Thursday, 26 November 2015

What Do Golden State Warriors Really Mean When They Talk About 'Confidence'?

As Stephen Curry dribbles his way toward the awaiting screen from Draymond Green, he knows two defenders will eagerly meet him well outside the three-point arc. The defenders' goal is to prevent Curry from launching an easy three-point attempt.

But this has a side effect: Green is wide-open as he rolls toward the key. 

When he catches the pass, he knows the defense will collapse around him, leaving one of his teammates wide-open on the perimeter. He also knows his teammates can easily whip the ball around the perimeter until a wider-open look is presented. 

It's plays like these—simplistic, perfectly executed systematic movements—that help explain why every player on the Golden State Warriors is brimming with unbridled, unshakable, perfectly justified confidence. 

"It's kind of a quiet confidence that we don't feel like we're going to lose any time soon—the way we're playing, and the way that we can get even better," Curry said Sunday night after a 118-105 victory over the Denver Nuggets, which at that point left the Dubs tied for the best start in NBA history. 

Every player on every NBA team would say something similar after a win—we just went out there and played with confidence. But with the Warriors, now the proud owners of the best start in this sport's lengthy history, it's different
Confidence, Not Cockiness

They start games as if they know they'll be victorious. They haven't been wrong yet, and they might not be for quite some time.  

Is that hubris? Is that arrogance? In the minds of some, the Warriors are flying too close to dreams of a 73-win regular season, setting themselves up for a fall from their lofty spot. 

Golden State doesn't think so. It knows it's earned the right to be placed on the modern-day pedestal, subject to comparisons with the legendary teams of yesteryears, and several factors go into that line of thinking. 

First, faith in the system head coach Steve Kerr built during his first season in charge, one that interim head coach Luke Walton has maintained masterfully in his boss' absence. 

"It truly speaks to what Steve Kerr came in and did," Walton said. "It's a reflection of the system and the atmosphere he built when he got here last year. And all we're doing is following his leadership."

To understand how important faith in a system can be for a team, let's look at the Warriors' polar opposite. 

In Tuesday's easy blowout victory over the Lakers, it became clear L.A. still has no idea what it wants to become, struggling to balance feeding Kobe Bryant's desire to loft up shot attempts with the idea of using some advantageous schemes that may actually allow for more ball movement. 

Last year's champions have now reached a level few teams are capable of dreaming about. They know—without a shadow of a doubt—that turning down good shots for great ones is the right move in every situation, and no player is selfish enough to veer away from that model. 

"We have an expectation of how we're going to play. The certain sets we run, and the principles about our offense that we rely on," Curry said. "For me, I know if I have a couple turnovers on lazy passes—on an entry pass for a player, something like that—I know wherever he [Steve Kerr] is watching the game, he's probably livid."

Teamwork and Consistency

No team is averaging more assists per game than the Warriors' 29.6 (for perspective, the Atlanta Hawks are second at 26.3 APG). A similar story unfolds when we look at assist percentage. Golden State (assisting on 69.8 percent of its made field-goal attempts) and Atlanta (68.1 percent) are well clear of the Cleveland Cavaliers (64.4 percent) and the rest of the NBA. 

It's the system, but it's also the talent in the system. On top of that, it's the knowledge that this squad has been so consistent. 

"Our consistency [gives us confidence]," Harrison Barnes said to Bleacher Report. "Throughout this whole season, we've played at a level we haven't played at in years past. Everyone is confident, feels comfortable in their role. We're just rolling." 

His MVP-winning teammate would agree, confirming that this team's confidence is growing with each and every win: 

"We find different ways to win, and every game the chemistry gets better, and the flow of the game gets better. We're not blowing everybody out every night, but we find different ways to win, and that's what's special about our team. Confidence is definitely at an all-time high."

Genuine Joy

In the age of analytics, instant film breakdowns and complicated scheming, it's almost disarming to hear the word "joy" mentioned in a locker room. But the Warriors coaching staff is preaching that exact concept.

During Sunday's first half against the Nuggets, the Warriors struggled to find their usual levels of energy. "Coach Walton said we got off to a slow start. A little sluggish. The joy wasn't there," Andre Iguodala said. "And the second unit, that's what we're there for."

Once the joy returned, the Warriors rolled to their 15th victory. After the game, Walton told the same thing to the media. "They play the right way. They're unselfish. You can see the joy that they have when they play basketball."

"Winning is fun," said Curry. "Every night, we have that confidence that we're going to get it done, and we have so far. The way that we play is an energetic style—up and down, uptempo. We have fun playing defense and getting stops. We know that will fuel our offense." 

The Warriors celebrate enthusiastically from the bench, support the second unit at all times and chase highlights—sometimes to the point of creating a few unforced errors in the pursuit of an applause-earning sequence. Barnes even revealed that the beginning of film sessions features the squad watching the most exciting plays and deciding who celebrated best. 

"Everyone in this locker room is hungry," Klay Thompson said. "Last year was an amazing year, and we turned that page and now have our sights set on bigger things—believe it or not."

Seriously, how could you not believe? 

Note: All stats, unless otherwise indicated, come from and are current heading into Nov. 25's games. All quotes obtained firsthand.

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