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NBA D-League Vet Moe Baker Smells Championship, Reflects On Special Relationship

A special bond between a player and coach is at the forefront as the Santa Cruz Warriors inch closer to a NBA D-League title.

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Earlier this month, spoke with Mad Ants' President Jeff Potter as he recalled one of his finest memories of winning the D-League championship last season: being able to celebrate with well known veteran Ron Howard.

After spending so much time together, it was nice to take solace in the fine accomplishment together.

For notable veterans like Howard, winning a minor league championship is what it's all about.

Moe Baker can relate.

"We want to give it to these fans. They've been with us the last three years and we haven't been able to get it done," Baker told with his team just one win away from a title. "We just want to give it to them and have a big celebration."

"I told Casey [Hill] on the way back from Fort Wayne, we finally won one! We won a game in The Finals," he added. "We can see the trophy. We don't have it yet, so we have to keep fighting and get it done."

Baker's close relationship with his head coach dates back to their days together with the Dakota Wizards before the Warriors moved the minor league club to Santa Cruz.

"He and I have built up a special relationship over the last four years. It goes back to when I was an intern in Dakota," Coach Hill recalled. "I drove this 1991 Chevy van that you always had trouble starting. Moe would sit shotgun every time, whenever we went. After building this special relationship, it'd be really cool to win one with him."

The head coach further added to Baker's sentiment of the team's growing relationship with the fans, adding, "They've been so great with us; so accepting of us since day one. The support they've given us has been non-stop. I think if we can pull it out, it's what they deserve." He added that despite seeing the team advance to The Finals in each of the last three seasons, the fans want more. They're as hungry as Baker and Hill are for a championship.

Whereas Howard led the way for his respective group last season, Baker has had to ensure his impact is felt from the sidelines as he rehabs from a hand injury.

"I feel good. It feels good to be back out there with my guys and shooting on the court," the guard said about his rehab. "I'm at home when I'm on the court."

"It means a lot to me," Baker said of still being able to be a part of his team's title run in some form. "The coaches allow me to stick around and be with the team and go on road trips. Everyone wants me around, so that means a lot. I try and bring an extra voice. Sometimes they might tired of listening to Coach! So I just bring something different. They relate to me. I like to get them going."

As much love as Baker receives from everyone he comes in contact with, there are still haters out there. His teammates had a little fun with the veteran earlier this season when Taylor Griffin and Co. came up with the "Moe Baker Haters Club." Baker insists they came up with it because he kept taking it to his younger teammates during practice.

"We have little competitions with our shooting games," he added. "They always try and tell me I didn't win one when I did! On [Saturday], I won too! I'm beating them and I'm talking too much smack, so they're all teaming up on me."

Nevertheless, the "hate" (aka the love) he receives is just further evidence of what he means to this team as they inch closer to a championship.