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OAKLAND -- The lifting of a sports team's expectations always is uncomfortable inasmuch as culture change creates friction and internal aches. Promoting growth is a grueling, ceaseless and sometimes annoying process.
It's exactly what the Warriors, in their effort to limit sloppiness and become more consistent with their fundamentals, are going through this month and this season.
And All-Star point guard Stephen Curry is at the center of it.
"If I'm taking care of the ball and doing what I'm supposed to be doing," Curry said this week, "that usually trickles down."
The Warriors three years ago, mostly without Curry, were awful. They were good two years ago, with Curry, and reached another level last season as he ascended to stardom.
Ex-coach Mark Jackson, a former NBA point guard, was as responsible for the team's rise as he was influential to Curry becoming a top-three NBA point guard. Jackson raised the bar for Warriors basketball and the process was at times painful.
Steve Kerr, who this season replaced Jackson, is determined to raise it yet again. Though he praises Jackson for coaxing consecutive playoff appearances out of a team with one such appearance in the previous 18 seasons, Kerr presses for more. He's demanding greater lift. He wants to take what already was high to the highest possible level. He yearns for a Warriors championship.
This means there will be occasional spasms. Nobody will feel those spasms more acutely than Curry, the team leader and the orchestrator of the offense installed by Kerr and associate head coach Alvin Gentry.
When Kerr chastised the Warriors in the wake of their tepid victory over the profoundly defective Timberwolves last weekend, the only player the coach mentioned by name was Curry. Kerr recalled a particularly egregious Curry turnover in the second quarter.
"Steph threw a full-court, looping pass that could've been stolen by any one of three Wolves players," Kerr said. "Bizarre. Just bizarre.
"He even came up to me after the game and said, 'Sorry, I don't know what got into me.' These kinds of things snowball a little bit. When you make a careless play, one kind of leads to the next. The whole point is that we are a good team, but we want to be a great team."
Greatness always comes with a price, which brings us back to that grueling, ceaseless and often annoying process. Must pain always have to be part of that price?
"I think it does," said Gentry, the man Warriors CEO Joe Lacob and Kerr recruited away from the Clippers.
"We are trying to raise it to another level. Two years ago (the Warriors) got to the second round. Last year they lost a tough seven-game series to the Clippers. And there were some possessions in that series that could have cost them.
"What we're trying to do is make the players understand that every possession counts. I know you don't think that; you might throw the ball away early in a game and not think much about it. But those are possessions that could cause runs to happen. That stuff could start the other team off on a 10-2 run."
Every possession counts. That's the aphorism Kerr wants to embed in the brain of each player. He learned it during an NBA career during which he won five titles with two franchises, under two legendary coaches -- Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich.
Kerr is trying to transfer it to the Warriors -- and, most of all, to Curry.
"(Kerr) understands if you fast-forward to April and May and June, when the consequences of every possession are multiplied exponentially, if you give away possessions those are the ones that don't allow you to advance in the playoffs," Curry said.
"I'm very hard on myself when we don't accomplish that goal every single night."
There are nights when the Warriors play gorgeous, flowing, fluid offensive basketball. Nights when they are stunningly crisp, with passes going to exactly the right person at precisely the right place and time. It's during those moments that one senses championship potential.
But there are those other moments when the Warriors are a bit too free and loose, when they seem to get swept up in their own swagger. That's when it's evident they're still in the process of acquiring the practical mindset required of a champion.
"We still have the flair that makes us who we are; we don't shy away from that," Curry said. "But you've got to be smart."
Smart basketball requires consistent effort and sacrifice. It requires often boring repetition over brilliant theatrics. The Warriors are learning that. On some nights, they're learning it the hard way.