The regeneration will have taken three years. On June 13, 2019, Klay Thompson’s left knee gave way – ruptured anterior cruciate ligament – and following their back, the Golden State Warriors collapsed at home. Present for the fifth year in a row in the NBA finals, the San Francisco Bay team saw the Toronto Raptors be crowned for the first time in their history. Then began a dark parenthesis for the flagship team of the North American basketball league of the last decade.
Winners, Thursday, June 16, of the sixth game of the 2022 final, on the floor of the Boston Celtics (103-90), the Warriors won the seventh NBA title in their history (four wins to two). The fourth since 2015 for the squad led by Stephen Curry.
“Coming back to this level [of the competition], after what I’ve been through… I wouldn’t change that for anything in the world,” Klay Thompson savored after Game 5, putting his team one victory away from the coronation. The All-Star rear’s trajectory perfectly embodies that of his team. For two years, the shooter has multiplied the galleys, chaining two big injuries. Handicapped by this absence, combined with that of the master to play Stephen Curry and the departure of the other star, Kevin Durant, the Warriors plunged. And posted the worst record in the league during the 2019-2020 season – fragmented by the pandemic linked to Covid-19.
The backbone of the Warriors, version 2022, remains the same: on the bench, Steve Kerr is still in place and has just obtained a fourth championship ring as a coach, after the five gleaned as a player; the Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green triumvirate remains the common denominator of each of the finals played since 2015. But with the exception of the three All-Stars – and Kevon Looney and Andre Iguodala – all the other players were neophytes.
The Californian team has been able to take advantage of the years of black bread to complete its workforce, and make it mature. By the draft, first – this selection where, each year, the teams select the best young people according to their previous results -, but also by attempting bets on the transfer market. Former number 1 in the draft and disappointing great hope of world basketball, the Canadian Andrew Wiggins has thus melted into the mold since he left Minnesota for the San Francisco Bay.
“I try to do all the little things that win a game. That’s all. Whether it’s scoring, rebounding, defending… Everything I’m asked to do, I do, “insisted the player after the fifth game of the finals.
In the Spurs mold
A hard core forged by the draft, an alliance of stars loyal to their team and duty players, and tempered by a management with clear ideas; the model evokes another “dynasty” of the NBA: the San Antonio Spurs. Between their first title, in 1999, and their last, in 2014, the team of Frenchman Tony Parker amassed five crowns and allowed coach Gregg Popovich to set himself up as a master for a whole generation of technicians. This year, the coaches of the finalists – Ime Udoka in Boston and Steve Kerr in Golden State – both learned their skills from the Texas coach, who this year became the most successful coach in the League.
“It’s a model that everyone would like to follow, assured Steve Kerr in March. You combine great stability within the organization, excellent player development and quite a few shrewd decisions. Before qualifying: “But for everything to fall into place, it takes a lot of luck.” Even if it’s the model, it’s really hard to re-release everything they’ve done. »
Before the Warriors, only the Spurs had managed, over the last thirty years, to successfully incorporate new talent into an already winning nucleus. The way young fullback Jordan Poole settled into the California squad in three years, becoming one of its mainstays – and a cousin of the “Splash brothers”, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, for his ability to take three-point shots – brings to mind the additions of Kawhi Leonard or, further back, Tony Parker, to the Texas squad.
Like the Spurs, the Warriors did not rush when it came to considering the sequel in 2019, after the departure of star Kevin Durant (to the Brooklyn Nets). Rather than assembling an arsenal of stars – like the “super teams” put together at the Los Angeles Lakers or the Nets – to capitalize on the best years remaining in the trio Curry, Thompson and Green, the Warriors have rebuilt a workforce capable of winning in the long term and immediately.
Stephen Curry, leader “regulated like clockwork”
In 2015, Steve Kerr, then a rookie, said that “the scintillating game” developed by Spurs was “the epitome of what [he] was looking for with his team”. His men showed this year that they had not lost this DNA, made of perpetual motion and collective strength, embodied by the slogan “strength in numbers”.
At the end of last season, when the Warriors had just been eliminated during the “play-in” (dam phase preceding the playoffs), Stephen Curry had warned: “You will not want to see us next year. “A prophetic inspiration for the leader of the San Francisco Bay Area, who announced the return of his team.
He himself took on the costume of boss of the Californian team. At 34, considered the best shooter in the history of the League, he is a player more complete than ever, elusive on the ground, and increasingly effective in defense. “It’s an anomaly,” partner Draymond Green said of him, noting that even when superstar Kevin Durant was playing for the Warriors, “it all started with Steph.” A tightrope walker, with a smile and contagious work ethic, whom his coach likes to compare to Roger Federer, for his daily enthusiasm and his “regulated like a clock” side.
Champion for the fourth time and finally MVP of the Finals, Curry has returned to the heights of the NBA. And given the youth of a large part of the workforce and the game deployed, it’s a safe bet that next year either, the 29 other teams in the league will not want to cross paths with the Warriors too much. .