On Sunday night, the Golden State Warriors tied the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls for the best regular season record in NBA history when they won their 72nd game.
Now they’re trying to break that record, going for 73 wins, and will surely encounter a Memphis Grizzlies team that doesn’t want to be on the wrong side of history.
The Warriors have openly been chasing the record for several weeks. Players like Stephen Curry and Draymond Green have admitted that they want to win 73 games and set a new record, and they had no intentions of resting in the final games if the record was still in play.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr has put the decision in their hands — he told reporters he would let players decide if they want to play or rest. GM Bob Myers concurred with that philosophy and gave his explanation to Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News:
“The thing that’s great about Steve is he’s very collaborative and we have those conversations. We’re true to each other and we say what we feel. When we talked about [going for 73 wins], I said the same thing. ‘It’s not ours. It’s not our record; it’s not my record.’ I said that if I was an NBA player at the precipice of something like this, who is the GM to tell me that I can’t go for it? I said I would resent that.
“Because it’s something that they worked towards, that they are at the cusp of, that’s theirs. So it’s their decision. And Steve agreed – said the same thing. It’s not the organization’s. It’s not the coach’s. Not the GM’s, certainly. It’s really the players. Because it’s almost like letting somebody get to Mile 25 of a marathon and saying, ‘You can’t finish.’ And the person’s saying, ‘I know I can. Let me try at least. Let me try to finish.’ And you say, ‘Actually, you’re not going to get a chance.’”
Myers added, “All that’s being accomplished, in my opinion, is theirs and I’m just proud of what they’re doing.”
The surprising part about this chase is that each night the Warriors play, the players are expending energy to beat teams that are giving their best shot every night. There’s serious risk for burnout as players grind their way to 73 wins, as opposed to taking, say, 70, and relaxing and gearing up for the playoffs.
However, by putting the decision in the players’ hands, it not only reinforces an open, positive culture, it puts the onus on players. The players themselves have said that winning a championship means more than 73 games. If they felt they were too tired, they would sit themselves. If not, Kerr and Myers can say they gave them the chance to chase history.
The Warriors look destined to get to 73 wins, but it will be telling to see what the team looks like in the postseason after having to use all 82 games to get there.