Winning a championship is the product of a collection of factors all coming together to product a winning output. Such a large challenge doesn't happen by luck (but some luck is needed on your way). It's the small stuff, combined with the big stuff that has you hoisting the trophy at the end of the year. And it doesn't happen to everyone - unlike football or baseball, only a very few teams have been able to win the NBA crown in the last 20 years. Many teams get it right and continue to get it right - the Lakers with multiple titles - and some find the stars aligning to propel to the top - the Dallas Mavericks.
The formula for a winning season is not set in stone. Sure, we could make a guess at past blueprints that have made it to the top to find common traits. Savvy veteran leadership has always seemed to be important to title-winning squads. Looking at every winner, there seemed to be one or two road-tested vets that stood as the leaders on and off the court. These teams had blue-chip players, capable of taking the ball at any time and putting the game on their shoulders. Teams had strong leadership; it takes a coach with a special DNA to lead a squad to a title.
These combinations of factors, all mixed into the pot, stirred together to pour a winning team on the court, make up the winning formula. The Warriors have put their best team in many together this season, and are now staring at high expectations that might just be met. They have constructed a hell of a formula for themselves - one part Black Falcon, one part Aussie, 2 parts Splash and bring it together with The Glue. Support that base with a strong bench, finish it off with a great coach, and let the sparks fly.
So far the results are clear on and off the court. Sure - the winning streak is easy to see and Steve Kerr now holds the record for best success by a first-year coach. But don't overlook the obvious chemistry between the players themselves. Not since We Believe or RunTMC have we seen a general love between players like we do between this years squad. They show it in the game with great communication, support for each other's success, and a growing feel for tendencies and movement that results in easy baskets. Passes are hitting cutters in stride, with great spacing and flow. Its small things, like a growing connection between Marrise Speights and Shaun Livingston on the second unit. Livingston is a point guard by trade, a great passer and a floor manager. Speights is a scorer, moving with the ball and finishing at the rim. Both have started to realize each other's tendencies, in the pick and roll and on the drive and kick. Mo Buckets has played out of his mind, but realize much of this success is due to an upgrade from Jordan Crawford and Steve Blake to a professional like Livingston, who has accepted and embraced his role on the second line.
Off the court, I don't remember a team that has shown this much love before. We Believe Warriors had a great chemistry, with Baron Davis and Steven Jackson as the kingpins to a roster that bonded together. This year's crew, proving to us through social media, has taken that even farther. Starting with the now-banished CoCo videos, through selfies and team Holiday dinners, this team likes each other and it shows. Andrew Bogut has been quoted multiple times, through his blog and in interviews by saying he has never seen a team that wants to connect as much as this team. Jalen Rose, recently on his podcast, explained the difference between a team that gets along, and a team that goes their ways when the team bus lands. He was quick to point out that winning is a big factor in this. And why not? Winning cures all, and the Warriors have sure had enough winning so far.
So what's going to spoil the batch? Is this winning formula built to last? We now sit at the quarter point of a long season. The Warriors showed a similar hot start to 2013/2014, blowing out teams with a record setting offense that lead to high hopes. Mix in an Iguodala injury and regression in performance, and Golden State struggled through the middle and end of last season on their way to a first-round exit in the playoffs. It was safe to say that moving parts, including the failure to add extra spice through trade to fix depth issues, caused our season to spoil.
How can the Warriors learn from last season? What chemistry lessons could be learned to assure continued success?
Caution: Foreign Materials
General Managers and front offices are always looking to tinker with their rosters, and why not? Ray Allen or Jermaine O'Neal reminds us from their retirement homes that they "might have one more run in them," and we all start dreaming of Jesus Shuttlesworth hitting corner threes during a playoff game like he did in Miami. Its flattering that a proven professional like Allen would consider a squad like Golden State (we don't actually know if he has, but in Bob Meyers we trust), but the bigger question is "would he actually fit?" Meyers was quick to remind that Golden State has a minutes problem, which honestly is a great problem to have. They have players earning more playing time; however don't have nearly enough playing time to go around. Its possible that sometimes the best deal you make is the deal that you never made in the first place, and it's hard to argue that (cliché alert) if it ain't broke don't fix it. Sure, teams always go through injuries and if Leandro Barbosa or Livingston had to miss some extended time, Allen would make perfect sense. But for now, standing pat looks like the best course of action
Remember your prime elements
David Lee has been an enigma for years since he has come over from New York. Yes, his salary is high and our double-double machine isn't teaching any defensive clinics any time soon. He has however, been a great reason for our improved ball movement and evolutionary offense with his great passing and past shooting range (obviously absent from the end of last year). The team primes to add him back to the mix in the next week, and though we worry about taking minutes from others who have shown success, his main skills fit perfectly with the triangle motion offense that the team has rode to early season victories. Having Lee come off the bench will avoid the downshift in momentum that seems to happen when Andrew Bogut's quarterback like control gets a rest. Pair Lee up with a defensive minded center like Festus Ezeili and we suddenly have a more complete second line that has shown periodic signs of weakness so far. Lee embodies the traits that set this team apart from the league so far, and as much as we worry about his pending return and its effect on the team, he shows obvious chemistry with other players and will bring qualities that will continue to be important.
Warning: Highly Combustible Environments
The Western Conference is a highly dangerous environment containing multiple teams and obstacles toward winning a title. Never have we seen so many players performing at such a high level, all vying for the top seeds in what will be an amazing Western Playoff race.
The Warriors have been relatively lucky to have gotten an early season Eastern Conference schedule that hasn' t provided too much opposition. They have been gifted two early season games against the Lakers leading to early wins. They have faced tougher Western teams while facing injuries (Dwight Howard being out for the Rockets, the Thunder missing Kevin Durant and Russel Westbrook). This week included tough matchups in Dallas, Memphis and the Pelicans that begin challenge the roster to show them what they are truly made up of.
How will the team react to increased opposition? Will the commodore continue after tough losses to better foes? Can Steve Kerr keep the team composed in high-pressure games, continuing the trend of better ball responsibility and less turnovers? How will he react at the first sign of weakness, when fans are yelling for changes to the starting lineups if we lose two straight games?
So far the Warriors front office has dug into their home chemistry set and found a winning formula. This season is far from over, and many questions remain to be seen. The team can feel comfort in the fact that they sit in a rare position - they have very few issues to find solutions for, and staying the course seems to be the right plan. With no glaring holes, we hope for quick smart strong fixes for any issues that might appear in the future. Lets hope this current mix continues to product its great results.