Step 1: Unbridled optimism in October;
Step 2: A season of awful, defenseless, losing basketball;
Step 3: A pathetic display of woebegone misery at season's end, which always seems to include disparaging remarks about the Lakers;
Step 4: More quickly-fomented unbridled optimism, this time about the draft lottery;
Step 5: Angst and despair when we lose said lottery and end up picking X+1 in a draft of X players;
Step 6: A long healing process that includes talking ourselves into the draft pick and resulting in eventual unbridled optimism.
This season? A little different. The narrative has shifted. Sure, we experienced the lottery/draft roller coaster as usual, and most of us who were undeniably down on Harrison Barnes have talked ourselves into believing he's a godsend. But... where is the unbridled optimism? Where is the giddy happy-go-lucky Golden State of Mind that seems to ripen in October? Is it just that we can't find fanposts and fanshots in the new SBN layout, or is it something more?
Here's the problem: now, we have something to lose. This team is actually... good. Maybe even really good. We aren't familiar with this feeling — we have not been trained for this. There are actual expectations this year. Optimism can flow like water when you have nowhere to go but up.
I think, honestly, that we are scared. We're scared that we won't meet expectations. That even when we do have a good team, we still won't amount to anything. (This is the part of the post where I start to worry that I'm subconsciously talking about my own life, but let's just move on.)
Heightened expectations are forcing us to face reality. And that reality is simple: it all hinges on a pair of surgically altered ankles. We remember, all too well, the feeling of abject horror last year when Stephen Curry turned up court and pulled up lame and we all said "oh no, not again". Also familiar is the story of Andrew Bogut, planning to get some run in camp and play in preseason games, and then oh wait well maybe just the last game, and then oh actually he's going to visit his surgeon and he might not make opening day. Yeah, we know that feeling.
But we haven't experienced it with this sort of team. Yknow, the sort of team that's good. That's balanced, and might finally have the defensive difference maker, and the rebounding ability and size, and has the shooters, and the depth, and no glaring chemistry disasters on the horizon, and competent players at every position. It means a lot more now, and we might lose it before we even have it.
And so we hold our breath. We tense up whenever Steph makes a cut, even in a crappy preseason game that we watch from a grainy illegal feed. And we tense up when we read any article about Bogey still not having a timetable for return. We see this season, one that can actually, no for real this time, be successful — we see how tenuous it is. It's kind of paralyzing.
The upshot for us is that we don't take this for granted. A playoff spot isn't just some pie-in-the-sky aspiration — it's something that we should expect. That's a big deal around here. And I think a lot of us will be holding our breath on every cut, every article, every body that hits the floor, until we finally get to a point where we can say, "so this is what winning basketball feels like". And hopefully that will be the moment that we can truly start redefining the Golden State Warriors fan experience.