Just three seasons ago, the Golden State Warriors were a 26-win team with Monta Ellis and Corey Maggette as their two leading scorers — this was a team in need of a radical overhaul.
Enter new ownership willing to invest in winning, new players to go with then rookie Stephen Curry, a new coach in Mark Jackson who got the team to believe in themselves — and after a few playoff wins things feel a lot different in the Bay Area.
Reports out of the Monday exit interviews in Golden State is that there were more smiles than you normally see at the end of the season — they realize they are a team on the rise, a team taking its first steps. And while those steps get harder, GM Bob Myers and coach Jackson rightfully struck an optimistic tone speaking with the media (via the AP):
“I think that sense of desperation has passed,” Myers said. “I think that whereas when you’re trying to do anything to get over the hump you do sometimes chase things that may be difficult to acquire. Whereas now, doesn’t mean we’re satisfied, it doesn’t mean we think our work is through, but we can be prudent and patient with opportunities as they come along….
“People do enjoy watching this group of players play. They do enjoy watching our games on TV and seeing what the crowd brings. They do enjoy watching our coaches get the most out of the players we have. What does that say? Well, if you’re a player in the NBA and you’re witnessing all these things, it does make it a desirable place to go and be a part of.”
Golden State’s core will be back next season, only a couple changes are likely. Jarrett Jack is a free agent, but the Warriors will get Brandon Rush back from injury. The more interesting question is Carl Landry, who is expected to opt out of his $4 million deal and we will see what the market will offer — and how much Golden State will pay to keep him.
But mostly the Warriors are a young team that should be better next season — Curry and Klay Thompson should improve with age, as will Harrison Barnes. Andrew Bogut should be healthier as will David Lee. This is a team on the rise.
And while the steps left to being a contender are not easy, Golden State has to feel pretty good about its position right now.