Why Warriors don’t sweat struggles in NBA regular-season schedule

Why Warriors don’t sweat their regular-season schedule originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay area

As Dub Nation wishes and hopes and waits for the trade that may or may not come, there should be a modicum of comfort in knowing the Warriors do not live for the regular season. That lesson was learned 78 months and one day ago.

Their NBA-record 73 wins in 2015-16 were made relatively significant when as defending champions they relinquished the throne in a postseason enjoyed by city and no team except Cleveland and its Cavaliers.

In the years since then, the mindset has been the same. Get to the playoffs and go to work.

You might recall the Warriors last season went weeks without looking like a playoff team, much less one capable of winning a championship. They were a distinctly mediocre 24-22 over the final 46 games.

But once the Warriors reached the postseason, the veteran core — Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Kevon Looney — smelled blood in every round and become a shiver of sharks. These guys know the territory better than any other team.

The postseason is their trigger mechanism. Their pulses race. Their minds achieve clarity. The regular season is the price that much be paid to get there.

So, now, as the sub-.500 Warriors (15-16) continue to climb up a hill that grows taller by the hour — and will continue to do so as long as Andrew Wiggins and Curry are in street clothes watching from the bench –there is no reason for distress, much less panic.

“With our record, we clearly haven’t done what we’ve hoped to do,” coach Steve Kerr told reporters on Sunday in Toronto. “But it’s still early in the process. For sure, there’s growing pains any time you’re trying to raise a number of young guys at the same time. I think we’re close, actually.

“We just have to gain more wisdom and knowledge in terms of what wins in this league.”

As the Warriors find their way, it’s highly unlikely they’ll achieve the 35-16 record required to reach the 50-win mark. As ugly as they have been — the only team to lose to Eastern Conference cellar-dwellers Charlotte, Detroit and Orlando — their futility is totally in sync with that within the Western Conference.

There has been no separation because intraconference cannibalization won’t allow it.

When the Warriors leave the team hotel Tuesday for the ride to Madison Square Garden, where they will face the New York Knicks, they will be sitting in 11th place in the West. If it were April 10th, players and coaches would be having exit meetings, followed by locker clean-outs. The front office would be preparing for a third trip to the draft lottery in four years.

But here in December, the Warriors are very much in the hunt.

For as bad as 11th place is, regardless of the sport, the Warriors are only a hair away from a play-in berth and two games out of the guaranteed playoff berth that comes with finishing sixth. To put fine point on it, they have 51 games to make up two.

The Pelicans, who were alone in first place eight days ago, are in fourth place — but only 3.5 games ahead of the Warriors. The Jazz, who were in first place a month ago, have dropped to ninth, one game in front of Golden State.

The West has at some point this season been led not only by Utah but also by the Suns, the Trail Blazers and the Nuggets. The Grizzlies moved atop last week, displacing the Pelicans.

This is destined to be a dogfight among teams battling not only each other but also their own imperfections — and external chatter bound to occur when so many teams are trying to squeeze through the postseason door.

“You’ve just got to stay committed to each other,” Green said. “You’ll start hearing noise about trades, and ‘This guy shouldn’t be here,’ and ‘That guy shouldn’t be here.’ But you have to stay committed to each other.”

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Which is why the Warriors can afford to remain patient — as long as they’re able to hover around .500 while Curry mends from his left shoulder injury. Though a trade is likely, the team would have to roll completely down the mountain for the front office to even ponder a major shakeup.

The Warriors used to live for regular season totals. Not anymore. They used to set seeding goals. Not anymore. Their lone regular-season goal is to be healthy enough to be among the eight Western Conference teams worthy of the postseason.

And, once there, take their chances.

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