A 'team' in truest sense of the word

Published: Saturday, May. 4, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Sunday, May. 5, 2013 - 11:11 am

OAKLAND – If you have spent any time around the Warriors lately, you can't help but feel the positive vibes.

Sure, that comes when a sixth seed advances to the second round of the NBA playoffs after knocking off the No. 3 seed, as the Warriors did Thursday night against the Denver Nuggets.

Golden State will next play the San Antonio Spurs, seeded second in the Western Conference. Game 1 is Monday in San Antonio.

The Warriors would tell you the mettle to overcome injuries and even their own shaky play was forged before training camp, when the players met on their own and worked out as a team weeks before camp opened.

Warriors forward Carl Landry said team chemistry is the key to the Warriors' success.

"I always say that's something that a coach can't teach," Landry said. "You can't put 15 guys together and say, 'Get along.' We play for each other. There's not one guy on this team that's out there trying to get theirs. We play for the rest of the team, and I think that helps."

Chemistry is usually developed over time. And there are some key Warriors that have played together for more than one season – in particular guards Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and All-Star forward David Lee.

But the Warriors reached the playoffs for the first time since 2007 while also working in important new pieces to the team.

Landry and guard Jarrett Jack were acquired in the offseason. Three rookies – Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli and Draymond Green – play significant roles. Center Andrew Bogut, acquired in a trade last season, didn't begin playing consistently until the latter part of this season.

Nevertheless, coach Mark Jackson and his staff helped the Warriors to overcome the loss of Lee for most the Denver series to advance to play the Spurs.

"I think it really starts with chemistry off the court," Barnes said. "Everyone here gets along so well, unlike any other team I've ever been on. The off-court chemistry helps us on the court."

Something had to change for the Warriors, who had wallowed near the bottom of the Western Conference standings in recent seasons.

The injection of savvy vets and some smart decisions in the draft have the future looking up in Oakland. Landry said the time before the season and several road games during the preseason helped forge the Warriors' chemistry.

"That's a special group," Jackson said. "I look away when I read comments about my guys, never disrespectful, never pointing the finger at themselves, never arrogant, cocky, always saying the right things. I look at them as husbands, fathers, friends and brothers. This is the greatest group of men, as far as a team, that I've ever been around or ever seen in my life."

Don't get it twisted.

It's not always smiles and hugs with the Warriors.

Just look at their clinching win over Denver, when they nearly blew an 18-point lead with a series of turnovers that even a youth coach wouldn't expect to see from a team.

"We get in each other's faces, we yell at each other, but at the end of the day we're just trying to win, and I think this team does a great job of that," Barnes said.

The Warriors will run into the franchise that has defined chemistry for more than 15 years in the Western Conference semifinals.

The Spurs have long created a culture where winning is primary and excuses and malcontents are jettisoned.

"Future Hall of Fame coach (Gregg Popovich)," Jackson said. "I think an incredible coach. They got three future Hall of Fame basketball players (Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili). It's a model organization and it's going to be a tough task. They are clearly the favorite. But it's going to be a lot of fun. It's going to be a lot of fun."

Follow The Bee's Jason Jones on Twitter @mr_jasonjones and read more about the team at www.sacbee.com/kings.

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