-- The Golden State Warriors are all about acquisitions these days. Ownership bought the rights to Klay Thompson's services for another four years. The team bought land for a new arena in San Francisco. The players are buying in to new coach Steve Kerr. Buy, buy, buy.
It's that last, non-financial transaction that's the most significant. If the players don't accept what the coach is saying, then a team won't go anywhere. From the outset, Kerr said he wanted more passing and more movement without the ball: a mix of Mike D'Antoni's Phoenix Suns pace and passing, Gregg Popovich's San Antonio Spurs flow, Jerry Sloan's Utah Jazz high post passing and baseline cross-cutting, with a touch of Phil Jackson's Chicago Bulls triangle offense.
There are moments when the Warriors' offense looks like it was shot with the time-lapse video feature on the new iPhone. Nothing lasts long, especially not individual possession of the ball. They've gone from 246 passes per game last season to 324 passes per game so far this season, according to the player tracking data on NBA.com. The Warriors lead the league in secondary assists (or "hockey assists") at nine per game, and are second in regular assists and points created by assists. And they don't even have the hang of this thing yet.
"It's tough sometimes," Draymond Green said. "You get to that point where you catch it and you say, 'All right, should I go now or keep it moving?' "I don't think it's necessarily second nature yet. It's going to become second nature. We're not even close to where we want to be. That's exciting. We're doing a lot of things well, but we've got so much room to get better. I think that's a great sign."
It's tempting to look at their blowout of the Los Angeles Clippers which brought their record to 4-0 as the Warriors' statement game, but their true test was in Portland over the weekend. That was the first time they had a late-game crisis, the first time Kerr had to show leadership under fire. They were down by a point in the final 25 seconds of the game, and the Trail Blazers had the ball. Kerr kept his cool.
"He's really composed," Thompson said. "In Portland you still got the sense that we're going to win the game."
Kerr also delegated to his assistants. Ron Adams, whom he calls his "defensive coordinator," reminded the players to avoid a quick foul to see if they could force a turnover -- which is exactly what happened. And when the Warriors got the ball, Alvin Gentry suggested the play with Thompson coming across the middle to hit the go-ahead shot.
Yeah, they ran the play for Thompson instead of All-Star Stephen Curry. And the Warriors just signed Thompson to a four-year, $69 million contract extension that will make Thompson the team's highest-paid player next year, not Curry. These are the kinds of things that can tear teams apart. But that brings up another investment the Warriors have made: in each other.
"You feel like you have a part in it," Curry said of Thompson's contract. "I'm ecstatic for him."
Curry realizes that his current contract is undervalued because he signed it coming off a year in which ankle injuries caused him to miss more than half the games in the lockout-shortened season. He doesn't worry about his next contract because "that's two years away." He figures he has two more big contracts left in his career, and I maintain it will be good for the Warriors if Curry's seeking to get back the dollars he missed on his current deal, because the collective bargaining agreement gives them the ability to offer him more guaranteed money than any other team.
Curry, 26, and Thompson, 24, could end up spending a decade or more together. A backcourt dynasty. Do you realize that by the end of this season they will have already played together twice as long as the Run TMC trio of Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin?
Thompson said Curry was the first teammate to text him after he signed his contract extension. Thompson, meanwhile, speaks glowingly, not enviously, of the attention Curry receives around the league and when they travel internationally.
"There's no animosity on this team," Thompson said. "No jealousy. We all want to see everybody get paid."
Curry likes looking back on where the Warriors have come since 2011-12 -- Thompson's rookie year -- and the fact they've made that growth together. Of course, much of that progress is due to another purchase -- the ownership group led by Joe Lacob and Peter Guber that spent a then-exorbitant $450 million on a deal that was finalized Nov. 12, 2010.
They overspent to outbid Larry Ellison. Now it looks like a bargain; $450 million couldn't even get you the Milwaukee Bucks these days. You have to figure Lacob and Guber would at least double their investment if they put the team up for sale today.
Lacob and Guber appear to have hit twice in hiring first-time coaches. Mark Jackson took a franchise that had reached the postseason once in 16 years and led them to back-to-back playoff runs. And after a personality clash led to Jackson's messy and premature firing, the Warriors appear to have another good first-time coach in Kerr, whom they signed for $25 million over five years.
If you're going to buy, buy, buy, it's imperative to spend wisely. The Warriors have a coach who is getting the desired response from his players. They invested in a player who proceeded to set a career scoring high the next night and shows a commitment to constantly improving his game. The team has yet to be inflicted by the disease of "me."
In a nonrefundable league, there's no buyer's remorse.