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Aldridge: The Warriors, like all champions, refuse to leave the stage

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BOSTON — Very, very early in the “Saturday Night Live” broadcast, there was a skit featuring the late John Belushi as an unwitting guest at the home of Bill Murray and Jane Curtin who didn’t know or care about the time more and more. late.

“Well, we’re glad you could stop by,” Murray yawns at Belushi, “but it’s getting pretty late and we’d better go to bed now.”

Belushi starts flipping through his albums. “Don’t you have any records other than these?” he asks. “I think I’m going to borrow this one.”

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Curtin then yells as the off-screen announcer intones: It arrived without warning. They were just being polite. They didn’t realize they’d be stuck with…

THE THING THAT WOULD NOT GO AWAY!

Years later, in 2018, in the first moments after his team’s third NBA championship in a span of four years, Golden State general manager Bob Myers was asked how he hoped to maintain regular-season travel. of the Warriors as fresh as their long-awaited championship. results.

“They have to like each other,” he said then. “They have to really like each other. You have to respect each other. You have to understand some days, you don’t have it, and your teammates have to pick you up. It is the guest who stays too long. You try to find people who are decent people in the worst of times. Sometimes you just need space. And it’s no one’s fault. You need to yell at each other; they have to tell each other how they feel. There is acrimony, there is division, there is everything.

But as long as you don’t break. You have to see it almost as a family, that whatever happens, we are blood and we are going to get ahead. But that’s a challenge because you’re not really blood, but you’re the closest you can get, because you’re together all the time. Sometimes you see people more than your own family. So you try to find people who are decent people in the worst of times, that’s all you can do. Because the worst moments come.

And that was four years ago!

At the time, Myers had no idea that Kevin Durant would walk, that he would have to trade Andre Iguodala to help pay for it, or that Klay Thompson would tear an ACL in a futile Warriors title defense against Toronto in 2019. , or that Thompson would rupture his Achilles tendon a year later, that 15-50 would be an actual Warriors regular-season record, or that Draymond Green would lose his enthusiasm as the losses piled up, or that the Dubs would have to absorb D’Angelo Russell to take a flyer on Andrew Wiggins.

And there was that $80 million in salaries and luxury taxes for Kelly Oubre. (Not a chance against Oubre, who’s a solid guy and a good player. Sometimes things just don’t work out, you know?)

But everything happened. Even when much of the team’s core seemed to be on the wrong side of 30 to contend for championships. There were the Suns and the Clippers and LeBron and Denver and Utah and Memphis and Luka out West, all hungry, all looking to keep the Warriors from getting back on top.

But here they are, again.

In a year where the NBA basically said “you know, we’re done with COVID-19” and more or less returned to normal, it’s fitting that the Warriors are, once again, on top. refusing to leave.

Hall of Famer Chris Webber has this great saying about champion teams. They are often not the most talented or the best trained. They are just usually the most stubborn.

“We’re very stubborn,” Green said Thursday after Golden State won its fourth NBA title since 2015, beating Boston 103-90 in Game 6. “And it’s been tested. You go through injuries. You get punched in the mouth a couple of times. And it takes an incredible amount of resilience, togetherness, and mutual trust.”

Stubbornness was central to the countenances of Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas, Michael Jordan, Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant. No matter how much they earned, they were never satisfied, never sated. And they never, ever turned down a seemingly ill-fated idea in search of more profit. Detroit, in the midst of defending its championship, starting Dennis Rodman ahead of Mark Aguirre? Of course.

Houston, in search of a second ring, in exchange for the aging Clyde Drexler? Do it. Chicago calling Rodman, a known Bulls foe, to the Second City to push for a second three-time championship? Why not? San Antonio, bringing back Stephen Jackson for a second tour after burning nearly every bridge in the city, to win more? Absolutely.

What if that means Stephen Curry, rehabbing his clubfoot early in the playoffs, comes off the bench so Jordan Poole can start? Done and done.

The Warriors, like the great champion teams that came before them, are a stubborn bunch.

“I like that word,” Curry said. “The narratives that you hear going into this season, especially after the previous two years, when we had the worst record in the league and a lot of injuries, and then we scratched and clawed, trying to get into the Play-In Tournament. just to get a spot in the playoffs. We definitely had that mindset, that belief and faith in what we could do. We keep saying it all year long: our championship DNA. And the leadership of myself, Draymond, Andre, Loon (Kevon Looney), Klay. All those things mattered.

“And you carry that for all three years, not knowing how it’s going to end. All you can do is control that belief, and behind the scenes, how you show up every day, you embody that. And then when it’s time to seize an opportunity, things fall into place.”

Warriors no longer immolate opponents with Splash Brothers’ best shots or strangle offenses with the original Death Lineup. They somehow made their next-gen, original core, two-track team work. James Wiseman and Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody didn’t get into the regular rotation minutes down the stretch, but they tried. Poole was an erratic and irreplaceable bridge between the old guard and the young. Thompson finally got back on the court after missing more than 700 days of rehab. Steve Kerr and his staff may have done their best job as coaches during this championship run.

It’s not that everything or everyone went well. Kent Bazemore did not. Oubre did not. And Golden State didn’t get Patty Mills, who signed with Brooklyn. But they fell into the right gear in the playoffs, their defense suffocating again, when Wiggins became a revelation guarding Boston’s Jayson Tatum.

“I intend to own this team for a long time,” co-owner Joe Lacob said on the floor of the TD Garden, “and I intend to win as many championships as possible. It’s about winning. That is all. That’s all that matters to me. We’re going to do whatever it takes. The truth is, we have really smart people working in this organization, and usually we’re going to figure it out and be really good. I mean, we still had great players coming back (after the 15-50 season). And we believed in the Wiggins deal. I know a lot of people didn’t. But we thought it would fit. We needed to get all of our players back. We didn’t really get everyone back until the playoffs this year. Eleven minutes of what we’ve been trying to put together for the last few years. Steph was injured. All of these guys were injured.”

If Curry was re-injured when Al Horford fell on his leg in the closing moments of Game 3, he didn’t show it much afterwards. But his countenance dissolved in the closing seconds of Game 6 as tears streamed down his face. He’s the indispensable man — “Steph, ultimately, is the reason this streak happened,” Kerr said — and one of the biggest winners in league history. And he is just as competitive and greedy as his predecessors, who dominated the league just as he is, once again, doing.

“Two months ago, I got injured,” Curry said. “We were slipping in defensive rating. We limped our way to the postseason. And we clearly said we had to peak at the right time, not knowing what our rotation would be like, not knowing what our chemistry would be like, because that’s what the situation required. And damn if we didn’t. It’s crazy to think about that. All that talk paid off. Manifest your destiny in a certain way, and that stubbornness of who we are matters more than what they say about us. That’s why we’re here.”


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(Photo of Steph Curry and Jordan Poole celebrating: Kyle Terada/USA Today)

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