BY TIME AND distance the flight from San Francisco to Boston is the longest of any route in the NBA. Gate to gate, 2,704 miles and roughly 5 hours, 40 minutes. Plenty of time to sleep, watch game tape or a movie, depending on the priorities. But Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson didn’t do any of those things last June as the Golden State Warriors flew across the country with a 3-2 lead over the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals.

“We sat at the same table,” Green recalled. “And [Warriors general manager] Bob Myers walked past us and he’s like, ‘You all still sit together?'”

This time last year, the trio had been together for 10 years. They were about to close out their fourth title. And they were still sitting together on the team plane for the longest flight in the NBA.

“I just said to them, ‘Do you know how unusual it is for players to play together for a long time and want to hang out together,” Myers said. “But they still sat at this table after all these years. I don’t think they even know how unique that is because they’ve never been anywhere else. But people don’t stay together this long, and when they do, they tire of each other.”

There’s a joke about long marriages and short conversations around the dinner table. But these Warriors have made it clear they not only want to stay together, they still have plenty to say.

The only sign of surrender after Friday’s season-ending 122-101 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals came late in the fourth quarter, when Myers stopped Green from trying to check back into the game with an injured calf.

“This was not a championship group,” Green said. “But we have champions, and we’re made up of champions.

And when you have that mindset, you go back to the drawing board, retool and figure it out and go do it again. … So this group was maxed. We got what we could get out of it. But this thing isn’t maxed. We’ll get more out of it.”

All season the Warriors’ core has played with the idea that this could be their last run together as they age into their mid-30s and the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement makes it harder and more expensive to keep a team like this together.

Myers would normally be the one to sort through these issues, but his contract is up June 30, and he has told ownership he intends to take time after the season to reflect on everything before he decides his future, team sources say. Coach Steve Kerr has just one season remaining on his deal.

All season these Warriors have tried to stay present and make the most of the time they have left together. They didn’t duck the constant questions about how much longer that would be. If anything they leaned in, reflecting on and memorializing the basketball life they’ve shared for over a decade so nothing would be unsaid.

“It can only last so long. We know this isn’t going forever,” Kerr said at the beginning of the 2022-23 season. “This could be the last year, maybe next year is the last year. … We’re in the final stages. We know that. We want to make the most of it.”

Now that the Warriors have been eliminated from the playoffs, that reality is upon them.

THERE HAS ALWAYS been a problem with the comparison of the Warriors to the “Last Dance.” Phil Jackson coined that term because Chicago Bulls general manager Jerry Krause told the coach before the 1997-98 season that the team would not be extending his contract after the season.

There was clarity the whole time. Closure.

Bulls players and personnel could make plans for their futures, knowing Krause had already decided how and when the team would move forward.

Kerr was a player on that “Last Dance” team and has often tried to point out the differences from that situation to his current one. But the narrative is too delicious. Too easy. And so it persists.

“I get it,” Myers told ESPN. “But just as we anoint and crown people too fast, we bury ’em too fast, too.”

The Warriors are privately optimistic about their chances of retaining Green if he opts out of the final year and $27.6 million of his contract, sources say. Thompson and his expiring $43 million contract might make it seem he would be a logical trade candidate, but sources say Thompson still has strong internal support.

Still, these situations will be delicate. Both Green and Thompson are eligible for extensions. Both will likely have to be open to more team-friendly contracts to stay. Myers is known for his skill in navigating the human factors around such negotiations. But there’s the possibility he might not be there to handle them.

“That’s the one thing that could f— this all up,” one source close to the situation said after Friday’s elimination game.

During the season, sources say Warriors owner Joe Lacob presented multiple contract extension offers that would make Myers one of the league’s highest paid executives, even offering him an option to take time off if he preferred. But Myers, sources say, genuinely doesn’t know what he wants to do, and talks have been tabled for some time.

“I think it is probably too raw right now for me to think about,” Kerr said after Friday’s game. “The one thing I will say is that Draymond, Klay, Steph, our core guys, they’ve got plenty left to offer, there is still plenty in the tank there.

“I still feel like this team has championship potential. We didn’t get there this year, but it is not like this is the end of the road. The organization has some decisions to make, and we will eventually get to that point.”

That leaves plenty of drama for Myers, or whomever replaces him, to sort through. The much-lauded, two-track team-building approach fell flat this season as the younger players the Warriors hoped would be ready to bridge the Curry-Green-Thompson era have either regressed (Jordan Poole), been traded (James Wiseman), played sparingly (Moses Moody) or fallen completely out of the rotation (Jonathan Kuminga).

The only drama with that Bulls team was whether it would go out on top, with a sixth title. Spoiler alert, they did.

These Warriors head into the offseason with no such closure.

THERE CAN BE no discussion about how this season ended without revisiting how it started. So much has happened since Green punched Poole during a training camp practice and so little has been said about it by either of the principals, it seemed that everyone had moved on.

But so much of why the Warriors didn’t come together this year can be traced back to why they nearly came apart at the beginning of the season.

Green’s punch didn’t just knock Poole out. It laid bare the tension between the older championship core and the younger players the organization hoped would supersede them one day. And it has never really gone away, sources say, despite Poole’s relative silence on the matter this season.

“I don’t speak on it much,” Poole told ESPN this week in his most extensive comments since the incident. “But I will say that … you’ve got to have a different level of maturity.

“We had a season to play. You’re going to have to play with these people in the locker room, and that’s why I said maturity is a big thing. What I know for a fact is there aren’t many people who would be able to think logically and understand the magnitude of the situation, you know?”

At the time, Kerr called it the biggest crisis the team had gone through in his tenure. Poole felt that and knew his response was critical in whether the team would be able to move on.

His locker at Chase Center had always been right next to Green’s. That never changed.

He just said little and moved forward as best he could; then signed a four-year contract extension a week later that could be worth as much as $140 million with bonuses.

But it never felt quite right after that. For anyone.

Poole had a poor season after signing his extension and was widely criticized as the team’s defensive woes mounted. That criticism grew louder after he was captured on TV pouting following a scoreless 10-minute outing in the Game 4 loss.

He said little after the game, sitting quietly at his locker. His answers that night were terse. But he did not leave.

“Of course, you’ll be frustrated,” Poole told ESPN two nights later. “If you’re not frustrated, what are we doing? Why are you out here? Should I just be cheery and happy and joyful for us losing a game? Especially when I know that, I feel like I can help us.”

Poole has stayed so quiet this year that it was rare to hear him discuss his true feelings candidly. But his feelings, as well as the frustrations of the Warriors’ other young players who struggled to earn consistent playing time, were well known throughout the locker room, team sources say.

Then there was the issue of the tape of the practice incident leaking publicly on TMZ. The organization launched an internal investigation to find out how that private video leaked, but no punishment was ever announced, and the trust that had been violated was never fully restored.

“People changed after that,” one team source says. “Everybody was suspicious for a while.”

Wiggins’ extended absence to attend to an ill family member helped to restore some of that organizational trust. Although there was wild external speculation about the reasons for his absence, Myers, Kerr and Wiggins publicly expressed gratitude that no details leaked from within the team.

But the loose, fun-loving Warriors culture from the early days of the dynasty was never quite the same.

“S— happens throughout every season,” Green said. “If you win a championship it’s a battle cry. But if you lose, you don’t go back and blame all of those things and say, ‘Oh this is the reason we lost.’

“Every season is made up of events. Some are great, some are not. I think for this team, more of the events were so public and that’s not something you normally deal with. But you band together and work around them. I think for the most part, we try to do that.”



Draymond Green: ‘We’re not done yet, we’ll be back next year’

Draymond Green reflects on the ups and downs of this season and says the Warriors will be back next season.

HOW THE WARRIORS’ season ended matters. A loss in the first round to the Sacramento Kings would’ve been hard to reconcile, both fiscally and emotionally. A deep playoff run would’ve been financially lucrative, helping to offset the massive roster expenses ahead and making the case that this team is still worth its enormous cost.

Losing like this in the second round, in a hard-fought six-game series to LeBron James and the Lakers falls rather frustratingly in the middle.

The Warriors were soundly beaten Friday night in Game 6 as Thompson struggled mightily to recapture his magic from Game 6s of the past, shooting a wretched 3-for-19 from the field and 2-for-12 from behind the 3-point arc. Curry was better (11-28) but not particularly efficient (4-for-14 from 3) certainly nothing close to the 50-point masterpiece he came up with in Game 7 against the Kings.

They had chances to win several of the games they lost in this series, particularly Monday’s 104-101 loss in Game 4. Thompson forced late 3-pointers; Green turned the ball over on a critical play toward the end of the game; Curry didn’t call timeout after coming down with a jump ball and the Warriors lost a road game they easily could’ve won — a familiar refrain this season when they went a putrid 11-30 away from Chase Center.

But a marked change from their dynastic run. They dominated their opponents so thoroughly, it rarely came down to a few mistakes here or there. During their five straight trips to the Finals from 2015 to 2019, they won 18 playoff series and only three times did those series go to seven games.

Those Warriors teams delighted in their dominance, winning an average of 64 games in the regular season with the best offense in the league four of the five years (2015-19). After capturing their first title in 2015, they came out the next season with 24 straight wins en route to an NBA-record 73 games in the regular season.

And they did it joyfully, celebrating with Modelo Especials in the coaches’ room after wins and extravagant team dinners on the road. They played music during practices and spliced funny cartoons into film sessions. Curry’s array of trick shots during pregame warmups became a show in and of itself.

There were charming characters such as Nick U’Ren, the 20-something special assistant to Kerr who famously came up with the idea to insert Andre Iguodala into the starting lineup midway through the 2015 Finals, changing the course of NBA history.

“It’s just joy,” U’Ren said after his star turn during those Finals. “We don’t have a mean streak or think it’s us against the world. It’s a love for each other and a love for the game.”

The tenor changed after the Warriors added star forward Kevin Durant following the 2016 season. They became the heavies, feared and loathed by the rest of the NBA, not celebrated for their levity. But they were still a refreshing antidote to the previous era, dominated by the controversy-at-every-turn Miami Heat and the never-make-waves San Antonio Spurs.

This season has been very different. The Warriors are still joyful at times. They can still dominate when they need to. But they used to lead with those traits. Now they fall back on them.

“It felt like all season we were desperately trying to recapture what we had last year,” Kerr said. “We didn’t quite get there.”

THE WARRIORS FLEW back to San Francisco late Friday night on a much shorter flight. Too short for cards or conversation.

For the most part they have all said everything that’s needed to be said already. Kerr lobbied for the three core players and Myers to return next season. Each of those players expressed a desire to come back for another crack at it next season.

But there was also a recognition that they were not good enough this year and that changes had to be made.

“We have to be a lot better next year and start re-establishing ourselves as a legit championship contender,” Curry said. “Because we weren’t this year.”

The trust between the three players who still sit together on the team plane and in life has not wavered. If anything, it is stronger than ever.

“We will compete until the wheels fall off,” Curry said. “That’s something that shouldn’t be taken for granted in this league.

“Hopefully we’re at the stage in our careers to keep doubling down on it.”

But at some point they will have to trust someone else besides themselves. Even if it’s just for one last dance.

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