level of the praise he's doling out these days to Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and the rolling Golden State Warriors.
"They are the two most dynamic players in the backcourt, that I have ever seen, since Jerry West and Gail Goodrich," Riley said. "Go back and check their numbers, 25 points apiece and Jerry leading the team in assists, Gail shooting close to 50 percent or whatever it was. Both of them could shoot it, could drive it, could pass it. That's what you're seeing here."
It's been more than 40 years, and Riley's recollection of the numbers hasn't faded. Goodrich and West combined to average 51.7 points per game in that 1971-72 season; Curry (32.7 in 15 games) and Thompson (16.6 in 14 games) are combining for 49.8 points per game this season.
And the Warriors have matched the NBA record for the best start to a season by beginning 15-0, something that Curry even called "a huge accomplishment" after Golden State got there by topping Denver 118-105 on Sunday night.
"They are in the beginning of something that can be dynastic," Riley said. "They're in the beginning stages of it and that's the scary part, versus somebody that catches lightning in a bottle one time. They're at the beginning because all of their key players, all of them, are young and they're talented. The ones that aren't have what I call youth-age, like Andre Iguodala, Andrew Bogut, Shaun Livingston — those guys bring an element to the team is incredible."
The Warriors could grab the outright best-start record with a win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday. Riley believes they're primed for much more than that, and the man who knows something about championships — he does have nine rings in his collection — believes that Golden State is in the title mix to stay for a long, long while.
"It's going to be very difficult to challenge them," Riley said. "But that's what we're here for."
SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE
Philadelphia, here's your chance.
The still-winless 76ers — 0-14 and counting, and losers of 24 straight going back to last season — go to Minnesota on Monday night. The Timberwolves have lost their last 14 games at home, including an 0-6 start at Target Center so far this season.
Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki and LeBron James are in line for more milestones that show both their longevity and talent.
Duncan goes into this week six shots shy of 20,000 for his career; he'll be the 14th to get there. Nowitzki is 17 field goals away from 10,000, and James is 21 points from passing Reggie Miller (25,279) for 18th on the league's all-time scoring list.
THE WEEK AHEAD
Some games to take note of this week:
— Detroit at Milwaukee, Monday: Oh, hello, Greg Monroe. Detroit will face its former star big man for the first time since he signed with the Bucks in July.
— Oklahoma City at Utah, Monday: Division races don't mean as much as they used to (or much at all). Still an intriguing matchup of Northwest leaders.
— New York at Miami, Monday: The Knicks are trying for their first five-game winning streak since March 2014, when Kristaps Porzingis was merely 18.
— Atlanta at San Antonio, Saturday: Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer comes into this one 0-4 against his former boss, San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich.
— Indiana at L.A. Lakers, Sunday: Oh, hello, Roy Hibbert. The former Pacers center, now with the Lakers, could play against Indiana for the first time.
STAT LINE OF THE WEEK
Brandon Knight, Phoenix: His 30-point, 15-assist, 10-rebound game against the Lakers on Nov. 16 was just the 12th such game in the last 50 years. And if that wasn't rare enough, only he and Russell Westbrook (last season) had put up stats like that and added four steals as well.