It was almost three years ago to the day. Golden State Warriors owner Joseph Lacob was introducing Chris Mullin to the Oracle Arena crowd. Mullin’s jersey was about to be retired.
Frustrated with the state of the franchise, the Oakland crowd let Lacob know how just they felt about him and his roster moves. A chorus of boos rained down from the stands so much so that Mullin had to step in and defend him.
Fan favorite Monta Ellis had just been traded. Playing alongside a young Steph Curry, the two had formed a formidable backcourt.
Three years later, it looks like Lacob knew exactly what he was doing. Klay Thompson is officially a Splash Brother, seemingly scoring as he pleases, and Monta Ellis is now an afterthought, missing key shots in Dallas. I wonder how many of those fans wish they could have their boos back.
The year Ellis was traded, the Warriors finished with 23 wins, missing the playoffs altogether. Ellis was the team’s leading shot taker. The following year, Steph Curry stepped into that role and the team won 47 games. In 2013-14, they won 51 games. This year, the Golden State Warriors won 67 games, nearly three times as many as they did three years ago.
I’m going to repeat that. This year, the Golden State Warriors won 67 games, one of only ten teams in the history of the game to do so. And they did it with a rookie head coach.
For anyone who’s watched the NBA over the past few decades, that just sounds funny. This is a franchise that hasn’t been relevant since Latrell Sprewell choked PJ Carlessimo. Even then, they weren’t considered legitimate contenders. The Warriors haven’t won a second round playoff series in forty years. Somewhere, Rick Barry is smiling.
If you walked into a Las Vegas Sportsbook at the beginning of these playoffs, you would find the Warriors among the favorites to win the NBA Finals, but not a clear cut favorite. They led the league in scoring, team field goal percentage, point differential and three point percentage. This is one of the most impressive offensive teams we’ve seen in quite some time. They’re balanced, able to score from inside and out, not horrible defensively and are damn fun to watch, unless of course it’s your team they’re destroying. They won ten more games than any team in the Western Conference and seven more than the Eastern Conference leading Atlanta Hawks, another team which nobody believes in.
So with their record, why are they not stronger favorites to win an NBA Championship?
The two other teams with similar odds to win it all are Cleveland and San Antonio. Las Vegas and the rest of America have not given up on San Antonio. After all, why would they? Proving the old men still have it, the Spurs took Miami to school in last year’s Finals. This year, they’re not sneaking up on anyone. Even as a six-seed, Las Vegas likes them as much as the record-setting Warriors. The Cavaliers who play in the considerably weaker Eastern Conference and have an easier path to the Finals have this guy named LeBron James who’s pretty good.
So why are we not completely sold on these Warriors yet? Of all the professional sports, the NBA champion is generally the easiest to predict. Rarely does an underdog run the gamut. So that means the Warriors should win this thing, right? Then why are we still skeptical?
Is it that they’re young? Is it that they’re a jump-shooting team? Is it that they may have to face both Tim Duncan and LeBron on their way to a title? Or do we think they’ve done it all with smoke and mirrors so far, ultimately waiting for their hot shooting to cool off.
Is it the down twenty points down to the Pelicans that gives us reason to worry or the fact that they erased that deficit to win that convinces us this team will be champions? I guess we’ll find out in another couple of weeks.
A Golden State championship will be a refreshing change the NBA could desperately use. It’s not that LeBron and Duncan aren’t worthy champions but the league is due to usher in some new deserving faces.
We’re just wondering how soon that will happen.