SAN FRANCISCO — Bill Bradley knew about winning. He played for the championship Knicks, then was a U.S. Senator. And about losing, failing in bids to become a candidate for president.
”The taste of defeat,” Bradley wrote of his career, “has a richness of experience all its own.”
The Warriors this tormented season will come to know that experience. If they don’t already. Their record, 2-11, is the worst in the NBA. The next four games, starting with Sunday night's game at New Orleans, are on the road. Another of their few veteran players, D’Angelo Russell, is injured and unable to play.
This is the reality of the NBA, as Steve Kerr has advised several times. The past five years, advancing to the finals each season, were fantasy. The party’s over. “Wake up,” go the lyrics, “all dreams must end . . .”
But do they have to become a nightmare?
This will be a Warriors season for diehards, for those who remember the way it used to be when the roster had Corie Blount and Vonteego Cummings and the teams started 1-7 and finished 17-65.
That was 2000-01, only yesterday — yet after the last few seasons, seemingly a million years ago.
Not that it couldn’t happen again this season.
The Warriors played well Friday night at Chase Center, leading against the Celtics, the team with the best record in the league (11-1) with a minute and a half to play. The Celtics won, of course, 105-100.
That’s the usual for a bad team — well, a team with a bad record. It plays well and loses. It plays poorly and loses big. It’s not a question of hustle or intensity. The issue is talent. The Warriors don’t have it.
Not with Klay Thompson out for the season. Not with Steph Curry out until February at least. He was on the bench Friday, waving his right hand, the one that’s not broken, to inspire healthy teammates. The Warriors, however, don’t need inspiration. They need better basketball.
Success, we’re told, is cyclical. If everything falls in place, a team wins, maybe a team even dominates, but athletes age and fortune frowns, and like that a champion becomes mediocre, although right now for the Warriors, mediocrity would be acceptable.
When teams are winning — the A’s, Raiders, 49ers and Giants all had their runs — there are celebrations and parades and never a thought that it all will end. But end it does, although somehow the Patriots have persisted.
The hope is it will not take forever to rebuild.
The Warriors got good and then they got lucky, persuading Kevin Durant to join a team that even without him set a virtually unbreakable season record of 73-9. Basketball madness. Dub Nation. Debates on whether it was the greatest team in history.
Nine losses for the entire schedule? This season’s team already has lost 11 games, and we’re not even at Thanksgiving.
Kerr insists it’s all part of pro sports, that as a player he went through it. Still, he’s never been through it as a head coach, where his previous five seasons with the Warriors were blissfully victorious, either winning or losing in the finals. He may not have been spoiled, but the public was.
The tickets already are purchased. At Oracle Arena and now Chase Center, the Warriors have had 350 consecutive sellouts. Not all of the sold-out seats were filled Friday night. Is that a reflection of discontent? A decision that there are better things to do than show up for a game the home team is certain to lose?
The fans became noisily involved the final minutes. “You can tell the crowd enjoys it,” Kerr said of the Warriors making a game of it, although not a win of it. “It’s one of the things I’ve loved about our home crowd. Not just in the five-plus years I’ve been here as coach, but going back 20 years when I was a player.”
He wasn’t with the Warriors in those years, but yes, throughout the seasons, people showed up, appreciating the game of basketball, if not always the way the home team played it.
“It’s been a tough start,” Kerr conceded, “but I think if we can compete that way and play that way we are going to win some games, and our fans will enjoy what we’re doing.”
Check back in two months.