The Warriors experienced Public Relations staff is highly
regarded throughout the NBA and in professional sports. Throughout
the season, Warriors PR will give fans a behind-the-scenes
look at the team. From practice to the locker room to cross-country
road trips, Warriors PR will provide the kind of coverage
that can't be found in other media outlets.
Stephen Curry and Lei participated in a photo shoot recently for Tony La Russa's Animal Rescue Foundation Celebrity Calendar. (warriors.com photo)
Warriors guard Stephen Curry recently sat down for a photo shoot with Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) for their upcoming 2011 Celebrity Pet Calendar. Curry wasn’t alone for the shoot, however, as he was joined by the newest member of his household, a 9-month-old Yorkie Poo named Lei who joined the Curry family this past Christmas.
ARF was created in 1991, and the story of how it all began is almost unbelievable. It was in May of 1990, and the Oakland Athletics were at home taking on the New York Yankees when out of nowhere a stray cat wandered onto the field. As umpires and players attempted to grab the cat so play could continue, it darted around the field looking for a way out. Finally the terrified cat was persuaded into the home dugout, by none other than legendary manager Tony La Russa.
Once the game was over, La Russa took responsibility for placing it in a shelter, but then discovered the cat would be euthanized because at the time there wasn’t a single No-kill shelter in the East Bay. Tony and his wife, Elaine, decided to take it upon themselves to find a home for the cat, and shortly after they created ARF to help find caring homes for animals such as these.
Since the inception of the foundation in the early 1990s, they have provided numerous life-saving programs, one of those being the celebrity pet calendar.
“Every pet should have the opportunity to live out its natural lifespan and using celebrities helps call attention to the plight of orphaned animals and is a helpful way to raise much needed dollars and awareness,” said ARF Ececutive Director Elena Bicker.
Curry jumped at the opportunity to join forces with ARF and be a part of the calendar.
“I think it is a great service that ARF provides, and I am extremely excited to be a part of their calendar and be able to help these animals find a home,” Curry said.
It appeared that Lei was more than happy to join the cause as well, as she bounced around from couch to couch with enthusiasm and then jumped into Curry’s arms to pose for the camera when the lights began flashing. Stephen is just the fourth basketball player that ARF has photographed for the calendar, joining Karl Malone, Dwyane Wade and Michael Jordan. Not bad company for the one-year pro and nine-month puppy!
ARF has utilized a variety of professionals from the sports and entertainment world, and a few of the other faces that will appear with their pets in the 2011 issue along with Curry are actor Sean Patrick Flannery, Nascar driver Ryan Newman and elite snowboarder/skateboarder Shaun White.
You can purchase the calendar for $15 (2011 issue not yet available) as well as find out more about the foundation and the services they provide at http://www.arf.net/.
2010 Draft Blog
As the team gets set for the 2010 NBA Draft, the Warriors PR Squad staff will be contributing entries to the 2010 Draft Blog. Click the link below for full coverage of the team's preparation for this year's draft, including interviews with NBA prospects and draft experts, plus full behind-the-scenes coverage of the team's draft preparations.
Living A Sports Fan's Dream & Taking A Trip To ESPN By Raymond Ridder, Warriors Executive Director of Public Relations
Warriors head PR man Raymond Ridder took a tour of ESPN in Bristol, Conn. on Monday. (warriors.com photo)
Having worked for 20 years in the NBA, I have been fortunate to visit some great cities, states, islands and countries during my work-related travels.
New York City.
I've probably been to every major city in the United States as a direct result of my job. Some would call it a perk; others would call it demanding and tiresome.
On Monday, I was able to add another state and city to my ever-expanding list. And, while this particular state and city will never be confused with any of those listed above, it is certainly one that plays a major role in the life of every sports fan in America, if not the world.
With a full day to spare during my trip to Secaucus, New Jersey for today's NBA Lottery, I elected to rent a car and make the two-plus hour drive from the NBAE studios in the Garden State to the home of Steve Levy, John Saunders, Linda Cohn and all of our favorite and talented ESPN personnel. It provided me a good opportunity to visit a place I had never been, shake some hands and, as they say, kiss some babies.
After winding my way over the George Washington Bridge, through NYC and up Interstates 684 and 84, I realized the first misnomer about the home of the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network. It's actually a little bigger than some people would lead you to believe. I had the concept in my mind of a tiny little city off of a lonely highway in the middle of nowhere. ESPN. A hotel across the street. A gas station. That's about it.
The oversized balls leave no doubt about the business on the other side of the walls at the ESPN campus. (warriors.com photo)
In reality, Bristol is a little bigger than what I had imagined. It has Little League baseball fields, several neighborhoods, restaurants, shopping, retailers and, of course, the world’s largest elevator testing contraption (true). Think Norman, Oklahoma, without the Sooners.
As a high school student back in the early 1980s, I can remember watching Tom Mees, Charlie Steiner, George Grande, Gayle Gardner and Bob Ley provide us with all of the sports news each day from a little studio without much energy and electricity. SportsCenter was born. From what I recall, the studio was pretty bland, to be honest, but the concept of an all-sports station was amazing and revolutionary. The look and feel of the studio set were not important; the fact that we could watch sports for 24 hours a day and see highlights from every game – and every sport – around the country was a dream come true.
Now, the sprawling ESPN campus is the pride and joy of Bristol, as the sign indicates when you enter town on West Street. The buildings and grounds are immaculate, including the outdoor basketball court and the make-shift World Cup soccer field that is recognizable from the parking lot that is packed with cars from the hundreds of employees. And, of course, the oversized baseball, football, basketball, golf and soccer balls that greet all visitors after they drive through the security gates leaves no doubt about the business on the other side of the walls. This place spares no expense and certainly has that "big-business" feel. It's not 1980 anymore.
When I arrived at the studios around 1 p.m. on Monday, I had the opportunity to take a tour with my NBA contact, first walking by a large wall that has ESPN banners plastered with autographs of many of the athletes who have made the trek to Bristol. In addition to seeing some friends, contacts and chatting with the likes of NBA analyst Chris Broussard and ESPN Radio producer John Martin, one of the most impressive parts of my tour may have been the back-stage area, where at one point I walked past the cabinets that store the helmets of every major college football team in the country. Penn State. Notre Dame. USC. Michigan. And, dozens upon dozens more. Pretty impressive, even if you are not a major college football fan. There's just something about seeing all of those helmets in one place. Unfortunately, I could not find one from my alma mater, Cal State San Bernardino. I guess they require you to have a team first.
The amount of technology, resources and equipment that encompasses the entire ESPN campus is quite impressive – and I'm not referring to the helmets. During my 90-minute tour, we visited one particular room that resembles a sports book in Las Vegas, complete with all of the colorful electronic scores from games across the country flashing on a big ticker-type board. In this room, there are roughly 70 small TV monitors/editing machines, where production assistants are assigned to sit and watch every NBA, NHL, NFL, Major League Baseball and college football game. Or, whatever game or sporting event is deemed important enough to warrant a highlight on SportsCenter, NBA Fast Break or Baseball Tonight. Warriors/Nuggets on a Wednesday night in January? Yes, one person is responsible for watching the game and cutting the highlights. I can only imagine the atmosphere in this room on a busy night in April, when the NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball seasons overlap and there are as many as 45 games being played on one night. And, what about a college football Saturday? Wow.
Hundreds of athletes who have visited the ESPN campus through the years have signed their autograph on banners adorning the campus' hallways. (warriors.com photo)
During my early-afternoon visit, most of the personnel were gearing up for shows later in the day or later in the week. Broussard was filming an NBA segment on the playoffs for ESPNews; John Saunders was preparing a piece for ESPN's college football show and a couple of unspecified athletes were on campus doing the "car wash," a tour that includes interviews with six to 10 different ESPN outlets (SportsCenter, ESPNews, ESPN Radio, etc.).
The number of studios that I visited during my tour was only surpassed by the amount of shows that are produced in this haven for sports fans. SportsCenter, the Grandfather of them all, is just the tip of the iceberg and a mere dent on the schedule. If you are a sports enthusiast, ESPN has a show for you and most of it originates from this city in Connecticut. Baseball Tonight. College Football Game Day. NBA Fast Break. First Take. Outside the Lines. Pardon the Interruption. Sports Nation. And, if radio is your thing, how about Mike & Mike in the Morning, Colin Coherd and a host of other ESPN Radio shows? It all happens in Bristol, somewhere on a campus that expands by the day.
How big, literally, has ESPN become? Mark Summers, the gentleman who provided me the look-see at all that is ESPN, had a meeting scheduled at the time I was leaving. He headed out to the parking lot with me to say goodbye and get into HIS car. The meeting was in a building on the other side of the campus – a little too far to walk.
Yes, ESPN has come a long ways from the first SporsCenter on September 7, 1979.
Bristol should be proud. They're on the map. And, on my list.
Monday, May 10 (4:05 p.m.)
The Perfect Script In Secaucus
Warriors GM Larry Riley (right) talked shop with Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks at the 2009 Lottery. (photo: Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty)
It’s that time of the year again. The annual NBA Draft Lottery is scheduled for next Tuesday at the NBAE Studios in quaint Secaucus, New Jersey. The studio is home to all that is NBA Broadcasting, although NBATV and its crew has moved from Secaucus to Atlanta in recent months as part of an agreement with Turner Sports. Still, there is a ton – both physically and emotionally – of incredible NBA memories stored in the vaults at 450 Harmon Meadow Boulevard. If you are looking for highlights of the Warriors’ 1975 Championship run or the footage of Al Attles getting tossed in the series-clinching win over the Washington Bullets during The Finals, it is easily accessible. Or, maybe it’s Sleepy Floyd’s 29-point fourth quarter against the Lakers in the 1987 Playoffs. Regardless of what the historical significance may have been, there are hours upon hours of footage and interesting antidotes crammed into the two-story building. Some good. Some bad. A lot of highlights. A lot of lowlights. I guess it depends on your team and your allegiance.
In other words, it’s the perfect place for the Lottery.
A few teams, such as the Cleveland Cavaliers and San Antonio Spurs, have a lot of good memories in Secaucus in the Spring. Others? They’d rather torpedo the tapes.
But, May 18, 2010 provides a chance for 14 teams to write a new story.
With an award-winning script in mind, Larry Riley (General Manager) will represent the Warriors at this year's Lottery. Riley will spend his time with 13 other high-profile team executives at the made-for-TV event on stage. Meanwhile, I – Warriors Executive Director of Public Relations Raymond Ridder – will be the team’s back-stage representative and sequestered in a back room at NBAE, where I will have no communication with the outside world for about an hour after the actual lottery takes place (around 4 p.m. Pacific time). No cell phones. No Blackberries. No laptops. I won't need any of that; I just need four lucky ping-pong balls and the right combination.
The infamous “back room” is where the entire landscape of the NBA can change in a matter of seconds. Six years ago, I was in the room, saying a few Our Fathers and Hail Marys, hoping that the Warriors might get a little lucky and win the LeBron James Sweepstakes. Meanwhile, a representative from the Cleveland Cavaliers was sitting two tables in front of me. The Cavs, as you may recall, ended the previous season with the second-worst record in the NBA (17-65) and had the second-best chance of winning the Lottery. And, as fate would have it, the first combination of ping-pong balls dispensed from the hopper would match those assigned to the team in Ohio, LeBron's home state. The gentleman from the Cavs sitting in front of me - trying his best to remain calm and under control - gave out a little "yeah!" with a quick fist pump. He knew the fortunes of the Cleveland franchise had taken a quick turn for the better, but he wanted to remain somewhat reserved and not rub it in to his 13 peers from around the league.
The 2010 NBA Draft Lottery will take place in the NBAE Studios in Secaucus, New Jersey. (photo: Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty)
On the other hand, I also remember the reaction later on-stage from Jerry West, a close friend who I worked with for several years with the Lakers and one of the most competitive individuals I have ever met. West and the Memphis Grizzlies, who were at No. 6 entering the lottery, were poised to move up into the top three when the cards were unveiled to the TV audience and the team decision-makers. Making matters even more gut-wrenching, the Grizzlies had traded their first round pick that year to the Detroit Pistons, but would still own the pick if it was No. 1. If it was No. 2 or below, it would be conveyed to Detroit. When the No. 3 pick was announced, two teams remained – Cleveland and Memphis. Unfortunately for the Grizzlies, the No. 2 pick went to Memphis (and on to Detroit). That’s how close LeBron James came to calling Beale Street his home and Pau Gasol a teammate.
So close, but yet so far.
Regardless if a franchise-altering player is available in any given draft , the back room is filled with nervous energy as a representative from the NBA office (usually NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Adam Silver) instructs each team on the rules of the Lottery and how it will unfold. A representative from an accounting firm, typically Ernst & Young, is provided the task of actually reading the ping-pong balls when they pop to the top of the hopper. There are 1,001 potential combinations that could evolve when you pluck four (4) ping-pong balls from a hopper that has 14 ping-pong balls numbered 1-14. The first four-ball combination that is recorded will be matched with a team and that team will earn the first pick in the 2010 NBA Draft on June 24.
As this transpires, the 14 representatives write down the numbers on their NBA notepad and compare them to the 1,001 combinations that have been previously assigned to the various teams (each representative will be provided a list of all 1,001 combinations and which team owns those different combinations). As a result of our regular season record, the Warriors will have 104 possible combinations in this year's Lottery; the New Jersey Nets, who have the best chance to win the lottery, will have 250 possible combinations. The following, as an example, are the five (5) combinations that the 14th team in the Lottery owned in 2006:
Based on those numbers, the team with the smallest chance to win the lottery – the 14th team - in 2006 would have captured the first prize if any of those combinations would have appeared on the first attempt (not necessarily in that order, just those 4-digit combinations) when the four ping-pong balls were pulled from the hopper. This scenario (four balls drawn from the hopper) is executed three times during the lottery --- the first combination will select first in the draft, the second combination will select second and the third combination will select third. It is a pretty tense four or five minutes to say the least for the back-room representatives.
As noted, the Warriors will have 104 possible combinations in this year’s Lottery. While that might not sound like many when you consider there are 1,001 combinations possible, remember this: In 2008, the Chicago Bulls had 17 combinations and, despite those odds, the No. 1 pick, Derrick Rose, still ended up in the Windy City. And, for good measure, the last time a team had 104 combinations in the draft Lottery (Atlanta in 2004), the Hawks darted up one notch.
Probable? Not necessarily. Possible? Certainly.
Remember, the actual Lottery determines only the top three (3) picks in the draft and, thus, no team can fall more than three (3) spots from their pre-lottery location. Thus, the Warriors, who enter slotted at No. 4, can draft no lower than seventh. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 or 7. Those are the Lucky Seven.
The first three picks of the 2010 NBA Draft will be determined by the four-digit combinations that the hopper (pictured above) produces. (photo: Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty)
And the myth about the Lottery being rigged is simply that - a myth. The 14 ping-pong balls are placed in a clear hopper and each ball and corresponding number is shown to the assembled team members one by one before the lottery begins. And, a few years ago, the NBA started to allow selected members of the media access to the back room where they could witness - and document - the entire event. There are no shenanigans. Impossible. It is all based on pure luck and odds.
At the end of the lottery, the team representatives in the back room must remain there until the made-for-TV event is announced approximately one hour later. In other words, I will know the results of the lottery long before Larry Riley or any of the ESPN viewers at home. I’m anticipating an enjoyable hour!
At the conclusion of the Lottery, Larry Riley will conduct interviews from Secaucus with various local Bay Area media outlets, including Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, KGO-TV, KPIX-TV and a conference call with our two beat writers, Marcus Thompson and Rusty Simmons. Riley’s post-lottery obligations will increase should Golden State move up and secure one of the top three spots, including a national conference call if the Warriors land the No. 1 pick. I’m sure he won’t mind the additional attention. In fact, I’m certain he’d welcome it.
The Warriors will have …
104 of a possible 1,001 combinations in the Lottery.
A 10.4% chance of landing the No. 1 pick.
An 11.2% chance of landing the No. 2 pick.
A 12.8% chance of landing the No. 3 pick.
The Warriors can …
Finish anywhere from No. 1 to No. 7 in the Lottery.
The Warriors can’t …
Drop below #7 in the Lottery.
The Warriors will …
Have either the 34th or 35th pick in the second round, depending on who finishes higher in the Lottery between the Warriors and Wizards (higher team in the first round will draft lower in the second round).
Friday, January 22 (12:12 p.m.)
Taking A Closer Look At The D-League Showcase
Now a Warrior, Anthony Tolliver was a member of the Iowa Stampede during the NBA D-League Showcase earlier this month. photo: (Terrence Vaccaro/NBAE/Getty)
If you happened to be watching NBA basketball on TNT last Thursday night, then you no doubt saw the thrilling game between the Utah Jazz and Cleveland Cavaliers that came down to the final seconds. The Jazz found themselves down by two with less than five seconds remaining, but they came out on top thanks to a last second 3-pointer by none other than … Sundiata Gaines?!
There is a good chance you were completely unfamiliar with Gaines before his heroics in that game. But he was well known by many of the basketball operations staffs around the NBA, thanks in large part to the NBA D-League Showcase that took place the previous week. The showcase ran from Monday, January 4, through Thursday, January 7, and the Jazz called Gaines up on Tuesday of that week.
The D-League Showcase event is in its sixth year of existence and it features all 16 D-League teams playing two games apiece in the same arena for four days. The showcase gives hundreds of hopeful basketball players the chance to compete in front of NBA GM’s and scouts and possible earn a call-up.
This event can be extremely beneficial for not only the D-League players, but also for NBA franchises that may be lucky enough to find someone who may be a perfect fit for their team. The Warriors, like almost every other NBA team, were well represented at the event and kept their eyes open all week long.
Warriors General Manager Larry Riley was accompanied at the showcase by a few of his scouts and the Warriors Director of Player Personnel, Travis Schlenk. But it wouldn’t be the first time the basketball operations members were seeing the D-League teams.
“I had seen every team play before I got to the showcase so we were able to form a list of who we should focus on,” said Schlenk.
Chris Hunter is one of three players the Warriors have called up from the D-League this season. photo: (Joe Murphy/NBAE/Getty)
There are a few ways to go about looking at a player that a team may be interested in calling up. The first way is if you are interested in developing a player that you think may be able to contribute to your franchise at some point in the future.
According to Schlenk, if you decide to go this direction, “you typically find a player that has NBA level athleticism, but is still very raw and learning how to play the NBA game. Your organization has to decide if it is worth it to call him up and invest time and energy in him in hopes that he develops into a good player for your team.”
The next route your team can take is looking for the best available player in the D-League and calling them up because you feel they have what it takes to make it at the next level. This is the path that the Warriors took when deciding to add Kelenna Azubuike and C.J. Watson to the roster.
Both Azubuike and Watson have turned into major contributors that will be mainstays in the NBA for years to come. The Warriors definitely saw things they liked in both players, but there is no fool proof way to know whether even the best player in the D-League can make it in the Association. “You hope the player(s) can contribute, but you never know until you put them out there and see how they respond,” said Schlenk.
The last reason that a team would call-up a player from the D-League is the situation the Warriors currently find themselves in: need.
The Warriors have been ravaged by injuries this season, so much so that their roster now stands at 17 players, two more than the NBA allowed 15. The Warriors qualified for the NBA's hardship rules that allow a team to add players if they have a certain amount of players that are injured for an extended amount of time.
“When we called up Cartier (Martin) this year, we were looking for a guy that could come in and play right now due to the injuries,” stated Schlenk.
Regardless of why a player has been added to the roster, they are typically in a good situation when they come to the Warriors. A lot of teams will call-up a player and he’ll never even get in a game before he’s back in the D-League, but Coach Nelson will usually let a guy play and prove what he can do.
The bottom line is that the D-League showcase is a great event for the NBA as well as for all the players involved. It gives NBA general managers a chance to come watch every D-League player within a week’s time and see if they can uncover a hidden gem like Azubuike, Watson or Gaines. It also gives the current D-League players the chance to catch someone’s eye, perhaps earn a 10-day contract and move one step closer to fulfilling their dream of making a living playing basketball in the NBA.
There have been 44 calendar days since the Warriors season tipped-off on October 28. Of those 44 days, the Warriors have spent 22 – exactly half – on the road. Within the last month alone, the team has been on a pair of 10-day/nine-night road trips.
As much as the Warriors try to make the road feel just like home, it’s obviously never quite the same. Besides the obvious differences of players not sleeping in their own beds and not playing in front of your own home crowd, one of the biggest differences between being at home and on the road in the NBA is practice.
Yes ... we’re talking about practice.
Already this season, the Warriors have practiced at a variety of venues while on the road, each of which offer their own unique challenges compared to the friendly confines of the Warriors Practice Facility. There has been the Reebok Sports Club in New York City, the beautiful Al Maguire Center in Milwaukee, the Thunder’s practice facility in Oklahoma City, a return trip to Reebok in NYC (this time prior to the Nets game), and the Attack Athletics gym in Chicago. For a photo gallery of a recent practice on the road, click here.
Here’s a small look at the differences between NBA practices at home as opposed to on the road:
PRE-PRACTICE HOME: For the Warriors, practice at home usually begins at 11 a.m. Players begin trickling into the Practice Facility as early as 9:30 a.m. Those arriving early do so for a variety of reasons. Some need to get an early start to begin their treatment/rehab regime in the athletic training room. Others like to grab a meal in the players’ lounge. Still, others want to come in early and get some extra work done on the court. The fully equipped athletic training room allows for several players to get treatment at one time and still have room for others to get their ankles taped for practice.
ROAD: If practice is at 11 a.m., the bus usually departs the front of the hotel at 10:45. The taping of ankles for practice takes place prior to boarding the bus in a makeshift training room set-up in the hotel suite of athletic trainer Tom Abdenour. Once the team arrives at its practice site, equipment manager Eric Housen distributes the players shoes (which he packs and carries in an enormous travel bag) and they slowly trickle out on the court to get started. No extra work before practice, even for those who want it.
By spending 22 of the first 44 days of the season on the road, the Warriors have grown accustomed to several practice venues across the country. (photo: David Dow/NBAE/Getty)
PRACTICE HOME: Once practice starts at home, the Warriors have use of eight baskets, working game and shot clocks, and more than two full-size NBA courts. The players can spread out at various baskets to get shots up, or to work on specialized situations with different coaches. The team can practice as long as it wants … in total privacy.
ROAD: Depending on the gym, you never know how many baskets you might have. You never know if you’ll end up on a full-sized NBA court and there are almost never shot clocks to simulate game situations. The number of baskets may also limit the ability to work individually with players. And finally, you never know how much privacy you’ll have during a practice session. At the Reebok Club in New York, for example, anyone who happens to be working out at the four-story fitness club that day can walk-up and watch the team practice through the windows that run down one full side of the gym.
POST-PRACTICE HOME: Maybe the best part about practice at home is that it can go on as long as any player wants it to. Once the “formal” practice session is wrapped-up (usually anywhere from 1-2 hours), the players are free to get in as much extra work as they’d like. For some players, that may mean working on post moves with coaches at a basket. For others, that may mean lifting weights in the state-of-the-art weight room located just off the practice floor. For others, it may mean playing a spirited game of one-on-one to work on their individual games. And, almost every day, it means a lengthy set of shooting contests between many of the team’s perimeter players. A group that consists of regulars Stephen Curry, Anthony Morrow and C.J. Watson is often joined by Monta Ellis, Corey Maggette or Vladimir Radmanovic for shooting contests that are full of enthusiasm, trash talk and, most importantly, impressive shooting. If you want to win this contest, you’d better be on your game.
ROAD: Because everyone comes to practice together on the road, everyone leaves together. Once the “formal” practice is over, those looking to get in extra work are forced to cram it in to a short time window. Once a player is done with his work for the day, he heads over to the sidelines, returns his shoes to the equipment manager, maybe spends a couple minutes with the media, and then is ready to go. As more and more players reach this state of being, the pressure builds to pack up the bus and hit the road. This set-up does not lend itself to the prolonged shooting contests, and gym rats like Anthony Morrow aren’t really sure what to do with this quick shutdown. As beat writer Marcus Thompson tweeted a couple days ago from practice in New York, a shooting contest involving Morrow, Curry, Watson and Radmanovic had to be cut short when the rest of the team was ready to depart. Elder statesman Mikki Moore ended the contest abruptly when he strolled over to the court where the contest was taking place and stole the ball. With that, everyone headed to the bus and back to the hotel.
So there you have the differences between practice at home, and practice on the road in the NBA.
Friday, November 13 (2:45 p.m.)
Planes, Busses and Hotels
With so much time spent in the air or on the road, the players find ways to keep themselves entertained when on the road. (photo: Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty)
The Warriors embarked on a season-long five-game road trip on Tuesday morning, leaving for a journey that will include stops in Indiana, New York, Milwaukee, Cleveland and Boston. Fortunately, this equals the longest trip of the season for the team and it occurs at a time when the weather still might cooperate. During the excursion, the Warriors will log more than 7,000 air miles, sit patiently through at least 25 bus rides and fill more than 170 hotel rooms.
Maybe not exactly "Planes, Trains and Automobiles", the 1987 movie starring Steve Martin and John Candy. More like Planes, Busses and Hotels, the 2009-10 roadie featuring Monta Ellis, Anthony Morrow and a cast of players and staff members.
Like most long road excursions, the trip actually began the day before, when Equipment Manager Eric Housen, while still trying to prepare for a game on Monday against the Timberwolves, packed enough bags to fill a decent-sized boardroom with shoes, socks, jerseys, shorts, gum, basketballs, practice gear and just about anything else that he might need over the next 10 days. And when you consider that Housen would rather be safe than sorry when it comes to having everything at a moment’s notice, you can see why there was little room to spare in the cargo area of Delta flight #9938 as it left for Indianapolis on Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. When you toss in the luggage carried to the plane by the players and staff members, the total number of bags stashed on the belly of the plane exceeded the century mark and was probably closer to 130 – just enough to make the bellmen at the hotels scream (too much work) and smile (a nice little tip from Housen).
Warriors Equipment Manager Eric Housen deals with up to 150 pieces of luggage on some road trips. (photo: Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty)
“On a long road trip, we typically travel with well over 120 pieces of luggage and sometimes almost 150,” said Housen. “And, when you toss in some of the heavy items such as Nellie’s chair and a dry-eraser board, you can get a pretty good idea of the task at hand. Fortunately, we have a lot of good people that help us once we arrive at the hotel, both internally and with the properties.”
For rookie Stephen Curry, the first long road trip of his career was one of anticipation. His father, Dell, had seen many airplanes and hotels during his 16-year NBA career, but not all of them included the amenities bestowed on the players in the 21st century. A former sharpshooter who played for Utah, Cleveland, Charlotte, Milwaukee and Toronto during his outstanding career, the elder Curry entered the league at a time when commercial airliners were still the preferred method of travel. He might have flown the same Delta airline that his son would some 20 years later, but some of those flights included an actual ticket in seat A-4, a long walk through an airport concourse and a check-in line with the business traveler from Apple and the crying 1-year old baby. Ah, how times have changed.
By the time the team's current road trip concludes, the players and coaches will have endured upward of 25 bus trips. (photo: Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty)
After spending three years at Davidson, Stephen was quite aware of chartered flights long before David Stern called his name on June 25, but not exactly those with more than one engine and 25 seats. And, no propellers. College teams frequently travel by chartered flight, although some of the planes are of the smaller, puddle-jumper nature. Tiny. Not much leg room. Not much aluminum. And, about as heavy as Manute Bol.
A typical NBA charter such as the one the Warriors boarded for Indiana on Tuesday is an Airbus 319 that includes about 20 oversized seats for the players (up front), a special section with tables for coaches (in the middle) and another 30-plus first class-type seats for staff members (back). And, best of all, there are no hassles with an airport, no long lines and not much waiting. The majority of the players spend a good portion of these cross country flights sleeping, while others will read, spend time on their laptop or play a friendly game of dominos. And, some teams have players who spend a lot of time waiting for the flight to land, such as former Warriors Troy Murphy and Danny Fortson, who, shall we say, are not the biggest fans of aviation.
After the Warriors landed in Indianapolis on Wednesday, the team was whisked away on a bus to a downtown hotel, passing many of the great city landmarks, including the infamous Steak N Shake, a favorite eating establishment of many NBA players. Housen, in addition to serving at the team’s equipment manager, also doubles as the travel secretary and is responsible for not only booking the hotels, but the busses that will help the team get from point A to point B in each city. Many of the coaches, who always sit in the first few rows of the bus, become friends with the bus drivers in various cities due to their familiarity. It’s amazing how many of the drivers actually remain the same year-by-year, especially in some destinations such as Dallas (Steve) and Los Angeles (Mike), where the same friendly gentleman have led the charge through the streets for many, many years.
Hotels are yet another element that, in some cities, remains the same over the years. For instance, when the Warriors arrive in Milwaukee late tonight (around 1:00 a.m.), they will walk into the same hotel lobby they have for the last 20-plus years. There’s a chance, quite honestly, that Mr. Curry might actually get the same room that his dad occupied at some point in the last 20 years. This specific hotel is a staple on the NBA and Major League Baseball circuit and is a quick 10-minute bus ride from the Bradley Center. Most hotels are located within 15 minutes of the arena, although the journey to Madison Square Garden on Friday in New York could take 30 minutes, depending on the always congested NYC traffic and the friendliness of the cabbies.
The Warriors typically book about 35 rooms at each hotel and are usually never at one location for more than two (2) nights. Milwaukee, however, will pose that quirk in the schedule that seems to occur once a year on the road, when the Warriors will actually remain at a hotel for three (3) nights. As noted, Golden State will arrive in Milwaukee late Friday night and will remain in Wisconsin on Saturday after the game. The team will stay in Milwaukee one more night, Sunday, and practice at nearby Marquette University before leaving for Cleveland on Monday afternoon. This is a rare occasion in a sport where back-to-back games litter the schedule.
Sometimes the Warriors hold a team meeting over breakfast in lieu of a morning shootaround. (photo: Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty)
The hotels, which are usually located near a downtown mall or shopping location, are typically equipped with large ballrooms that enable teams to hold team meetings and/or a team breakfast. The Warriors, for example, will have a team breakfast on Saturday in Milwaukee after arriving late from NYC the night before. This breakfast will be in lieu of a shootaround at the arena and will provide the team a chance to go through the game plan against the Bucks and get a little nutrition in their bodies. A typical breakfast will last about 30 minutes.
Following breakfast, most of the players will retreat to their rooms, which are usually relegated to one or two floors in the hotel. In some instances over the years, members of the traveling staff have been known to request rooms on certain floors for superstitious reasons. In fact, the Warriors had an assistant coach several years ago who would never stay in a room that was higher than the second floor for fear of a fire and the need for a quick and easy departure. It was always a little strange to look at the rooming list and see 30-plus rooms on the 17th and 18th floors and one room on the second floor. Fortunately, he never had a reason for a quick exit from the hotel.
When the 10-day road trip concludes in Boston next Wednesday and virtually all of the plane rides have been complete and nearly every hotel room has been deserted, one of the most amazing feats of the night will be accomplished by someone other than Monta Ellis or Kevin Garnett. Who, you might ask?
The bus driver.
The annual trip to Boston would not be official until the driver of the team bus pulls off the miraculous, just as he does each year when the Warriors visit the TD Garden. This “I can’t believe he just did that” moment occurs when the bus inches up an extremely narrow ramp – backwards – at the arena and pulls through a door that is no more than two (2) inches wider than the bus on each side. I could not do this driving FORWARD and if this maneuver was ever a part of a DMV driving test, I could assure you that our local highways would be empty. The foray up the ramp is greeted with much skepticism from the coaches and players, but is something they look forward to each season.
Following Wednesday's game in Boston, the Warriors will board this Delta Airlines Airbus 319 and head back home. (photo: Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty)
Likewise, the team eagerly anticipates returning home from the first long trip of the season. No more planes, busses and hotels – at least until the next trip.
2009 Draft Blog
Throughout the next few weeks, the Warriors PR Blog Squad staff will be contributing their entries to the 2009 Draft Blog. Click the link below for full coverage of the team's preparation for this year's draft, including full coverage of the multi-team workout the team will host in June, behind-the-scenes stories, interviews, video, audio, photos and more.
General Manager Larry Riley will be one of the Warriors' two representatives at Tuesday's Draft Lottery. (photo: Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty)
Well, the NBA Lottery is scheduled for next week (Tuesday) at the NBAE Studios in beautiful Secaucus, New Jersey. The best thing about Secaucus? The bus stop in front of the Embassy Suites that enables you to make the quick 15-minute trip to the Port Authority in New York City. I have been the team's representative at the Lottery on a few occasions and have always utilized the route extensively. Don't get me wrong, Secaucus is a nice place, but I'd rather spend my free time in Times Square and not the movie theater on the other side of the Lincoln Tunnel.
Larry Riley (General Manager) and I, Raymond Ridder (Executive Director of Public Relations), will represent the Warriors at this year's Lottery. Riley will spend his time with 13 other high-profile team executives at the made-for-TV event on stage. Meanwhile, I will be sequestered in a back room at NBAE, where he will have no communication with the outside world for about an hour after the actual lottery takes place (around 4:40 Pacific Time). No cell phones. No blackberries. No laptops. I won't need any of that; he just needs four lucky ping-pong balls and the right combination.
The aforementioned back room is where the entire landscape of the NBA can change in a matter of seconds. Six years ago, I was in the room, saying a few Our Fathers and Hail Marys, hoping that the Warriors might get a little lucky and win the LeBron James Sweepstakes. Meanwhile, a representative from the Cleveland Cavaliers was sitting two tables in front of me. The Cavs, as you may recall, ended the previous season with the second-worst record in the NBA (17-65) and had the second-best chance of winning the Lottery. And, as fate would have it, the first combination of ping-pong balls dispensed from the hopper would match those assigned to the team in Ohio, LeBron's home state. The gentleman from the Cavs sitting in front of me - trying his best to remain calm and under control - gave out a little "yeah!" with a quick fist pump. He knew the fortunes of the Cleveland franchise had taken a quick turn for the better, but he wanted to remain somewhat reserved and not rub it in to his 13 peers from around the league.
The future of some NBA teams will be dependent on the four-ball combination that this hopper produces on Tuesday. (photo: David Dow/NBAE/Getty)
Could you imagine winning $20 million in Las Vegas and trying to remain subdued? If the Warriors' combination had appeared first, I probably would have jumped up, hollered "yeah!" six times, pumped both of my fists, broke through the locked door, grabbed my cell phone, my blackberry and, heck, even a bullhorn and called our offices in Oakland. And, Larry King. And Oprah. Other than that, I would have remained relatively calm and unemotional.
In all seriousness, the back room is filled with nervous energy as a representative from the NBA office (usually Adam Silver) instructs each team on the rules of the Lottery and how it will unfold. A representative from an accounting firm, typically Ernst & Young, is provided the task of actually reading the ping-pong balls when they pop to the top of the hopper. There are 1,001 potential combinations that could evolve when you pluck four (4) ping-pong balls from a hopper that has 14 ping-pong balls numbered 1-14. The first four-ball combination that is recorded will be matched with a team and that team will earn the first pick in the 2009 NBA Draft on June 25.
As this transpires, the 14 representatives write down the numbers on their NBA notepad and compare them to the 1,001 combinations that have been previously assigned to the various teams (each representative will be provided a list of all 1,001 combinations and which team owns those different combinations). As a result of our regular season record, the Warriors will have 43 possible combinations in this year's lottery; the Sacramento Kings, who have the best chance to win the lottery, will have 250 possible combinations. As an example, when I last attended the Lottery in 2006, the five combinations for the 14th team in the Lottery were as follows:
Based on those numbers, the team with the smallest chance to win the lottery – the 14th team - in 2006 would have captured the first prize if any of those exact combinations would have appeared (in that order) when the four ping-pong balls were pulled from the hopper. This scenario (four balls drawn from the hopper) is executed three times during the lottery --- the first combination will select first in the draft, the second combination will select second and the third combination will select third.
As noted, the Warriors will have 43 possible combinations in this year’s lottery. While that might not sound like many when you consider there are 1,001 combinations possible, remember this: Last year, the Chicago Bulls had 17 combinations and, despite those odds, the No. 1 pick, Derrick Rose, still ended up in the Windy City. And, for good measure, the last – and only – time the Warriors owned the seventh slot entering the lottery, the team darted up to No. 3 (1993).
Probable? No. Possible? Yes.
All NBA teams will have a vested interest in what happens at this television studio in Secaucus, N.J., on Tuesday. (photo: Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE/Getty)
And, the myth about the Lottery being rigged is simply that - a myth. The 14 ping-pong balls are placed in a clear hopper and each ball and corresponding number is shown to the assembled team members one by one before the lottery begins. And, a few years ago, the NBA started to allow selected members of the media access to the back room where they could witness - and document - the entire event. There are no shenanigans. Impossible. It is all based on pure luck and odds.
At the end of the lottery, the team representatives in the back room must remain there until the made-for-TV event is announced approximately one hour later. In other words, I will know the results of the lottery long before Larry Riley or any of the ESPN viewers at home.
After this year's lottery, Larry Riley is tentatively scheduled to do interviews from Secaucus with various local Bay Area media outlets, including KGO-TV, KPIX-TV and a conference call with our two beat writers (news scoop: The Warriors have a new beat writer from the San Francisco Chronicle, where Rusty Simmons will replace Janny Hu). Riley’s post-lottery obligations will increase should Golden State move up and secure one of the top three spots. Of course, if we move up in the lottery, he won't need to head to the airport to catch a flight back to California; he'll simply fly home on adrenaline.
Let’s hope for the best………
For continued coverage of the Lottery, including the history of the event and the Warriors participation in it, check out Warriors Draft Lottery Central.
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