Back-to-back champion Warriors dealt with back-to-back challenges all season
David West: ‘There were some things internally. When you guys find out about that s—, you’ll trip’
CLEVELAND – With numerous magnum gold and black champagne bottles emptied everywhere and also unopened in a gold tub in the visiting locker room, Golden State Warriors big man David West said there was a lot to celebrate after winning the 2018 NBA championship.
“We just worked. Different guys throughout the year carried the load and helped us,” West said. “There were some things internally. When you guys find out about that s—, you’ll trip. You’ll trip. It’s a testament to the type of people these guys are, how tied we were as a group and then we were able to win it.”
The Warriors beat LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in a rare sweep with a 108-85 victory at Quicken Loans Arena in Game 4 of the NBA Finals on Friday night. Golden State won back-to-back NBA championships and its third title in four years. Kevin Durant earned Finals MVP honors for the second straight year.
The Warriors are the first team to win the Finals in a sweep since the San Antonio Spurs swept James and the Cavaliers in 2007. But while Golden State made it look easy winning in a sweep, it was far from easy as Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Patrick McCaw and Andre Iguodala had to overcome injuries in the playoffs. The champs often had a lack of focus and some were dealing with personal issues during the season.
Asked if this title was the hardest to win of his three, forward Draymond Green said: “One hundred percent. It is not even close.”
“It is because of what we had to go through,” Green said. “We went through so much adversity. Mentally. Injuries. Complacency. You name it. We went through it.”
None of the Warriors would elaborate on West’s comments about the personal problems. West said no loose lips was a testament to how tight the team was. Without offering a hint of detail, sources said at least two players fought through personal challenges this season.
Green acknowledged West’s comments.
“I think people would trip out on a lot of s—. We don’t. That is what is most important,” Green said.
There were challenges aplenty on the Warriors’ road to repeating as champion.
A day after Media Day in September, the 2017 NBA champions were uninvited to the White House by President Donald Trump for a celebration they did not want to attend anyway. Trump said Friday morning that he would not host the 2018 NBA champion after James and Curry said earlier this week that neither team was interested in an invite.
The Warriors played two preseason games against the Minnesota Timberwolves in China that brought them to training camp early. Despite having four NBA All-Stars and being loaded with talent, the Warriors appeared to lack focus the entire season, which frustrated head coach Steve Kerr, sources said. After having the NBA’s best record the past two seasons, the Warriors had the third-best record and the second seed in the Western Conference playoffs behind the Houston Rockets.
The Warriors opened the playoffs without Curry due to a knee injury and didn’t get him back until the second round. Golden State trailed 3-2 against the Rockets in the Western Conference finals before rebounding to win on the road in a deciding Game 7. The Warriors might have lost Game 1 of the NBA Finals at home if not for a missed free throw by Cavaliers guard George Hill that was compounded by a last-second mistake in regulation by Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith.
Warriors guard Klay Thompson said: “Going through the season, going down 3-2 in Houston, that wasn’t fun. Game 1 against these guys [Cleveland] was tough, too.”
When Warriors general manager Bob Myers went into the locker room after winning the crown, he immediately went looking for the Larry O’Brien NBA Championship trophy, saying he needed a picture with the hard-earned hardware. Myers described the entire season as “challenging.”
“Maybe it looked easy to you, but it was hard,” Myers said. “The record wasn’t as good as the last couple of years. Steve said before the season that this would be our toughest one ever. And it really was. We staggered into the playoffs coming off that blowout loss to Utah.
“We were not a one seed. We had never been a two seed. We had to win a Game 7 on the road. We had some injuries. Just the wear and tear of trying to do it four [straight] times in the Finals. But they stepped up at the end. The players got it done. It was a credit to them.”
Myers added that the Warriors “bent but we never broke” this title season. Asked about West’s comments, Myers said: “Well, I will let David be the one [to say it].”
ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne reported that Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob said Kerr’s contract extension will get completed this offseason. A celebratory Kerr said his cigar “tasted like victory.”
“Shout-out to Steve Kerr for dealing with all our B.S. this year,” Warriors guard Shaun Livingston said.
Thompson suffered a high left ankle sprain during Game 1 of the Finals. Such injuries typically put NBA players out for weeks. The All-Star sharpshooter struggled offensively during the remainder of the Finals. But considering his injury, it was a wonder that he was even out there the last three games.
Thompson said he couldn’t feel his injured ankle after the game.
“My ankle is messed up. It’s hurting,” Thompson said. “But I’m not missing this for nothing. I worked too hard.”
West said: “Klay shouldn’t have played. His ankle was f—ed up. But he didn’t have it in him to sit down. What he did was unbelievable. The fact that he played after his Game 1 injury. Everyone else would have been done.”
Forward Andre Iguodala was playing with a left lateral leg contusion and bone bruise that caused him to miss the last four games of the West finals and first two games of the NBA Finals.
“I had an issue with the leg and I just couldn’t do anything,” Iguodala said to ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt. “You know it’s a problem when you can’t play golf. I can’t even take practice swings. I can’t help the guys. It was good for the guys to experience that, they overcame it.
“Once I saw that I could run, I was back out there the next day. It took me some time, but it was worth the wait and I’m happy I could be on the court and help the guys win.”
The Warriors entered Game 4 of the Finals extremely motivated to end the series after failing in a chance to sweep the Cavaliers last season. West said the players were quiet and focused at shootaround on Friday with the only talk about coming together to get the series over with. Green said Thompson’s and Iguodala’s injuries added to the motivation to end the series. Keep in mind that the Warriors lost a deciding Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals to the Cavaliers with then-starting center Andrew Bogut out with injury and Curry and then-center Festus Ezeli ailing.
The focused Warriors cruised to the victory as Curry scored 37 points while Durant added a triple-double of 20 points, 12 rebound and 10 assists. The Warriors will celebrate their title in Oakland, California, on Tuesday.
“Part of the motivation was that ‘Dre [Iguodala] was out there limping around,” Green said. “Klay was out there limping around. You just never know … Go get it done. Don’t mess around with it. We had an opportunity last year and we didn’t deliver. Don’t make the same mistake twice.”
Durant said: “I’m glad that we came out and played a great game tonight. We were able to finish the series off.”
McCaw was extremely emotional in the locker room as he hid his face, championship hat and champagne protective goggles under a towel as he cried. Warriors head performance therapist Chelsea Lane consoled McCaw as his teammates celebrated. The second-year veteran fell to the floor hard after he was undercut by Sacramento Kings forward Vince Carter on a layup attempt during a March 31 road game. McCaw suffered a lumbar spinal contusion.
McCaw told The Undefeated that he would return this season. The St. Louis native was correct as he returned for Game 6 of the Western Conference finals against the Rockets on May 26. While McCaw is a two-time champion, this one meant more because of what he overcame.
“Everything was going through my head. The entire season. My injury,” McCaw said. “It was a sensitive time. I had to appreciate this moment with my family and my teammates. A lot of people don’t know mentally how was it was for me to just deal with that injury.”
It was understandable why guard Quinn Cook was also in tears in the locker room with a bottle of champagne sitting between his feet and a championship hat on his head. The journeyman Quinn, who was cut by the Atlanta Hawks in training camp, went from Warriors two-way roster player to NBA champion.
Guard Nick “Swaggy P” Young also won his first NBA title after enduring a roller-coaster career.
“They can’t say nothing about ‘Swaggy’ no more … When I go to a museum, I’m going to say, ‘Swaggy P,’ champion,’ ” Young said.
About the only controversy in this season finale was the debate about Durant winning the Finals MVP over Curry in a media vote. Curry has won three NBA titles and two NBA MVP awards, but he has never won the Finals MVP. Curry appeared not to care as he celebrated with a cigar in his mouth.
“K.D.’s been amazing these last two years, especially in the Finals, and so deserving of back-to-back Finals MVPs,” Curry said. “I’m going to be his biggest fan in there with what he’s able to do. The biggest thing we appreciate in the locker room is, again, what everybody brings to the table and we kind of unlock the greatness out of each other.
“I can put my head on the pillow tonight and, actually, I might not go to sleep. When I do go to sleep, put my head on the pillow and understand I had a great year, had a great Finals and I’m a champ.”
Durant, who scored 43 points in a big Game 3 win, said of winning Finals MVP over Curry: “Does it matter? Does it? Does it? We won two championships. We just won back-to-back. I don’t think anybody’s even worried about that type of stuff.”
The 2018-19 NBA season will begin in mid-October with a back-to-back champion in the Warriors. The last back-to-back champion was James and the Miami Heat with titles in 2012 and 2013. The last time an NBA team won three straight championships was Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal and the Los Angeles Lakers from 2000-2002.
As tough as the second-straight title was for the Warriors, this might seem easy compared with the three-peat challenge that awaits.
“The scrutiny is not going to get any less. It may get more. The test isn’t over,” Myers said.