The debate over Golden State’s chase for the one-season wins record of 73 has gone on awhile now, and is now breaking down on the narrow but widening fault line of record-v.-rest.
Steve Kerr has addressed the matter again and again, most recently after Wednesday’s win over the Los Angeles Clippers, and he will do so again after Friday’s win over the Dallas Mavericks. Why? Because we never chew on a bone and leave any bit of it unpulverized.
And yes, it is a delicate dance because the players have now become enamored of the idea, thereby caving into public pressure for a thing even though it isn’t really that meaningful a thing. Having the single-season wins record, as the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls do, means nothing without rings and a parade, which the 1995-966 Chicago Bulls did.
Indeed, only two teams in the top 12 of the regular season win list did not win the championship. We’d tell you who they are, but you’re already fading, we can see.
But let’s get three things clear:
1. This is not a zero-sum idea. The Warriors can do it all, as long as they prioritize what they should do first.
2. That means that the regular season record is, well, meh, because while it is a nice jagged number people have been forced to remember, the Warriors will have failed if they do not win the postseason as well as the regular season.
3. There is a record that will explain their dominance (if it is that) even more clearly.
And that is the postseason record, the best of which is 15-1 (or 16-4 in the current format). That was done by the 2001 Los Angeles Lakers, whose regular season record of 56-26 is considered a disgusting blot on the franchise.
Well, no it isn’t, as things turn out. People there still remember the parade, and the rings, and Pat Riley midwifing the phrase "three-peat" into common parlance.
Which, by the way, the Lakers also did a year later.
You see, here’s the problem with 73. It’s not the magnificent achievement a team with a distant eye on history should be thinking about. It is multiple championships, and if the point comes when Kerr must bring the fellows in and say their minutes will need to be reduced a bit, he’ll have to sell it both hard and well, because he’ll be right.
The Warriors look a bit leg-weary right now, as they should in the last 15 percent of a long season that frankly has only begun. The chase for 73 is not the reason for that -- the chase for 82 is. And though Draymond Green and Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes are essentially whippersnappers, Stephen Curry is (amazingly) a seven-year veteran, and (slightly less so amazing) 28 years old. Their individual minutes per game are not significantly higher (Green is about three minutes more, but everyone else is either in the same neighborhood as 2015 or even below it).
But the season does not have 11 games left. It has a minimum of 27 if the Warriors get what they want, and more likely 30-plus. By that standard, they have 30 percent of their year still to go, a year after they played 103. Anyone (and by anyone, we mean someone smarter than us) will tell you that takes its toll, which is why teams don’t repeat that often.
So let’s adjust the number with which the Warriors and the nation SHOULD be fascinated. The postseason record.
Now 15-1 is a hugely difficult number to hit, and in the current four-by-four-by-four-by-four format, it still leaves you one game short. The record for 16-win playoffs, as we said, is 16-4 by the 2002 Lakers and 2007 San Antonii (the Warriors were 16-5 last year despite playing all four series at least two time zones away, simplifying the process by sweeping New Orleans and dispatching Houston in five games).
But going 16-3 in April, May and June, which would be record for the current format, would be more impressive than 73-9, because there are no Philadelphias or Washingtons or Minnesotas on that schedule. It would speak to what the Warriors actually want to be -- the best of the best of the best of their contemporaries.
And let’s face it. All you get by breaking the Bulls’ record is more arguments with Michael Jordan fans about “the game is softer” and “the Warriors were lucky” and “Curry couldn’t be great in the 1930s,” and frankly, who needs that again.
No, the way to win the day over everyone is to do it all, and the second best thing is to get the postseason record. Logic tells you that, and it is our failure that we don’t hold that record in greater esteem, and that’s even though we all agree that Moses Malone’s “fo’ fo’ fo’” prediction for the 1983 playoffs is one of the great quotations in the history of sports.
And if the Warriors need to rest and miss the 73 to get the other record, then so be it, and Kerr should be perfectly willing to tell them so. It is an infinitely better result than winning 74 and then 15, and watching Cleveland or Toronto get the jewelry and the parade instead.
Eyes on the prize, children, eyes on the prize. The Warriors are playing for a $212,000 Audemars Piguet RD1 wristwatch, not a FitBit.