Monday, December 29, 2008

Oracle Rocks as Warriors Shoot 50% On Three Pointers

Tonight's game was a flashback to the Warriors we have seen in the past two years. The triples were falling, the defense created deflections and closed out on shooters, and Oracle shook as the lucky crowd on hand roared the W's to victory.

There were some shaky spots in the fourth quarter, but the Warriors stepped up at the right moments to hold off the sharp shooting Raptors team. As usual, Chris Bosh had his way and Jose Calderon was able to dribble anywhere on the floor.

Despite solid play by Toronto, the Warriors won thanks to an incredible shooting night. They not only shot 50% from the field, but 50% from three point range as well. Marco Belinelli has continued to show more confidence, not only in his three point shooting (5/8 tonight), but willingness and ability to set up his team mates. (6 assists) The Oracle crowd chanted "Rocky, Rocky" as he shot and made critical free throws in the final minutes, referring to Marco's resemblance to Silvester Stalone. Marco is growing into a terrific NBA player before our eyes and I'd hate to see him get traded. It will be interesting when everyone is healthy. Ellis, Crawford, Maggette, and Belinelli will have to share minutes.

The Warriors have played with more energy after the win over Boston. It has certainly been an off year, but the W's have been on the road more than any NBA team up to this point in the season. After winning three of the last six games, this young team is discovering how to play together. The Warriors will be home for most of January and February. We know the Oracle can be a tough road game for any opponent when the fans smell a win. Monte could be back very soon and the play of the young Warriors makes for some things to get hyped about. Perhaps a winning month in January?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Monta Still Not Ready

Everybody was hoping that the Warriors best player would be healthy and ready return as soon as his suspension ended on December 17th. However, as we sit here on December 28th, Monta Ellis still has no definite timetable for when he'll return to the court to play actual games. He's been practicing a little bit with the Warriors, but hasn't been able to go all out and some around the organization fear it could be another 4-6 weeks before Ellis is fully game ready. I said in a post about a month back that the W's should take no chances with Monta and not bring him back until he's %110. He's in the first year of a huge contract extension, and it's more important that they get him healed right now rather than take the chance of his injury lingering on by playing him too soon. Look at what has happened with Gilbert Arenas. If he would have just stayed out last season, he probably would have been 100 percent ready to roll on opening night, but instead he's still a ways off from returning as we get ready to enter January. The Warriors should learn from the Wizards mistake and realize that they need to be extra cautious with their franchise guard cause it's not worth having this become a chronic issue in the long run.

Ellis hasn't been the only Warrior who's been shelved by injury lately. Corey Maggette hasn't played since December 9th due to a bum hamstring, and Jamal Crawford went down on the 23rd with a strained groin. Both will probably beat Ellis back to the court, but their absences has opened up opportunity for Marco Belinelli and the kid has responded. He helped the Warriors get past the reigning world champion Boston Celtics with a 22 point, 4 assist effort on Friday night. Marco needs to cut back on his turnovers, but he's been better on defense and has really put together his offensive game this December. If nothing else, it increases the trade value of Belinelli as I'm not sure where he fits in when everybody is healthy. I still would love to see the Warriors get a true power forward before the trade deadline and Belinelli could be a big part of any potential deal. It's good to see him increasing his value.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Offense Bad, Defense Worse. (How's the Ankle Monte?)

Watching this Warriors team is getting more difficult every game. I can't think of a softer defense than Don Nelson's team. It seems like there is always a player on the opposing team who plays way over his head to burn the Warriors. Against Orlando (well, I guess it was anyone in a white jersey) but primarily Jameer Nelson. Against Miami, it was Daequan Cook. These are good players, but that's what the scouting report is for. Warriors defender leave three point shooters alone and reach for the ball against dribble penetraters, like Chris Duhon of the Knicks.

Granted, the Warriors played without Jackson, Crawford, Maggette, and still no Monte. Realistically, I shouldn't have expected much from the warm-up suit crew known as the bench. Over the past two contests, quite frankly, have sucked. I am disappointed with not only the play on the floor, but Coach Nelson's decision making in who plays.

I have just about given up on Anthony Morrow. The League has adjusted to his catch and shoot style and he constantly fails to show he can adapt, plus he's constantly getting burned on D. It's becoming ever more obvious why he went undrafted. He' gotta go. I believe CJ Watson will be a solid backup PG in the NBA someday. He needs to be a better on the ball defender and execute on the fast break more effectively. DeMarcus Nelson is still too raw. I like his on the ball D and ability to get to the rim. He would be best suited as a bench player for a great offensive rebounding team like the Jazz. I just don't see minutes for him on this team when everyone gets healthy. Azubuike has been streaky with his three point shooting but his willingness to rebound erases poor shooting spells. Whatever happens, the front office needs to keep Belinelli, Randolf, and Wright.

Negative talk about Don Nelson is getting louder in the Bay Area. Does his unconventional small lineup strategy suit the players on his roster? Is it time for the Warriors to consider a new vision? With a two year multi million dollar contract extension, does Don Nelson care?

The two upcoming games feature real basketball teams: the Celtics and the Lakers. During these two games, the Warriors will slip back into the cellar. A laughing stock team. I look forward to Christmas day, so I can watch a real basketball game between the Celtics and Lakers. No pulling my hair out as my Warriors let the eighth guy off the bench pour in 20 plus. "No More Mr. Niceguys," he we come.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Warriors Drop Two Straight, Path Ahead Looks Tough

It isn't surprising news to learn the Warriors have lost another game. The last two losses to the Pacers and Hawks highlight the W's struggle in the first and forth quarters. After tip-off, the W's are simply not matching the energy of opponents which leads to getting way behind way early. The second and third quarters are the moments when players find some urgency to actually "D-up" and make some shots. Then the forth quarter rolls around. The hot shooting dissipates under pressure and the defense is scrambling.

It's not hard to see this team is bad, a tough reality after the success of the last two seasons. Tomorrow, the W's will travel to Charlotte to take on the Bobcats. This will probably be the last realistic chance for a win until December 31 against the Thunder.Upcoming games: (After Charlotte) @ Orlando, @ Miami, vs. Boston, @ Lakers, vs. Toronto, then the Thunder at Oracle. If our terrible Warriors cannot beat the Bobcats, we could be looking at an unfathomable 11 game skid.

Let's take a look at personnel, beginning with the coach. It seems many subjects of Warrior nation have rebuked the beloved coach Nelly. "Why does he play undrafted rookies over his first round draft picks? (Morrow, Kurz) It's bothersome to think the W's gave away Jason Richardson for nothing. I wish people would give Brandan wright a chance. (Mostly coach Nelly) I have been thrilled with the play of Belinelli. His offensive upside is tremendous. If the Warriors were healthy, he could be a difference maker of the bench.

The W's are rumored to have been considering a trade with the Bobcats to acquire Raymond Felton for either Brandan Wright or Anthony Crawford. I like Raymond Felton, but not for one of those guys. I also think the Crawford trade was dumb. I know Harrington was a cancer, but at least he played an ounce of defense compared to Crawford's gram.

As the year continues to unfold, we who deserves to stay around. Is Nelson the best coach for this team? Did the W's give away Richardson for Wright? Was the Maggette signing a bad move? The Crawford trade foolish?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Jameer Nelson Lights It Up

The Warriors caught a break in playing Orlando minus Dwight Howard, but the Warriors learned this Orlando team is much more than Dwight Howard. Backup center Marcin Gortat played nicely grabbing boards and scoring when his number was called.

The Magic began to leave the Warriors in the dust with about six and a half minutes left in the third quarter. Jameer Nelson striped three three 3-pointers on consecutive Orlando possessions and scored 15 of his 32 in the third quarter. Courtney Lee finished the game in the fourth quarter with deadly efficient shooting.

The Warriors didn't play all that bad. They played a great first half and even had the lead at certain moments. It came down to poor shooting by everyone, aside from Belinelli, versus the variety of shooters on Orlando.

Anyone who has watched the Warriors this season understands there is talent on this team, but it comes with glaring weaknesses. For instance, Crawford can give you 30 points on any given night, but he allows too much dribble penetration. Turiaf...I love his tenacity on blocking shots, but he leaves himself out of position for defensive rebounding. This team needs more than 4 rebounds per game from Roni. Stephen Jackson is just stone cold shooting from the floor. It probably has something to do with his wrist injury. Anthony Morrow is pretty worthless if he's not hitting shots. Amazingly, the hottest players at this point are Marco Belinelli, Kelenna Azubuike, CJ Watson, and Crawford.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Ellis Shouldn't Rush Back

It's that time Warrior fans, Monta Ellis' suspension is about to expire (on December 17th) and the talk of him getting ready to join the Warriors is starting to buzz around Bay Area sports shows, newspapers and Internet sites alike. He's started practicing with the team, though not at full speed yet, but the Warriors expect that to start happening this week with the possibility in mind that he may be game-ready (in some capacity) for their December 26th tilt vs. the Celtics at the Oracle. While I would love to see Monta back just as much as the next guy, I would really be extra cautious with him as there is no reason at this point to rush him back. The team, although they've won their last two, isn't going to the playoffs this season, baring some miracle surge in the second half. There are just too many holes in their front line and they are in an unforgiving conference, as far as dominant front-lines are concerned. Maybe they could turn one of their athletic hybrid guards (Azuinuike, Morrow, Belinelli?) into a tough interior rebounder and someone who can maybe score in the paint before the deadline to help give them a boost. Not sure what it would take for the W's to acquire a guy like Dallas' Brandon Bass, but that is exactly the type of player they need as they haven't gotten it in Ronny Turiaf. They don't need a household name, just a gritty player who can play 25 minutes a night, bang the boards and wreck havoc on both the offensive and defensive end of the floor.

Speaking of a big rebounder an scorer, although he's not the ideal defender, why didn't Mulling get Zach Randolp instead of Jamal Crawford. I'd much rather have seen the Warriors try and trade Harrington for Randolph than Crawford, even if it meant having to part with another player or maybe a pick. I just still don't see why Mullin added another player like Crawford. Too bad it wasn't something like Harrington and Belinelli for Randolph instead of Harrington for Crawford? Imagine a 4-5 of Z. Randolph and Biedrins. And then eventually a starting lineup of Ellis-Jackson-Maggette-Randolph-Biedrins, with K-AZZ, Morrow, C.J., Turiaf and Wright coming off the bench while allowing Anthony Randolph to go play big minutes and develop some more in the NBA-DL for a few months. Now that could have been a team that could have made some noise.

Anyway, enough of woulda-coudla-shoulda trading theory and back to my main point; my message to the Warriors' management. My message would be to take it easy with Monta. No use rushing back your franchise guard at a point when your squad is 10 games below .500. Look at what happen to Gilbert Arenas last season after he came back too soon from his leg injury. It's ended up costing him more lost time in the long run. I'd hate to see Monta come back a little to early, re-injure himself and have it linger into the '09-10 season. Now if Monta is %100, no limitation or questions about it, and ready to rock in a couple of weeks, by all means, let him loose. But if there is any doubt whatsoever with his ankle, leg or knee, even if it's the slightest question mark, I see no reason in rushing him back. The "Nice Guys" have too much invested in the kid and cannot afford to have this injury limit him or linger on once he does return.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Warriors Win Second Straight, Young Bench Emerges

The Warriors are finally catching some breaks after experiencing some painful growing pains. The players of the future are blossoming before our eyes as CJ Watson, Marco Belinelli, and Anthony Morrow have answered the call of duty as Corey Maggette has been injured.

Belinelli took over the fourth quarter, and finished with 19 points on 5-7 shooting. Marco also looked comfortable handling the ball in the half court and set up his team mates nicely on two occasions. He had the play of the night with a fade away shot that floated in from behind the backboard! (youtube it) Morrow has looked more like he did during his first two starts where he scored 37 and 25 in consecutive games. Perhaps the most under rated, yet most valuable is Watson. He is hitting his midrange jumper with high efficiency and grabbing desperately needed rebounds...remind you of anyone? Hint, hint...I'm referring to the soon-to-be-back Monta Ellis. Matt Steinmetz reported Monta is looking strong in his rehab, good news to Warriors fans that have been chomping at the bits to see the most exiting player on this team.

The Warriors have paid their dues, going through some harsh road series, and now things look more optimistic. The young players are showing growth and confidence, Monta Ellis is due back soon , and the Warriors will be on their home court most of January and February.

Things are getting intriguing more and more after every game. The W's are stacked with guards that can score. Crawford, Maggette, Ellis, Watson, Morrow, Belinelli, Azubuike...If the youngsters continue to get more confident, the Warriors could have a pretty good bench.

The rematch against the Rockets at Oracle will be a good test of the young players stellar play of late.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Losing Streak Finally Over

The Warriors finally ended their nine game losing streak against the NBA's worst team. If they didn't win...well, let's say there would be a new worst team. The W's got it done without Captain Jack, Corey Maggette, and Anthony Randolf.

This game had the intensity of a pick up game at 24 Hour Fitness. Neither team took care of the basketball, played defense, and there were some ugly missed layups. Andris Biedrins had a monster game with 17 points and 21 boards and the second string played well in extended minutes.

It was interesting to see the Warriors play without Jackson and Maggette. Belinelli showed his offensive potential when given a chance, but still needs to play better D.

Beating the worst team in the League doesn't erase the memories of the previous nine games, culminated by the shameful effort in San Antonio.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Familiar Fourth Quarter Faulter

The Warriors looked determined to break their seven game losing streak against a Houston team without Tracy McGrady. The Warriors looked sharp, getting contributions from everyone, as six players put up double figures in the scoring column.

Similar to the loss on Monday against the Heat, the Warriors executed beautifully for three quarters only to crumble in the the fourth. The W's surrendered 43 points in the fourth to allow the Rockets to stack 131 total. Foul trouble was a factor to the Warriors downfall as they were outscored 36-15 from the foul line. This is the first game all season where I honestly believe the refs got overly involved and changed the outcome with missed calls that benefited the Rockets. It matters not because the Warriors will not snap the losing streak until they can find some kind of defensive identity to finish games. Tomorrow they play the Spurs in San Antone. If I heard correctly, they have not won in that building in 20 games. (Fact check) It looks like the best chance to snap the streak will be against the Thunder on Monday. (If they they don't let Collison go for 35 and 20)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Baron Sorely Missed

The Warriors would not have choked against the Heat on Monday if Baron Davis was still on this team. A lot of things wouldn't have fallen apart if Baron was still the floor general. The Warriors have three players that can go for 30 points on any given night, but they lack a player that can value possessions, guide the young players, and finish close games...like Baron Davis. I can't confidently say that the situation will be much brighter when Monte gets back. Ellis can do amazing things on the court, but he is still a natural shooting guard. It has never been more apparent how much Baron made everyone on his team better.

Like Don Nelson, I don't see the Warriors making the playoffs this season. Playoff teams play defense and the Warriors could very well be the worst possible defensive team in the NBA. Their 110 points allowed per game is a league worst.

It looks like the W's are dangerously close to slipping back into sorriness, a team that barely treads water in the NBA sea. Remember the days of Erick Dampier, Larry Hughes, Antwan Jamison...Bimbo Coles? No more 'Mr. Nice Guys'? Of course you don't remember, as unpleasant memories tend to get blocked out. Baron really did more for this team than make them winners, he helped us forget some dismal history. Look at the bright side Warriors fans: The band wagon "We Believe" fans will begin to disappear allowing broke die-hards like myself to move from the Upper Level to empty Lower Level seats after the first quarter.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Warriors Lose 7th Staright

The Warriors were supposed to get better after they dealt away Al Harrington, a player who was underachieving for them, but that hasn't been the case. Instead, the W's have been win-less since dealing Harrington for Jamal Crawford as they have lost 7 straight after Monday's loss to Dwayne Wade and the Miami Heat. I hate to say it, but this team is looking eerily similar to their pre-Baron Davis days and I'm not quite sure why. Yes, they are desperately missing Monta Ellis, who really is the best player on the roster now that Baron Davis is gone. However, the team still has talent as is. Stephen Jackson, Jamal Crawford and Corey Maggette are all-star type players and Andris Biedrins is having a breakout season in all categories. Even guys like C.J. Watson, Kelanna Azubuike, and Anthony Morrow have stepped up in Monta's absence, but the they're still not winning. So why are they 5-13 you ask?

I could go on for a while, but the big problem for the Warriors is that they're giving up 109 points a game. And the major reason for that is their inept front-court play. Biedrins has been amazing, but he's gotten no help and they are essentially dominated when he leaves the floor. Brandan Wright has shown flashes, but he hasn't made the proper adjustments yet in his second year and has looked over-matched more often than not on the defensive side of the court. He's also looked a bit rushed and out of control on offense. I know it's still too early in their careers to label them yet, but the '07 draft picks, Brandan Wright and Marco Belinelli, have been busts thus far and remember, Wright cost the Warriors Jason Richardson. 19 year-old Anthony Randolph is also raw and not ready to help much at this point, especially on a nightly basis. Ronny Turiaf is essentially a more athletic version of Adonal Foyle, bringing a dynamic defensive ability to the court, but he's basically obsolete on offense and hasn't rebounded as well as the Warriors were hoping. Due to the below average defensive play up front, the Dubs have been out-rebounded by 10 or more in each of their last 5 games. Yes, getting Monta back (hopefully by the end the the month) will be a major shot in the arm for them, but if they don't start hitting the boards, and keeping teams out of triple digits, it's going to be tough to get back to .500 and make a playoff push even with star guard.