OAKLAND - DeMarcus Cousins is still getting to know his current team, and someone asked him Monday about the culture he has encountered with the Golden State Warriors.
“It’s pretty relaxed and laid back,” Cousins said. “I mean, from top to bottom, it’s just a group of guys having fun and enjoying the game of basketball. I don’t even think they really approach it as a job.”
Cousins sounded almost surprised. At most gyms in the NBA, basketball is a business first and a game second. That has never entirely been the case under coach Steve Kerr, who has tried to inject small doses of humanity into the Warriors’ preparations. And it certainly doesn’t seem to be the case this year.
Monday was Media Day for the Warriors, and the message in downtown Oakland, at least from the higher-ups, seemed to be that even more than in previous seasons, the two-time defending champions would be oriented more toward the process than the ultimate goal.
“The idea is to really focus on how lucky we are to be here together in this era, this time and place,” Kerr said.
He spoke of the final season at Oracle Arena, and the fact that free agency could dramatically shake up the roster in a year.
“There’s no doubt that if we get back to the Finals and it’s another nine-month haul, there’s gonna be some bumps in the road and it’s not gonna be easy,” Kerr said. “But I do think there should be a slightly different theme this year. We are playing with some house money. We’ve won three of the last four championships. Our place in the history of the league is pretty secure. I don’t think our guys should feel a ton of pressure.”
Bob Myers, the Warriors’ youthful general manager, echoed the sentiment.
“I think we’re gonna try to move off of that narrative, as far as how hard this all is,” Myers said. “And it is hard – and rare for us to try and do it again. … But we’re gonna try and enjoy it. I know that sounds simple, but the goal is gonna be to enjoy this journey this year. All of it. The highs, the lows, the in-between.”
If these words sounded familiar — especially when accompanied by the sound of dribbling basketballs; just beyond the curtain to the side of the interview podium, various Warriors were subjecting themselves to publicity shoots — it’s not by chance. Kerr is a protégé of Phil Jackson, the legendary coach who managed to put “Zen” and “basketball” in the same sentence, with a straight face.
Kerr and Jackson recently sat down with an editor from the California Sunday Magazine. And during the course of that interview, the editor asked Kerr which motivational strategies have worked for him in Oakland.
Kerr’s response: “Well, I can tell you that one that did not work for me was when I blasted the team publicly last season. I was very forgiving all season long for the reasons Phil mentioned. It’s a long year, and players were tired, and they had shown some vulnerability. We were near the end of the season. We had four or five really bad games in a row, where I felt our effort was basically nonexistent. I was really worried, because the playoffs were coming up, and I let them have it, both in the locker room and then with the press later on, right after the game in Indiana. And that didn’t work. Our players were not happy. My assistant coaches came to me, and they said, ‘You got to pull that one back.’ ”