Saturday, February 28, 2009

Warriors Stuck in Mediocrity, Look to Stay There

The Warriors followed Monday's poor performance in LA with another disappointing loss at home against the Bobcats. Granted, the current Charlotte team is not the laughable bad news Bobcats of recent years. The Warriors had their chance to win, thanks to the continued stellar play of Stephen Jackson, who scored 33 points and dished out 8 assists, but couldn't defend the three.

Lets be realistic. The Bobcats had more talent suited up than the W's. Compare the starting lineups. Golden State: Watson, Belinelli, Jackson, Azubuike, Biedrins. Charlotte: Felton, Bell, Diaw, Wallace, Okafor. Jackson and Biedrins are the only players in that lineup that have proven themselves as deserving starters on an NBA roster. That's not a knock on the ability of those other players. Watson's play of late is deserving of a start, but it should have been along side Crawford, not an inexperienced Belinelli. Marco has played poorly as a starter and would do better coming off the bench in role like Maggette. In starting the last two games, he scored 2 points in 17 minutes against the Clippers and 6 points in 21 minutes last night against Charlotte. Azubuike is in line to have a nice NBA career wherever he plays, but not as a starter.

Look at the Bobcats roster. Recent years spent in the cellar have given this team the rights to high draft picks and young talent. Raymond Felton and Omeka Okafor have developed into effective NBA players. Rookie DJ Augustin is getting the playing time necessary to acclimate and is averaging 12 points and nearly 4 assists per game. The Atlanta Hawks are a similar team. Years at the bottom have allowed them to draft the talent needed to move up. Josh Smith, Marvin Williams, and Al Horford. The Oklahoma City Thunder are on the same path.

The W's haven't developed talent since the 2005 draft, when they selected Monta Ellis and Andris Biedrins. That's not to say they don't have talent. Like most Warriors fans, I am perplexed by Don Nelson's rotations, specifically the short leash on talented Anthony Randolph. Don Nelson does not care about the future of this team. He won't play his young bigs, Randolph and Wright (when healthy), but instead has played Azubuike and previously Maggette at power forwards. Why do the Warriors acquire talented young bigs just to keep them cramped up on the bench in warm-up pants?

It is true that Warriors fans are the best in the NBA. This team is not good enough to be in the playoffs, not bad enough to be a lottery team, and coached by a nutty professor; yet, fans still flock to Oracle.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Clippers Shoot Warriors Down in LA

After a stretch of improvement, the Warriors slipped back into poor form, losing to the Clippers in frustrating fashion. Baron Davis finally got a chance to burn his old mates, nearly achieving a triple double going for 25 points, 10 assists, and 9 rebounds. Baron was able to get in the lane at will and often found Eric Gordon for wide open three point looks. Baron was good, but Gordon's 6 for 7 three point shooting made the difference. For the first 7 minutes the Warriors ran the Clippers off the court, jumping out 23-11. The Clippers subsequently called a timeout, which seemed to make a difference. When the Clippers returned to the court, Baron hit three's on back to back possessions and created and a wave of momentum that left the Warriors playing catch-up the rest of the game.

The Clippers shot the ball unusually well, making 13-24 three's, but the Warriors allowed this with uninspiring defense. There was no urgency to close out on perimeter shooters (Gordon), no hustle back on defense after a missed shot, and inconsistent effort to chase loose balls. The W's played as though they were entitled to possession of the ball and wined for foul calls instead of being patient and moving the basketball.

Its obvious to anyone who follows the Warriors that Anthony Randolph needs to start or at least play 25 or more minutes per game. I would like to see more Anthony Morrow also. Coach Nelson needs to pull Crawford sooner if he opens with poor shooting and put in Morrow to stretch the floor. Crawford and Maggette shot the Warriors out of the game going a combined 8-28. At least Maggette rebounds and plays some D. Crawford does not give you defense, rebounding, and he doesn't create for other players. When Jamal is cold, he is a waste of space on the court.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Warriors Steal OKC's Thunder

The Warriors effort in the second half was enough to get past the league's most turnover prone team, the lowly Thunder. The Warriors owed the Thunder some payback after the last meeting when Jeff Green's buzzer beating prayer was answered giving the his team a dramatic one point win. This Oklahoma City basketball team stole our Thunder in another way by taking away the rights to our creepy. yet energetic mascot.

As the Warriors pulled away in the second half, I was pleased to see the grins wiped from the cocky young faces of Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, and Russell Westbrook. The talented young Thunder team got a bit too comfortable in the early goings and benefited off some bad calls against the Warriors. Don Nelson picked up a technical after Maggette was hit on the elbow by Nenad Kristic attempting a high speed transition lay-up. No foul was called allowing Kevin Durant an easy fast break dunk, infuriating Nelson and Oracle Arena. Later in the contest, TV analyst Jim Barnett was shown standing up from behind the scorers table to share his opinion with one of the officials.

I was surprised coach Nelson chose not to start rookie Anthony Randolph, who has been playing his best basketball of his NBA career. The Warriors started to pull away with Randolph at center, Azubuike at four, Jackson at three, Crawford at two, and Ellis at one. The smallest, most sharp shooting lineup out ran the tired Oklahoma City starters.

I'm relieved the Warriors didn't make any trades. The whole point of this year is to see who is worth keeping around. Wait until the off season. The Warriors have more wings than Hooters, so I'm sure they could put together a nice package in exchange for a power forward, especially after the next draft.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

W's Quiet as Trade Deadline Passes

The NBA's trading deadline came and passed Thursday, and the Warriors decided to stand pat. Not that it should really surprise anyone as most who follow the team knew the odds were against them adding anyone. There were still some whispers that the Warriors were in the hunt for a big man, but in all reality, this team is not going to the playoffs even if they did add a Lamar Odom (one of the big men who was said to be available). It's for the better that the 19-34 Warriors try and find out who's for real and who isn't as they build for next season and decide just exactly what they need in the draft. I hate to say that the Warriors should be playing for a higher pick and trying to loose, but it made no sense to add a player that would have helped them win another 5 games but wouldn't have made a difference in the playoff run whatsoever. The same guys who were said to be available this February (Amare Staudamire, Chris Bosh and Carlos Boozer to name a few) will be able to be had this summer when the Warriors have a better idea of just what they have.

One name who kept re-surfacing during trade talks for the Warriors was young Anthony Randolph. Nelly is finally giving in and giving the 19 year-old rookie some legit minutes and he is producing. In Wednesday nights start against the Lakers, the kid went 7-13 from the field with 12 boards, 2 blocks and a steal in under 30 minutes of play. He did get in foul trouble which kept him from really going off, but this kid looks like he's primed to break out with a 30 point, 15 rebound game here any night. On February 12th, in 14 minutes of play, Randolph had 9 points and 10 boards. Needless to say, he's figuring it out and putting up big numbers in small minutes. I'm glad the Warriors ended up hanging onto him and I hope they keep him through the summer. Brandan Wright is the one to deal. Anthony Randolph reminds me a lot of a young KG (Kevin Garnett)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Warriors Win Three In A Row At Home

At the All-Star break, the Warriors are 19-35 and have a three game winning streak going at Oracle. They beat the Blazers without Andris Biedrins thanks to solid combined play of Roni Turiaf and Anthony Randolph at center.

While Monta Ellis isn't as high flying as last year, he still brings his speed and urgency to fuel fast breaks and gives Don Nelson the depth to bring Corey Maggette off the bench as a sixth man. It has become apparent that the sixth man role is ideal for Maggette and the Warriors. The Warriors can get too jump shot happy in the half court and Maggette is a player that can get to the rim and the free throw line when this team needs it.

Look for more wins at home in the second half of the season, especially with improved team health. The playoffs are not completely out of the question, but highly unlikely. They need more depth on the front line and better defense to win on the road. Its not too late to tank some games and improve the probability of a lottery pick and Blake Griffin.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Warriors Chemistry Stronger At Midseason

In the past four games the Warriors have gone 2-2, however; the level of play has been much better than their record indicates. On Monday, they had plenty of chances to beat San Antonio, but faltered in the end to lose in overtime. The following game was a rout of the Phoenix Suns, highlighted by Stephen Jackson's first career triple double. The Suns got vindication two days later by beating the Warriors at the US Airways Center. The Suns jumped out fast, but allowed the W's the get back in the game. The Warriors momentum was halted the moment Andris Biedrins rolled his ankle in the third quarter. Yesterday, the Warriors burned the Jazz for 38 in the third quarter to beat a team they have struggled with over the past few seasons. Golden State competed well in all four games.

As the All-Star game draws closer, it's time to evaluate what the Warriors have accomplished so far this season. They were not expected to make the playoffs, especially with the injury of Monta Ellis. As the NBA's youngest team, it is a more realistic goal to say that the Warriors are auditioning for roles on Don Nelson's team. Constant injury has allowed every player on the Warriors roster to get a chance to show something. (Except for Marcus Williams)

Jackson and Corey Maggette have been living up their expectations lately by putting up solid numbers and making this team an offensive threat once again. Ellis has been a big part of the Warriors rekindling the offensive fire by returning to the lineup on Jan. 23. Biedrins has been the most solid player all year and Azubuike has proven to be a quality signing. Belinelli showed he can be a versatile scorer who can shoot and create. We know Anthony Morrow can shoot, but is he too one dimensional? Anthony Randolf is obviously capable of being a terrific shot blocker and his athleticism at 19 years old make Warriors fans wanting to see more of what could be. It would have been nice to see more Brandan Wright, but he has been out with a shoulder injury. CJ Watson has made a case that he can be a valuable addition to any NBA bench. He can score many ways, but his on-the-ball defense could be better.

The Warriors are a better team now than when the season started. Maggette rivals Ginobili as the NBA's best sixth man and Jackson is making less turnovers with Crawford and Ellis available to handle the ball. When the stars have good chemistry and share the ball, it makes players like Watson, Azuibuke, and Turiaf more confident and therefore get the bench contributions that help the Warriors beat top teir teams.

...In other news, Anthony Morrow was not selected to participate in the three point shootout, so as promised, I will forgo viewing it. Morrow has a better three point stroke than hlaf the contestants including Mike Bibby, Danny Granger, and Rashard Lewis (who has the second ugliest shot in the league behind Shawn Marion). With no Morrow, my pick is on Daequan Cook. Besides, the NBA messed up scheduling the contest on Valentine's day. I have a woman to please.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Warriors Careless, Lose in OT

Its no surprise the Warriors lost another close game. Sure, one could argue that Ginobili flopped to get to the free throw line which tied the game and forced overtime. No, the Warriors cannot blame the refs for anything that went wrong in this disappointing loss.

The W's played well in the second and third quarters, but the only thing that mattered was the Spurs defense, which locked the Warriors up for five and a half minutes in the forth. This impotent stretch of offense allowed the Spurs to quickly erase a 12 point lead and take momentum.

I used to get upset when the Warriors blew leads and choked in the clutch, but now I expect that and I am surprised if they pull it out. First, they don't rebound. They play fine defense, but cannot finish a strong defensive sand with a rebound. What's worse is the carelessness the Warriors display with the ball. They need to win by double digits or it won't happen.

I couldn't be more disappointed with Jamal Crawford. He is one of the most talented players on the floor, but timid, unassertive, and fearful of contact. He scored four points on 2-10 shooting and failed to shoot one free throw. If Crawford isn't contributing offense, the W's are laying four guys against five because his defense is weak. If Jamal is going to play like a softy, I'd prefer to see more CJ.