Warriors' secret sauce is a simple concept rare in today's NBA

Warriors' secret sauce is a simple concept rare in today's NBA

OAKLAND -- To discover the secret to the Warriors and their many successes over the past three seasons, you naturally begin with the fascinating defense, the spectacular offense and the collective intellect of the players and staff.

Those are the visible and quantifiable elements that have allowed them to win 207 regular-season games and make consecutive trips to the NBA Finals, and they compile the first several chapters. They attract the reader.

The classified stuff and the thread that runs though this team, binding it like a military regiment, is hidden on the margins of every page. And it’s what makes the book of this team so compelling.

For any of their visible factors to flourish, the Warriors know they have to trust each other. They don’t have to like each other, don’t have to love each other, don’t even have to enjoy each other’s company. They simply have to know everyone is committed to the common purpose.

“We have plenty of fun, but when it comes time to get serious this group understands how to go about it the right way,” veteran forward David West says. “There’s a lot of belief. It’s a pretty special group.”

Trust is a simple concept, incredibly rare in today’s NBA, and the Warriors have it.

“I’ve never been around anything quite like this,” says acting head coach Mike Brown, who has involved in the NBA for 25 years, including three stints as a head coach.

That’s why Draymond Green can bark at Kevin Durant, why Durant can call out Stephen Curry and why Curry can get after Klay Thompson. It’s why Zaza Pachulia and Green get into animated dialogue. It’s why Shaun Livingston’s ear is always available, and why Andre Iguodala can prod the collective killer instinct.

“It’s hard to be honest with someone that doesn’t necessarily trust you, or know that you have their best interest at heart,” Green says. “Because when you don’t, you naturally go into a state of defense. So it’s important to have trust and know that everyone’s main goal is the same, and just knowing that everybody’s got your back.”

That trust is why West can put a muscular arm around such a strong personality as Green and remind him, like a big brother, that for every action or inaction there is consequence for the common goal.

“We’ve got real guys, guys that are genuine,” Livingston says. “That’s what it’s about. There’s no fake love around here. Nobody is with a (personal agenda).

“The agenda on this team is to win. And when you bring a multitude of guys, starting from the top down, and that’s their agenda, everybody buys in. It makes coming to work every day easier.”

Understand, though, that egos are not checked at the door. Ego lives and breathes among the Warriors, because, for one, coach Steve Kerr wouldn’t have it any other way. Every man has the space to be himself and speak his mind. Even act out. But there is an overall maturity and character that doesn’t allow ego to poison the cause.

Despite innuendo that Green plays by his own set of rules, there has been no sign among the Warriors of what Hall of Fame coach/executive Pat Riley refers to as the “Disease of Me,” which, at its essence, is a warning about the ills of putting one’s self above the group.

No one is a better exemplar than Curry. The longest-tenured Warrior, drafted in 2009, has faced skeptics and made them believers. He has endured physical hardship that not only compromised his last contract extension but also left some wondering if ankle woes might derail his career. He has overcome it all to win back-to-back MVP awards, a scoring title and lead a team to a championship.

Yet Curry’s wondrous blend of personal humility and hoops arrogance has a way of constantly bending the Warriors in the right direction. He’s a great player who happens to be a coachable leader, such as Tim Duncan was in San Antonio.

Asked about the eight-man team that delivered a final recruiting pitch to Durant last summer, Iguodala says most of the individual credit goes to Curry. There would be no recruitment trip if he weren’t fully committed.

Being the superstar that he is, Durant needed to see Curry’s invitation and feel his warmth. He did. He signed. A Warrior for 10 months now, Durant’s personality has coordinated nicely with those of his teammates.

He is a lot like Curry insofar as each has a wicked sense of humor, as well as a natural cordiality that turns fierce on the court.

“They’re both great players, yet it’s never about them,” Green says. “When you’re playing with players with that talent level (Curry, Durant and Thompson), to be as selfless as they are is not normal. That’s a huge reason why this thing can stay so tight-knit.”

In the hours before Game 4 against Utah, Green sat courtside joking about “beef” among the Warriors because he and Durant went to a golf park on the off day, and Green said he would not have gone with Curry or Iguodala. The reason is that Curry and Iguodala are serious golfers, while Green and Durant are hackers of similar ilk.

Later that night, in the wake of a Game 4 victory that advanced the Warriors to the Western Conference Finals for the third consecutive season, Durant provided his view of how the Warriors benefit from trust and mutual respect.

“We don’t take ourselves that seriously,” Durant said. “It’s basketball. We keep it on the basketball court. When Steph sees something, he tells me. When I see something, I tell him. It’s the same with Draymond, same with Andre and Klay. It’s nothing personal. We’re going out there trying to handle business as a group. And if we’ve got something we need to talk over, we’re going to talk it over.

“It’s not about how we say it, most of the time,’ he added. “It’s about the message. We just go out there and try to execute it. We’re grown men. Sometimes, the words are not going to be as pretty as you want them to be -- or as (media) may want them to be. But for us, it’s all about the message and it’s all about the win at the end of the day.”

So there will be heated moments, just as there might be between husband and wife, or siblings. There will be times when it appears there might be animosity.

But this isn’t Utah, where late in the regular season Rudy Gobert openly questioned the tenacity of some of his teammates. This isn’t the current Lakers, where one teammate spied on another’s personal life, or the old Lakers, where Shaq and Kobe barely could stand to be in the same locker room.

Nor is this the Knicks, where the team president publicly chastises his star player. Nor is this today’s Clippers, whose internal frustrations have led to epic postseason meltdowns, or the legendary Chicago Bulls, where Michael Jordan, on any given day, might have felt the urge to savagely castigate, or physically confront, a teammate.

And what the Warriors have sure isn’t Cleveland, where everyone in the state, much less the team, knows exactly which player is beyond reproach.

“We all have to hold each other accountable,” says Livingston, who has played for nine different franchises. “Draymond is the leader in that . . . We need that. But it’s all of us, from the top down.

“It’s uncommon, because guys (on most teams) don’t want to step on each other’s toes. Then, too, it’s how a roster is constructed. If you have too many Draymonds, that might not work out. But we have a nice balance. We’ve got a nice mix. Even though Draymond is the outspoken one of the group, we all have fire in us. We all are competitors. We still want to win.”

That desire, that kinship, drives the Warriors. It’s behind the shooting, the passing, the cutting, the screen-setting, the defensive choreography and synergy.

Behind that, though, is an open floor, which creates a bond that evolves into a degree of trust not always visible yet constantly nourishing and sustaining everything they do. It doesn’t guarantee the Warriors another championship, but it’s required of them to be at their best.

Livingston on Kerr: 'He’s our leader ... somebody that we count on'

Livingston on Kerr: 'He’s our leader ... somebody that we count on'

OAKLAND -- Though much has been said about the agonies and challenges facing Steve Kerr, including speculation about when, or if, he’ll return as head coach of the Warriors, little has been put into words that capture the significance of his absence.

This is perhaps because it can be difficult to explain how one man is able to influence a roster of supremely talented athletes, at the wealthiest point of life, with wildly divergent personalities, at different career stages.

Veteran guard Shaun Livingston, a man who knows perspective as well as anyone in the NBA, took a moment Saturday to cut through the palaver and pity to offer a clear and vivid illustration of Kerr’s value as a man and as a coach.

“It’s just his presence, his personality,” Livingston began. “His character, the way he fits in with us. He’s kind of the battery pack, in the sense that he makes everybody go. He keeps us all (in harmony), everybody from staff, training staff, coaching staff to the players.

“He bridges the gaps, in the sense of communication, and he makes it light.”

In short, Kerr’s value to the franchise is far greater than his duties as a coach. He has an easy, breezy charisma insofar as he’s so comfortable submerging his own ego while being remarkably good at making everyone matter.

Moreover, Kerr is decidedly inclusive, explicitly emphatically open to ideas. He’s an outreach specialist whose sensibilities are contagious.

All of which helps create a sprightly and genial workplace, something the Warriors sought when they hired Kerr to replace the swaggering and dogmatic Mark Jackson in May 2014.

“Every day it’s something new, in a sense, and that’s hard to do,” Livingston said. “We’re here for six to nine months for the past couple years, seeing the same faces. So it is kind of like a job. But (Kerr) makes it more like a game and tries to make sure we’re enjoying ourselves out there.”

Kerr wants to live his life and coach basketball around four basic tenets: joy, mindfulness, compassion and competition. Maintaining a balance of the four can be difficult, especially when Kerr is dealing with the searing pain that has him on the sideline for an indefinite period.

But Kerr never strays far. His players seem to see and, more important, feel that.

Draymond Green and Kerr, each volatile in his own way, don’t always see eye-to-eye. Yet Green on several occasions has noted that Kerr “always seems to find the right thing to say, at the right time.”

Veteran David West points out that anyone who spends any time around Kerr can sense his basic humanity. Veteran Andre Iguodala, one of the team’s co-captains, speaks of Kerr’s curiosity and desire to broaden his horizons.

Stephen Curry, the other co-captain, kept the ball from the Warriors’ Game 4 win over Portland last Monday night, punctuating a series sweep, and gave it to Kerr, who missed Games 3 and 4 while coping with this prolonged post-surgery pain.

Lead assistant Mike Brown, the acting head coach in Kerr’s absence, concedes he has benefited from being around Kerr and this team.

“The tone he sets is the best I’ve been around,” said Brown, who has been involved in the NBA since 1992. “This is a special, special situation, and he’s big reason why.”

So it’s not just Livingston who throwing rose petals at the boss. He just happened to convey in a few words the effect Kerr has on the team and within the building.

“He’s our leader,” Livingston said. “He’s somebody that we count on.”

Warriors update health status of Livingston, Barnes

Warriors update health status of Livingston, Barnes

OAKLAND -- One day after every member of the Warriors participated in a full scrimmage, the official health updates were released.

Veteran forward Matt Barnes, out since April 8, is listed as probable for Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals that begin Tuesday at Oracle Arena.

Veteran guard Shaun Livingston, out since sustaining a finger/hand injury in Game 1 of the first-round series against Portland on April 16, is listed as questionable -- but with an asterisk.

“Hopefully, we’ll be ready for Tuesday,” Livingston said after a light workout Saturday.

Livingston informed NBCSportsBayArea.com earlier this week that he would have been available, hypothetically, if the Warriors were facing a Game 7.

As for Kevin Durant, who missed five weeks with a knee injury before returning April 8, only to sustain a calf strain in Game 1 against the Trail Blazers, he’s fully available.