The Golden State Warriors haven’t played in an NBA Finals in four decades. In fact, they’ve been pretty awful more often than not for the last two decades and beyond.
But not lately. No, lately, the Warriors have been the best team in basketball and must-see TV all rolled into one.
The locals have taken notice.
“It’s pretty crazy here,” CSN Bay Area Warriors insider Monte Poole said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “I mean, there are people who are Warriors fans now who didn’t know what a basketball was two months ago. It’s that bad. We thought that there was a Giants bandwagon for the last five years – the Giants won three World Series – and all of a sudden Giants fans come out of the woodwork. Well, the Warriors fans, same script. Granted, there’s been some great Warriors fans over the years. This team has been through hell and back, and a lot of people that were loyal to them stayed with them. Some fell by the wayside. So it’s a reward for those who have been loyal but it’s funny to see so many people flying Warrior flags now driving down the street, honking their horns. Everybody’s into it. And honestly, I’m sure a lot of them are basketball fans, but I think some of those people wouldn’t know any Warrior once you get past Steph Curry.”
The Warriors have been to the playoffs three straight seasons. Their home sellout streak is in the 130s.
“The more this season went on, the more fans kind of hopped aboard and really fell in love with the team – and they’re a lovable team,” Poole said. “(They’re) a good bunch of guys, and obviously with Steph Curry being the leader – it’s hard not to like Steph.”
It’s also hard not to like Steve Kerr, who in his first year as head coach has taken the Warriors from playoff team to NBA Finals favorite.
“On the court, I think the main thing that he did was he changed the lineup a little bit,” Poole said. “Part of it was by accident. David Lee was the established starter at power forward and a productive player if you look at his statistics. His numbers were generally good: 18 to 20 points, 9 (or) 11 rebounds a night. That was kind of what David would do. But those of us who watched the team always felt like there was an element of toughness that David did not have that the team needed to get to the next level. And when David got hurt in training camp and he popped a hamstring, Steve Kerr went to Draymond Green – and Draymond is toughness personified. He’s smaller than David – he’s 6-7 at most, but he plays about 6-9. You watch Draymond play, and you see over the course of the season that was the most dramatic change they made.”
Kerr also swapped Andre Iguodala for Harrison Barnes, with Iguodala going to the bench and Barnes entering the starting lineup.
“But Draymond Green for David Lee, that’s where this team really kind of took off,” Poole said. “That’s been the most important difference.”
Kerr also changed the offense. Mark Jackson was isolation-heavy, which was good but not good enough. Kerr thought that a free-flowing offense that emphasized ball movement would maximize his team’s potential and skill set.
“When these guys are playing well, the ball is moving,” Poole said. “There’s not a lot of dribbling. You’re seeing six, seven, eight, nine passes in a possession sometimes, and that’s hard to defend. And Steve kind of stayed on that saying, ‘You know what? Guys, pass up a good shot to get a great shot. If you think you have a great shot but somebody else has a better shot, give it to that person. We want the best possible shot.’”
The Warriors will give the Cavaliers their best possible shot Thursday in Game 1. Tip-off is slated for 9 p.m. ET.