The weirdest thing for me about heading to an event with a group of readers is people you really don't know approaching you knowing a lot more about you than you know about them.
Thankfully, when there's an event at a Golden State Warriors game — as there was last night in Sacramento – you're provided with the easy out of simply staring at the game unfolding in front of you.
It is just one small example of what life as an introvert is like and the struggle is REAL.
But once I get over myself, I absolutely love talking basketball with new Golden State Warriors and hearing what other people think about the team's direction.
1. Warriors fans: bandwagoners or diehards?
Golden State of Mind had a section of 60 seats in the upper deck last night and got a few extended WAAAAAAAAARRRRRRIIOOOOOOOORRRRRRSSSS and Let's Go Warriors chants going, including one as the final buzzer sounded — as I've often preached to Bram, troll hard or not at all.
Some of you may have even noticed the chanting.
Warriors chants are hot and heavy in this Sacramento arena.— Golden State of Mind (@unstoppablebaby) January 10, 2016
We hear you in Sacramento, #DubNation.— GoldenStateWarriors (@warriors) January 10, 2016
Waaaariors! Waaaaaaaaaarriors!— Golden State of Mind (@unstoppablebaby) January 10, 2016
Seriously, it was pretty fun and sitting in a section full of Warriors fans almost made it feel like home until the Kings fans started booing or ringing their cow bells (kudos to them for carrying on that tradition).
But the Sleep Train Arena response to that? Well, we must give credit where credit's due.
At some point during the game, there was a Bandwagon Cam feature on the jumbotron, scanning the crowd for more isolated Warriors fans wearing gear and making clever quips like, "Just bought this jersey this morning" or "This man thought Festus Ezeli was a holiday before this year."
I mean, touche, right? It's getting increasingly difficult to challenge the bandwagon thing after so-called fans are caught on camera trying to hop on the bandwagon.
There are some of those fans. I'm sure some Sacramento kid somewhere in Sleep Train decided that the Warriors' championship train was more exciting that whatever it is the Kings have going on — thing is, what sets the Warriors apart is the fact that every single possession stands to hold something even more remarkable than you expect.
2. What the #*&$#*(*#@+_@ did Stephen Curry do here?
Just had to stop to drop this little nugget here...because they obviously didn't replay it in the arena and I'm not sure that anyone knew what on earth happened here.
Anyone willing to do their family like that is a bad, bad man.
But I digress.
3. New arenas, (even) higher prices
GSoM community member dpy attempted to take on this question of whether the Warriors' fanbase is just full of vagabonding bandwagoners, who must have had a busy three years, what with trying to chase down Miami, then Cleveland, and now Golden State bandwagons. But I just never seem to meet too many people of those folks.
Last week, I met a fan decked out in Warriors gear — like, beanie, shirsey, warm-up jacket, wind pants, and Curry shoes — who stopped wearing his Rick Barry jersey because younger fans don't fully appreciate Rick Barry. Last night, I met someone who has been reading the site since forever and once worked with Joe Lacob to organize a party bus up to Sacramento long before any championship expectations and a long-time fan from Redding, who can't get out to Oracle anymore in part because of the cost of tickets but remembers days when tickets were five dollars (!!!!!!) on some nights.
Is there a chance that maybe some folks are coming out of hiding after years of shame? Sure, and that might feel like new bandwagon fans. But there are tons of long-time diehards out there and that's why we organized a game in Sacramento — for one affordable night out.
Sadly, with the Kings moving out of Sleep Train — which had a line to the men's bathroom in the upper level because someone thought it was a good idea to have a two-stall bathroom by the cheap seats — and the Warriors likely moving to San Francisco, affordable NBA tickets are likely to be hard to come by for some years to come in the Bay Area. And if I were to guess based on emails and conversations I've had with Warriors fans, Oracle's sky-rocketing ticket prices are as much or more of a factor in Warriors fans showing up in droves at Sleep Train than any bandwagon phenomenon.
4. Sweeping the Sacramento Kings before even playing OKC, San Antonio
It's sort of weird that the Warriors have already completed their season series with the Sacramento Kings, but here they are and it's a sweep. Tony suggested that he'd do some art about the sweep, so I'm looking forward to that (and a few other things) coming soon. For whatever reason though, the Kings played the Warriors relatively well this season and the games were as fun as ever, including an insane Stephen Curry-Omri Casspi 3-point shooting duel at Oracle Arena.
Yet even weirder is that the Warriors have swept the Kings before even having to play the San Antonio Spurs or Oklahoma City Thunder, which means we have some potentially exciting but tough games ahead.
5. Who's afraid of the big bad Spurs?
I actually fear the Spurs — they're really good this year. As described well by Pounding the Rock, both the Spurs and Thunder have actually been playing better than the Warriors recently.
But I was persuaded, not convinced, that we shouldn't really fear anyone these days because the Warriors have proven time and again that they are up to pretty much any challenge. For me, the reason for that is depth — is it any coincidence that the Spurs and Thunder have outplayed the Warriors while half the rotation was out during various periods of time? Probably not. At full health, these numbers probably play out differently. And actually, PtR did make another solid argument in favor of the Warriors.
The Warriors have played 71 minutes in games within five points with less than five minutes left to play and have posted an absurd NetRtg of +40.4 and a perfect 13-0 record in such games. When the game is on the line, they simply destroy their opponents. The Spurs have not had similar success, going just 8-5 in close games and posting a poor NetRtg of -8.5 in their 44 minutes of clutch play. The Thunder are 11-8 and have posted a NetRtg of +4.7 in their 81 minutes of clutch play.
Everybody say it with me using your best Donald Trump impersonation: that's huge, HUGE!
6. The Warriors' defense
Along those lines, though, I was asked where the Warriors' defense was ranked, and I said top five because they were in fact tied for fifth with the San Antonio Spurs entering last night's game, according to Basketball-Reference. But they've fallen back to seventh, just narrowly ahead of the Miami Heat, tomorrow night's opponent.
Again, there have been too many pieces missing — perhaps especially Andrew Bogut, Harrison Barnes and coach Steve Kerr — to read too much into how the Warriors are playing defensively on the whole with any sort of statistics. But I'm not sure anyone is going to catch the Spurs this year, strength of schedule aside, and that does make them a potential obstacle to repeat and a reason why the Warriors might have to maintain this ridiculous pace to even recapture the top seed in the playoffs.
7. The Klay Thompson roller coaster
Bram and I discussed this a bit on our last Golden State of Mindcast, but Klay Thompson has these weird ups and downs where he can go from invisible to supernova and back down to actively harmful. Last night was sort of one of those up and down nights, but I liked how they went to him right at the beginning of the third to try to get him going.
But I think that does leave the question of whether the Warriors could get three All-Stars - Curry, Green and Thompson - open in the minds of people who don't watch him every night. And you could almost be excused for thinking Thompson hasn't done enough to warrant an All-Star spot.
To those doubters: 1) consistency doesn't matter quite as much as it feels it does (e.g Andris Biedrins was a remarkably consistent free throw shooter, to the extent that he consistently missed) and 2) even if he's not scoring, the opponent has to account for him offensively, which makes his mere presence on the floor more valuable than many players when they're putting up numbers.
He may or may not be the best two guard in the league - there are reasonable arguments for all angles of that debate - but he's clearly one of the most impactful, especially if you consider what his combination of on-ball defense and gravity off the ball on offense does for the team. It shouldn't be a question as to whether he's an All-Star, but there's no doubt the ups and downs feel frustrating.
Should we do this again?
Clearly, we had a fun time at Sleep Train Arena last night and there was already talk of not only doing it again but also doing it bigger with a party bus, bar stop, and maybe even some sort of post-party near the new downtown arena next year. So stay tuned and definitely drop us some suggestions — we will be doing this again and hope to get more people in on it when the Warriors play in Sacramento next year.
In the meantime, maybe Santa Cruz?