"We just like havin fun together. I don't think that should be a problem." - Draymond Green to Tom Tolbert, 2/10/15
The Warriors were tired. They had played what seemed like two hundred games in three hundred cities over the past five days.
In Philadelphia, on February 9th, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson's first few jump shots were flat, just barely grazing front iron. Their legs seemed sore and tired. They were unable to get true lift.
Heading into All Star weekend, trudging through the doldrums of the "dog days" of the season, the team was still winning. But, somehow, you couldn't quite shake the fact that they weren't winning by enough. They squeaked by, in succession: the New York Knicks, the Philadelphia 76ers, and the Minnesota Timberwolves. Not exactly a murderer's row of adversaries. And yet, amidst this hard stretch, they still found ways to have fun. Going out. Bowling. Playing with airplane shutters (??!). Steph, seriously. What were you doing?
There is a certain fatigue that comes with constant travel -- constant effort. No mater how important your job seems, no matter how many people crave to be in your shoes, there is an inevitable wear and tear that happens when you are forced to rise to the moment night in and night out. And yet, through it, this team is managing to imprint their own goofy brand of entertainment upon the situation. Managing to take each moment and make it their own.
Another thought -- why do they always sit in the same seats on the plane? Have you guys noticed that? I spent the last six years playing in a nationally and (occasionally) internationally touring soul-rock band, and I always wanted my own seat. Didn't quite work out though. Someone always had to drive, obviously, and we didn't have money for a driver, so a natural cyclical shifting effect fell into place. You drive, put in your four or five or sometimes fourteen hour shift, and then you stumble to the back of the van and fall asleep or look at your phone or whatever helps take your mind off the passing white lines and the endless asphalt. And the next to drive takes their place up front while everyone shifts seats. But on a private plane, how do the seats get divvied up? Are David Lee and Draymond and Curry and Andrew Bogut ALWAYS playing poker? What if you want to shake things up?
See what I mean? They were all basically in the same seats in November as well:
--- = ---
"Tell those guys in the background to pipe down. You're doing an interview for cryin out loud!" - Tom Tolbert, in the interview embedded below.
--- = ---
The guys are holed up in a hotel somewhere in Minneapolis. Draymond Green is on the phone, talking about trust and respect and about his twisted ankle, which he had injured the night before against Philly (thank you basketball gods for not taking him from us prematurely. Thank you thank you thank you). They're all watching college basketball, hanging out. He starts talking about Michigan State, calling them dogs. Andrew Bogut starts barking in the background, a deep woofing sound that resonates through the room and confuses the interviewer, Tom Tolbert. Remember in high school when your buddy had to call in to tell his parents that he was safe and that he WAS NOT, not at all -- no not even slightly -- at a party, and everyone would try to get him to start laughing? Trying to make him lose his cool? Same thing.
This team is a fraternity of goofballs. An experiment in intangibles.
You know, the golden rule: A Team That Bowls Together Wins Together. No? Never heard it. Hmm. Well, it seems to work for the Warriors.
This team needed a break.
They needed All Star Weekend.
As much as they'd been winning -- as hard as it must be to rise to the challenge each and every night when the opponent has circled this game as a litmus test of their own ability -- you gotta hand it to Draymond and Steph and Bogut and everyone else. They know how to have fun. And ultimately, what more is success? You can have all the money in the world but if you're stuck playing on a bad team, where's the success in that? Basketball is a game of speed and nuance and wit and laughter. The true artists of the game talk about the Zone. Getting in the Zone. Staying in the Zone. Laughing and being one with the Zone. And these guys nurture that creative spark. Laugh at each other's bad jokes. Allow Steph to be the little kid he's always been -- shimmying around the bowling alley after a strike. Playing games with the objects around him. Much as he plays with the defenders on the court.
One of the deepest signs of proficiency and talent is being unafraid to just Be Yourself.
Hey man, whatever it takes to break up the constancy of the season. Whatever you have to do to find joy in the never ending plane ride and late night hotel check in.