For Warriors, time to celebrate championship is at an end

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OAKLAND — Some of the proud Warriors players danced in the streets without their shirts. Warriors second-year forward Jordan Bell chugged a bottle of Hennessy. So did Warriors All-Star guard Klay Thompson, who also sprayed champagne on fans along the parade route.

The Warriors felt intoxicated with championship euphoria and alcohol as they hopped on and off the bus during their championship parade in June. Well, most of them.

When Warriors general manager Bob Myers sat on the bus and stared at the crowd of fans cheering at every turn, he did not think of the team’s third NBA title in four years. He was worried about returning to the team’s practice facility in time to see rookie Jacob Evans in a pre-draft workout that afternoon.

“Your mind can’t be out there with a bottle of Hennessy when you have a draft workout,” Myers said. “You’re struggling to find the balance.”

Since training camp began two weeks ago, the Warriors have characterized themselves as reinvigorated despite playing in the NBA Finals for four consecutive seasons. As illustrated with Myers’ experience at the parade, players, coaches and front-office members have varying success in tackling the NBA’s first-world issue.

How long do the Warriors enjoy their NBA championship with rest and vacation before focusing on next season with summer workouts and game preparations? That question poses different answers for a few reasons. Some players and coaches prepare immediately for summer league. The front office’s itinerary becomes busier with pre-draft workouts in June and free-agency negotiations in July.

Either way, no one can ignore the calendar. As Thompson observed of the offseason, “it’s always too short; that’s a great problem to have.”

“Our time in the offseason has been so crunched these last four years, so you have to make the most out of every single day,” Thompson said. “I’ve always been itching to get back into the gym, but I also enjoy the heck out of my time. It goes by fast. Until we get that ring on ring night, I’m celebrating the hell out of it.”

Nothing captured Thompson’s festive spirit more than what happened after the Warriors won the 2017 NBA title in five games over Cleveland. Then, Warriors assistant general manager Kirk Lacob said Thompson gave him a “mild concussion” after accidentally dropping a champagne bottle on his head.

So after the Warriors swept the Cavs in 2018, Lacob sought payback. No, Lacob did not give Thompson a concussion as retribution. Instead, Lacob emptied his entire champagne bottle on Thompson. After Thompson enjoyed a champagne bath, the Warriors guard sprayed Lacob’s face with bubbly.

“To see the joy on his face,” Lacob said, grinning, “those are the fun moments.”

The not-so-fun moments? That happened 20 minutes later when Lacob left the locker room. Then, Warriors majority owner Joe Lacob and Myers discussed the following week’s pre-draft workout schedules.

“It’s not the healthiest way to live in some ways,” Kirk Lacob said. “But on the other hand, if things were to go south, I could move on quickly, too.”

So does his father. Team accounts said Joe Lacob has basked briefly in champagne celebrations before quickly exiting the locker room to talk with the front office about the future. “I hate to admit it, but yes,” Joe Lacob confirmed.

Then, Lacob often asks Myers, “What are we going to do to be better?” The Warriors’ front office has outlined long-term contingency plans for best and worst-case scenarios throughout the season. Yet, Lacob still has those post-championship conversations to reinforce his obsession with what he calls his “relentless pursuit of excellence.” After all, the Warriors acquired All-Star DeMarcus Cousins in free agency about two weeks after winning their second consecutive NBA title.

“It’s exhausting and some people are going to burn out,” said Lacob, before referencing his previous experience as a venture capitalist. “We have lost some people. But I’ve seen it over the years at Silicon Valley. If you want to be the best and be a big success, you got to be absolutely relentless with the way you pursue things.”

Warriors players and coaches do not think immediately about those things after winning an NBA championship. They are too busy clutching the trophy, posing for pictures and splashing each other with champagne.

That party often continues throughout the summer, beginning with the parade.

At this year’s parade, Bell received the most attention for chugging Hennessy throughout the day. Then, he let out his season-long emotions of exhilarating highs regarding his athleticism and potential and frustrating lows with his injuries and fluctuating role.

“My life was just better,” Bell said. “Nobody could tell me nothing the whole week. Not just that, I was just happy. Nothing pissed me off. Me and my girl didn’t have no problems. My brother was cool. Everybody was cool. I just didn’t let (stuff) get to me.”

Not even when Warriors veteran forward Andre Iguodala scolded Bell for his behavior. Iguodala apologized four months later, saying, “I probably shouldn’t have gotten on him like that; he was having fun.”

So was Iguodala, who normally adheres to a regimented lifestyle of disciplined sleeping and dieting. Toward the end of the parade route, Iguodala was offered ribs. Even without knowing where the food came from, Iguodala did not care. He said he had not eaten ribs “in years.” So Iguodala ate them without any regret. “Those were the best ribs I ever had,” Iguodala said.

Plenty of teams want to take the trophy away from the Warriors this coming season. So when is the right time to stop enjoying the championship glow?

“I’m still glowing,” Warriors star Stephen Curry said, grinning. “The glow won’t wear down until you get beat.”

Moments later, though, Curry admitted the glow has simmered at other times. Incidentally, Curry soon became weary any time a Warriors fan congratulated him for winning the NBA championship.

“I don’t want that to be the last time they say that,” Curry said. “You work so hard to earn the right to be proud of yourself at the end of the summer.”

So after spending a month relaxing, Curry spent most of mid-July training in the Bay Area to strengthen his previously injured ankles and knees. Even when Curry went on Under Armour trips in early September to the Philippines, China, Japan, France and the United Kingdom, he maintained an organized workout regimen to keep his conditioning and shooting sharp.

“That’s the thing I’m most proud of with our team,” Curry said. “Yeah we’re talented and all that. But the work that goes into it, the mental approach to turn the page has been there the last three years.”

Plenty of players turned the page quickly.

Bell immediately began training after the parade for two reasons. He planned to play in Summer League in Sacramento (July 1-4) and Las Vegas (July 5-17) before training in his hometown in Long Beach. He also grew tired of hearing congratulatory messages and jokes about drinking Hennessy during the parade.

“It just gets old,” Bell said. “I drink once every two months. But because I was like that in the spotlight, people are yelling ‘Hennessy’ or ‘What Hennessy do you drink?’ Stupid (stuff) like that.”

Shaun Livingston has scaled back his celebrating. He mostly spent the 2017 offseason with his baby daughter, Tyler Marie. This past summer, Livingston mostly relaxed between hosting camps in New York and Chicago.

A week after the parade, Iguodala underwent platelet-rich-plasma (PRP) to treat a left knee injury that sidelined him for six playoff games. He then spent the rest of his summer completing about 30 rounds of golf, providing commentary for TNT on the PGA Championship, hanging out with his son and building his business portfolio in the tech industry.

“The more and more you win, the less you enjoy it,” Iguodala said. “It sounds weird.”

But then again, it doesn’t. It is the price the Warriors pay to remain NBA champions.

Durant took a month off after the season before training and playing pickup basketball in New York, Los Angeles and the Bay Area. Thompson trained in July and August while mixing business and vacation in the Bahamas, China and Qatar. And forward Draymond Green spent the beginning of the offseason in Israel and several European countries.

Green later trained in his hometown of Saginaw, Michigan, and in Oakland. There, Green hosted “Grind Week” in early August, where various NBA players gathered for pickup games.

Before that, Green said he refused to reflect on the Warriors’ title because of the emotional toll he felt mentally and physically. As Green said, “it was the toughest thing I’ve ever been through in my life.”

“I didn’t want to think about basketball. I didn’t want to think about the run. None of that. I didn’t want to see the trophy,” Green said. “I wanted no parts of it. It was so tough that I really needed to decompress from that and just get away from it for a while.”

Most of the coaches could get away for a while. Steve Kerr vacationed in San Diego. Mike Brown went to France for a friend’s wedding. But assistants Willie Green and Fraser kept working through summer league.

Once that ended in July, more relaxation awaited. Kerr made more visits to San Diego and also vacationed in Ireland. Bruce Fraser surfed in Mexico and San Diego. And Brown visited his sons in Cleveland and Phoenix.

In past years, Kerr hosted a retreat in Napa Valley where coaches enjoyed croquet, tennis and wine. This year, Kerr held the retreat in Lake Tahoe.

During that time, the coaches review the season and watch film. They then brainstorm various ideas about their rotation, practice plan and playbook.

“You never stop enjoying it. You just start focusing on the next year,” Kerr said. “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.”

Kirk Lacob got married this summer before departing to Africa for a two-week honeymoon. Joe Lacob also got married, visited his summer home in Montana, enjoyed his honeymoon in Italy and Croatia and played golf.

The work, however, never stopped. Joe Lacob stayed in touch with employees over the phone. He also oversaw the ongoing progress of Chase Center, which will open in San Francisco for the 2019-20 season. Once Kirk Lacob returned from his honeymoon, he began various projects. And Myers stayed busy in July with free agency.

No wonder Myers did not fully enjoy the Warriors’ 2017 championship until vacationing in Italy in August. During that vacation, Myers noticed one of his daughters wearing the Warriors’ championship hat. “I literally hadn’t consciously thought of it until that moment,” Myers said. When he spoke those words in late July, Myers sounded unsure how well he would relax after the Warriors won the 2018 NBA title.

“The thing you want is to be able to stop. But how long do you stop for? When do you stop?” Myers asked rhetorically. “Is August OK to stop? Do you stop for a week after winning? I don’t know. But you’d like to think you can. That’s why we do what we do. If you don’t get to celebrate it, what are we doing?”

What the Warriors are doing: trying to win more championships. Therefore, they will continue figuring out how much short-term gratification they will enjoy without compromising their quest for long-term excellence.

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