OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Stephen Curry came home late Tuesday night following the Golden State Warriors’ blowout loss to the Charlotte Bobcats and received some basketball advice from an unexpected source: His wife, Ayesha.
”She was like, `Are you all right?”’ Curry said. ”She just looked at our faces, and we were kind of down at all points in the game. So for her to say that was kind of telling. We have to turn that around.”
Having fun has been harder during this season of unusually high expectations.
The Warriors (30-20) enter Saturday’s game at Phoenix (29-20) with the same record through 50 games as last season, when they finished 47-35 to earn the Western Conference’s sixth playoff seed. With a brighter spotlight nationally and an always fervent fan base in the Bay Area, success has not been celebrated nearly the same way this time.
The Warriors, only two years removed from a 23-43 record during the lockout-shortened season, are still learning how to manage expectations. Coach Mark Jackson tried to put it in perspective before Thursday night’s win over the Chicago Bulls by writing on a white board in the locker room that his team was 30-23 at the All-Star break last season.
”It’s a process,” Jackson said. ”You have to constantly remind them, because you want to rush it. You want to rush it. And to me, the joy of it all is not at the end holding the trophy. It’s the process, the process. To me, it’s tougher for us to get from where we were three years ago to where we are today than it is to get to a championship. We had to battle a history of being bad, a history of not defending. And they should be extremely proud of it, with a lot of room to still grow.”
Indeed, the Warriors have emerged from two decades – save the 2006-07 playoff run – of mostly irrelevance on the national stage to accomplish things so many recent teams couldn’t.
The Warriors hadn’t won two games beyond the first round of the playoffs since 1977 until taking the four-time champion San Antonio Spurs to six games in the second round last spring. David Lee became Golden State’s first player in the All-Star game last season since Latrell Sprewell in 1997. And Curry became the franchise’s first player voted in as a starter for the All-Star game this year since Sprewell in 1995.
Bringing nearly the entire roster back – minus reliable reserves Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry – and signing free agent Andre Iguodala to a four-year, $48 million deal was enough for many preseason prognosticators to label the Warriors serious Western Conference championship contenders.
The Warriors seemed to back up those beliefs with a captivating 10-game winning streak – with seven of the victories coming on the road – that set them up for a string of seemingly winnable games at home. Instead, they dropped five of seven at Oracle Arena until beating the Bulls on Thursday night.
”We’ve got to learn to handle success better. That is part of the process,” Jackson said. ”This is a young basketball team that’s experiencing success for the first time.”
In some ways, the Warriors may be in a better position now than at this point a year ago.
They are relatively healthy, though Lee, center Andrew Bogut and backup center Jermaine O’Neal all sat out Friday’s practice to rest nagging injuries. Lee will miss his second straight game at Phoenix because of a sprained left shoulder and strained left hip. His status remains uncertain for next week’s final two games before the break against Philadelphia and Miami.
Bogut, who sat out 50 of 82 games last season recovering from left ankle surgery, missed his first game of the year because of an injury Thursday with what the team called ”shoulder stiffness.” Jackson said Bogut is questionable and O’Neal (right wrist) is likely to play Saturday.
All of it has the Warriors wanting more success during this season’s stretch run than a year ago.
”We want to be better,” Curry said. ”Last year, we probably would’ve been like that’s as good as it could’ve been at that point and hopefully it will get better from that point of the season. But I feel like we are underachieving right now, but we can only control what’s ahead of us. No point in thinking back to the bad home losses we had and what happened after our streak. We’re going to continue to focus on being a consistent basketball team, however possible. That’s our challenge for these next three games going into the All-Star break and the second half of the season.”
Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP