OAKLAND, Calif. — Just a few minutes before the Golden State Warriors pounded the Indiana Pacers 142-106 on Monday night, spurred on by Klay Thompson’s inexplicable 60 points in just 29 minutes, Warriors general manager Bob Myers sat in a suite deep inside Oracle Arena thinking about last season versus this one.
A quarter of the way through the 2015-16 campaign, the Warriors were the darlings of the NBA, off to a 21-0 start and still basking in the glow of having won their first title in 40 years.
The record was perfect, but not much else was. Head coach Steve Kerr was still recuperating from complications due to offseason back surgery and would be sidelined for another two dozen games. The team had to adjust upon his return yet still won a record 73 games. Then MVP Stephen Curry suffered multiple injuries in the first round, the Warriors clawed back from down 3-1 to Oklahoma City in the conference finals, they lost Andrew Bogut to a knee injury when they were up 3-1 in the Finals, Draymond Green was suspended and…
Well, we all know what came next.
This season, the Warriors are 18-3, three games off last year’s torrid start but still good enough for the best record in the NBA. With Kevin Durant now clad in Golden State blue and gold, the team is putting up scoring totals not seen in the league for more than a quarter-century, and an offensive efficiency that is heretofore unprecedented. Even on off nights, they never seem truly out of any game, no matter the opponent.
At their best, well, just ask the Pacers how that goes.
But before Thompson’s historic feat, Myers sat down with Bleacher Report to discuss the team’s dominant start to the year, the recent hullabaloo surrounding Draymond Green’s physical play, how it’s possible the Warriors seem to get along so well and the hardest deal he’s ever had to pull off. (Hint: It wasn’t signing Durant.)
On the Warriors’ 18-3 start and how this season feels compared to last:
I think with last year, you learn from success and you can learn from failure. We had both last year. We had a ton of success, especially regular-season success. We’ve had that the last couple years, but then we didn’t finish the way we wanted to. Separate from losing the Finals, I don’t think we were playing our best, as a team and individually. I think that gave us some perspective. You do want to play well the whole year—that’s the goal for every team—but I think it taught us that the best and most important thing is to build toward something that is sustainable in the playoffs.
We’re not measuring ourselves against last year’s team. It’s a different team. We want to hold ourselves to a standard that we think we should be able to meet, while integrating and assimilating with a lot of new players and coaches. Anyone that’s played or been around the sport knows it takes a little time, as it should. It should take time for any team to gel. It shouldn’t take five games for a bunch of new players to integrate. I think we’re on our way. We’ve had some games where we’ve shown it, some games where we’ve struggled. I do like the fact that, for the most part, we compete night in, night out. Players in the locker room get along. It’s a pretty selfless group. I don’t think it’s ego-driven or individual-driven.
It’s early, too. We’re in one lap around the track, a quarter-mile, which, when you think about it, isn’t a ton to go on. The record’s good. We should never take that for granted; it’s a good record. Our losses are magnified but we knew that would happen going in, and some have been bad. But the last loss, Houston, was good, they earned it. We try to learn. Last year, by winning so much, I think from the coaches’ standpoint, it’s a little bit harder to teach when you don’t have many losing events, and then when those moments come in the playoffs it becomes more difficult.
On having Steve Kerr back on the sidelines to start the season, after watching games with him inside the arena last season:
We would only be about 15 feet away [from the entrance to the court]. It was unusual. I’d watch games with him on TV, which was kind of nice in a weird way. A GM and a coach watching a game together that their team is playing is probably really healthy; it just never happens live. I haven’t really thought about it until you asked. Those moments, I think, were important for our relationship because you learn, how do you view this and how do you view that? He wasn’t the Wizard of Oz in the back pushing buttons; Luke [Walton, as interim coach] was out there substituting guys and they’d speak at halftime and before and after games, but he wasn’t telling Luke, for example, at the six-minute mark you have to do this or that. It wasn’t to that degree, but Steve couldn’t have coached. He did want to, but he just couldn’t do it for the first 40 or so games.
I think people think Steve has been coaching in the NBA for 15 years. This is his third year. But because of the familiarity with TNT and him as a player, if you quizzed the fans and asked how long has Steve Kerr been a coach, I’m sure some would say 10 years. Some would say five. Nobody would say three. I’ve only been a general manager for five years. To think that you’ve figured anything out in that short amount of time is a little naive. It’s nice to watch him grow, and it’s been nice to watch our staff grow. I think he enjoys the group. I think they enjoy him. He’s a great leader and I think he keeps getting better and better.
The most important thing, when you sit in our seat up in the front office, is that your players respond to your coach. There’s no doubt that our team responds to him. He’s got the right balance of having this competitive edge and he’s got this great feel for the pulse of the team—when to push, when to pull and how to sustain that through …