Success isn’t always measured by trophies or champagne showers. Sometimes, it’s measured by being handed the dry-erase board. The Golden State Warriors had become victims of their own regular-season success so much that coach Steve Kerr, believing his voice was resonating like one of those mumble-mouth teachers on a Charlie Brown television special, decided to combat the malaise by putting his players in charge of calling plays during timeouts of a recent 46-point win against the lowly Phoenix Suns.
The dry-erase board didn’t go to any random, end-of-the-bench rookie or the swaggiest of P’s, but to Andre Iguodala, David West and Draymond Green, the guys whose basketball IQs were such that they could most likely handle the responsibility. When he grabbed the board from assistant coach Jarron Collins and took his turn in Kerr’s seat, Green didn’t want to disappoint. Green drew up a play that he was certain would lead to an easy layup for Klay Thompson — and he watched it get ruined before his eyes.
“I was hot. I was hot,” Green said, shaking his head. “I drew up an incredible play. Amazing play, and he ran it wrong. No only did he run it wrong, but he got called for a travel.”
Kerr wasn’t worried about any perceived disrespect, only the burgeoning disconnect from a unit that has learned in the most humiliating and non-stop, meme-producing fashion that it is only judged by what happens in June, 73 wins or not. “The coaching was a little different. It was a little challenging, but I think it was great for us. We just needed something different. For him to do that says a lot about Steve and how he gets it,” Green said. “It was really fun.”
The regular season hasn’t necessarily become cumbersome, but maintaining the same focus and maniacal, pedal-to-the-floor passion of the previous three seasons has been impossible. And that’s one reason — the Houston Rockets being the other — that the Warriors arrived at the All-Star break with four representatives for the festivities but not the NBA’s best record.
Golden State was expected to run away with the league this season — and still very well might — and become just the seventh franchise in NBA history to put back-to-back championship banners in the rafters. But the Warriors have discovered that being the Super Bowl for the other 29 teams can be draining, even with a talent edge most nights in terms of All-Stars and former MVPs, and Kevin Durant’s better understanding of the schemes and his surroundings in his second season with the squad. They’ve still been great by normal NBA standards, but not “Warriors” great, which is a standard that has spoiled their fans and given hope to Houston, the new-look LeBrons, and others, that the repeat effort might be more vulnerable.
“It’s a tough task just in general,” Curry said of repeating as champions. “Think about the whole history of the league, how many teams have done it? I think it’s not even double digits. Look at the Spurs team, won five since [Gregg] Popovich has been there, they never repeated. Everybody is gearing up. They study your game, study your tape all summer long, trying to put together a team that can compete. And you get everybody’s best shot throughout the course of the regular season and obviously, the playoffs. That’s going to happen. It’s a challenge we’re at.”