PBT is previewing the 2015-16 NBA season by tackling 51 big questions that we can’t wait to see answered once play tips off. We will answer one a day right up to the start of the season Oct. 27. Today’s question:
Can the Golden State Warriors stay hungry?
After the Spurs had won their most recent title, coach Gregg Popovich was not shy about saying he was concerned about a drop-off in focus from his charges — it’s human nature for players to take a deep breath after winning a title, he said. That can be a setback the next season when good habits need to be rebuilt by a team.
Plus there are more distractions. Succeed on basketball’s biggest stage and suddenly other opportunities open up — you are golfing with the president, going on late-night talk shows, being on the cover of a video game, and traveling through Asia to promote your shoe brand. All of that can cause a guy to lose some focus.
It is one of the big questions facing the Warriors drive to repeat as champions — will they have the same hunger?
Last season guys put their egos aside — Andre Iguodala came off the bench, to use the obvious example — to chase that ring. Will that continue, or will guys get a little more selfish (Pat Riley called it “the disease of more”)?
Stephen Curry is not worried about it.
“That’s going to be easy,” Curry told PBT this summer. “We’re all competitors, we’re all proud of what we did last season, but once you enter a new year, we’ll get our rings on opening night, and that’s the end of the celebrating of what happened and you look forward to the next journey, the next goal, which is to win another one.
“I’m hopefully going to lead that charge, and we have such a great core of guys that are young and hungry and want to relive that intoxicating feeling of winning a championship. You look at the history of the league, you understand how hard it is to win one, but the challenge of winning multiple is something that I’m happy to be gunning for now that I’ve got one under my belt. But that’s the mission.”
Curry is saying the right things. Doing it will prove to be the challenge.
The good news is they got the band back together — Golden State re-signed Draymond Green and the only guy who played meaningful minutes in the Finals who is gone is David Lee. The versatile core of Golden State remains intact. (The issue of a Harrison Barnes contract extension still looms, that said he’s not going anywhere in the short term.)
That includes the coach. Last season coach Steve Kerr pushed all the right buttons with this team, and he has experience his players do not in this new chase. Remember, he was on a team that three-peated (it helps to have Michael Jordan on your roster). Kerr understands and has lived the challenges ahead for the Warriors. He’s the perfect coach to guide them — as soon as he gets healthy and returns to the squad. He could be back on the sidelines in time to get his ring opening night, but there is no timetable for his return from multiple back surgeries this summer. If he misses part of the season, it would be another challenge the Warriors would need to overcome.
Under Kerr’s direction, the Warriors were the first team to win it all with a small-ball lineup and lots of three-point shooting. They are the poster children for a modern NBA roster and style of play, taking what Mike D’Antoni started in Phoenix with Steve Nash and evolving it into a system that can win a ring. That’s not going to change.
“Who we are is who we are, we’ve just got to be better at it, more consistent at it,” Curry said.
He’s not going to get caught up in the labels of what they accomplished last season — he just wants to do it again.
“It’s playing good basketball but it’s playing our way and not really getting caught up in defining it,” Curry said. “We have our strengths with our team and versatility is what we rely on — guys playing multiple positions — and just being gamers and competitors. We obviously shoot a lot of jumpers and we play fast, but we also play defense at a high level and that’s why we’re world champs right now.
“We’ve just got to embrace that style of play and be more consistent and be better at it — we’re going to get everybody’s best shot this year, even more than we did last year, but we’ll be ready for it.”
Curry and his Warrior teammates are saying all the right things.
Now they just have to do them. Again.