It may seem hard to believe, but the NBA season kicks off in just over a month, and while LeBron James and Cleveland will once again be favored to win the East, the Golden State Warriors are the safe bet to win an NBA championship.
That’s what happens when you add Kevin Durant to a nucleus of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.
“I’ve never seen a collection of four players (this talented on one team),” Warriors executive Jerry West said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I think (they’re) four of the top 20 players (in the league). I’ve never seen a team have that. We’ve got a bunch of great guys. Everyone says, ‘Well, there’s only one basketball.’ Trust me, these guys are team players. I don’t think that will be a problem. I think the biggest adjustment they’re going to have to make (is) who are they going to play together and how many minutes are they going to play? We have seven players that I would not trade for any seven players in the league collectively, that play the game at a very high level. Many of them are way too unselfish. We have passers, we have rebounders, we have competitors – we’re really well-coached, and we have a lot of young kids. This is a very young team.”
So young, in fact, that Curry, at 28, is the oldest of the fearsome foursome.
“He’s coming off back-to-back Most Valuable Player seasons,” West said. “To add a player like Kevin Durant, if he’s not the best player, he’s the second-best player in all of basketball. You don’t see that happening very often. Only free agency would allow that to happen today.”
Then again, the game is vastly different now than it was when West played (1960-74).
“I’d say the teams scored as much or more than (they do now),” the 78-year-old West said. “The problem was the game was very, very physical – a lot of grabbing and holding, which inhibited the speed of the game, to be candid with you. But the things that have really changed, at that point in time, there was no money involved like there is today. We get a different kind of athlete. We get kids that start at a very early age. They had all the amenities to learn and get better. But I think the really big difference are the coaches. At that point in time, you were an offensive player and a defensive player. It was up to you to guard the guy that you were guarding. You weren’t supposed to have any scheme at all. It was a game that was based a lot more on passing than dribbling. It just wasn’t as well-coached then. The coaches, I think, have changed the game more than the game has changed itself. And also, our modern-day athletes are absolutely incredible and wonderful to watch.”
Indeed, there were dominant players back in the day, but they weren’t necessarily jaw-dropping physical specimens.
“We never touched a weight,” West said. “It was not something we would ever do. Most of the guys who played, they had to work in the offseason to support their families. So the professionalism of the league has gone so much farther. The coaching, they identify kids very early. They’re in programs where they’re playing basketball all year long. So we get a better player, we certainly get a more athletic player and we get players that are better coached. To me, when I looked back, I wished I had the ability to learn how to lift weights. It’s something that would have helped me for sure. And also, even a diet that all teams ascribe to – and particularly the players that play the game at a high level.”