The Golden State Warriors are through pretending it doesn’t matter that much. They want to break the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls’ record of 72 regular-season wins and will bust a gut trying.
“I’m not going to shy away from saying we want the record,” Draymond Green said following Saturday night’s loss to San Antonio. “Absolutely we want it, and we’re going after it.”
This does my heart good, and not because of any dislike for Michael Jordan or the Bulls or anything else to do with Chicago.
There’s just something admirable about striving to be the best at everything, the way Jordan always did.
The Warriors, for instance, already have an NBA title and are favored to win it again this year. They have the league’s best record, a haughty 64-7 following Wednesday night’s win over the Clippers. They have 11 games left before the long playoff grind begins and no requirement to overuse their starters or risk injury.
Still, if Steph Curry and company can plant the Golden State flag atop the NBA’s highest regular-season mountain, they will expend a ridiculous amount of energy to complete that mission.
“Now we’re right there,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Wednesday. “That’s pretty enticing.
“It’s really the players’ record. I know they want to get it. So we’ll act accordingly.”
My former colleague here, award-winning columnist Greg Stoda, used to pick at me good-naturedly on topics like this, primarily at the end of each college basketball season. As the top teams headed into conference tournament play, he would tell me that it probably would be better to go out in the early rounds, let somebody else win the ACC or the SEC or the Big Ten title, get rested up for the real deal of March Madness, the games that count the most.
He was probably right, but I would spark and spew about the value of hanging any banner that you can whenever you can. Only one team can win the NCAA title, after all. The rest need things to celebrate, too, and to remember forever.
The Warriors, a fairly buoyant group, seem to get that. They went hard earlier this season at the NBA record streak of 33 regular-season wins in a row, eventually coming up five wins short of the 1971-72 Lakers led by Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor. They’re going hard now after the 72-10 regular-season record set by Chicago with Michael and Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman.
It won’t change a thing if they come up short. They’ll still have a battle on their hands with San Antonio in the Western Conference playoffs no matter which team is seeded where. They’ll still be the team that everyone else is trying to be even as every team is trying to beat them.
To finish 73-9 or better, though, that would be something that no one has ever done.
That’s something worth having, and Kerr won’t get in the way of players going after it the way all-business Gregg Popovich might do if placed in the same position.
Really, why would Kerr? The Warriors went 39-4 to start the season without him, while their head coach was rehabbing a serious back issue and assistant Luke Walton was filling in.
They’ve kind of got this winning thing down.