Over the holidays, the NBA set-up a conference with some members of the NBA Champions, Golden State Warriors and the NBA Global Media. Joining the conference call were Klay Thompson, Zaza Pachulia, David West and Coach Steve Kerr. Here are highlights of their interviews.
Q: I wonder what it’s like playing as a player on Christmas Day. Do you get to see your families, and how do you go about preparing for that?
KT: It’s a lot of fun. It’s an honor to play on Christmas Day because the NBA, if they schedule you, it means you’re doing something right. There are so many families and kids watching around the country. I remember watching as a kid, and to be a part of it as an adult is a much better experience. It’s just so fun doing what you love on a beautiful holiday.
Q: How hard is it to play without Steph Curry on the floor now that he’s injured?
KT: Well, we obviously miss Steph incredibly. He’s one of the best players in the world, so not to have him out there is unfortunate. But while he’s not here, we do not make excuses for his absence. We still try to do what we do without him, and that’s just play hard, play together, and win as many games as possible. We’ve been successful without him so far because of our depth, and we don’t make excuses when some of our best players are injured. We still have fun, go out there and try to win games, but we obviously miss him dearly.
Q: Last year you signed a toaster, and the Warriors went on a great winning streak. I would like to know if you’re making this a tradition, and if so, what are you going to sign this year?
KT: Oh, man, I have no idea. Hopefully something that will propel us to another championship. But it’s got to be something that’s different and unique. I mean, the toaster streak was pretty funny, but hopefully not another home appliance. It’ll be something like a surfboard or something cool, not a toaster.
Q: I know you’re playing this game against the Cavaliers in a few days. You might be playing with some of those guys in the All-Star Game with the way things have changed with picking teams this year. Are there any guys from the East you’re potentially looking forward to teaming up with in the game if you potentially make the All-Star team?
KT: I think it would be cool to play with Kevin Love just because I grew up with that guy since I was 8 years old. That would be cool. We haven’t played on the same team since we were kids. To play with him in the All-Star Game would be pretty special. It’s always fun competing against them. Whoever else, I don’t know. I’ve played with a lot of guys just through USA Basketball. I mean, it would be fun to play with LeBron just because I’ve always gone against him, and it would be cool to see him like on a teammate aspect. But who else? I mean, I don’t know. Most guys I’ve actually played with through Team USA. Those two on the Cavs, probably.
Q: You are the only Golden State Warriors player to play and be available for every game this season. This also has you to leading the team in three- pointers this year. Since you, Steph and KD are arguably the three best shooters in the league, do you bring that stat up, or is it something on your radar or are you even aware of it?
KT: Honestly, man, I don’t even think about statistics when I play, but it’s just so great to have guys who can shoot the ball so amazingly on the same team because it makes us so much better throughout the year. Throughout practice we push each other. I’ve never played on a team with guys who shoot it better than me. Now I’ve got two guys that arguably do, and it just motivates me to be better. That’s why I think I’m shooting the ball at such a high level this year.
Q: I wanted to know does playing the Cavaliers on Christmas Day for the third year in a row make it a special game in terms of intensity and creating a rivalry?
ZP: Yeah, this is going to be my second since it’s my second year with this team. Obviously, we all know the history. We all know what this team has done the last couple years. It’s very special, first of all, to be playing on Christmas Day and a great opportunity to play in front of the millions and millions of people all over the world where Christmas is a holiday. Everybody is with their families. People love watching basketball, NBA games, and the best teams competing against each other.
Obviously playing against the Cavs, it’s even more special because the teams faced each other a couple times in a row in The Finals now. It’s going to be pretty interesting, a pretty intense game, a lot of attention, and especially since one team is from the East and the other team is from the West, so it’s only [one of two matchups in the regular season]. We’re really looking forward to it, but at the same time, we understand that we have two more games until that game, and win or lose, it’s not the end of the world. We had the experience last year where we lost [on Christmas Day at Cleveland] by just one point, but then we ended up winning the championship. This game doesn’t kind of decide anything, but at the same time, of course we would love to win. We’re going to do our best to win because it’s for our confidence and it’s for our fans and for our city, and again, understanding where we might face the same [team] in The Finals this year.
Q: The All-Star voting started today. The votes from your own country of Georgia gave you the eighth-most votes in the entire league last year. Are you somewhat disappointed that the All-Star voting system changed last year, or does the support from your home country outweigh the disappointment?
ZP: Thanks for asking me that question because honestly, first of all, I had no idea that All-Star voting started today. When it comes to disappointment, actually I’m proud of whatever happened. Most of my fans, being honest, are from Georgia, Georgia votes. People have been voting for me a lot. We made the league change the rules, so this is the proudest moment for me. And just being realistic, I’m not an All-Star-caliber player. I couldn’t care less about those things, but it makes me proud and happy and something we can all be proud of that the league changed the rule because of us.
Again, the most important thing is that the love and support I’ve been getting from the fans. It’s not easy to get, talking about more than 1.5 million votes and to be one of the top players in the league to get this many votes. It’s pretty cool. It’s fun for me. This is how I look at it. It’s not about being an All-Star. It’s all about the love and support I’ve been getting without me asking one single time to vote for me. It’s all naturally just happening itself.
I’m just enjoying the process. I don’t know what’s going to happen this year. My job is to play and to get healthy right now and to represent the Warriors in a professional way on the court.
Q: Over the last season with the Warriors dominating in the West and Cleveland dominating in the East, and now with great teams like the Celtics and OKC, does this change in the way that the Spurs are not your biggest opponent anymore?
DW: No, I think in terms of the West, I think San Antonio is always a mountain to climb because they’ve got such great pedigree and have been consistently good for a very long time. Houston has made some changes and they’re playing probably the best basketball in the league. So we know it’s going to be difficult. We know that teams have geared up and have changed some. Obviously, Boston has gotten better in the East; Cleveland is who they are.
We’re going to have to get better, and that’s what we’ve been doing. We’re a little banged up right now in terms of health, but guys are going, guys are developing. Guys who probably wouldn’t be playing as much right now are playing because of the injuries, but it’s going to help us in the long run. We went through a similar stretch like this last year when KD went down, and I thought we were better for it. I think we’re on that same trail in terms of our team just growing and getting better, figuring out what lineups work and who works well together, because ultimately we’re going to have to get through a tough, tough Western Conference playoff.
Q: Last year Coach Kerr called you the Draymond whisperer. Now that Draymond has taken rookie Jordan Bell under his wing as a sort of mini- Draymond, does that sort of make you the Draymond whisperer 2? And what do you think Jordan still needs to learn?
DW: He has a lot of people talking to him. The coaching staff has been very instrumental in making sure he catches up and he learns on the fly, because we don’t have a lot of practice time. A lot of the things that he’s having to do, he’s having to learn just by word of mouth. We really haven’t had much time on the floor. I just try to find my spots. If I get in a place where I can lend some experience to him, I do. He’s a high-caliber kid in terms of he knows the game. I think he knows who he is and he tries to be impactful with what he has. As long as he continues to learn, be a good listener, he has a bright, bright future.
Coach Steve Kerr
Q: You guys are aiming to make your fourth straight Finals, but the team is pretty banged up right now. What’s been the biggest problem you’ve been facing just trying to win games and trying to be consistent and maintaining good habits?
SK: Well, I think we’ve done a good job. We’re winning games and dealing with the injuries, and that’s what you have to do when you’ve been to The Finals a few years in a row. It’s just going to be more difficult. I felt that as a player in Chicago way back in the ’90s. Year three was much more difficult than year one, and that’s what we’re facing now, just the wear and tear of the journey.
As long as we can win games while guys are out, we’re confident that they’re going to actually be healthy and will be ready to go for the playoffs. This is all sort of expected in many ways, and we’re dealing with it the best we can.
Q: Your team has won 10 straight games. Which team will you be more anxious to play against in the playoffs this year, the Rockets or Cavaliers, and which team in the East do you see as your most likely competitor in The Finals this year?
SK: Well, in the East, obviously Boston and Cleveland are the teams that are getting the most recognition, but Toronto has very quietly had a great season, and I think they’ve gotten better. So those are the three favorites in the East. Obviously, Houston has had an amazing start in the West, and they’ve got a great team. San Antonio is always going to be there. So those are sort of the main teams that I think look like title contenders. But so much can happen over the course of a year with injuries and how things go, so we’re not too worried about The Finals or the playoffs even. We’re just trying to be the best we can be right now and keep getting better.
Q: I would like to ask about your back, your health condition, if you are fine now and if you still have some pain, and also if having this kind of injury did change a little bit your perception of the big picture. You didn’t take for granted the success you had and just focus on the results, but also on the big picture of everyday life, everyday little step by step?
SK: Well, thank you for asking. I’m doing better, and yes, I think any time you go through a major
health crisis, it gives you a different perspective. So really the only thing that matters is your health and waking up and feeling good, and that’s the main focus. I’m still dealing with pain but getting better. I love coaching, and coaching helps me to deal with everything. Thank you for the question. I appreciate it.
Photos from SF Gate