For the better part of the past quarter century the Golden State Warriors provided the blueprint for failure in the NBA. Hidden at the bottom of the Western Conference and far removed from the East Coast media spotlight, the Warriors quietly went about about making some of the most head scratching personnel decisions in the history of professional sport. There should be a collegiate sports management course dedicated solely to the Warriors utter ineptitude from ‘78 to 2012. For a great refresher and a laugh out loud read check out Bill Simmons, “How to Annoy a Fan Base in 60 Easy Steps”.
But the purpose of this tale isn’t to reminisce about the horror that I witnessed 82 times a year for most of my adult life. I’ve recovered from the days of watching point guards named Mookie, Bimbo, BJ and Speedy crush my soul with costly turnovers late in games. I’m done with the “What If” game in pubs all over the Bay Area where everybody has a go reciting their favorite front office gaffe. Todd
Fuller over Kobe? Check. Joe Smith over Kevin Garnett? Check. Purvis Short over junior eligible Larry Bird? Check. Trust me I’m trying not to go there but old habits die hard.
The point I’m trying to make here is that not only is this Warrior team a legit contender in these 2013 playoffs, the organization now has a solid foundation in place to become a marquee billing on the Sunday ABC game of the week. This isn’t the 2007 team of Nellie and his band of mercenaries who shocked the top seeded Dallas Mavs and then quickly faded into oblivion. If the Warriors start the 2013-14 season with a healthy lineup of Curry, Thompson, Barnes, Lee and Bogut, they will be fighting for home court advantage come playoff time. This team is no longer fodder for Charles Barkley to rip on air for being soft and playing limited defense.
From the top down, the Warriors organization is magically solid. Two competitive owners with big egos who want to win, a consultant named Jerry West, a GM who has looked Sam Presti like in his brief tenure, a second year coach who can inspire and match x’s and o’s with anybody, a budding superstar and a supporting cast of character guys who check their egos at the door and work relentlessly on their craft. This isn’t a team where each guy arrives with an entourage and plays to get his numbers. These guys actually listen to their coach during timeouts and cheer for one another from the bench. Boring? Maybe but ask Greg Popovich and his Spurs organization how that has worked out over the years.
There will be growing pains. For years we had to watch Michael Jordan get knocked around by veteran clubs that understood how to play playoff basketball. We had to watch LeBron James suffer crushing defeats throughout his ascension to the top. My heart now goes out to Kevin Durant as he embarks upon the seemingly impossible journey to reach the pinnacle. Like these megastars, Curry and the Warriors will have to take their lumps along the way. They will still need an additional piece or two in order to be hoisting the trophy and spraying champagne in June, but they are on track.
Yes they were once on track back in ‘94 with Nellie at the helm and a roster that included Webber, Mullin, Hardaway, Sprewell and Billy Owens but that implosion was rapid and by ‘95 they were back in the dregs. Somehow I believe that this time it’s going to work out. The basketball Gods will be kind to Steph Curry’s dainty ankles and allow Andrew Bogut to round back to 100%. Bob Meyers will find a way to lock up Thompson and Barnes to long term deals and they will continue to develop into big time role players. Mark Jackson will stay planted right here in the Bay when the Knicks and Lakers of the world come calling. Somehow, someway, we may just finally belong in the upper echelon of the NBA. And for somebody who grew up rooting for Dave Feitl over Larry Bird, Joe Barry Carroll over Kareem and Chris Porter over Michael Jordan, this is enough for now. Besides, I don’t think my nerves or my liver could handle a run deep into June.