A long time has passed since the 1974-75 Warriors popped their corks after an NBA championship, the first and last in their Bay Area history. Now, 40 years later, another Warriors team enters the postseason with the best chance yet to follow their path to greatness.
The San Francisco Examiner recently sat down with four key members of the championship team — head coach Al Attles, assistant Joe Roberts and players Clifford Ray and Jamaal Wilkes. In their own words, here’s what they had to say about the current group:
Attles: “I like what they’re doing. They’re in a great place, and I hope it continues. If they stay healthy — and health is always the key issue — there’s no telling how far the can go. But I don’t like to get ahead of myself. Any team in the playoffs has the potential to win a series. I’m talking from prior knowledge. The year we won the NBA championship, the coach of a team we beat said we’d get swept in the finals. Almost every sportswriter thought we’d lose in four, but we won in four. You know what? It’s how a team plays at that particular time that’s important.
“I’m not that to smart to say the Warriors need to improve this or do that. Every coach has to do it his way, and Steve [Kerr] has to do his. He has done a great job playing all his guys. But sometimes a coach will let people get inside his head and start to think he has to play only seven or eight guys. That’s great if nobody gets hurt and everybody does the right things. But what happens if somebody gets tired or in foul trouble or has a bad night? That’s why you need the other guys to be ready.”
Ray: “I feel it’s up to them. If they play in the same manner they played all season, the rest will take care of itself. They have to trust their game, you know? What I would like to see them do is pay more detail to blocking out near the basket. Running ball clubs don’t always place that much emphasis on that part of the game, but you don’t want want to get outrebounded. In a best-of-seven series, every possession is important and second and third chances can kill you. The rest of their game is solid, as far as I’m concerned.
“There have been a lot of comparisons between this club and our club, but that’s not why I root for these guys. The reason I root for them is because I like the attitude of their players and the class they exemplify on the court. Andre Iquodala, Draymond Green, Stephen Curry, Festus Ezeli … all of them are good human beings, and you can see that on the court. If they maintain that attitude and don’t get sidetracked, everything will work out for them.”
Roberts: “They play hard. They seem to like each other. They protect each other. And they know how to play defense. That’s a good combination. All they’ve got to do is execute and stay healthy. Almost every team in the playoffs is one key injury away from elimination. The team with the best talent doesn’t always win the championship, but the one that’s healthiest usually does.
“They need to stay away quick shots especially when the game is on the line. They’ve got to treat those situations like a two-minute drill in football — be patient and run a good play every time they have the ball. In the playoffs, that’s particularly important, because every possession is crucial. Other than that, I like this team a lot. I see good things ahead for it”
Wilkes: “I’m very impressed by this team. Offensively, they’re very explosive as we know. What they have to do is limit offensive rebounds at the other end. They have to really pay attention to fundamentals — blocking out, getting back in transition and those kinds of things. That’s more difficult to do in the playoffs, because you play the same team at least four times in a matter of days. It’s much harder than in the regular season. Not only is it a physical grind but a mental one as well.
“Their style is much like ours in that they’re very unselfish and play nine or 10 guys. Coach Kerr and his staff have done a marvelous job, especially coming in under quasi-controversial circumstances. If they play as well as they can play and have played. … The Western Conference is tough, but I believe they can win it all. … I don’t want to jinx them in any way, but I’m really pulling for them.”