BY PETER DAHL
In a week, March Madness will all be over and you will have had your cheap thrills of high drama in the form of mediocre basketball. In the moroseness of the end of the Badgers’ season and after copious amounts of hoops, many of you will probably want to be done watching basketball for a while.
Allow me to plant the seeds in your sport-watching minds that will cultivate a love for basketball that lasts into June. After the NCAA Tournament, the real best basketball of the year begins in the form of the NBA Playoffs. I wouldn’t be so bold as to think I can get you to like NBA basketball in one article, as the masses are still led astray by many of the myths surrounding the pro game. But I think, in the next 500 words or so, I can get you to care about one team and if you watch this one team just a few times this spring, I think the door might be opened for you to, at least partially, appreciate the best basketball tournament in the world.
I’m talking about the Golden State Warriors (based in Oakland, CA), a team so beautiful to my adoring basketball eyes that sometimes I just smile thinking about them. Currently, the Warriors have the best record in the NBA and are leading the league in numerous statistical categories on offense and defense. They play in Oracle Arena, home to perhaps the loudest home crowd in the NBA.
The Warriors roster is so full of fun players that you wonder just how the rest of the Association allowed them to assemble. I can also barely begin to explain what makes them all so fun. It starts with Stephen Curry, the league’s most prolific long-distance shooter, a wizard with the ball and a crafty finisher. The Baby-Faced Assassin is the greatest show in sports when he heats up, launching threes whenever he feels like and he is one of the frontrunners for MVP. Curry is joined in the backcourt by his Splash Brother, Klay Thompson, who has the most majestically perfect shooting form this side of Bill Cartwright. Former All-American Harrison Barnes starts at small forward, supporting his star players with his athleticism that often sends the crowd into a frenzy after he dunks all over someone. The Warriors’ starting frontcourt consists of Draymond Green, the maniacal competitor who is as lovable as any player out there and Andrew Bogut, the big Australian center who dunks, blocks shots, throws fancy passes and uses an assortment of old-man strategies to gain an edge over his opponents.
And that’s just their starters. They bring two former All-Stars off the bench: David Lee is always ready to give interior scoring and rebounding and Andre Iguoadala is an unselfish defensive stopper who occasionally dunks the soul out of opposing players. But the joys of the bench do not stop there. A pair of albatrosses lead the reserves in the backcourt in the forms of Shaun Livingston and Justin Holliday, occasionally sharing the court with another long-armed player, the Brazilian Blur, Leandro Barbosa. Rounding out the rotation reserve players are big men Marreese Speights, who has terrific scoring ability and draws oodles of charges and ginormous Nigerian Festus Ezeli, who is content to spend a few minutes each game rebounding, defending and spiking shots into the third row.
They play as a team, passing the ball unselfishly and accepting their role on a squad with a real chance to win a championship. They get out in transition and shoot a ton of threes. And, unlike many up-tempo offenses, they play outstanding defense. Rookie head coach Steve Kerr has them playing a beautiful brand of basketball that highlights so much of what is great about pro basketball while also shattering many of the misconceptions.
So try watching the Golden State Warriors once the NBA Playoffs begin. As an added bonus, they will probably be facing off against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the First Round. If they play the Thunder, you will get to see a whirlwind of basketball fury in the form of MVP candidate Russell Westbrook. He is worth the price of admission on his own.
This isn’t madness; it’s beauty.