Former members of Warriors' supporting cast reflect on championship runs
TORONTO — At 31, Leandro Barbosa was the oldest player on the roster when he joined the Golden State Warriors before the start of the 2014-15 season. His teammates were so young, they might as well have practiced at recess. Stephen Curry was just beginning to edge toward global stardom, and the Warriors had not won an NBA championship since 1975. Nobody was using the word “dynasty.”
“We were underdogs,” Barbosa said. “No one believed that we could go so far.”
The Warriors had signed Barbosa, a guard known as the Brazilian Blur, in large part for his experience, and he found himself surrounded by willing learners. He recalled how Curry and Klay Thompson were always peppering him with questions.
“They would just nod their heads and say, ‘Thank you,’” Barbosa said recently in a telephone interview. “It’s kind of funny to think how big they are now.”
Barbosa was there for the start of what has been an exhilarating five-year ride for the Warriors and their fans, and a soul-crushing stretch for pretty much everyone else. Curry and Thompson — the Splash Brothers — were plenty good even then. But few could have anticipated all the records their Warriors would smash, and all the rings they would chase.
Golden State is now making its fifth straight appearance in the NBA Finals, facing the Toronto Raptors for a shot at a fourth championship in that span.
Barbosa left the Warriors in 2016 after two seasons that included the first title in the run, but he still feels a deep connection to the franchise — and to the sorcery that his former teammates continue to conjure. He is not alone.
Curry and Thompson are among the five players who have been with the Warriors for the entire five-year stretch — a celebrated core that also includes Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston. But the team has otherwise featured an evolving cast of characters: 38 players in all, including 21 who are no longer with the team. Some look back in wonder.
“You’re part of that legacy, that special story,” said David West, a former Golden State power forward.
No team is static. Change for the Warriors has come in the form of 10-day deals, trades and free-agent signings. (For example, a bunch of guys were jettisoned to clear room for Kevin Durant in 2016.) The result is a long list of alumni.
Festus Ezeli. Harrison Barnes. Ognjen Kuzmic. Brandon Rush. Remember them?
Some were key contributors, while others barely vacated the bench. Some left on their own terms, while others were not given much of a choice. Patrick McCaw is with the Raptors this season after a contract dispute. David Lee got engaged to pro tennis player Caroline Wozniacki. Marreese Speights spent last season in China. And there is Barbosa, now 36 and angling for an NBA comeback after two years in Brazil.
“I still have a little juice left,” he said.
What many of the past Warriors share, though, regardless of their individual circumstances, are ties to the 12,294 points they scored, the 831 3-pointers they made, the championships they helped win.
Yet the run keeps going without them.