That moment, Barnes said, is one that he’ll never forget:
“For us to go from where we started, not knowing how to play, and being rookies in this league, and now to advance to the Finals together, it’s special.”
Barnes is right, it is special, and rare, and unlikely, and downright impressive. The three third-year Warriors have not only stayed on the same team and are enjoying immense success, but are also playing valuable minutes in big-time games.
Green told SFBay he feels lucky to have been able to play in the NBA where the shelf-life of a player is often less than three years, let alone remain with two other guys who have done the same:
“It’s a great feeling and we don’t take that for granted because we know, one of us could have been traded, one of us could have been out of the league. You never know, it’s such a slippery slope. We’re thankful we came in together and we’re in this position. I’m willing to bet, you could look up the history of the league, it don’t happen often like that.”
Ezeli, who was injured for the entire 2013-2014 campaign said watching the growth of his comrades has been memorable, and a testament to what can be done through sweat and determination:
“It means a lot to be here with these guys. We really have grown a lot since we got here. Obviously Draymond has become the heart and soul of this team, but H.B has made huge strides with his game, I’ve made jumps…just to be able to see the improvement and where hard work has gotten us.”
On top of everything, Barnes, Green and Ezeli have been a part of a playoff team each year. They have experienced only success in the NBA, followed by more and even greater success, a far cry from many who go through NBA careers with the playoffs just out of reach.
Barnes warmly reflects on his rookie year and how the players used to fantasize about being in the playoffs:
“It is so nuts. We used to joke and laugh in the locker room like ‘man we might have something special here, if we can just stay together we could win a championship someday.’ We joked about it and said it, but it’s so uncommon. You never see guys drafted together, stay together, then do big things.”
Green said he knows better than to look past the way his career started with Golden State, he knows from his experience as a Spartan:
“At Michigan State I played for a national championship my freshman year, played in the Final Four my sophomore year and thought it would always be that way, but it wasn’t. It showed me not to take stuff like this for granted.”
Now, after two years of early playoff departures, the Warriors are up 1-0 in the NBA Finals, pushing the Cavaliers and arguably the best player in basketball LeBron James to the season’s brink.
But Barnes said he’s not surprised, reminding SFBay that in his first days in a Warriors uniform, he set the bar high and knew it could be reached:
“Coming into the league, my first media day and the media was asking me ‘what do you want to accomplish’ and I said I wanted to make the playoffs and you guys laughed and said ‘no, what do you really want to accomplish’ and three years later, we’re going to the Finals.”
Now, Barnes, Green and Ezeli are just three wins away from an NBA Championship and they are all playing the best basketball of their careers. Careers that will surely be catapulted after this season.