Warriors Analysis

The most important image from Warriors' championship one year ago

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Almost as if he was caught in a moment of bewilderment, Steph Curry ever so slightly began shaking his head from side to side while standing on the stage at TD Garden in Boston one year ago.

He knew what was about to happen next. So did everybody else. It was a moment that probably should have already happened once in Curry’s career, a mark he didn’t need but the dash of extra credit was invited with open arms.

Once NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum was given the mic and began counting off Curry’s accolades – four-time NBA champion, two-time league MVP, a member of the NBA’s 75th anniversary team and now for the first time an NBA Finals MVP – Steph’s small shake of the head turned to giant nods.

“I hear all the conversations, I hear all the chatter,” Curry said to ESPN’s Lisa Salters. “We hear all the chatter. At the end of the day, it’s about what we do on the floor. Ain’t gotta talk about it. Just gotta go do it and that’s what this is about.”

The Warriors one year ago on June 16, 2022, won their fourth title in an eight-season span. Curry’s Game 4 performance rivals the all-time greats, saving the Warriors’ season behind 43 points, 10 rebounds and seven 3-pointers. In the series-ending Game 6 win, Curry closed the door on the Celtics to the tune of 34 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, six threes and two steals. As much as he didn’t want to admit it at the moment, the Finals MVP, just like his fourth ring sizing, meant something more.

Curry being crowned Finals MVP for the first time, and how he did so, will be remembered and looked back at when his career winds down, during his Hall of Fame induction and years later. But one year post-championship, the lasting image and most important embrace, was between two other Warriors.

Throughout Curry’s acceptance speech, throughout Steve Kerr, Bob Myers, Joe Lacob, Peter Guber, Klay Thompson and Andrew Wiggins taking to the mic, Draymond Green held onto his youngest daughter, Cash, in his right hand. To his left was a teammate and little brother nearly 10 years younger than him: Jordan Poole.

Green was welcoming his fourth championship, Poole his first. One was now a father able to revel in triumph, sharing something much bigger than just himself, and the other was standing on basketball’s mountain top where every taste is a new burst of joy. The fifth question Poole was asked at the podium following his champagne party in the Warriors’ locker room said everything about his and Draymond’s relationship and the team as a whole. All of it was laid out right there.

What do you think has made this team so special, special as winning a championship, considering all you guys have been through?

“Everybody on this team is selfless, from the top all the way down the food chain,” Poole said. “The humility that guys have, we want to see everybody be successful. We want to win games. And being able just to have that with as talented of a team that we have is rare.

“We go out there and we fight and we play for each other night-in and night-out all season. It just shows how connected and how together we are. It makes it easy to go out there and play with guys that you really enjoy talking to, not only as basketball players but as people, and I'm glad that we were able to get it done with this really, really, really special group.”

Let that last sentence soak in. Those words faded to invisibility in the snap of a right-hand jab. Poole and Green now speak of their relationship like two co-workers counting down the seconds until they can go home. Nowhere in their words has there been anything close to resembling a “really, really, really special group.”

Years from now, Curry’s Finals MVP will be remembered – as it should. What resonates most one full turn of the calendar later is a smiling Green’s daughter being held by the right side of his body, Poole wiping tears thanks to his championship shirt and being brought in by Green – connected to his left side like he never wanted to let go.

“Oh my god,” Poole is seen saying out of pure happiness. How many times did the Warriors have to repeat those same three words for completely opposite reasons this past season?

Green seeing red and forcefully punching Poole in the face during training camp never went away. How could it? Green was gone for a few days but was right back in the fold for the season opener to take part in the Warriors’ ring night, a night that suddenly had a dark cloud that hovered over Chase Center for months.

Golden State’s first game on the road was a 29-point blowout loss against the Suns in Phoenix where Thompson was ejected for the first time in his NBA career. The Warriors’ first road trip was a five-game stinker worthy of them losing all five nights. Three of those losses came to teams that are in the top six of next week’s NBA draft. Yeah, maybe we should have known then.

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This season saw Curry throwing his mouthpiece in frustration at a terribly timed shot by Poole in late January, Green walking off the court mid-play in annoyance at Poole during a road loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder in March and Poole pushing away Green’s attempt to console him during a timeout in the Warriors’ Game 6 loss to the Sacramento Kings. If this feels like too much piling on Poole, he wasn’t alone.

On two different occasions late in the Warriors’ three-point Game 4 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, Green and Kerr couldn’t mask their angst against Thompson’s shot selection. Curry’s epic speech ahead of dropping 50 points on the Kings in Game 7 was directed at several players, all in different age groups.

Before Curry wore a Warriors jersey and before Green and Thompson joined him to form one of the greatest trios in the game’s history, championships were an afterthought for the Warriors. Even flirting with one was nothing more than a tease. Summer vacation plans could be made by the All-Star break at the very latest.

Even more unreliable was a championship culture within the Warriors.

The most important image of the Warriors’ crowning achievement a year ago to the day isn’t Curry’s Finals MVP or the many faces, familiar and new, on that makeshift stage on the Celtics’ homecourt. It’s who stood side by side in that instance, and if Green and Poole ever can together again as Warriors.

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