Golden State Warriors: Underdog persona is making the team likable again

NBA Goden State Warriors D'Angelo Russell (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
NBA Goden State Warriors D'Angelo Russell (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

Now that the Golden State Warriors are underdogs again, they’re starting to become likable again

When Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr unloaded on the refs a couple of weeks back, I couldn’t help but think, I’m starting to like this team.

Cards on the table: Golden State has never been my favorite team to watch, especially during their recent and seemingly endless confetti-filled dynasty. I’m sorry, I just don’t think they’ve been that likable, despite most NBA media tripping over themselves to tell us otherwise. Let’s be real: It’s been tedious for those of us who don’t support the team.

However, with their backs to the wall amid this fairly dismal campaign, I feel differently. The Warriors are underdogs. And going all Al Pacino on a ref making questionable decisions suddenly seems admirable. It’s a new day in both The City and Town, folks.

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The Warriors needed this transition, in a cultural sense. They’ve just been far too dominant. Superior 3-point shooting is just plain annoying. It is. Especially in a time when the 3-point line is regarded with such sanctity. The Dubs have in essence made threes the new dunk – the shot that analysts worship. The shot that fans who like analytics worship.

Look, I don’t mind watching the streaky 3-point shooting, per se, and appreciate the degree of difficulty Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson apply to their halfcourt heaves, but I’m not tossing my Bud in the air because a guy hit another deep ball.

Thank goodness for Steve Kerr.

All this was on my mind during the Warriors recent tilt with the Denver Nuggets because without Steph or Klay et al, and with Kerr obviously a little tightly wound right now, Golden State has been forced into a different way of playing. They are scrappier than usual and look for way more 2-pointers. You know, pre-analytics basketball.

As a result, the Warriors are suddenly more interesting to my eyes. They are mortal. I actually enjoy their terrific ball movement now, knowing that there isn’t always going to be a circus 3 at the end of it. Additionally, this new rag-tag version of the Warriors has to be more inventive on defense, and they are, jumping perimeter passes and poking balls away from inside attackers.

Against the Nuggets, for example, one of the NBA’s better interiors because of their clever big man Nicola Jokic, they played with fast hands, turning quick turnovers into transition attack. It was often pretty to watch.

Alec Burks and D’Angelo Russell led much of the onslaught, relying on a versatile arsenal that included 3’s, sure, but also breaking lay-ups and pull-up jumpers. Off the bench, Burks had 25 in just 32 minutes. Russell had 19 and notably instigated plenty of offense with nine assists. Yes, both players can get a little trigger-happy and don’t always shoot at a high clip, but when the chips are down somebody has to show some bravado, not just the coach.

Speaking of puffed out chests, Draymond Green keeps on chugging, rebounding and pushing the rock into useful spaces. Then, there’s Glen Robinson III, who also hits 3’s and gets down the court to finish well. And we can’t forget the new “microwave” Jordan Poole, as capable of a beautiful pass as he is a well-cooked up-and-under. It’s all good stuff, from a motley crew that is truly earning its stripes.

Win or not, and it’s mostly not in the 2019-20 season, these Warriors are fun. I like their urgency; the ball looping around the key and eventually going inside and quickly back out, sending the defenders into a spin. It works because many of today’s defenders are so jumpy and eager to get the ball in transition. They are easily caught in no man’s land. The Dubs take advantage of this with their young legs.

They adopt a similar approach on high screens and pick and rolls, getting defenders out of the interior to set up easy lanes for the likes of Willie Cauley-Stein to run into. It’s basic basketball but so effective when you have less experienced players…and just a handful of wins.

Despite all the losses, the local fans seem to appreciate the effort. They’ve had plenty to cheer about this past decade, so this must be a strange existence right now – looking for silver linings. Hey, it’s a weird feeling for us non-Warrior fans as well, because where we were once so jealous of Warriors Nation, perhaps we feel more in tune with them. We are simpatico.

Next. NBA: Biggest surprises and disappointments midway through 2019-20. dark

Times change. The ticker-tape has been stashed away for another day. The incessant jumping up and down by front-row billionaires on every 3 has subsided. There are fewer front-running Curry jerseys about. Even Mike Breen has toned down those overzealous “Bang” calls, mercifully.

It’s simply lunch pail basketball, where the little things are especially satisfying.