TIM Cone sees the Golden State Warriors repeating as NBA champions this season.
The multi-titled coach of Barangay Ginebra said the Warriors have gone through a lot in the competitive Western Conference playoffs that it toughened them up going to the Big Dance against Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in a rematch of last year’s finals.
The Warriors will be hosting Game One of the best-of-seven finals on Friday (Manila time) at the Oracle Arena in California.
“I’m going with Golden State not much because I’m a Warrior fan, but because the Western (Conference) finals kind of built them up for the (championship),” said Cone on Thursday at the end of Ginebra’s first day of practice back from vacation as the team starts preparing for the season-ending PBA Governors Cup.
“Competing against teams like the Thunder, Spurs, Clippers, and the Blazers in the West given them (Warriors) so much competition,” added the two-time grand slam coach.
The defending NBA champions are coming off an amazing campaign in the regular season in which they established the best record of all time at 73-9 that surpassed the 20-year-mark of 72-10 held by Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.
But after breezing past the Houston Rockets and the Portland Trailblazers early in the playoffs, the Warriors were pushed to the brink by the Oklahoma Thunder in the West final, one in which they rallied back from a 1-3 deficit by winning the last three games of the best-of-seven series to earn a return trip to the finals.
In the end, Cone said the series with the Thunder served reigning MVP Steph Curry and Co. in good stead.
“They (Warriors) may be a little bit tired, but you get to set aside fatigue when you’re in the finals,” said the Ginebra mentor, who just came back from the US on Wednesday to attend his daughter’s graduation.
He was in the San Francisco area in his last few days back there at a time when Games 6 and 7 of the West finals were played and Cone said everybody just went gaga during that stretch.
“We’re about to have dinner in a restaurant at a time Game Six was being played. And when we walked in, the place was so packed, with everybody watching the game. All seats were taken, and not unless we were willing to wait for two hours, then that’s the only time we can have our dinner,” recalled Cone, who noted the father of incoming Ginebra import Drew Crawford - Darryl Crawford - officiated the do-or-die match between the Warriors and Thunder.
Other than having come out of a tough Western Conference playoffs, Cone said homecourt advantage should play well in the Warriors’ title retention bid.
“It’s different when you have homecourt advantage. It kind of gives you a momentum,” said the 58-year-old coach, a native of Oregon. “If the Cavs can sneak one on the road, then perhaps they can have momentum on their side just like the Thunder did.
“But then again….” Cone added without elaborating, obviously referring to what happened with Kevin Durant and the rest of Oklahoma.
The Ginebra coach sees the Warriors winning over the Cavs in either six or seven games.