Programming note: Sixers-Warriors coverage tips off Monday at 7 p.m. with Warriors Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area
In the month since their 10-game win streak lifted spirits and raised hopes around the Bay Area, the Warriors have slipped into abject mediocrity, winning consecutive games only once and posting a 6-8 record.
Coach Mark Jackson, acutely aware of the skid, and surely hearing the agitated sighs from the executive suite, is actively preaching patience, seizing opportunities to remind everyone how far the Warriors have come in two years.
They were 23-43 in 2011-12, Jackson's rookie season, when Stephen Curry missed 40 games and Monta Ellis was traded after 37. With a rebuilt roster and a healthy Curry last season, the Warriors were 47-35, made their second playoff appearance in 19 seasons and established themselves as a team with solid upside.
So, naturally, expectations took flight. Combining the playoff experience, a healthy Andrew Bogut and the addition of free agent wing Andre Iguodala, the Warriors were poised to break through 50-win barrier.
And here they are, a couple games behind that pace, leading to anxiety within the fan base, some restlessness from team executives and, meanwhile, there's co-owner Joe Lacob fidgeting quizzically in his courtside seat.
They want more. They all want more. And now, thank you.
Here in 2014, is folks don't want to wait three minutes for information or 30 minutes for a dinner – much less three or four years for abysmal team to become a legitimate contender. It's not fair, but it's a new millennium reality.
It's not, however, the way of the NBA.
"It's a stepping-stone process,'' center Andrew Bogut reminded the other day in response to expectations stemming from last postseason. "People are writing and fans are (acting as if) we're going to win a championship this year. Yeah, it's possible. But we've still got to do the right things and go through the right process to get there.''
Barring a blockbuster move or a fantastic series of moves – as Miami orchestrated in 2011, or Boston in 2007 – NBA teams simply don't become great in a year or two. Or, often, even three.
Bogut recently cited the recent history of two teams, Indiana and Oklahoma City, as illustrative of developing contenders. I'll add two more, Memphis and the Clippers.
The Pacers, after winning 32 games and missing the playoffs in 2010, won 37 and were ousted in the first round in '11, won 42 in a truncated '12 season and were bounced in the second round. Last season, Indy made it to the Eastern Conference finals before falling to the Heat.
The Thunder won 50 games in 2010 and were bounced in the first round, won 55 in '11 and lost in the Western Conference finals, won 47 in '12 and made it to the NBA Finals before losing. Last season, OKC won 60 and was ousted in the second round.
"They've worked at it every season,'' Bogut was saying, "and they still haven't won a championship.''
The Grizzlies won 46 games in 2010-11 and were bounced in the second round, won 41 in '12 and got no further than the first round. After winning 56 last season, they lost in the conference finals, fired their coach and are fighting to get back to the playoffs.
The Clippers won 40 games in 2011-12 and were eliminated in the second round, won 56 last season and were bounced in the first round.
These four teams have over the past four years combined for zero championships but 12 playoff appearances, only three of which went beyond the second round – precisely the point at which the Warriors were sent away last season.
They've all taken different approaches, but they've all needed multiple playoff appearance to validate their status as contenders.
This league made Michael Jordan go endure six consecutive postseasons before he was rewarded with champagne, made the Mavericks wade through 11 consecutive seasons with 50 or more wins before they finally got a `ship.
That's the history, and the Warriors aren't exempt.
When a team is in transition, there will be nights when you wonder if it's rising or sliding or even falling apart. Though the players rave about preparation and principles applied by the coaching staff, there are days when some folks wonder if Jackson is up to the task.
"Let's not get caught up in what the audience is saying,'' Jackson cautions. "Let's embrace where we are and where we are headed. It's a process and I'm proud of my guys and where we are headed. You can let go of the rope if you want and try to rush the process. But we have a group that is gaining valuable experience. You can't take the meal out of the oven before it's done.''
The analogy is tortured, but the coach is onto something. The Warriors aren't ready, but they've traveled miles away from the dungeon they once occupied. Though they could use a move or two, nothing would help them more than shared experience.
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