It’s still early in the NBA season and it’s tough to make any conclusions based on just nine or ten games, but early on it looks like the Golden State Warriors have a chance to be one of the most surprising teams in the NBA this year. Last season the Warriors were one of the worst teams in the league and finished with a dismal 26-56 record which led to a number of changes in the offseason.
Keith Smart took over as head coach and the Warriors also made one of the more underrated trades of the offseason bringing double-double machine David Lee to Golden State. Now, with the NBA’s second leading scorer, Monta Ellis, sharpshooter Stephen Curry, and David Lee in the frontcourt, the Warriors have started 6-3 and look like they have a serious chance to make one of the biggest turnarounds in the NBA this season.
Keith Smart joined KNBR in San Francisco with Murph and Mac to talk about the hot start to the season, whether or not he thought his team would be this good so soon, what the differences are between this year’s team and last year’s team, and talks about the additions that they made in the offseason.
On his approach when he was named head coach:
“At the beginning of the year when I was named the coach I had a chance to meet with the team and talk to them about getting ready for the season and I thought it was important to start by having a handshake, a gentlemen’s agreement and say hey look do I have permission to coach you? If the guy woulda said no then I woulda said well you know what? I can’t coach him that hard. I gotta say you know what you and I are not going to make it. I gotta talk to Larry Riley and we’re gonna have to find a way to try and move you. I said here’s a handshake agreement that I can coach you to get you to another level. Are you willing to allow me to coach you in that fashion? I went around to each guy and I shook their hand. I’m focusing on a one on one interaction between myself and the player, no one else. A handshake, a look in the face, and all the players agreed and said yes. I said but I’m gonna find out later on which one of you guys didn’t tell the truth in the meeting because when I start to get on you you’re gonna start to bite back. Thus far they all have responded and received that pretty well.”
On the hot start to the season:
“Yeah, I knew there was a possibility that we could get off to a good start just because the guys develop chemistry so quickly. They came together after Labor Day and we had 11 of our 17 guys that came to camp. So we had all those guys in town and we saw them bonding. You saw something special taking place with their bonding. Now would that translate into wins this early? I knew it was going to happen later in the year, but it came together so quickly how these guys hang out with each other away from the floor. They go eat dinner together, they go play video games at one another’s houses, and their wives and girlfriends get together. Then you saw them developing and buying into defense and rebounding and slowly you thought okay we got a chance to start off decent. We have some games at home, our crowd is going to be great, but then they took on a mentality on the road. But it is early. We do know that. I said there’s three things. There’s a wolf, a bear, and a lion on this road. We don’t know which one we’re gonna see first. But the defense and the rebounding on the road has helped them. I couldn’t have imagined that we were gonna be where we are right now.”
On the differences between this year’s team and last year’s:
“Number one I’m in this position because of a combination of things, but one because of Don Nelson because when he first arrived and we had our first meeting he said I want to get you to become a head coach in the NBA again and start developing you in that fashion. Also, I would like for you, if it were my decision, I would like you to take over for me when I’m done. So I owe a debt of gratitude to him for him thinking of me in that fashion and wanting me to be in this position that I’m in now. Our team is so different from last year. We have two guys that can rebound the ball. We had to get tough rebounds and we couldn’t do that last year. We couldn’t do that at all last year. When you have Andres Biedrins back, you acquire David Lee, and you have Dorell Wright’s toughness, rebounding is toughness. The rebounds don’t just come to you, you have to go and get a rebound. Those guys brought that. I think because our team can do that, that’s why we’re able to hang on to a game like last night’s game or have a chance to compete with a team like Utah because you can rebound with them and you can limit those good teams or teams that can score second or third chance opportunities. We gave up so much of that last year. That’s why our team is different compared to last year. Our personnel is different but our entire team is completely different.”