Warriors building steam, self-esteem

Warriors building steam, self-esteem
March 8, 2014, 4:00 pm
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The Warriors are now 15 games over .500 after a 111-97 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night. (AP IMAGES)

The Warriors are now the owners of a 39-24 record, their best since the 2008 season. (USATSI) 

Programming note: Suns-Warriors coverage tips off Sunday at 5:30 p.m. with Warriors Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area (territory restrictions apply)

OAKLAND – Rather than take the route of 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and utilize a self-esteem exercise that is catchy and corny but also effective, Warriors coach Mark Jackson prefers to keep it real.

Real simple.

Harbaugh routinely gathers his team after victories and asks, "Who's got it better than us?'' The 49ers reply in unison: "Noooobody!'' It has become ritual, even if the question is impossible to answer with any degree of certainty.

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Jackson, by contrast, looks at actual numbers before asking his question.

He wants to know which Warriors have ever been 14 games over .500 during their NBA career. That number was raised to 15 after a 111-97 win over the Hawks on Friday night.

"Who was 14 games over .500 in their career?'' Jackson explained after Saturday's practice. "Then we say, 'Who was 15 games over .500 in their career.'

"The hands are slowly going up.''

As the Warriors rise higher and higher over .500 – they are 39-24, their best record since 2008 – the number of hands going up are fewer and fewer.

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"It got real quiet,'' Draymond Green said of the initial response to Jackson's question. "Two or three guys raised their hands.''

Exactly three Warriors – veterans Steve Blake, Andre Iguodala and Jermaine O'Neal – can recall a time when they were on a team so far above .500. All three are first-year Warriors who experienced those records on previous teams. With 19 games left in the regular season, these Warriors are in a place they've never known.

"I've been 15 under (.500), in New York and a bunch of times when we first got here,'' forward David Lee joked.

"But it says a lot about what direction this organization is headed that we're breaking through and reaching goals like that. From the front office down to the coaching staff and the players, we have one goal in mind and that's to win.''

Jackson's point is to remind the players of how far they've come and how well they are doing and, also, to instill a measure of pride in their accomplishments thus far.

"It's a milestone,'' Green said. "Now we have to continue to build on that.''

Such exercises are in the unwritten coach's handbook. They generate camaraderie and signify those who have experienced success in the past, nudging them toward leadership roles. Nearly every coach in the history of sports has utilized exercises to build self-esteem.

As the Warriors have heated up, winning eight of their last 10 and solidifying a playoff berth, Jackson has one his team can clearly understand.

It's simple arithmetic, adjusted after each game. The answer only gets more profound – as long as the wins keep coming.

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