The Golden State Warriors’ mission is hard.
It’s why you see Stephen Curry lift up a cigar with sweat dripping down his face. It’s why David West and Shaun Livingston alluded to internal drama behind the scenes after sweeping the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Finals last season. It’s also why Draymond Green didn't even want to look at the latest Larry O’Brien Trophy for a while and why Steve Kerr emphasized having fun this season.
No matter how easy the Warriors make the game look or how they are projected to win the title again, the last time that I checked, there is a reason why the 2000-2002 Laker teams have been the only ones to three peat in recent history. Competition improves and poses legit threats to the throne. Champions battle not only the field but also themselves-as the energy and verve of pursuing and clinching the ‘ship turns into the mental and physical fatigue of extending the run.
In order for the Warriors to run another victory lap around Lake Merritt and Downtown Oakland in June, it will take discipline and a heighten sense of focus. As a role player with the Bulls, Coach Kerr’s been there before. He knows exactly what his team is going through, and at this point, he has regurgitated all of his war stories to the point where they start to sound like the ‘wonk, wonk, wonks’ from the Peanuts cartoons. Sometimes the players need to hear another voice even if said voice isn’t in town to address the team.
Enter Scottie Pippen.
In his recent appearance on ESPN’s The Jump, Pippen joined Rachael Nichols and Nick Friedell in Oakland and explained how the Warriors should pursue that rare three-peat and shared how mini goals helped his Bulls teams keep their focus during the run.
This isn't a bad idea at all for the ‘Dubs because they are in year five of this run, and they are in need of anything to keep their edge and to make 82 games matter in the sense of keeping them in the moment and also establishing good habits for the postseason.
To keep his squad motivated, Kerr could tap into their competitiveness as a collective and appeal to their vices as individuals -i.e. ‘fill up your soul cup’ . Here are some challenges, some mini goals the Warriors can set to keep them focused, present and primed for another shot at the title.
Monthly win totals
Like Phil Jackson did on the Bulls teams, Kerr can break down the schedule month to month and ask the team to place a wager on how many games they can win. For example, there are nine games to open the season, and let’s just say that Green places the bet at running the table for October. If the team wins the nine games, they can skip a practice or shoot around before hosting the Timberwolves on Nov. 2. As the oldest team in the league, the Warriors could use opportunities to rest up throughout the season, so why not make a day or two off an incentive?
It’s no secret that the Warriors have a nasty habit of committing careless turnovers and committing them at a high rate. As a team that emphasizes the extra pass, ball movement and assists, turnovers are inevitable- but 19 or 20 of them are unacceptable. Kerr can challenge the team to commit less than 13 turnovers for a stretch of games-maybe a road trip. If they accomplish this challenge, how about Kerr and the rest of the coaching staff could rent a space at San Francisco’s Fort Mason center and throw a bash. It might not rival Curry’s surprise 30th birthday party last season, but the turn-up would be real regardless.
The Warriors’ lack of scoring firepower on the bench is a glaring weakness that must be strengthened between now and May. In the preseason finale against the Lakers, the unit struggled to score 44 points and was responsible for that horrid 32-16 third quarter. Since the unit is what it is, why not try to make it work by challenging any of the guys in that rotation to average at least 10-12 points off the bench? It could be Quinn Cook, Livingston, the newly signed Alfonzo McKinnie, or Jordan Bell. Granted, the ability to hit threes would be great, but any mid range shot, floater in the lane or a dunk would suffice. It doesn’t matter how they get their 10, just as long as they get it. If they accomplish this goal, the core of Curry, Kevin Durant, Green, and Klay Thompson could set up a bounty in which they chip in with $75,000 a piece. The sub who averages the most points at the end of the season gets the $300,000 prize.
Are there any challenges you would like to see Coach Kerr implement to keep this squad motivated? Let us know in the comments or on twitter.