OAKLAND – They don’t celebrate 50-win seasons around here. Not anymore. Not when it’s a mere signpost along the way to something worth cherishing.
That’s what 50 wins has become for the Warriors. When they hit No. 50 on Sunday with an indistinct 121-114 victory over the Detroit Pistons, there was but the slightest few moments of reflection.
“Pretty impressive,” coach Steve Kerr said.
“It’s special to be a part of something so great as these last six of seven years have been for us,” Draymond Green said.
Beg pardon? Impressive? Special? For a franchise that reached 50 wins four times in its first five decades in the Bay Area to string together six consecutive such seasons is right out of the late Franklin Mieuli’s wildest fantasy.
Mieuli owned the Warriors for the first 24 years (1962-86) of their Bay Area existence, first in San Francisco and then in Oakland. The Warriors reached 50 wins twice in that span.
Mieuli sold the team to Jim Fitzgerald and Dan Finnane, who owned the Warriors for nine seasons (1986-95), during which there were two 50-win seasons.
The Chris Cohan ownership lasted 15 seasons (1995-2010) and never saw a 50-win season. The most successful team under Cohan was the 2006-07 “We Believe” squad that finished two games over .500 (42-40) – enough to be revered for eternity.
Among the few employees remaining from the Cohan era is Stephen Curry, drafted one year before the current ownership group, led by Joe Lacob and Peter Guber. The Warriors were 25-56 in Curry’s rookie season, 36-46 the following season and 23-43 in his third season. So there was a time . . .
Curry knows, as do the team’s longtime fans, how absurd this turnaround has been.
“It’s surreal, to be honest, when you talk about the history of the organization and how hard it is to win NBA games, win championships and string together year after year after year,” he said. “It takes a collection of talented guys, a commitment to trying to put together the best team possible every year. And that’s the front office, the coaching staff, all the way down.”
The Warriors and their fans have evolved from the years of praying for the playoffs to the annual expectation of championship parade. They once hoped for satisfactory. They now anticipate excellence.
“When I came here, I think there was a 23-win season the year before that,” said Green, who was drafted in 2012, three seasons after Curry. “The next year was my rookie year and we made the playoffs and we won (47) games. To have the run that we’re currently having, it’s a special thing.
“But in saying that, we get the opportunity to do it with a special group of guys, a special organization, a special coaching staff, a special ownership group, a special front office. It’s more about the people that you come work with every day. That’s what makes runs like this possible. That’s what makes runs like this sustainable.”
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The Warriors were 51-31 in Mark Jackson’s final season as coach. They’ve since won 67, 73, 67, 58. Here in Year 5, they are at 50 – and counting.
Which is why, in part, Kerr says he didn’t sweat that putrid performance the Warriors laid down Saturday in a 35-point loss to Dallas at Oracle.
“It’s hard for anybody to understand what these guys go through physically, emotionally and spiritually, trying to defend the crown, trying to win the title, trying to stay on top of the mountain,” Kerr said. “It’s hard. And last night they had nothing. They had nothing in the tank.
“The great thing about this team . . . is they always bounce back because they have so much pride. What they have accomplished – this team has the best record over the last four seasons (265-63) as any four-year run in the history of the NBA. What they have done is just remarkable. Last night was tough, but it’s really tough to do what they have done, too. We’re going to give them a pass and we are going to move on.”
Understand, 50 wins guarantees nothing in the postseason. The NBA graveyard is replete with headstones marking the first-round demise of 50-win teams. In the first of their six 50-win seasons, 2013-14, the Warriors were such a team, ousted in seven by the hated Clippers.
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Here’s the one thing a succession of 50-win seasons can assure: Respect. That’s something the Warriors had to earn.
“I have a true appreciation for what we’ve been able to do,” Curry said. “But I want to continue this for as long as we can.”