The current Warriors team is trying to become the second NBA champion since the team moved from Philadelphia in 1962, but the only similarity between this team and the 1975 champs is that both coaches used all the players available.
And if the current team doesn’t start playing better than it has so far against the New Orleans Pelicans, there will be no comparison at all.
Nobody expected anything from the 1974-75 team, especially after star center Nate Thurmond was traded to Cleveland. But coach Al Attles used centers Clifford Ray and George Johnson to replace Thurmond’s defense and rebounding, though not his offense.
Meanwhile, the team also benefited from two rookies, Keith Wilkes and Phil Smith, both of whom made significant contributions to the team’s offense.
Mostly, though, the Warriors had Rick Barry, who had matured as a player by adding an effective jumper to his repertoire. And in 1974-75, with such a young team, Barry was also a coach on the floor, moving players around on offense, calling plays and also leading the team in scoring by a considerable margin. He had as good a season as I’ve seen in more than half a century of watching the NBA, but in the vote by players for Most Valuable Player, he finished fourth, which tells you all you need to know about his personality.
That 1974-75 team started slowly because of the influx of new players, but with Attles making judicious moves and the young players developing, it came on strong at the end. The Warriors won only 48 games in the regular season, but they rolled through the playoffs and demolished the Washington Bullets in four games to win the championship. They had to play their final games at the Cow Palace because the Coliseum Arena board, assuming the Warriors would not be in the championship round, had scheduled another event for the Coliseum.
This season’s team is much better balanced than the 1975 champion, though Stephen Curry is unquestionably the leader and a strong candidate for league MVP honors. Both Curry and his running mate at guard, Klay Thompson, are very effective 3-point shooters (the 3-point option didn’t exist in 1974-75) and coach Steve Kerr gets the most out of his whole roster. Andrew Bogut has had many health issues, but he is a force inside with his shot blocking and rebounding.
Kerr is a rookie coach, but he was a good role player and, with few exceptions, successful NBA coaches have usually been former players because they understand the culture of the league. Kerr has an even temperament, which also works well with this team, and a good sense of humor. He’s been a welcome change from his predecessor, Mark Jackson, who has serious personality issues.
The worrying thing about this team is that, though they’ve won their first two playoff games against the Pelicans, they haven’t looked anything like the team that posted the best regular-season record in the league. Perhaps it’s just nerves, because there’s more pressure in the playoffs. But if they don’t get back on their game soon, the 1975 Warriors will remain as the sole NBA champion since the team moved west.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at email@example.com.