DENVER -- It was a Sunday morning in Los Angeles, the day before a preseason tussle with the Los Angeles Clippers, and Warriors coach Mark Jackson had given his team the day off.

But instead of sleeping in or dispersing to meet with friends, nearly the entire team took the team bus to a hotel ballroom in Studio City. Instead of indulging in the Hollywood scene, they worshiped together.

Jackson, pastor at True Love Worship Center International, preached about letting their light shine. Jackson's wife and co-pastor prayed over the often-injured right ankle of team star Stephen Curry. All-Star David Lee renewed his commitment to God. Rookie Draymond Green closed out the service with a prayer.

For these Warriors, who play their first playoff game in six seasons Saturday, this was a watershed moment because it signified the bond they share. One of their strengths has been their chemistry, and a big part of it is the prevalence of faith in the locker room.

Many NBA players identify themselves as Christians. But the Warriors feature one of the more devout rosters, and it has fed into their chemistry. Locker rooms are usually the NBA's version of man caves, chock-full of millionaires engulfed in lives of luxury. Comparatively, the Warriors are choirboys -- almost literally.

"This is extremely rare," said guard Jarrett Jack, who just completed his eighth season with his fifth team. "Especially in the NBA. In college, you get to choose your school and your teammates. In the NBA, you're thrown into a team and you have to try and fit in."


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A pregame chapel service, more or less a scarcely attended Bible study for home and visiting players, is held at every NBA arena. It has grown into a bonding ritual for the Warriors.

Of the 14 players on the roster, about 10 are regulars, and that doesn't include Jackson. When the Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder play, chapel usually becomes standing room only. Sometimes on the road, Golden State's deep presence is a welcomed sight for a chaplain accustomed to empty sessions.

"That's just something that we all have, a spiritual connection," Thunder star Kevin Durant said. "Seeing all the guys that they have in chapel, you can tell that they really love Jesus."

It's little surprise that Jackson is at the center of the bond. Since the Warriors hired him in June 2011, the loquacious Brooklyn native and former NBA point guard hasn't been bashful about his calling. Many Sundays he'll fly home to preach to his congregation. He'll give shout-outs to God in postgame interviews and turn halftime speeches into a sermonette.

And the Warriors eat it up.

"He's unbelievable with it," said Lee, who does a pretty good impersonation of his preacher coach.

Back in November, Jackson invited Christian hip-hop star Lecrae to speak to the team and gave each player a copy of his Grammy-winning CD. When players are having a spiritual discussion during a team lunch, Jackson might chime in with insight. When someone has a question about a verse on a plane flight, Jackson provides an answer. When pundits picked the Warriors to finish outside the playoffs, Jackson turned to Bible stories as motivation.

"We used to hear a few David and Goliath stories," rookie Harrison Barnes said. "Once we started winning, those went away."

Jackson believes his approach still resonates with those Warriors who do not embrace Christianity. The key is to inspire with a message that is authentic and to be genuine -- something Jackson painstakingly did when talking to the team about his affair seven years ago that became public knowledge through an extortion attempt.

When the Warriors hired Mark Jackson, they got more than a basketball coach. He’s also the pastor at True Love Worship Center International in Van
When the Warriors hired Mark Jackson, they got more than a basketball coach. He's also the pastor at True Love Worship Center International in Van Nuys. (True Love Worship Center International)

He said he chooses to use the Bible and its teachings because he believes it applies to all aspects of life, and he's thankful that Warriors management has supported his approach.

"It's who I am," Jackson said. "I've watched people overcome, I've watched people accomplish, I've watched people bounce back -- all because of the Word. I've watched it work powerfully in my life. Why not use it? If I can use John Wooden's seven steps, then why can't I use Christ's words?"

Lee, for one, has been changed by his coach's teachings.

"Faith has become a much bigger part of my life," said Lee, who occasionally brings his fiancee on church double dates with Curry and his wife. "I think it really puts things into perspective for us. There are ups and downs to the season and how you handle those things emotionally is huge."

The players will tell you the team's faith is part of the reason no Warrior has found his way into trouble with drunken-driving arrests or sexting scandals. You won't hear explicit rap songs blasting when you enter the locker room, and foul language is scarce. No one's noticeably disgruntled about contracts or playing time.

"Personal lives for (NBA players), from my experience, circulate around a certain thing -- that night-life scene," Curry said. "It's nice to have other things besides cars, money and fame to talk about. It's a huge bonus and motivation, having sort of accountability partners as teammates."

How does it show itself in Oakland? Richard Jefferson's chapel notes taped to his locker. Rubber wristbands reading "In Jesus Name I Play" spilling out of Curry's cubby. Rookie center Festus Ezeli reading pastor Rick Warren's "The Purpose Driven Life" before a game.

When they clinched a playoff spot, the Warriors busted out bottles of water to douse one another with.

"I think it's kind of enhanced that vibe we have going on," Barnes said. "We can have a conversation about our personal life, about basketball, about God, and nobody feels uncomfortable."

Some may scoff at their Bible talk, or deliver them a God-doesn't-care-about-basketball speech. But it only fosters the bond they've thrived on all season.

When many doubted they were a legitimate playoff team, when they lost Brandon Rush and were without center Andrew Bogut for months, when Curry sprained his ankle yet again, when they lost six straight and people called them the same ol' Warriors, they leaned on faith.

And as the NBA world expects them to get bounced quickly out of the playoffs by the Denver Nuggets, they'll do the same.

"When people are doubting you and injuries and all that," Jefferson said, "what do you do if you don't have something to lean on other than just basketball? You have to have faith. You have to have faith in something greater than yourself to believe in. ... We have that."