HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The sellout crowd, the standing ovation at the end and the playoff chants were all fitting for a team and franchise that achieved against all odds this season.
Late Tuesday night in Oakland, one of the NBA’s most rabid fan bases was rewarded when the Golden State Warriors clinched the franchise’s second playoff berth in the past 19 years. Nobody celebrates these things better than the Warriors, who cashed in on their last playoff appearance in 2007 by shocking the Dallas Mavericks in the first round.
Warriors coach Mark Jackson has been a believer in his team all season and that faith has been realized now in the form of a team that won six of its past eight games to strut into the playoffs, as opposed to slipping through the back door.
“We celebrated, and rightfully so,” Jackson told reporters afterwards, fighting back the tears that flowed in a reportedly emotional and raucous postgame locker room celebration. “People questioned us, and they should have. People doubted us, and they should have. But they underestimated the heart, the desire, the work ethic, the determination, the willingness to put in the time and then the favor of God.”
Much like fellow Tuesday night playoff clincher Houston, the Warriors have arrived to the surprise of many. They’ve done it without the hype-train that has accompanied the Rockets’ rise. There’s no James Harden or Jeremy Lin headliner on this Warriors team (although an All-Star like David Lee and shooting star like Stephen Curry certainly deserve whatever plaudits come their way).
The Warriors’ front office doesn’t have a figure like Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, the Wizard of Advanced Metrics Oz, to point to. Warriors general manager Bob Myers has gone about his business without a ton of fanfare. He’s plotting the course properly. The Warriors roster is sound. And they are built not just for a momentary playoff flash this time, but for a sustained period of playoff contention that Warriors fans have not experienced before.
It’s the vision that Warriors owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber have talked about non-stop since taking over the franchise. They have a long-range plan, one that includes being a playoff regular and eventually a contender. When you’re a lottery tea, it’s just fantasy basketball … pipe dreaming, if you will. But when you are a playoff team, the vision is tangible.
“We should enjoy this,” Lacob said after Tuesday’s playoff-clinching win. “We’ve got to celebrate the little moments, too. Every step counts. This is an important first step for this franchise and this ownership group and for all of these guys and the coaches.”
How soon the Warriors take that second step remains to be seen. The playoffs provide all sort of opportunities for upstarts to attempt to “shock the world.”
One thing seems certain, though, and that is the Warriors shouldn’t have to endure another six-year wait between playoff trips.