The Golden State Warriors are back in the NBA Finals, continuing a run that already includes one championship and the greatest regular season in NBA history.
And throughout this run, the saltiness level of certain former NBAers has reached an all-time high. For whatever reason, some people don’t want to believe the Warriors are an all–time great team. That Stephen Curry guy? Only MVP because the rest of the league is bad. That incredible offense? Only works because coaches don’t know how to play defense.
It’s ok to criticize Golden State, of course, but there’s no denying the Warriors are a historically great team.
The Warriors’ critics were (probably) licking their chops when the team was down 3–1 to the Thunder in the Western Conference Finals, but now Golden State can have the last laugh if they win a second-straight title. And who will the Warriors be laughing at, exactly? Here’s a look at some of their fiercest critics this season.
The Clippers coach started criticism of the Warriors all the way back in October, clearly implying the team was lucky during its title run last season:
“You need luck in the West. Look at Golden State. They didn't have to play us or the Spurs,” Rivers told ESPN’s Zach Lowe.
Of course, the Warriors didn’t have to play the Clippers because Los Angeles blew a 3–1 lead to the Rockets. When Klay Thompson pointed that fact out, Rivers called Golden State “sensitive.”
Barkley has been a thorn in Golden State’s side ever since Curry hit his first three pointer. In early February, Barkley said Curry was a great shooter, and not much else:
“He’s just a great shooter. It’s a totally different animal ... He’s not more than a shooter. He’s just a great shooter,” Barkley told DIME magazine. “I wouldn’t say [he makes the game easier for his teammates.] But he’s not a great playmaker. He’s just a great shooter.”
Apparently all the attention Steph garners from defenses means nothing for his teammates.
Robertson challenged the intelligence of NBA coaches in the wake of the Warriors’ success, going off on the league on Feb. 25:
“If I've got a guy who's great shooting the ball outside, don't you want to extend your defense out a little bit?” Robertson said on ESPN’s Mike & Mike. “I just don't think coaches today in basketball understand the game of basketball. They don't know anything about defenses. They don't know what people are doing on the court. They talk about analytical basketball and stuff like that.”
Gregg Popovich, Rick Carlisle, Erik Spoelstra, Rivers, et. al definitely don’t understand basketball. Suuuure.
For whatever reason, Feb, 25 was the day for Warriors-related hot takes. On that day, Szczerbiak predicted someone would stop Golden State.
“I think Golden State is not going to get that record,” Wally Szczerbiak said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “I think someone’s going to step up and beat them. I just can’t fathom them being that good. I watched Draymond Green, obviously Steph Curry is tremendous and Klay Thompson—I saw those guys in college. And all of a sudden for them to go into the NBA, a league of many Hall-of-Famers, and for them to be doing what they’re doing–listen, I’m impressed by it, but I feel like there’s some teams in the league that should step up and put an end to this.”
The Warriors proceeded to win an NBA-record 73 games.
Jackson, a member of the 2007 “We Believe” Warriors, said the aforementioned squad would’ve beaten this year’s Warriors after hearing Robertson’s comments:
A former Suns guard, Ceballos also jumped into the fray after Robertson, saying his best Suns team could have dominated the Warriors.
“Oh easy,” Ceballos told Fox Sports Radio. “Warriors have to go with our ’93-94 team with (Charles) Barkley, (Dan) Majerle, (Danny) Ainge, K.J. (Kevin Johnson), Tom Chambers. Don’t get me wrong, Draymond (Green) is playing unbelievable but he wouldn’t do anything with Charles Barkley. It would be so ridiculous what that guy would get done to him. If you don’t believe me, just ask everyone else at his size who can move that tried to guard the guy back in the day.”
Tom Chambers was not a member of the 1993–94 Suns.
Thomas said Curry was succeeding because of what Thomas considered to be the “worst perimeter defense” he’d ever seen in the NBA.
Hmm, I don’t know about the worst. Does Thomas even remember his mid-aughts Knicks teams?
Pippen, a member of the second-best regular season team in NBA history, said that team would sweep the Warriors in a seven-game series:
“Bulls in four,” Pippen said. “I don’t think we’d take a night off.” Pippen said he would guard Curry and hold him to under 20 points.
Kerr, Pippen’s teammate on the 1996 Bulls, responded.
“First of all, it's a really hard question to answer,” Kerr said. “Not just because you're comparing eras, but literally it's tough for me to answer, grammatically, because I don't know who 'we' is and who 'they' are. I'll just say if the two teams play each other, there's no question we can beat us and they can beat them.”
Payton said Curry shouldn’t have been the league’s first unanimous MVP, though Payton’s comments seemed to be more of a compliment to some of the game’s older stars:
“I think all of those guys were unanimous decisions too. It just happened in an era that went his way...I commend him and what he’s accomplished, but you gotta think about who was voting for MJ, Kareem, in their time, why they wouldn’t have given all their votes to those guys.”
As opposed to Payton, McGrady said Steph’s MVP was a sign of how weak the NBA is:
“For him to be that first player to get that unanimously, I think it tells you how watered-down our league is,” McGrady said on ESPN’s The Jump. “Seriously. Because think of when MJ played, Shaq, I mean those guys really played against top-notch competition, more superstars I think on more teams ... but it’s well-deserved.”
For good measure, Robertson went after Draymond Green for his struggles during the Thunder-Warriors series:
“I think [Draymond Green] can do certain things because of what Thompson and Curry has been doing all year long,” Robertson said on Sirius XM NBA Radio. “Green's a good player, but he does not have the ability to go over and above what he needs to do to be successful”
And there you have it! A full season’s worth of criticism for a team that won 73 games. We're really looking forward to what Sczcerbiak, Ceballos and the rest of the Warriors naysayers will have in the tank after the Finals.