Warriors look to snap 29-game regular-season skid in San Antonio
R.C. Buford has been the Spurs general manager since 2002. Bob Myers became the Warriors GM in April, 2012. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
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General manager Bob Myers in a recent conversation described his vision for the Warriors and most of what he said sounded as if lifted from a familiar plan.
When I told Myers his description seemed a lot like the San Antonio Spurs, he laughed in acknowledgement and didn't bother to issue even a tepid denial.
"That's pretty good," Myers said. "It works, right?"
The Warriors on Friday visit the franchise they seek to emulate. The Spurs have long been a model organization in all of professional sports, exemplifying stability, continuity and the rare ability to consistently compete at a championship level.
It's a noble and lofty goal for the Warriors, who have made considerable strides.
The Warriors got the attention of the league last postseason, which ended when the Spurs eliminated them in the Western Conference semifinals. The Warriors rode into this season on clouds of positive publicity, much of it smooching point guard Stephen Curry. They made a major offseason move, acquiring All-Star forward Andre Iguodala. As opening night approached, they signed center Andrew Bogut to a contract extension, just as they had done with Curry a year earlier.
"What we’re trying to build is some level of continuity," Myers said. "This organization has lacked continuity, whether it’s ownership or front office or coach and players. Continuity is important to be a successful organization. What we’re trying to build is success, familiarity, where players know they’ll be playing with the same guys and coaches know they’ll be coaching the same guys.
"But in order to (accomplish) that, you have to win. There is so much pressure to win."
The Spurs over the past 16 years have done a better job of winning than any other franchise in America. Sixteen consecutive winning seasons, all resulting in playoff appearances, four of which ended with NBA championships. The common threads have been coach Gregg Popovich and forward Tim Duncan, the core around which other parts have been assembled. Not every team is fortunate enough to draft a franchise big man like Duncan for a superior coach like Popovich, who took the job as Duncan came aboard.
But every team has a chance to draft properly, identify the core and build around it. That's what the Warriors are doing.
The re-signings of Curry and Bogut, given their injury histories, came with an element of risk. They were identified as players around whom the team could build.
"The best organizations don’t go through a lot of upheaval or attrition," Myers said. "They simply reload with a little tweak here or there, but the core stays the same. Those are the organizations you want to model yourself after."
The Warriors, then, would like to think they can seize the torch from the Spurs, who soon must face a future without Duncan and likely without Popovich. Some team has to be the model, and it's mighty ambitious of the Warriors to want it to be them.
The Warriors arrive with a 4-1 record and a three-game win streak, thanks to a 106-93 win over Minnesota that arguably was their best all-around game of the season.
THE GOOD: Small forward Harrison Barnes returned with a vengeance, scoring 14 points in 14 minutes after missing four weeks.
Shooting guard Klay Thompson scored 19 of his game-high 30 points in the fourth quarter to put away the Timberwolves.
In a battle of All-Star power forwards, David Lee edged Kevin Love. Lee finished with 22 points on 10-of-16 shooting and 15 rebounds, while Love totaled 25 points (on 10-of-25 shooting) and 16 rebounds in defeat.
Iguodala, assigned to run the team after Curry left in the third quarter with a bone bruise on his left ankle, finished with 20 points and six assists.
The bench, behind Marreese Speights and Barnes, played its best game of the season, growing Warriors leads and thoroughly outplaying Minnesota's reserves.
THE BAD: Curry leaving with the ankle injury and Andrew Bogut fouling out in only 16 minutes.
THE FUTURE: The Spurs, with an identical 4-1 record, await the Warriors in a town in which Golden State has lost 29 consecutive regular-season games. Center Jermaine O'Neal (lacerated chin) is expected to play and Curry is listed as day to day.