Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Golden State Warriors: They are the darlings of the NBA

Stephen Curry / An affable MVP who makes his art look effortless.
Barely two months into the new pro basketball season, the Golden State Warriors once again are the darlings of the National Basketball Association. Nightly, the defending champions have been providing their fans with a highly-entertaining product that sells out the house at Oakland's Oracle Arena. Five games into a two-week, seven-city road trip, the Warriors are also dazzling fans across the country in cities like Salt Lake City, Charlotte, Toronto, Brooklyn and Indianapolis, too.

The Warriors are scoring lots of points thanks to shooting the lights out from 3-point range, playing stingy defense that forces opponents into committing costly turnovers and, most of all, they are winning. Great teams find all kinds of ways to win.

Recently, the Warriors set an NBA record for most wins at the start of a season -- 16 -- and the winning streak continues, reaching 23 on Tuesday night with a 131-123 victory over the Indianapolis Pacers. The Warriors became the first NBA team to open a season with 13 consecutive road wins, breaking the 12-0 record set by 1969-70 New York Knicks.

Draymond Green / The Warriors' power forward scored 22
points and added 9 rebounds and 7 assists against the Nets.
So, the perfect season lives on -- 23-0 and counting -- and when you consider the Warriors won their final four regular-season games last season, the Warriors have 27 consecutive victories, which ties the second-longest winning streak in the NBA's history. Next, the Warriors complete their seven-city road trip this week with games at Boston and Milwaukee on Friday and Saturday.

Last season, en route to winning the team's first NBA crown in 40 years, the "Dubs" achieved a franchise-best 16-game winning streak, going five weeks without losing a game. One of the reasons for the Warriors' success can be attributed to having one of the brightest minds in the game in head coach Steve Kerr. However, he's been sidelined this season while recovering  from two off-season back surgeries. At the start of this season, Kerr passed the reigns to one of his assistants, Luke Walton, and the interim head coach hasn't missed a beat.

Luke Walton / So far, he's made all the right moves
as interim coach of the Warriors.
So far, Walton has made all the right moves, and he's getting the most out of his deep roster of talented stars -- point guard Stephen Curry, shooting guard Klay Thompson, and power forward Draymond Green -- and "second unit" role players like Andre Iguodala, Ron Livingston and Leandro Barbosa, each who could start for any other NBA team.

Nobody has been able to stop the Warriors this season -- maybe for a quarter, but not for all 48 minutes. When the Warriors take the court, writes San Francisco Chronicle columnist Bruce Jenkins, they "have five players who can run, pass, set screens, rebound, play fiercely motivated defense and, most importantly, hit the three-point shot.

"They love playing together: the fancier and more unselfish, the better. Curry is being linked with the all-time greats and Green looks to be a certain All-Star."

As the accolades come pouring in for the Warriors, the national media has begun to take notice. The other week, I read an utterly fascinated feature about the affable Curry in The New York Times in which Graham Lustig, the artistic director of the Oakland Ballet Company, said "there's a certain musicality to the way his body works. It looks like he's moving to a slightly different dimension as everyone else. Incredible, unbelievable control. And that's what you want in a dancer."

With each three-point basket shot from way downtown and every spinning layup, the 6-foot-3 Curry is reinventing the game of basketball -- transcending the sport, if you will -- and turning it into an artistic performance. According to Lustig, "much of his aesthetic appeal was rooted in what ballet dancers seek most: to make their art look effortless.

"Steph doesn't really look like he's putting in a lot of effort, does he? I'm not suggesting at all that he doesn't use effort. It's just that he doesn't display it, and I think that's probably at the core of what this is about."

Stephen Curry / "When he's hot, he makes things happen,
says teammate Leandro Barbosa.
Far from effortless, Curry began the season by averaging a league-best 31.6 points per game to go with 6.0 assists, 5.2 rebounds and 2.5 steals in winning Western Conference player of the month honors for November. With his 44-point outburst Saturday at Toronto, which included 15 points in a seven-minute span en route to an 112-109 victory, Curry has scored more than 40 points in seven games this season.

"Steph knows he's going to be on the court for most of the game, and he's going to have the ball in his hands for most of the game," Walton said after Sunday's victory against Brooklyn.

"He can pick and choose when he wants to get aggressive and take over and when he wants to get his teammates involved. That's his call out there, and he does a great job judging when to do both."

Toronto point guard DeMar DeRozan told the San Francisco Chronicle: "He's a heck of a player, and he makes it look so effortless." After a recent win at Phoenix in which Curry scored 41 points by knocking home 11-of-20 field goal attempts -- including 9-of-16 3-pointers -- in just 31 minutes on the court, Barbosa said: "When he's hot, he makes things happen. We were just enjoying watching him play."

While Curry seems to be enjoying himself shining in the spotlight -- putting on a boffo show for the fans both at home and on the road, which have included hip-hop mogul Drake in Toronto -- and contributing to his team's success, where their wins this season are coming by an average of nearly 16 points per game, the basketball world can't seem to get enough. The Warriors are not only a hot ticket at the box office, sales of their team merchandise have skyrocketed this season, too.

The Golden State Warriors / Celebrating the team's first
NBA championship in 40 years. 
Collectively, the Warriors show no signs of letting up. They love the feeling of being winners and their confidence remains high. In their win over Indiana on Tuesday, it was Thompson's turn to shine. His 39-point performance included 10 three-pointers.

Winning motivates this team. There's no boredom or conflict. After the Warriors' victory in Toronto Saturday, Curry called the team's winning streak "surreal." He told the San Francisco Chronicle that it doesn't sound right when you say it out loud. "But we're very confident when we're out there on the floor. We're very comfortable, and we expect to win every night."

Their fans love a winner and Curry and the Warriors keep delivering victories.

A postscript: On Saturday, a night after a gut-wrenching, physically taxing double-overtime victory over the Boston Celtics, which elevated the team's win-loss record this season to 24-0 and winning streak to 28 games, the Golden State Warriors finally lost a game, 108-95 to the Milwaukee Bucks in Milwaukee. It was the seventh and final game of a two-week road trip across America and Canada. The streak had to end sometime.

Photos: Courtesy of Google Images.

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