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Warriors: How an astounding team gets better

The Golden State Warriors won the NBA championship last season and are better this season. The Warriors won 67 games and only lost 15 last season. This season it’s 73-9, setting a record for the most wins. They’re a measurably better team, individually, and collectively.

The Marina Times was fortunate to be granted unprecedented (for us) access to the team, apparently because the Warriors’ gatekeepers concluded that the subject of this article was worthy of the team’s time: The Warriors’ have a culture of constant improvement. How is it implemented? Who is responsible for it?

It turns out that the Warriors’ version of Deep Throat (the person who connected the dots regarding the Watergate break-in) is forward Draymond Green: answer below.

* * *

Steve Kerr (head coach): Draymond [Green] was a second-round draft pick. He was determined to prove himself. He wanted to get better. Steph [Curry], he’s got a similar story. He’s had injuries, but that didn’t stop him. That sets a tone.

The way Andre [Iguodala], [Andrew] Bogut, Klay [Thompson] work, that sets a tone and I think that makes them push each other and makes them better.

Jarron Collins (assistant coach, former NBA player, Stanford star): It all comes back to our players and their desire. Their work ethic, sacrifice, determination, all individually and collectively.

It’s a credit to every single guy. It starts with Steph, Draymond, Andre, Bogey — to put in the time in the gym and to come back better. It’s really on them. It helps when the leader — Steph Curry — is the hardest worker on the team. He’s a gym rat. He sets the tone for the younger guys. It’s established.

When Harrison Barnes went to China last summer, one of our coaches went with him to improve his game. And [Assistant Coach] Bruce Fraser, [nicknamed] Q [for “Question” because he asks a million questions] is always checking in and working with the guys.

And I learn, too. I’m learning from [Assistant Coach] Ron Adams. One time in Chicago I asked him if he had dinner plans. He said he was having dinner with David Axelrod, the political consultant, the guy who ran Obama’s presidential campaign. Ron emphasizes that it’s always important to grow in life.

Jim Barnett (TV announcer): For the players, it comes from within. Steve Kerr gets the job done without using the whip.

Garry St. Jean (in-studio TV analyst, former coach): They’ve set common goals. They believe in each other.

Harrison Barnes (forward): We’re hungry for another championship.

Steph Curry (2014-15 NBA MVP): We have some great minds that put together a great team; character guys; pieces that match well; a coaching staff that has accentuated our strengths and taken us to that next championship level, which has obviously been proven.

In the locker room, we have guys who really care about each other, that want to win, that hold each other to a high standard. We have fun doing what we do, and it’s just a good recipe for success.

Four or five years ago, when we started to get a little taste of success, to have a couple failures in the playoffs and then come back, you learn a lot about who you are and what it takes to get to the next level, and we figured it out and want to hold onto this thing as long as we can. And so, we’re enjoying the moment for sure.

Draymond Green (forward/center): We want to be able to get better.

Number one, it starts with great ownership. Peter [Guber] and Joe [Lacob], our majority owners, are incredible. You look at their resumes. Everything that they’ve done, they’re incredible. I don’t know how it is anywhere else, but we know all of our minority (level) owners as well, and you look at their resumes — you’re talking Mr. [Bruce] Karsh, Chamath [Palihapitiya]. All of those guys are incredible. [Team President] Rick Welts, incredible. [General Manager] Bob Meyers, incredible. [Head Coach] Kerr, incredible. So that’s where it starts. Then you look at community relations, our PR group, incredible.

And then you get to the players. I think they’ve done a great job of finding a group of guys who can not only play, but who love being around each other and have great character, and who want to be great, who want the team to get better, no matter what it is, and then this is what you end up with [a historically-great season].

It’s not just us as players; our coaching staff is incredible. There was a tough decision made with coaching changes [after the 2013-14 season, Head Coach Mark Jackson was fired after a very successful 51-win season], and a lot of people were mad. There were a lot of mixed emotions, but ownership went out and got a great coaching staff. When you talk about a coaching staff, the mixture of the players, it makes this organization what it is.

I think it’s a complete team effort. And when I say “team,” I mean team as in organization. There’s not one part of our organization that you can look at and say, ‘Ah, this division’s weak.’ That was something the owners did when they took control of the team (in 2010): we’re gonna make sure that every division is strong. And it’s all grown into this success.

* * *

So Draymond Green has connected the dots for us, and the dotted line leads to the top: Joe Lacob and Peter Guber. Lacob, the Silicon Valley venture capitalist who oversees day-to-day operations of the Warriors; and Guber who made his initial bankroll producing blockbuster Hollywood movies. Yes, the guys with the deepest pockets also seem to be devoted to creating a Golden State Warriors culture of constant improvement. It’s worked so far. But what happens when other teams catch on to the concept, and catch up?

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Steve Hermanos is the author of three books of poetry about the San Francisco Giants' world championships. www.stevehermanos.com

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