While the rest of us in the Bay Area sporting scene have been embroiled with Colin Kaepernick’s protest against police brutality and the San Francisco Giants lineup’s protest against baseball brutality, Stephen Curry has been in China on a promotional tour for Under Armour, hawking sneakers and basketball apparel to a market where hot takes are blessedly regulated by the government.
Curry revealed in an interview with ESPN’s Darren Rovell that he finally got around to watching the Golden State Warriors’ Game 7 NBA Finals loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers and that he will be using that game as a “motivator” for the upcoming season.
He also stated that from his point of view, he can’t fathom how there will be more pressure on the Dubs next season, even with the addition of Kevin Durant, than there was last year, where they were chasing the single-season wins record of the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls and heavy favorites to repeat as champions. He added that he’s not worried about the perception of his team as the new villains of the league, thanks to Durant’s signing.
“All that narrative around our team, how people view us, doesn’t really matter to us,” Curry said. “We are who we are, and we’re championship contenders going forward.”
That’s all fine and good. He’s free to think what we wants. He’s probably wrong, but that’s not a crime. No, the comment from the two-time reigning Most Valuable Player that we’ll examine today is his reply to the query about whether the Warriors will try to break their own record and legitimately go after 74 wins next season.
“74 (wins) isn’t really a goal. If it happens, it happens. All of our energy will be spent on getting ourselves ready for a championship run. We want to have a great regular season obviously, we don’t want to have any slip-ups, but I don’t think coming into the season with the goal of 74 is a good focus. It’s about winning a championship.”
It was the answer you fully expected him to say and one that will no doubt be echoed by his teammates when lobbed at them repeatedly over the course of the season. It’s also pretty much what he and the rest of the team said all last season until they were within a handful of wins of 73. By then it was an open secret that it was something they’d been shooting for all along, with Curry and the team’s other stars making it crystal clear to coach Steve Kerr that they didn’t want rest or have their minutes restricted.
What was interesting to me is that he didn’t dismiss the possibility completely, sneaking in the “if it happens, it happens,” in there. That’s the competitor in him, fully conscious that losses can, and will, happen, but at the same time not willing to concede any of them ahead of time. He certainly has a point.
Barring injury, there might not be a game all season the Warriors won’t be favored to win. We know it’s not going to be that simple, of course. Kerr and the front office will be more forceful about resting people this time around, but he can apply that strategically if he wishes to, just sitting one or perhaps two of his four stars at a time as opposed to all of them and shelving them against easier opponents.
There are plenty of permutations where the Warriors can be at less than their best and still have the more talented squad on the court.
Moreover, the real point is that it’s easy for players and coaches to preach conservatism and the big picture mindset in the off-season. Once the games actually get underway and teams get sequestered inside their protective cocoons, where the mentality switches to the next game being the biggest game, always, the Warriors will be uniquely equipped to shrug off the notion of a “scheduled loss,” that has been an unwritten rule in the NBA forever.
Commissioner Adam Silver’s initiatives to lower the number of back-to-backs and those infernal four-games-in-five-nights (the Warriors have just one of those, from Dec. 7-11) have helped top teams navigate the schedule easier, meaning it will be that much tougher for anyone to defeat the Warriors on merit. Golden State will have a period of transition with Durant and the new pieces joining the team and that time will coincide with a relatively packed schedule that will see them play more games before Christmas than any team in the league.
In other words, if they get make it to 2017 with just three or even four losses, then you can fully expect them to be deluged with 74 wins questions night after night until it becomes mathematically impossible. They won’t get to just be another good team or even another championship contender. They’re going to be the Beatles, with Elvis as their opening act and Jimi Hendrix on backup guitar. The attention they get will be insufferable, inescapable and wholly, richly deserved.
Curry, Kerr and the rest can protest all they want, calling for calm and perspective screaming to the heavens that they don’t care about records and that they don’t deserve the villain label.
It’s all baloney, and they know it. This is what they signed up for, and they knew that going into the pitch meeting for Durant. He, in turn, had to know what he’d be in store for once he defected to the Dubs. It’s the cost of doing business.
I suppose the fellas can be sporting and start the season 0-9, giving the rest of the league a head start. It won’t ease the pressure or the attention, though, all it will change is the narrative. The bulls-eye will be on them regardless, every game, as long as Curry, Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson are in the same uniform and playing All-Star caliber ball.
So they might as well win every game, just to shove it up everyone’s backside, lying to us all the while.