(Photo Credit Oakland Tribune)
By Iman Sadri
Slashing. Dribbling through two defenders, hoisting a shot. Nothing but Net. Next time down the court, getting a pass in the left wing, behind the arc. One dribble. A Pump fake. Shot goes up. Nothing but net. The next possession. Long rebound from an opponent’s missed shot. Cross court pass. Head fake. Two dribbles. Step back behind the arc. Shot goes up. Nothing but net. On this November night in Oakland, Stephen Curry has just scored eight points in three consecutive possessions. This feat would be the definitive season highlight for any other player on any other team. But, not for Curry. And not for these undefeated Golden State Warriors. Their thrilling play and consistent victories is the purest entertainment that the NBA has ever provided. At 22-0 the Warriors have already set and surpassed the record for most consecutive wins to start a season in league history. Their winning ways are due to a nightly team effort and the prolific and historic shooting of last year’s MVP, Steph Curry.
In some instances they are dismantling their opponents by margins of 50 points. In others, they eek out close victories with clutch performances and comebacks in the fourth quarter. Their success this season has been all without their head coach, Steve Kerr, and all under the helm of interim head coach, Luke Walton. What does that mean ? That the Warriors play as a team. They have bought into a system of sharing the ball and not worrying about individual statistics. The catalyst of this selflessness started with Andre Iguodala. The former All-Star and Olympian agreed last season to come off the bench. When his teammates saw that a player of his caliber, still in his prime, agreed to limit his individual numbers for the greater good, the rest of the team bought in to playing a sharing style of basketball. He may not have started last season, but he helped finish games in the post season with a flurry. Averaging 16.3 points in the NBA Finals, Iguodala’s contributions in the championship round resulted in his winning the Finals MVP.
Kerr was brought in for his championship pedigree. The players last season bought into his system and executed his game plans. When one is a five time NBA champion, having played as a point guard under the tutelage of Phil Jackson and Gregg Poppovich, valuable wisdom will stick along the way. Kerr was able to relay that wisdom to his players last season and help them win 67 regular season games. Kerr said last season, “ I knew coming in (before last season started) that they were good. I wanted to help make them great.” The ownership group led by Peter Guber and Joe Lacob set the championship tone early. Lacob had expressed to the fans how he wanted to establish a championship roster within five years of their purchasing the team. The general management team went to work through the draft and free agency.
They traded for Andrew Bogut in 2012, who’s toughness in the paint proved vital to the team. His play helped the Warriors gain a physical presence in the interior allowing for spacing on the floor for shooters to get open. The front office also drafted Klay Thompson, who has turned out to become a pure shooter and a prolific clutch scorer. On any given night he can erupt for a deluge of scoring, as well. Most importantly he makes important shots when they count. Thompson has the ability to stop on a dime, on a tough angle, and shoot a long range three pointer with a defender in his face. He is the son of a former NBA player, Mychal Thompson, similar to how fellow Splash Brother Steph Curry is the son of former NBA player, Dell Curry. Last season Thompson set an NBA record with 37 points in the third quarter of a January game against the Sacramento Kings. He scored nine three pointers that quarter, also an NBA record. He finished the game scoring a career high 52 points and 11 made three pointers.
(Klay Thompson and his father Mychal Thompson after a preseason game against the Lakers in Anaheim, Calif on Oct 22, 2015. Photo credit The Persian Obsever)
Management also found a gem in the selection of third year forward Draymond Green, drafted in the second round of the 2012 NBA Draft. Green is the unsung hero of the Warriors. He maybe only averaging 12.9 points per game this season. But, it is his hustle plays that don’t show up in the boxscore that resonate the loudest. He does the dirty work. Diving on the floor for a loose ball. Tipping a rebound to an open shooter. Setting a hard screen on the high post. Green was instrumental to the Warriors’ championship last year. Also contributing consistently is third year forward Harrison Barnes. The University of North Carolina standout is also another front office acquisition that has paid immense dividends.
The Warriors recipe for success starts with their unselfishness and the work ethic of Curry. Their starters consistently contribute and don’t worry about their individual stats. Their reserves play with poise and come up with clutch shots when needed. On the bench, players who only play limited minutes cheer with after big shots or hustle plays. They jump off the bench when they see something spectacular. Which usually is multiple times per quarter. The starters, when resting on the bench also jump and cheer or stand and cheer when the reserves are on a run. The confidence the teammates have in each other is also apparent in their body language. When Curry shoots a three point shot on a fast break, from five feet behind the arc and misses, his teammates don’t pout. They don’t roll their eyes. They don’t stop passing it to him. Maybe it’s because they know Curry will make the shot more times than he will miss. (He is shooting 53% from the field for this season).
The way Curry handles the ball and dribbles between his legs and shoots with a rapid release can appear supernatural to the naked eye. But, Curry works constantly on these very same eye-popping moves in the gym and in pre-game warm ups. Klay Thompson said last season, “ I see him working on those moves, the behind the back dribble, the crossover, the in-between your legs dribbling, in practice. He works on them all the time. His work ethic sets the tone for everybody.” Steve Kerr said last season of Curry, “ He wants to be great and he works on being great. ” The fruits of Steph Curry’s labor have had a trickle down effect on his team and for the NBA’s ratings. In the grocery store curry is an ingredient which is a useful recipe to spice up dishes. In the NBA, a different kind of Curry is spicing up the league. As he burns defenders, so to speak, he is torching through the NBA’s competition, helping his team win every game they play and thrilling millions of fans while doing so.
Iman Sadri writes for Persian Media.