Champion Warriors went down different paths of inspiration originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area
BOSTON. The countdown ended at 941. That was the number of days between games that Klay Thompson appeared in after first suffering an ACL tear in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals and then an Achilles tendon tear after more than a year of training. through one grueling rehab before starting another.
He will always remember these four numbers: nine, four, one. Just like he will always remember the number 1099. That’s how many days in total it took him to go from lying on the floor of Scotiabank Arena holding his left knee and screaming in agony to tears of joy streaming down his face at TD Garden when he celebrated his fourth championship with the Warriors.
As he jumped for joy after the final siren in Boston, those tears fell on the shoulders of Rick Celebrini, director of sports medicine and performances for the Warriors, the man who spent hours with Clay when the star shooting guard was at the very bottom. physically and mentally.
“Just to stay with it, just calves for climbs, underwater treadmill, so many days without even touching the ball,” Thompson told reporters after the Warriors defeated the Celtics in Game 6 of the Finals.
“Then to get through this season with ups and downs, and even with these playoffs, I just don’t have the words at times. Because I knew it was possible, but being here in real time, man, I don’t know. I do not want to leave. I want to enjoy every second of it. I know how fleeting it can be.”
The story of Clay’s triumph and return is above all else and will be remembered forever. He’s definitely not alone. The Warriors are full of them, from superstars to role players.
The Warriors always knew they would have to keep growing, learning and hopefully peaking in the playoffs. They also didn’t know how much of a nuisance the injury bug would be for them this season. Their big three of Thompson, Steph Curry and Draymond Green played together for a total of 11 minutes in the regular season.
When Thompson returned, Green suffered a back injury. He became an All-Star for the fourth time this season, but was sidelined by injury. To escape, Green took a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, but Celebrini was with him every step of the way, forcing Draymond to work two days a day just at this moment: to be a champion again.
With Green able to play again after two months on the shelf, Curry was sidelined for the last two weeks of the regular season with a foot injury and came off the bench in the first four playoff games with his maximum dose of lead. and sacrifice, again setting the precedent for your teammates of what it takes to win the ring. As the last seconds counted down, Curry collapsed to the floor, overwhelmed by emotion. He was about to win his fourth title and first Finals MVP, adding to his already legendary careerand then he and his father Dell embraced for an unforgettable hug.
“It was definitely stunning,” Curry said. “It was surreal because you know what you went through to get back on that stage and no one – unless you were on that floor – you just practice day in and day out.
“Speaking only about me personally, about my off-season training last year when we lost in the play-in tournament, it’s been a year and six days since I started the process of preparing for this season. It all paid off. I didn’t know how it was supposed to happen, I didn’t know what the environment would be like, you can imagine what the emotions would be like, but they hit differently.
“I didn’t even know he was down there, to be honest with you. I saw him and I lost him and I knew the clock was kind of running out. I just wanted to enjoy the moment because it was something special.” .”
And that only applies to the biggest names in the Warriors, the three future Hall of Famers.
The future of their backcourt heir to the Splash Brothers throne, could be Jordan Poole, who turned 23 on Sunday. Many thought that the Warriors achieved this by drafting Poole with the 28th overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft, and the start of his professional career definitely didn’t go as planned. He even had to play 11 games for the Santa Cruz Warriors in Orlando’s G-League bubble last season and the experience couldn’t have been better for him.
Before moving to Orlando, Pool averaged 5.5 points per game last season. After his return, he averaged 14.7, 18.5 in his third year and 17.0 in the playoffs. Pool is about to be paid, and his skills are only superficial.
“I always knew that I could play at the highest level and win,” Pool said after he first became a champion. “It was just a matter of time and opportunity to do it with these guys that were here who are extremely experienced. It’s just wonderful, especially.
“A couple of years ago, people tried to write us off, saying that the dynasty had come to an end, and people tried to write me off personally. in yourself and you think it’s possible, stick with it no matter what, no matter the noise, don’t let anyone tell you you can’t. As cliche as it sounds, it’s a fact.”
Two other players the Warriors will be looking for during the offseason are Kevon Looney and Gary Payton II. Both became Dub Nation folk heroes this season. They eat free in the Bay Area forever.
Looney was the only Warrior to play in all 82 regular season games. Including the Golden State playoff series, he played in 104 games. In total, he played 81 games over the previous two seasons, not even one full regular season due to injuries and various other health issues. In his seventh season, Looney became indispensable as someone who could play the way manager Steve Kerr was required to, whether as a starter or off the bench.
“For me, a coach means the whole world to me,” Looney said. “I’ve had a lot of ups and downs in my career since I’ve been here, I was called here and I could be here for seven years and have the opportunity to learn from him and he’s a guy – he always told me, ‘Your opportunity will come, just use it when it appears.”
“Sometimes I didn’t even deserve an opportunity and he gave me one and he stayed with me and I give him credit for that. My hard work has paid off and he is a great mentor and coach for me and everything in general. team. Steve deserves a lot of respect.”
Payton played with five different G League teams before finding a home with the Warriors. Curry and Green pushed for general manager Bob Myers to bring him back to a second 10-day contract last season. He played one preseason game this season and earned the last pick with the Warriors on the same day as his regular season opener. The more he played, the clearer it became that Payton would be an integral part of the Warriors’ success.
Six weeks after breaking his left elbow in the second round of the playoffs, Payton’s 15 points off the bench in Game 5 of the Finals gave the Warriors a three-game lead that they might not have won without his defense and intangible values.
“It’s just crazy,” Payton said. “You know, just a trip. It was a great experience for me. I appreciate every moment that I had, all the falls, just to help me move on. Just stick with it and just keep going.
“So I’m still speechless right now. It’s just crazy right now.”
Andrew Wiggins erased all the labels that had been put on him that he was not a winner. Otto Porter Jr., whose career was defined more by his injury history than his skills, as a former No. 2 overall, played a huge role in the Warriors’ victory. Oakland’s Juan Toscano-Anderson became the first player of Mexican descent to become an NBA champion, while Nemanja Bielica became the first to win the Euroleague MVP title and then the Association title in his seventh season in the NBA and for the first time with the Warriors.
There have been many different paths of inspiration this season. Some have earned more brilliance than others. Each played a part in the Warriors’ celebration of their fourth championship parade in eight years.
A party just startedtoo much.