There was noticeable energy at the Warriors’ first playoff practice, held at a fitness center inside their hotel.
STEPHEN CURRY: “You can tell it’s different. Hopefully our preparation today and tomorrow leading up to the game will be as normal as possible.”
DRAYMOND GREEN: “It feels like we’re heading into the tournament.”
Eve-of-playoffs adrenaline or did the scheme to combat the altitude issue work?
The Warriors attempted to adjust to the thin air by coming to Denver a day early. Normally, Golden State would fly in the day before the game, practice in Oakland and then fly out, or leave Oakland in the morning and practice in the after. This time, they flew in two days earlier even though they had just gotten back from Portland the night before.
They had a meeting Thursday night, had dinner together, and got to breathe the cold, mountainous air for an evening. Friday, they got to practice and break a sweat to try to get accustomed.
JARRETT JACK: “I don’t know how you prepare for it. You just need to be in it to get used to it.”
Whether it makes a difference remains to be seen. But it fits Mark Jackson’s anti-establishment approach to coaching.
Many a coach would probably have stuck to the process that got them there. Center Andrew Bogut said the last time he went to the playoffs, in 2006 with Milwaukee, they didn’t do anything different.
But Jackson, as he’s said a million times, is not your traditional coach.
* In addition to coming a day earlier, the media access was altered. Golden State usually holds player interviews after practice. But the Warriors and Nuggets practiced at the same time. So Golden State held its access before practice and the Nuggets held their access after practice.
The Warriors also switched to the free-for-all format of shootaround. The media was put on the court with all the players at the same time. Typically after a Warriors practice, only a few players are made available as requested.
* The other day, forward David Lee tweeted out a picture from ESPN magazine. It was their NBA predictions. The Warriors were predicted to have 27.7 wins and finish 13th in the Western Conference. ESPN gave the Warriors a zero percent chance of making the playoffs.
But now, it seems the Warriors are ESPN darlings. Stephen Curry sat down with Mark Jones and Doris Burke, the broadcasters doing Game 1, before practice. Curry was then scheduled to go on the Scott Van Pelt show and David Lee went on Mark Schlereth’s show.
And to top it off, Skip Bayless, on the popular debate show first take, picked the Warriors to win the series in 6 games.
* On Thursday, when asked if his left ankle was ready to run with the Nuggets, Bogut said “we’ll see.” Friday, his tune changed.
BOGUT: “I’m here, so I’m ready. A lot of guys come into the playoffs banged up.”
* Words of wisdom from Richard Jefferson, the most experienced player on the team. He said the Warriors are prepared:
“Our coaching staff has done as good a job as I’ve seen since I’ve been in the league. We had to fight for the sixth spot, and sometimes that’s good because you get a mentality of aggression very early, before the playoffs even came. When you’re fighting the last two weeks, you understand the severity of losses. Obviously it increases, but we didn’t clinch the spot and the rest our guys the last three games. We were fighting the very last game to get wins.”
* Warriors point guard Stephen Curry echoed his coach’s high praise of Nuggets veteran guard Andre Miller. Jackson called him the most underrated point guard in league history.
CURRY: “He’s just smart. He’s efficient. He knows hot to get to where he wants to go on the floor. He’s good at deception. Pump fakes, change of speed. That’s a big deal in basketball — if your IQ is great and you’re in the right spot, no matter how fast you got there or how athletic you are.”
*Imagine this: Bogut and rookie center Festus Ezeli on the court. At the same time.
EZELI: “That would be good for our team. We’ve never practiced it. I think we could complement each other well. He’s a good passer and I could benefit from that. It would be very interesting to see us on the court together.”