SAN FRANCISCO – The scene was both familiar and strange.
We’ve seen the Golden State Warriors celebrate NBA Finals appearances multiple times in this era — five times in seven years at the Oracle Arena prior to this Thursday night, to be exact. When you see Ayesha Curry/Mary Papers-Green/Julie Thompson fans having as much time after the final whistle as they were after Game 5’s win over Dallas, enjoying this renaissance spearheaded by the same Steve/Draymond/Klay core that started this dynamic run since Eight years, you know there’s probably a cup of some sort.
But we’ve never seen this group go after it at Chase Center, where this guy’s sweep affair was only necessary because they had messed with Game 4 in Dallas a couple of days earlier, and thus – according to Tim Kawakami – stumbled on another $10 million in revenue due to the added home game. Incidentally, the upcoming Finals on Homeland are worth over $15 million apiece.
Talk about an enriching experience for everyone involved – in more ways than one.
However, from jubilating the Golden State to eliminating Dallas and all the great sights and sounds in between, there was a lot to get hold of that didn’t appear on TV. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at the night the Warriors won the West.
Maybe it’s from a generation – well, it’s definitely a generation – but Klay Thompson’s mention of his Nintendo habits during his post-match press conference sparked a level of curiosity that surpassed anything else he had to say about the game itself. Once upon a time, somewhere around 1985, this 44-year-old was taking photos of his victory over Mike Tyson at Punch-Out in hopes of winning the award-turned urban legend.
So while it was impressive that Thompson hit eight three-pointers in Game 5, surpassing Stephen Curry, Damien Lillard and Ray Allen to become the all-time leader in playoffs by at least eight 3s (five). The breakdown of the pre-game video game routine that moved the needle (for me) the most.
“I don’t want to reveal all my secrets,” Thompson said. “Before I start my day, I get up and jump in the 65-degree pool to wake myself up. I’m very lucky to have a pool.
“I just play with (my dog) Rocco. I play, maybe some Nintendo. I just try not to watch the media for basketball or basketball. That’s how I describe my mind, it’s just doing other fun things that occupy my time.”
I interviewed Thompson next to get to the bottom of the video game part of his existence. To be more specific, he plays on the Nintendo 64 and cites “Super Mario World” and “Super Smash Bros.” as his favorite toys.
Speaking of nostalgia, Thompson and I discussed the fact that some of the stars who survived playing against them in this playoff round were young when it all began with a win over the Cavs in 2015.
First round against Denver: Nikola Jokic was only 20 when the Warriors won it all.
Round two against Memphis: Ja Morant was 15.
Conference Finals: Luka Dončić was 16 years old.
“It’s crazy,” Thompson said. the athlete. “Now we are like those guys you talked about, like the Tottenham team we played with (in 2017), who were older but (good).”
Some blasts from the past who had long retired started to come to his mind.
“B-Rush” began with reference to former veteran Brandon Rush. “David West. (Andrew) Bogot. Mo Spits. That’s crazy. I miss these guys. When you win a championship with someone, you have that bond forever. That’s what we try to do.”
On Thompson’s way out, Warriors PR man Ray Ryder was escorting him to the stadium for photos with the Western Conference Championship Trophy when he indifferently said all about the game’s ending here.
“Ray, we want the big trophy,” Thompson said before being forced to order reluctantly.
steve fishing cups
Staying with the awards theme here, Curry wasn’t so much for the nitty-gritty.
The green sweatsuit he’s wearing said it all about his mental state these days: “Catching cups,” the motto on his chest.
In the name of Nick Dypaola from ESPN on TwitterThe Warriors star also chose to wear the same Curry 5 boot he wore during the 2018 Finals in which Golden State swept Cleveland in the Finals en route to his last title. The outfit was there for all to watch after the game, with Curry sitting among reporters for about 15 minutes while Draymond Green held the court with the press and his teammate waited for his turn on the podium.
And then, after winning the inaugural Magic Johnson Western Conference Finals MVP despite being knocked out in the closing match, Curry found himself faced with a question that could have made him more annoying than he’d allowed. We have highlighted the embarrassing part for you.
In the past year, there may have been some measure of individual satisfaction with your return to MVP level after your injury. How hard is it to stick to a championship mentality rather than just come back and keep the franchise? Second, how do you feel when you win the Postseason Player of the Year award?
The unspoken fact that is pointed out, of course, is that Curry’s lack of an MVP Cup at the Finals remains a point of focus when discussing his legacy. After addressing the first question, Curry took the second question in stride.
“Yeah, the new trophy is pretty cool, especially with who it’s been named after (and) the standard that the Magic set in terms of being a champion and playing point guard position, whatever other position he’s played,” said Curry, who averaged 23.8 points and 7.4 assists. And 6.6 rebounds in the series, it’s just the excellence he’s shown throughout his career, but he missed 12 of 17 shots and only had 15 points at the end (even though he was a plus 11). ”Definitely special. I appreciate the way he celebrated My teammates have it with me. Like I said, that acknowledgment, six out of eight (final appearances), (the ability) to play in other Finals, I mean, what else do you want? I’m excited for another chance to get one.”
On his way out, I asked Curry where he plans to watch as Boston try to finish the Eastern Finals against Miami in Game Six on Friday.
“The Cradle,” he said with a smile.
To the victor goes the spoils, in other words. By avoiding the trip back to Dallas for Game Six on Saturday, the Warriors got a six-day break at home between the end of the Western Conference Finals and the start of the Finals on Thursday.
Luca and the Long View in Dallas
It’s easy to forget that Luka Dončić is 23 years old (as of February 28). The Mavericks superstar is so elite, and his production is so historic, that you’d swear he’s been doing it for a decade in the NBA.
But with its fourth season coming to an end a lot deeper than everyone expected, it’s worth remembering that it’s (still) just getting started. And the fact that he expresses great confidence in the Mavericks – the program where he communicated with coach Jason Kidd during their first season together – is a promising sign for all involved.
Especially considering the five-year, $207 million extension he signed last summer and starting next season.
“I mean, great,” Donči said when asked his opinion about the Mavericks’ ability to eventually become the NBA champions again. “Honestly, great. I think we’re a young team. … I think this year we’ve taken a huge, massive step, maybe a few steps. I think we’re on a great path. Obviously, there’s a lot of things to do, but I think, I’m saying We’ve taken a big step, and I think we’re on a great path.”
In terms of the Mavis’ most pressing off-season questions, Jalen Brunson’s free agency looms large on the horizon of them all. But while team officials continued to express optimism on that front, Bronson himself didn’t offer many indications of how he saw it.
“When the time is right, the time is right,” he said of free agency. “For me, I just – when that happens, it happens. I’m not worried about that right now. Honestly, at this point, how do I feel, I’m really happy to have played with these guys, and the things we’ve done this year, that’s all I focus on.” Now and I’m thinking about it. I’ll think about that later.”
From Dončić to Dirk and … Chet Holmgren?
If you throw the Mavs jersey at Dirk Nowitzki, I swear he can still give them 15 minutes or so. He looks almost the same as he did during his legendary playing career, which spanned two decades and was a Hall of Fame inductee. Dynamic duo Dončić and Dirk, perhaps?
Not a chance.
Instead, the 43-year-old retired was wearing streetwear as part of his role as a special advisor to the team that began last summer. And after spending some time talking to everyone from Mavs owner Mark Cuban to Dončić and several others surrounding them, Nowitzki took time to meet a young player who might be on this kind of stage sometime soon: star Gonzaga and No. One pick in the June 23 draft, Chet Holmgren.
While Nowitzki told me he didn’t watch a huge amount of basketball in college, he said he was very familiar with Holmgren.
“Super skilled,” said Nowitzki, who is set to pick the 26th Maves. “But I didn’t realize he was that tall.”
See for yourself.
Holmgren was on hand for his newly selected agent, Bill Duffy of BDA Sports, who also represents Donči. We then spoke briefly about his conversation with Nowitzki and the expectations that rise as he approaches the start of his NBA career.
“It was crazy to meet someone so important in the game,” Holmgren said of Nowitzki. “I think he’s one of those guys that’s starting to change the NBA game into what it is today with players of a size that depends on skill, and they play a lot on the periphery. It was great being able to meet someone like that, and start a relationship that we hope you’ll be able to. To talk to him a lot – Xs and Os – and to be able to pick his brain in. He’s one of the best people who’s ever done that for sure.
“I’ve had his contact (information) and I’m definitely going to call him to talk about basketball and hopefully I won’t bother him too much.”
The seven-footed Holmgren, whose defensive prowess and versatile attacking game made him run for the first recruiting position, found himself wishing he was in the NBA games now rather than watching from the sidelines.
“It definitely (makes me) want to be here in basketball shoes instead of jeans and a hoodie,” he said with a laugh. “I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time, so to be on the other side of the door – all I have to do is walk through it. It’s a hell of a chance.”
“It will just start working. Every day, I learn what to work on and learn how to improve on that.”
So, I asked, does he see himself as an influential player on day one at the next level?
“I think I can hook them up and play basketball,” he said. “I’m a basketball player. I’m Hopper. That’s what I do.”
(Top image by Luka Dončić and Klay Thompson: Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)