Washington: Forget about taking it one game at a time. The Golden State Warriors are embracing their quest for a third consecutive NBA title and they aren’t afraid to say so.
The Warriors could become the first team to win three crowns in a row since the 2000-2002 Los Angeles Lakers and match the second-longest championship run in NBA history.
“We talk about the three-peat just because it’s in front of us,” two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry said. “I don’t think it’s something that’s repeated every single day. But when we start the season, obviously we lay everything out on the table, what’s at stake in terms of our expectations.
“We understand that winning a championship is attainable if we take care of our business, and doing it three years in a row is a tremendous opportunity for us that we should not be afraid to talk about and go after.”
Only the Lakers, two 1990s Chicago Bulls teams powered by Michael Jordan and the 1952-54 Minneapolis Lakers have won three titles in a row, with the record run of eight belonging to the 1959-1966 Boston Celtics.
But for a seventh-game loss to Cleveland in the 2016 NBA Finals, the Warriors would already be celebrating four crowns in a row instead of seeking a fourth in five campaigns.
“You never stop enjoying it. You just start focusing on the next year,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr. “But it’s always there. You always see the banner hanging and you see your ring. It never quite goes away. That’s the beauty of it.”
Fragility adds to the specialness and that comes into play this season, with two-time NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant and star guard Klay Thompson each set to become free agents next July and the Warriors looking at a salary cap crunch after spending big to assemble and keep a championship lineup.
The Los Angeles Lakers, with new star LeBron James, figure to make a bid for Durant, who left Oklahoma City in 2016 to join the Warriors and form a ‘superteam’ line-up that has gone 8-1 in the NBA Finals.
Just as James left Cleveland and won titles in Miami then departed, the concern is that Durant might arrive to become a champion and then depart, although the Warriors could make the richest offer to keep him and have the lure of a new arena in San Francisco opening with him as a star attraction if he stays, even in a short-term deal.
“There’s more expectations now and a little bit more detail,” Durant said. “But it’s a whole new system and new group of players and more expectations — we’ll see how that plays out.”
The Warriors have endured two-month play-off runs for four years — an extra 83 playoff games amounting to an extra season and less rest than rivals who haven’t enjoyed such success.
“It’s always too short. That’s a great problem to have,” Thompson said. “Our time in the off-season has been so crunched these last four years so you have to make the most out of every single day ... It goes by fast.”
The Warriors have had to cope with injuries, adjusting to new players and even handling their own success without getting complacent.
“Winning a championship is the goal,” Curry said. “How you get there and how you kind of break up that mission on a day-to-day, game-by-game, month-by-month basis is what makes us great. We adapt really well and we don’t stay down for too long.”
Many players have spent time away from the sport to revive a hunger for it, Thompson travelling to Bahamas, China and Qatar while forward Draymond Green went to Greece, Israel, France and Mexico.
“It helped me more so mentally just to get away from the game for a minute and miss it,” Green said. “It gears you up, feeds that hunger and want to get back and get better in the thick of things. I think that’s important for everyone.”
Green said last season “was a grind” and “stuff wasn’t as fresh as it was the year before” because “there was really nothing for us to work on.
“We knew the whole year we were just trying to get to April and then May and June. But there was nothing to spark that fire. So it made everything a drag.”
This year Golden State added All-Star centre DeMarcus Cousins, lost three veterans and will rely more upon younger talent off the bench.
“This year, we have something to work on,” Green said. “We have a lot of young guys.”