Last year, as the Warriors were on their way to what would become an NBA-best 73-9 regular season, their fanbase was growing by leaps and bounds. There were lots of … “novice” Warriors’ fans should we say — though we’re not here to criticize.
Somehow, on the heels of the 2015 NBA Championship, the Warriors put together an astonishing an unmatched regular season, one that started with 24 consecutive wins. Stephen Curry, the reigning MVP, somehow found a way to be better than he had in 2015, and won his second MVP, this one the first unanimous one in league history.
A disappointing NBA Finals loss to Cleveland was parlayed into the acquisition of free-agent Kevin Durant, ensuring the Golden State bandwagon — a very diverse group — was going to keep picking up passengers and rolling along.
I’ve been around the Warriors now for more than 25 years and sometimes I feel like two groups of fans — the “new and arrogant” and the “well-meaning but naive” — sometimes needs to remember this team’s past and how it wasn’t always like this. Not even close. Then I realize a lot of these fans don’t even know about the Warriors’ past. They don’t know the 12 straight seasons of missing the postseason; the hope Larry Hughes once brought; the draft lottery and how it became this franchise’s friend; the constant coaching carousel, and so much more.
I’ve always thought of writing a book about the Warriors, but I lack the discipline. So, I figured maybe I’ll just start using this blog to tell some stories — from the past and recent past, you know? Stories about some of the old days, when the Warriors weren’t a great team. Yes, youngsters, the Warriors weren’t always like this. We’ll see how it goes. Hell, go ahead and ask me about one of those old legends such as Chris Porter, Vonteego Cummings, Brian Cardinal, Patrick O’Bryant, Dean Oliver … the list goes on.
In fact, the Warriors weren’t like this when Curry was drafted in 2009. That’s when it all started to turn around, the first of 12 big things that helped the Warriors get to this point.
I went back and took a look at that team and some of its players. I’d forgotten some of the names. But two of the players I didn’t forget were Monta Ellis and Corey Maggette. How bad was Curry’s luck? He was drafted onto a team with two of the hungriest offensive players in NBA history on it.
And then, some of the the other players on that team: (savior-in-waiting) Anthony Randolph, (Mr. Reptile) Mikki Moore, (1-game only) Raja Bell, (Lost and confounded) Andris Biedrins, (9-lives) Cartier Martin, (a tad overmatched) Coby Karl, (Lefty) Reggie Williams, (Don Nelson concoction) Anthony Tolliver, etc. Remember, that was the year this gutty group of players went 26-56, but at least they were able to give coach Nelson a victory that made him the all-time winningest coach in the NBA.
I don’t remember much of that game, only that it was in Minnesota and that the team jumped around Nellie for a little bit. I also think, though I’m not sure, Nellie had a celebratory beer that night.
So, for the young ‘uns out there, there was once a time when the Warriors celebrated things other than NBA championships. Think a 26-56 season can never happen again? You better ask the “skeptical and paranoid” or the “wise but reserved.”