From dog days to super villains, former NBA players tell the real story of the Warriors

From dog days to super villains, former NBA players tell the real story of the Warriors

With the ongoing truth-bending debate about the sweeping power of the almighty Warriors, it’s time for the bi-weekly history lesson, with contributions from those who actually lived it.

That would be some of the men who recall year after year when a trip to Oakland was perhaps the surest victory in the NBA.

“You could be out all night, and still you were going to get ‘em,” says Jermaine O’Neal, who spent 17 seasons as an opponent before ending his career as a member of the Warriors in 2014.

“You see the Warriors on the schedule, that’s a ‘W’ -- and it didn’t stand for ‘Warriors,’ ” says Clyde Drexler, the Hall of Fame guard who spent his entire 16-year career with Western Conference foes Portland and Houston.

For a more measured commentary, we turn to Jim Jackson, who has some of the broadest perspective in league history. During his 14 seasons, he played for 12 franchises, a number no one has surpassed. He was a Warrior for the final 31 games of the 1997-98 season, after which he became a free agent.

“It was always a great place to play because they had passionate fans,” he says. “But the balance of power -- the ability to get that true superstar -- escaped Golden State for some time after Chris Mullin and Tim Hardaway and Mitch Richmond and Chris Webber left.

“So now it’s good to see where they are because they’ve got such passionate fans.”

The Warriors were 19-63 in that ’97-’98 season, 30-52 the year before and 21-29 in the lockout-shortened following season. They were in the midst of, as long-suffering fans have memorized, a woefully pathetic run of 12 consecutive losing seasons, during which they finished an average of 24 games below .500.

One international media outlet (OK, ESPN) in 2006 posted a column by our man Brian Murphy, now a sports-talk show host at KNBR, nominating the Warriors as the worst franchise in American sports.

“I’ve seen the Warriors through the dog days, the ups and downs,” says Drew Gooden, who was born in Oakland spent his entire childhood in the East Bay before embarking on a 14-year in NBA career that ended in 2016.

“To see where they are now,” he adds, “they’ve basically created a dynasty, and they’re going to continue to add on to that. It’s night and day.”

The Warriors’ last trip to the lottery, in 2012, was their fifth in a row and 21st in 28 seasons dating back to 1985, when they drafted Mullin seventh overall. They struck gold with Curry in 2009 and Thompson in 2011. They found a solid player, Harrison Barnes, in 2012 but whiffed on Anthony Randolph in 2008 and Ekpe Udoh in 2010.

So, clearly, the Warriors, even as they have rebuilt the franchise almost from the ground up, haven’t always gotten it right. But their 40-percent success rate was enough to give them conceivably the most dangerous backcourt in NBA history.

“Jerry West was there for a while and he knows how to build a contending team,” says Michael Cooper, a defensive specialist who earned five championship rings with the Showtime Lakers of the 1980s, when West was the architect.

The Warriors are where they are due to a variety of forces. When CEO Joe Lacob hired Mark Jackson as the coach in June 2011, it was the right move, at that time, just as replacing him with Steve Kerr in May 2014 was the proper decision.

None of this would have happened without Lacob and co-owner Peter Guber setting the bar impossibly high, vowing to bring a new and brighter day to the Warriors.

“The guys they have now have righted all of the wrongs, getting three championships in four years,” Drexler says. “And they look like they’re going to get two or three more.”

In a league where power can be cyclical, maybe it’s time for the Warriors to have their turn. It was, to be fair, overdue. And some folks are OK with its arrival.

“I’m from Cali, so I like everything they’re doing,” says DeShawn Stevenson, a Fresno native whose 13-year NBA career ended in 2013. “I support it.

“I wish they’d whip everybody’s butt.”

The time is right for Warriors to make their typical impressive run


The time is right for Warriors to make their typical impressive run

OAKLAND – In each of the past four seasons for the Warriors, there was a point at which hoops harmony was achieved among stars, role players and coaches. For this season, that time is now.

After winning three consecutive games on the road, they now play 11 games – seven at home – over the next 22 days. Aside from an 85-minute flight to Salt Lake City next week, the Warriors never leave the Pacific Time zone.

Above all, the return of Draymond Green on Monday for the game against Minnesota gives the Warriors the benefit of good overall health.

“We’re starting to play a little better,” Green says. “We’re getting healthy. We’re (at home) for the rest of the month, except two games. So it’s a good time for us to make a run.”

Finding a rhythm during the holidays is almost an annual tradition since Steve Kerr became coach in 2014.

It was around this time last year that the Warriors – mostly on the road and mostly without Stephen Curry – compiled a season-high 11-game win streak that on Dec. 22 put them at 26-6, resulting in their highest win percentage (.813) of the season.

The previous season’s zenith came in November, which they closed out by winning 12 in a row. In 2015-16, a 24-0 start allowed the Warriors to run away from the league and get to an NBA-record 73 wins. In Kerr’s first season, 2014-15, a 16-game streak spanning mid-November to mid-December took them from 5-2 to 21-2.

Following a 10-1 opening with an 8-8 stretch, the Warriors enter Monday at 18-9 (.667 percentage), tied with Oklahoma City for the best record in the Western Conference. OKC won 10 of 11 earlier this season. Denver recently had a seven-gamer snapped. The Clippers had an 11-2 stretch, the Grizzlies a 7-1 stretch, the Lakers a 7-1 stretch and then a 5-1 stretch.

Less than a month ago, the Trail Blazers were atop the conference for brief period.

The Mavericks, for crying out loud, have won 10 of 13.

“A lot of teams have made their runs,” Green says. “We kind of started off hot, and then we hit this rough patch. But that’s OK. It’s a good time for us to make run, close out this calendar year strong and go into the New Year rolling.”

Stephen Curry is back and still lighting it up. Kevin Durant has emerged, with a vengeance, from four catatonic performances, punishing defenders by averaging 32.8 points on 52.3-percent shooting over the past nine games. After a wretched start, with one notable exception, Klay Thompson is shooting triples at his customary rate: 41.3 percent over the last nine games.

Kevon Looney is been solid in the middle and the bench is confident, well-defined and productive.

And one game after the Warriors played playoff-intensity defense in a win at Milwaukee, here comes Draymond, with DeMarcus Cousins only weeks away.

“With Draymond coming back, it allows us to get back to where we’re most comfortable,” Kerr says. “Which is with the ball really moving, our shooters screening for each other, trying to cause havoc off the ball, force tough decisions from the defense and more transition.”

The circumstances are in their favor. After the revived Timberwolves (13-13 after a 3-8 start) come the Raptors (21-7), who own the best record in the league. Following a trip to Sacramento (13-12), the Warriors get Memphis (15-10), Utah (13-14 but dangerous), Dallas (13-11) and the Clippers (16-9).

All this before LeBron James and the Lakers (16-10) come to Oracle Arena on Christmas Day, after which the Warriors play Portland (15-11) twice in two days before the month ends, mercifully, on New Year’s Eve in Phoenix (4-22).

With the ridiculous amount of cannibalism anticipated in the West, it’s conceivable that no team in the conference will win 80 percent of its games or approach 65 wins.

If there is one team with the goods to do it, it’s the Warriors – particularly if they play as they generally do in the weeks before the next calendar year. -30-

DeMarcus Cousins to practice with Santa Cruz Warriors starting Monday


DeMarcus Cousins to practice with Santa Cruz Warriors starting Monday

OAKLAND — The rehabilitation of DeMarcus Cousins enters its final phase this week, probably as soon as Monday.

He’s going to Santa Cruz to get in a few intensified practices with the G League Warriors, who aren’t scheduled to play a game until Friday.

Cousins has spent the past 10 months recovering and rehabbing after having surgery in January to repair a ruptured left Achilles tendon. He has spent the past several weeks participating in practices and scrimmages with the NBA Warriors.

The decision to send Cousins to the G League is based mostly on conditioning. He’ll endure more challenging in-season work in Santa Cruz than he would in the NBA.

His biggest adjustment, according to teammate Draymond Green, will be maintaining the pace at which the NBA Warriors like to play.

“Two things: It is a completely different pace than he’s ever played since he’s been in the NBA, and he’s coming off an Achilles injury doing it,” Green said Sunday. “That’s tough.

“Nonetheless, DeMarcus is one of greatest talents in this league. So we’re not going to play at some pace that he can’t play at and make him irrelevant to our offense. We’re going to make it work.”

[RELATED: Why Draymond is the unique fizz that makes the Warriors sparkle]

Though Cousins can anticipate shuttling between Santa Cruz and Oakland this week, it’s expected that he will be with the NBA team this weekend. The Warriors will face his former team, the Kings, on Friday night in Sacramento.

The possibility of Cousins actually playing in a G League game is unlikely, according to one source, while another says it has not been completely ruled out.