REPORTER: "What are the things you guys try to tell yourselves to know that you're going to pull out of it?"
CURRY: "We're champions." pic.twitter.com/w5hcmHMmB0
— KNBR (@KNBR) March 11, 2019
OAKLAND — The Warriors’ season has been one winding roller coaster with enough storylines to amuse us until the real season starts. There has been speculation about Kevin Durant’s future, followed by his impassioned plea to silence all of it. There have been statement wins followed with confounding losses, like the one Sunday night.
Early last week, the Warriors called a team meeting. They had lost five of their last nine, and it seemed to be the right time for an open discussion. They talked about their goals for the rest of the season. They emphasized accountability. They preached the importance of playing with more energy and practicing the positive habits that would transition into the playoffs.
The next game they played, the Warriors drubbed the visiting Denver Nuggets by 17 points to reclaim sole possession of first place in the Western Conference. It seemed Golden State had turned the page as the team began its playoff preparation. But two days later, the Warriors lost to the lowly Phoenix Suns, 115-111, for the first time in the teams’ last 19 matchups.
After the game, a frustrated Durant walked through the hallway to the Warriors locker room, imploring his team to start playing championship basketball. Twenty minutes later, Klay Thompson, unprompted, called out the Oracle Arena crowd for its lack of energy.
These circumstances have created a weird, seemingly testy vibe among the Warriors. Yet Stephen Curry, always a calming presence, views the ups and downs with the long-term in mind. If you want to know the state of the Warriors, talk to Curry, the team’s mood ring.
"We understand what we need to do to get better. I like our situation a lot better than last year."
-Stephen Curry pic.twitter.com/y6uFTuCGuN
— Sam Hustis (@SamHustis) March 11, 2019
“I mean, let’s not forget last year,” Curry said postgame. “It was way worse than this. Way worse than this. Some injuries and things like that, and I think we have pretty much everyone healthy. We have talked about things we need to get better at going into the playoffs and just haven’t done it.
“It’s an uncomfortable feeling, which I think we like right now. It’s not all just coasting. We are getting challenged. We are getting teams’ best shots. Our weaknesses are pretty glaring in terms of defensively and how we started games. We can talk about it, and I can keep saying it: we understand what we need to do to get better. I like this situation a lot better than last year.”
Last year, the Warriors overcame injuries to just about all of their star players in the final month of the season. Curry missed the entire first round of the playoffs and the first game of the second round. These were legitimate worries that potentially hindered the Warriors from repeating as NBA champions. This year’s challenges are much different, whether integrating DeMarcus Cousins or finding more consistency defensively.
Curry keeps all of these factors in mind. He maintains a macro perspective throughout the season’s nadirs and finds the silver linings within them. While he and his teammates occasionally trivialize regular season games and play down to the lowest of competition, Curry is quick to point out what many outsiders tend to question: that the Warriors care at this time of year.
“We’re champions,” Curry said. “Like, we got to keep the right perspective about where we are. We aren’t going to win a championship right now in March. The fact that we aren’t happy with how we are playing, we care about that, which is why you walk into the locker room and the vibe was the way it was. We hold ourselves to a higher standard, and when we don’t get there and don’t play that way, it’s not a good feeling.
“It’s not like we just walk off the court and, be like, ‘Oh well, next game.’ That’s not us, even though the results haven’t been what we wanted. We understand what it takes to win a championship when we get there in the playoffs. That’s what we live for. But right now, this uncomfortable feeling should be good for us to figure out a way to get out of it and keep plugging away.”