How 'We Believe' Warriors laid groundwork: 'They’re way past believing' now

How 'We Believe' Warriors laid groundwork: 'They’re way past believing' now

OAKLAND -- Jason Richardson, Monta Ellis and Stephen Jackson stepped to the podium Tuesday night to reminisce. It has been 10 years since they were part of a Warriors team that shocked the NBA.

Ten years since they inadvertently generated a movement that still resonates with Warriors fans.

We Believe.

With those two words the memories come flooding back to the Warriors fan base.

There was the 16-5 record over the final 21 games, including five consecutive wins to close out the season and slip into the eighth and final playoff spot.

The stunning upset of top-seeded Dallas in the first round.

The spectacular dunk by Baron Davis that vaporized Utah’s Andrei Kirilenko in Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals.

And the birth of “Roaracle,” coined thusly for the thunderous and sustained blast of noise within Oracle Arena that postseason.

“The best memory was definitely winning in the playoffs,” Jackson said one hour before tipoff of the Warriors-Jazz rematch in the Western Conference semifinals.

“But we have bigger memories than that. Just the whole year, being with each other, growing with each other, becoming family.”

That was one of the secrets to the appeal of that team. Those Warriors were a tight-knit group of underdogs, nearly all of them on a personal crusade to make a statement to skeptics the world over. They weren’t supposed to win; coach Don Nelson actually gathered them and told them they couldn’t win.

“We were just a bunch of guys who all had something to prove in different ways,” Jackson said.

Jackson had off-court issues in Indiana, as well as being a central figure in a pivotal brawl in Detroit that become known as the “Malice at the Palace.” Davis’ wondrous talent came with a history of injury and a reputation for being high maintenance. Richardson had never won anything. Ellis was drafted out of a high school in Mississippi. Al Harrington had been with multiple teams. Adonal Foyle was a lottery pick who struggled to stay on the court.

Yet, for the briefest of moments, they changed the culture. They pulled the Warriors out of the purgatory that is 13 consecutive non-playoff seasons and put them back on the NBA map.

“Guys actually wanted to be here, whereas my first five years didn’t want to be here,” Richardson recalled. “They just wanted to get points, get numbers, get contracts and get out of town.”

In some ways that team laid the groundwork for today’s Warriors, who have posted the league’s best record three years running. Stephen Curry arrived in 2009, just as “We Believe” faded out.

How on earth did they get from there to here?

“Drafting guys like Steph, Klay (Thompson), Draymond (Green),” Richardson said. “Putting together a team that was kind of similar to us, where guys got along with each other. And then you bring in a guy like Kevin Durant, who just fit right into the system.

“That’s what’s important about winning. Guys have to be able to match. They’ve got to mix together. They’ve got to hang out outside of basketball. That’s what we did. On the road, we were at dinners with each other. We were always around each other. That’s a big part of that chemistry on the floor.”

It’s a different ownership, a different mentality and a much more ambitious mandate.

The Warriors have gone from “We Believe” to “We Belong” to NBA elite.

“They don’t believe now; they’re past that. They’re way past believing,” Jackson said. “They’re going for (championship) No. 2.

“I’m just happy that something we started, they were able to make it and become champions.”


Daryl Morey admits Rockets make most decisions with Warriors in mind


Daryl Morey admits Rockets make most decisions with Warriors in mind

Grass is green, the sky is blue, and Rockets general manager Daryl Morey is still obsessed with knocking off the Warriors.

Morey admitted as much in an interview with the Houston Chronicle, telling the paper that "a very high percentage" of the Rockets' decisions this offseason are made with one thing on their mind:

Same as last year, it's very likely to win the title we're going to have to beat the Warriors at some point. We're doing what we can to prepare for them. To me, that's what any rational person would do. I'm intrigued by some thinking it's odd that we say that. Maybe because it's not a norm. Ask any fan, 'Who do you have to beat to win the title?' They're going to say 'the Warriors.' It seems like [general manager] speak or coachspeak to not say that.

Morey told anybody who would ask last season that the Rockets were single-mindedly obsessed with beating the Warriors in the playoffs. Houston came close last season, jumping out to a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference finals, before Golden State stormed back to win the final two games in Rockets star Chris Paul's injury absence.

Morey responded with a substantial makeover of his roster. Defensive stoppers Luc Mbah a Moute and Trevor Ariza are gone, while Carmelo Anthony, Michael Carter-Williams, Marquese Chriss, James Ennis and Brandon Knight are in. The Rockets were one of the West's best defensive teams last season, and Morey expects the team to withstand the loss of Ariza and Mbah a Moute.

"We can be [as strong defensively]," Morey told the Chronicle. "They were both extremely good defenders. So it will be a challenge. That was a big part of our meeting. [Assistant coach Roy Rogers] was walking through what changes and how excited he was with what he was planning to do and the personnel we have to be better than last year."

Morey -- as well as the Warriors -- will get a first look at whether or not Houston's offseason was successful on Nov. 17, when the Rockets host the defending NBA champions.  

Kevin Durant follows ex-teammate Russell Westbrook on Instagram


Kevin Durant follows ex-teammate Russell Westbrook on Instagram

There might be hope for Jimmy Butler to mend fences in Minnesota after all.

It appears ex-Thunder teammates Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are on better terms. Durant started following the Thunder point guard on Instagram on Saturday.

Durant and Westbrook played together for eight seasons in Oklahoma City, but their relationship seemingly turned sour two years ago after Durant joined the Warriors in free agency. Westbrook reportedly wasn't happy Durant spurned OKC for the Bay Area, and the two jawed at times during various Thunder-Warriors tilts.

But the icy relationship seemed to thaw at February's NBA All-Star Game in Los Angeles. Durant and Westbrook again played for the same team, and it appeared they were enjoying themselves.

That was a departure from the previous year -- Durant's first with the Warriors -- and the back-to-back Finals NBA MVP took the blame for their beef. 

"I feel like I f---ed that up," Durant said at the time. "I feel like I made it a thing when it shouldn't have been."

For his part, Westbrook said the weekend in February was "normal." But, as of this writing, Westbrook still does not follow Durant on the platform. He did, however, post this image on his Instagram story to show where he stood.

Well, where he stood physically, at least.