After five straight runs to the NBA Finals, the Warriors' dynasty was put on pause this season with injuries, exhaustion and roster reconstruction hitting the team at once.
The moment Steph Curry went down with a broken hand in the fourth game of the season, it was clear the 2019-20 Warriors would not be making a playoff push in the loaded Western Conference. Instead, this would be a year to develop young players, add a foundational piece in Andrew Wiggins, discover which players can help the team return to the top and truly test the culture coach Steve Kerr and his staff have built.
After the NBA ratifies the return to play plan with 22 teams heading to Orlando, the Warriors' season will conclude with an NBA-worst 15-50 record and a lot of ugly losses. But despite all that, Warriors bench coach Ron Adams has found the positive in what was a trying year for the NBA's former goliath.
“It was difficult to watch, on the one hand,” Adams told The Athletic's Tim Kawakami about the Warriors' defensive struggles. “But going into the season, I knew there were pretty lofty expectations but it was pretty apparent to me this was going to be a season that tested all of us. … Having said that, I was really proud of this team from multiple standpoints. The first thing is I thought they were very competitive. We had some stinker games, but for the most part, regardless of who we were playing, regardless of the number of people we had active that night, the guys went out, they competed, they played pretty well together, they tried to play defense and it was pretty gratifying to see.
"I would say also that, to a man, they kept their enthusiasm during the course of the year. Especially with the last group that we ended up with, really a good group of guys, they kept their enthusiasm, they kept their work ethic. It’s not easy when you’re winning 15 games to come to work bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
"And I would say that for the most part these guys did that every day."
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How the culture Kerr has built held up during the turbulent season really stuck out to Adams as a positive.
“We talk a lot about team culture and the environment that we have with the Warriors and the environment that Steve (Kerr) had the foresight to embark on," Adams said. "And I think last year in many ways was, really, the culmination of the other five years. From what I saw exhibited on the part of the players, the coaches, the environment was healthy, it was vibrant. You know, we weren’t as irreverent as we were the first five years, because we had young players. It was a slightly different environment in that regard. But all the tenets were in play. I thought Steve did a wonderful job in guiding this group.
"It was a shock for Steve, too, because he’d never gone through a season like this. But I really feel this season in some ways, from a lot of standpoints, was one that any coach could take great pride in.
“Sometimes you have to do that during a tough season. You look at how your culture holds up, you look at how you perform, you look at your consistency, you look at the consistency of the guys going through this. You know me, I’m a pretty old-school guy, but I was really pleased with what I saw. I think it’s a real tribute to our leadership, in particular Steve and Bob (Myers) and the atmosphere that Steve continued on this season.”
The Warriors will be a different team when they take the floor next season. Both Curry and Klay Thompson -- who missed the entire season after tearing his ACL in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals -- will be back. They'll be joined by Draymond Green and Wiggins, as well as Marquese Chriss, who found a home with Golden State after a rocky start to his NBA career.
The Warriors also will have a high NBA draft pick which then can use to inject youthful talent into the roster or package in a trade for an established veteran who can help them win right away.
Dreams of landing Giannis Antetkounmpo either this offseason or next will continue to dance through the minds of Warriors fans until The Greek Freak signs a max extension with the Milwaukee Bucks and pops that bubble.
With Curry, Thompson, Wiggins and Green all healthy, the Warriors will return to the top of the Western Conference next season. But they'll return to find the conference more competitive at the top than when they left it. Nonetheless, Curry, Thompson and Green are laser-focused on proving their doubters wrong and continuing a dynasty many believe ended at the hands of Kawhi Leonard.
The one bright light at the end of a dark tunnel for the Warriors was the fact that this was a true pause season. Their voyage to the bottom of the NBA would end with them shooting back up the ladder once they return to full strength.
The culture has been tested and came through the fire unscathed. The foundation is strong as ever. The Warriors' pause season is all but over and talk of their demise was greatly exaggerated.