Sports are funny because they traffic in joy while simultaneously sending the message that only one, ultimate accomplishment matters. Today, the Warriors can celebrate their triumph over expectations in nabbing a playoff spot. Tomorrow, they can’t simply be satisfied with doing just that.
After the game, Lacob told media: “We’re gonna win an NBA championship here. I guarantee it.”
He was speaking about the future, to be clear. Many scoffed at the bragging assertion, but a future title should be the goal. The politics of calling your shot might be off, but at least he acknowledges that a playoff appearance isn’t good enough.
That was the strange, repeated, ambivalent message in the happy haze and daze of Golden State’s locker room, after the playoff clincher over Minnesota. Mark Jackson cried with joy before also asserting that the team can’t be satisfied with this. People basked in the joy, then followed that up with stoic assertions of not be satiated with this thing, or how this thing wouldn’t be good enough in the future. A tear-stained Jackson bellowed, “Do not go to the baggage claim. This is just a layover and not our final destination.”
Expectations frame happiness and thus this season is already a success. Who cares that this would be a horrific disappointment of a year for Miami? The Warriors have made the playoffs twice in two decades, and if you can’t celebrate dramatic improvement then what can you celebrate? You’ll be stuck taking no pleasure from Warriors victories until Joe Lacob finally delivers that elusive, seemingly impossible championship. And if that’s your plan, you risk being bitter about the Dubs till the day you die.
Improvement is a victory unto itself even if it isn’t the ultimate win. When I asked Steph Curry about his ESPN NBA Rank of 16, he was happy, thanking ESPN “for the favor” He then inquired as to what his ranking was last year (No. 40), and responded with, “See. I made an improvement!” With a smile, he said “It helps to be on a team that’s winning. “