The Golden State Warriors are rolling right now at 17-8. They returned from a 6-1 road trip to get yet another win at home on Tuesday night.
This team had a slow start to the season due to injuries: Andrew Bogut was out, then in, then back out again...Stephen Curry was also slowed by that gimpy right ankle. Now, Andrew is out...for a while, and Stephen is in...all in. The guys know what their roles are now (the opposite of the Lakers), and they're thriving in them.
So how is this team really doing it?
Big picture.....it's simple. This is a group of young, athletic guys who all know what is expected of them. They also believe in what their head coach preaches as their identity.
Smaller picture.....well, now it gets a bit more complicated.
As is usually the case, a few guys have to be having career years. The ambidextrous David Lee is averaging over 19 pts & 11 rebs a game. That, and an above .500 record, is an All-Star nod any year. Did I mention he's also shooting over 50%? Stephen Curry is also averaging over 19 pts/gm. That's not shocking but, what is, is the fact that he's played weeks without tweaking that ankle. He is driving the train up in The Bay with a great first mate in the backcourt. Klay Thompson is adding almost 16 pts a night and doing it in his usual 'running-you-to-death off screens' way. His numbers may not shock you but, trust me, he's having his best year. Why? because he's being game-planned against and he's still producing.
The front office also deserves credit for this great start. The offseason moves were just what this team needed. While everyone thought the offseason was over in September, management stole both Jarrett Jack (trade) and Carl Landry (free agency) from New Orleans. In seemingly one phone call, GM Bob Myers bolstered the bench with scoring and leadership. What about the draft? I'm sure all of you were geeked about Vanderbilt/Nigerian big man Festus Ezeli. The minor blip on many draft tickers has started admirably for Bogut at center. He has a ready-made NBA body as well as the confidence to use it inside. Lottery pick Harrison Barnes, meanwhile, has been as good as advertised. It's like the basketball gods mixed Ron Artest with Trevor Ariza. His strong lower base and athletic reach are an impressive mix (just ask Nikola Pekovic). I think an All-Star should be expected one day.
In today's guard-friendly NBA, having a good backcourt is paramount. Perimeter freedom of movement is at an all-time high, which means gone are the days of building a team from the pivot. With Curry and Thompson as your guards of the future, and combo-guard Jack in reserve, the Warrior 'smalls' are a major plus for this team as they try and grow into contender status.
The identity I mentioned earlier all stems from their head coach, Mark Jackson. He weathered the storm of hatred last year as fans criticized the new owners for shipping Monta Ellis out of town. In the end, fans want winning...and they definitely have it now. Jackson is old enough (with a resume) to get respect from this group. He's also young enough to relate to them, as most are still fresh out of college. Mark obviously has the right mix for this group.
Also key for this group is defense, another reflection of their head coach. Golden State may be giving up 98 points/game, but they also play at a fast pace. They're actually 6th in the league in opponent's field goal %, a true indicator of defensive success. Pat Riley once said that rebounds equal rings. Despite their perimeter talent, Golden State is a top 5 team in rebounding. It's not just Lee and Ezeli. Barnes is getting inside and helping out while the guards are disciplined enough to not leak out on offense. Curry and Thompson get their share of long caroms, too. All three perimeter starters are averaging over 4 rebounds a game.
Lastly, let's not under-play the energy of their future move to a new arena in San Francisco. We all see what that kind of energy is doing in Brooklyn these days. It gives players a vested interest in something bigger than just following the gameplan night in and night out. The 82-game NBA season is a grind for everybody. It's important to have a larger picture to think about as you motivate yourself to keep getting better. And, judging by those artist-rendered images, the new building looks like something straight out of Star Trek. The kayaks by the waterfront were also a nice touch.
So, there you have it. The Warriors' start is really actually pretty easy to understand.
Even Rick Barry gets it. Twitter: @NBAKnez Website: BlogNBAsketball.com