Success is achieved on a case-by-case basis in the NBA. Most organizations won’t admit to that veritable fact, instead repeating a tired trope that the ultimate goal is a championship, and a season ending with anything less is a different step in the process of failure. But the players know it. Coaches know it. Owners know it. And fans – definitely fans – know it, too.
Because the Warriors aren’t winning a title this season. And there isn’t a single reason why they won’t, but a cavalcade of factors that work against their favor in the postseason: a lack of simple experience and talent compared to the West’s hierarchy chief among them. Depending on opponent, it’s likely Golden State won’t even advance past the first round; they’ll be underdogs no matter the matchup.
But even a disappointingly early exit from the playoffs won’t change what a second playoff birth in 19 seasons means for the Warriors. This season’s a success now no matter where it goes from here, even if the players barely admit half as much.
“We’re gonna celebrate this,” Steph Curry said. ”But we’re gonna try and make some noise in the playoffs.”
“It means a lot,” David Lee said after qualifying for the postseason for the first time in his eight-year career. ”It’s time to celebrate. But we’re really excited for what’s in front of us here.”
Excitement is fine. Golden State certainly has the horses and frenzied home court to at least put a scare in its first round opponent, specific team be damned. But looking past an achievement that other organizations – think San Antonio, Denver, Miami – deem a mere formality would be remiss. And that might be disheartening, that making the playoffs alone is enough for now. But that’s what this team’s horrible recent history necessitates – lowered expectations and a heightened sense of accomplishment on the rare occasion it’s reached.
It takes sustained success to want more than this, and that’s something the Warriors haven’t had. No matter how this season ends, know that it is and was always going to be a stepping stone for future ones. Ancillary factors meant the odds were against them reaching this point in 2013, so now Golden State’s officially ahead of schedule. This team is young, this team is new and this team will someday finally be fully healthy. More, then, could very well be coming.
For now, though, understand progress has been made. That a playoff appearance is the necessary first of a logical if hopeful sequence of conquests. The Warriors have finally achieved something. Until next year, don’t take it for granted.
Follow Jack Winter on Twitter.