OAKLAND, Calif. -- Draymond Green didn't even want to look at the trophy.
After a grueling, injury-plagued regular season, a near-elimination at the hands of the Houston Rockets and a sweep of the Cleveland Cavaliers that he says was much more difficult than people think, Green -- who's made millions of dollars and built an unmistakable reputation based on his volatile passion for the game -- just wanted to get away from basketball.
"By far one of the toughest things I've ever done in my life is winning that championship last year, and afterwards I didn't want nothing to do with it," a candid Green said Monday at the Warriors' media day. "I didn't want to think about basketball, didn't want to think about the run, none of that -- didn't want to see the trophy. We get the opportunity to, like, take the trophy back home or wherever you want to go. I wanted no part of it. It was so tough that I really needed to decompress from that and just get away from it for a while. It wasn't something that I really wanted to think about."
Green's mental and physical fatigue was evident at the Warriors' victory parade in June. At the previous two championship parades he was the main attraction --- running through the crowd, shouting out memorable catchphrases and causing general hysteria throughout downtown Oakland. This time around he was more subdued, eschewing viral moments for tender ones with his family from the rooftop of his double-decker bus.
The man was exhausted ... and he wasn't the only one.
This time last season the Warriors were looking to repeat for the first time in franchise history, and the message from coach Steve Kerr -- who knows a little something about back-to-back titles -- was clear: This isn't going to be easy.
It became a self-fulfilling prophecy, as the Warriors slogged their way through injuries and complacency to eventually earn their third title in four years. This year's quest will be just as difficult, if not more so, given the improvement of several Western Conference teams, plus the worthy potential opponents they'd face from the East should they once again make it to the Finals.
But the message has changed. The Warriors aren't talking about how difficult it will be to three-peat. They're not talking about the daunting task of becoming only the second team to ever make five consecutive NBA Finals appearances. They're not talking about discipline, dedication and hard work.
They're talking about having fun.
"I think the idea is to really focus on how lucky we are to be together in this time and place. We're well aware it's not going to last forever," Kerr said. "We have a lot to celebrate -- three titles in the last four years, a chance to add another one in our final season at Oracle, a bunch of free agents next summer. A lot could change. We don't know. Obviously we want to keep this thing going, but at some point you just have to enjoy the moment, enjoy the now because there's going to be so much speculation as to what's ahead. Nobody knows what's ahead."
Not lost on Kerr, or anyone who closely follows the NBA, is the fact that three of the Warriors' five All-Stars -- Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and the newly added DeMarcus Cousins -- are all scheduled to hit the free agent market next summer (Durant has a player option for 2019-20, but is expected to opt out). Green's contract is up after the 2019-20 season, and he is reportedly not interested in taking another discount. Stephen Curry signed the league's first $200 million contract this summer, and will be paid through 2021-22. The more you squint at the numbers, the harder it is to figure out a way to keep all these guys together.
The front office has been both shrewd and fortunate to keep the team's core in place over the past several seasons, but Kerr and the players know that those tricky contract situations could potentially lead to the end of Golden State's dynasty. As a result, the phrase "stay in the moment" was uttered so many times on Media Day that you could have easily mistaken the Warriors' practice facility for a yoga ashram.
"I think last year we talked a lot about how hard repeating was going to be -- and it was hard," Warriors general manager Bob Myers said. "I think we're going to try to move out that narrative as far as how hard this all is -- and it is hard, and rare for us to try and do it again. ... We're going to try to enjoy it. I know that sounds simple. But the goal is going to be to enjoy this journey this year -- all of it. The highs, the lows, the in-between."
Part of what might make this journey more enjoyable than last year's is the excitement that comes with new blood. Not only has the franchise welcomed Cousins and Jonas Jerebko to the Bay Area, but they also have a trio of young, hungry big men hoping to fill the shoes of veterans Zaza Pachulia (signed with the Pistons), David West (retired) and JaVale McGee (signed with the Lakers).
On opening night against the Oklahoma City Thunder less than a month from now, either Damian Jones, Kevon Looney or Jordan Bell will start at center. The Warriors have lacked that youthful competition in seasons past, and it will help keep them focused on the present.
"I think it could be an amazing opportunity in terms of something new, something fresh, a chance for one of those young guys to really surprise people in terms of the work that they've put in," Curry said. "We're really focused on just making those guys feel comfortable, simplifying things so they understand how they're going to be most effective and efficient for us, and then buying in and just doing it."
And then there's Boogie himself, who will provide another shot of excitement when he eventually rejoins the lineup after recovering from his Achilles injury. Referring to his rehab process, Cousins called himself "a madman," and told members of the media they'd see "a new DeMarcus" when he gets back on the floor.
If he's anywhere near the All-NBA player we saw in Sacramento and New Orleans, the Warriors lineup could go from deadly to apocalyptic. It's not easy, however, to incorporate a player like Cousins -- particularly into a team that has built tremendous success without the semblance of a low-post scorer. But the Warriors are convinced it will work because of Cousins' high basketball IQ and underrated passing ability.
"We're all smart players," Durant said. "We know how to play the game. We've got basketball masters on this team that know exactly what to do in certain situations, and I think DeMarcus is one of those basketball geniuses that knows exactly who he is and what he needs to do to be effective. ... If he just plays his game, we'll fit in around each other."
The process of fitting Cousins in before the playoffs provides a challenge to the Warriors that they didn't necessarily have last season. Besides dealing with lineup adjustments based on injuries, there was very little that was new and exciting in Golden State last year. Cousins is a shiny new toy, and the Warriors are going to be jubilant as they unwrap the packaging to find out what he can do.
"The fun part is making it work," Green said. "I think back to when KD came here, everybody said, 'Oh man, they've got Kevin Durant, they won 73 games, it's over.' And honestly the fun part wasn't winning the championship. The fun part was during the year figuring that out, how we were going to make that work. And I'm looking forward to the same thing with DeMarcus."
This is also the Warriors' final season in Oracle Arena, the locale that nourishes them with arguably the biggest home court advantage in the NBA. Next season they'll be off to the Chase Center in San Francisco, and giving the Oakland fans one last championship as a send-off surely provides extra motivation.
Looney beamed on Monday as he talked about scoring his first NBA basket in the friendly confines of Oracle, listening to the crowd cheer him on "like I was scoring 40 or something." Thompson couldn't hide his grin as he recalled how loud the arena got during his first playoff series against the Denver Nuggets. Curry gushed about the fans and staff at the only home arena he's known as a pro.
Fitting with the theme this season, the Warriors will try their best to relish the moments they have left at Oracle instead of looking toward the future.
"I think this year is about obviously representing [Oracle] to the highest honor, celebrating it, trying to go out in style with one more championship, and then obviously turning the page," Curry said. "But right now this year is going to be really, really memorable, and I think we have an extreme opportunity to create a dope story around the last year in Oakland."