Draymond Green in the locker room celebrating the Warriors’ victory, Wednesday night. photo by F.D. Purcell
F.D. Purcell, Bay Area Sports Reporter
The Antioch Herald
Former Warriors head coach Alvin Attles roamed the hallway leading to the basketball court at ORACLE Arena with a focused look on his face. When I went to say hello and congratulate him he answered in his typical unaffected nature his deep bellowing voice replying “congratulating me for what?” I said for making it to the finals for the first time since the 1974-1975 season.
His reply? “I like that hat, young lady.”
I tried to give him a look of pity, but it only worked for a future quote.
“Call me if you need me, girl.”
This past Monday marked the 40th anniversary that his team won the only championship Golden State has won since moving from Philadelphia. But now a new era has been ushered in, and the Warriors are headed to the NBA Finals after a 104-90 win over the Houston Rockets, and will face the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Much like Attles is unaffected, current head coach Steve Kerr carries the same type of demeanor. It’s not about him, but everyone else.
“I’m happy for everybody, especially our fans,” he said. “Forty years is a long time.”
Kerr was only nine-years old, the last time the Warriors won the championship and he said that he’s relieved now that they’re headed to the NBA Finals.
“I always think of Pat Riley’s great quote: ‘When you’re coaching in the NBA, there’s winning and there’s misery.’ And he’s right,” Kerr added.
Rather than get into the stats of the game, it’s important to talk about the character of Golden State.
I expected to see bottles of champagne and wild partying, following the game, but amidst the sweaty locker room and filled with music, the players sat near their lockers with cell phones in hands, texting and tweeting fans and loved one.
The group was loose, relaxed. Yet, somewhat quiet for a team who’d achieved such a historical feat. Half of their parents probably weren’t even born then.
The player with the most visual and vocal swagger, forward Draymond Green donned his NBA Finals hat and could be held saying “the skies the limit” while a large group of media surrounded him as teammate, center Festus Ezeli played the role of photographer, snapping photos from his own his cell phone.
Everyone was smiling, but there was still a feeling of “we’ve still got work to do.”
“We wanted to appreciate the moment, not take it for granted, because it was something that we’ve been waiting for and wanted to close out tonight,” said MVP Stephen Curry who finished the game with 26-points. “But you kind of take it for what it is. Because you have four more wins and you don’t want to get too ahead of yourself.”
After falling to the L.A. Clippers in the seventh game of the Western Conference Semi-Finals last year, the team went through a coaching overhaul when management fired Mark Jackson and hired Kerr.
Jackson, who was the color commentator for Wednesday‘s game, was a beloved coach among his players. After the game, Curry admitted it was a tough summer and that he didn’t agree with the decision to fire Jackson. But, obviously it was the right decision in hiring Kerr, who Curry called a “humble guy” who exceeded all expectations.
On the court, Golden State is flashy with their precise executed passes and long jumpers. But much like their coach, they’re a humble group of guys. Cause and point: instead of basking in his team‘s monumental victory, Ezeli took the time to personally thank me for what I’ve done for him all season.
There was a time when you could go into a sporting goods store in another city, anywhere and not find a piece of Golden State paraphernalia. Most people didn’t even know where the team played.
Now Curry has the top selling jersey behind LeBron James. He‘s part of a dynamic duo called “The Splash Brothers.” Golden State is the national favorite to win the championship, and with their winning record has given them home court advantage throughout the NBA Finals.
While I won’t pretend to know any about them personally, I can honestly say in all the years associated with the Warriors (1999-current), this by far is the best group of guys I’ve encountered.
The wait is over for the long suffering fans who’ve endured names such as Vonteego Cummings, Chris Mills and Victor Alexander, ownership and coaching changes and even a player who choked his coach.
They started from the bottom and now, they’re here. After three-straight years of making the playoffs the Golden State Warriors have beat all the odds against them and will face the Cleveland Cavaliers in the big dance called the NBA Finals.
Golden State will host the first two games at ORACLE Arena next Thursday, June 4th at 6:00 p.m. All the playoff games can be viewed on ABC.
Follow F.D. Purcell @sportsinthebay_