Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Warriors Zeroing in on Head Coach

Well, according the KNBR's Ray Woodson, the Golden State Warriors have narrowed their coaching search to just 4 candidates, and they appear set on going the assistant coach route.

The 4 most likeliest candidates appear to be former NBA point-guard Mark Jackson, now an NBA analyst for ESPN, Lakers' big name assistant coach, Bryan Shaw, Mavs assistant Dwane Casey and Hornets assistant Mike Malone. I was kind of hoping they'd bring in a younger coach, maybe an NCAA guy, but with the new list of finalists, I think I would prefer Mark Jackson or Bryan Shaw. Jerry West knows Shaw well from his time in LA, so if "The Logo" thinks Shaw is fit for the job, then so be it. Other than that, we saw how well the assistant coach thing worked last year with Keith Smart, who I don't think ever gained the Warriors' players full confidence. Mark Jackson would be a good choice because he's played in the league, and would be an ultimate "players coach", but he's also been an analyst for a while now, and knows the NBA like very few candidates do. I say I don't want another teams assistant, but Shaw is a different animal. He's been the the finals numerous times and is a known winner. He's another guy who has a reputation as a players coach, so obviously the Warriors are making it a priority that their new coach will be able to communicate on the same level as the players, something Don Nelson never really did, outside of that run in 2006.

So, after hearing the new group of finalists, I really say push hard for Jackson or Shaw, who have each played long careers in the NBA and have been around the league a long time. I do like the fact that they're insistent on a first-time head coach at least, and passed on the likes of Rick Adleman and Jerry Sloan. Sure, I think a great college coach like Callipari would have been a helluva a fit, but who knows if that was ever even an option, or if Callipari even wants to come to the NBA. Either way you slice it, you can see the Warriors front-office, already, much more decisive and efficient, and one would have to assume that it's been the addition of Jerry West that has solidified their front office. As I said in the last post talking about the West hiring, I didn't feel GM Larry Riley (a coach before moving into the front office in 2009) was completely inept at finding a coach and prepping for the draft, all while assessing free agents and their own talent, all by himself, with no coach or qualified assistant GM or any notable advisers. West's hiring immediately installed credibility into a front-office that hasn't produced a winning team since 2006.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Warriors Get the Best: Hire Jerry West

Well, in a 2011 that was going downhill ever since the calender turned. The Warriors got about the best news they've received, well, since I can really remember. They hired former Laker and Memphis, genius front-office adviser who trademark is the NBA logo (modeled off of).

Logo aside, I can't see any problem with this move, in fact, love every part of it. If you read my last post, I wrote how I really didn't Larry Riley running the ship alone in the coaching search, and West adds huge credibility to the W's front-office. I also wonder if he's coming to Golden State with something in mind. He obviously chose the Warriors for a reason, there were many other NBA teams he could have had his pick of, but he came to NorCal, where playoff basketball comes around once every 10 or 15 seasons. West is here to put a change to that. The first on agenda is to hire a head coach, and someone the players will immediately respect and relate to. There has been talks that Kevin McHale has been called into the Bay Area for "informal" meetings, whether that's true or not, I can't verify. But I can say this, having West aboard is almost like bringing in the LeBron James of the front-office. Again, it wouldn't surprise me if he already has some sort of plan in place he's talked about with Riley, whether that be a player or coach, who the Hall-of-Famer has a very good relationship with. That would certainly fit McHale who was a stud in Boston and did great stuff for Memphis as well as the purple LA team (obtaining Pau Gasol for peanuts and a soda).

He's had the time to adjust to the new style and I certainly wouldn't hate a McHale hiring, but as you all know, I want a young, fiery, in-your face runner, as my first choice. I still like a college coach coming in, especially now that West is here who knows the NBA like no body's business. West can focus on player movement only and the coach can focus on pure X's and O's, the way it should be. Sometimes you get these big-named veteran coaches and they want more involvement in the front office and whine about the players their dealt. The Warriors don't need that crap, they need a no-nonsense guy who knows basketball and knows how to use the Warriors roster in it's best possible way. As young as they are and the style they play, I still say a college coach matches them to a T. However, if the "Logo" thinks McHale is the fit, who am I to argue?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Warriors Have Needs This Summer

The Warriors finished the 2010-11 season with a 36-46 record, which by Eastern Conference standards, will sometimes land you in the playoffs, but here in the West, that's about 10 losses too many.

So, what do the Warriors need to do this offseason in order to make up those 10 or so losses and possibly compete for a low Western Conference Playoff seed? For starters, a good solid coach who can relate with the new generation of NBA player and someone who can optimize the teams strengths. The right veteran would fit, maybe like Van Gundy, who's had time to sit back and watch the game the last couple of seasons and who's not afraid to get in your face and rile up a bunch, but I'd look for a college coach or young assistant first. The Warriors, as currently constructed, are a run-and-shoot team. If they were a college football team, they'd be a spread offense, that passes the ball 85% of the time. They have no banger down in the paint that will make other teams think twice about doubling Monta Ellis or Stephen Curry every time they drive the lane (or in my NCAA football comparison, no power running game). Andris Biedrins had some nice years at he beginning of his career, and it looked like he was developing into that person, but whether it's his health, general lack of ambition towards basketball or something, cause when I've seen him on the court these last few years, it looks like he's just going through the motions. Now, with him hurt all the time and not producing when he is in there, I don't want to say give up on Biedrins (they're paying him a huge sum of money that I don't see many teams taking on), but I certainly would stop counting on any sort of consistent production out of him. If the W's never made the playoffs in 2006, this guy wouldn't have gotten that $67M deal (Damn you Mullin)!

One option worth trying may be to get on the phone with the European basketball teams that were interested in Biedrins when the W's singed his long-term deal in '08, and maybe see if they can pawn him off to Europe. Otherwise it's Biedrins at about $10M per for another 3 seasons. They're still saying he's developing, which he's had 6 years to do and is now going downhill. I guess I'm curious to see how he responds to a new coaching regime, but my patience for Biedrins is wearing thin!

Speaking of low patience level, I don't like the fact that Larry Riley is running the show (Mullin's right-hand man on those horrible 2008 summer signings and draft which handicapped this team), and I really hope he doesn't have the final say in who this team hires as coach or who they go after, if anyone, in free agency. The Warriors sore for a big man, and everyone in the NBA knows it, and they are playing with essentially 2-point guards in their back court in Ellis and Curry. The logic would be to trade one for a big man since the W's likely can't afford to add one through Free Agency. Marc Gasol, Pau's little brother would be at the tip-top of my list if I were to shell out a big deal to one of these Free Agents. The 26 year-old had sort of an "off-year" in 2010-11, (11.7 ppg, 7 rpg, 2.5 apg) after a 14.7/9.5/2.5 line last year, but turned it on in the playoffs for the Grizz before they got eliminated Sunday. In the latest 13 game stretch of postseason play, Gasol averaged 15 points, 11.3 boards, 2+ assists and 2+ blocks per night. That's production in the middle the W's could really use. Nene Hilario is also finally free, and has put together some real nice season since getting healthy. Over his last 3 campaigns, he's averaged 14.4/ 7.7 with a block and 2 assists. Not as good or young as Gasol, but not a bad 2nd option at the right price.

Another option, as I stated earlier, and maybe the better one, would be to deal Monta (I think he brings back more in return than Curry, and has had some mis-understandings with Warriors in the past), for a big man (I've always like Al Jefferson), then maybe sign someone like J-Rich, or maybe go after Alec Burks out of Colorado in the draft. The top ranked pure Shooting Guard who averaged over 20 PPG as a Sophomore, but he's much of a 3 pt. shooter yet... I could go for a starting 5 of: PG-Curry; SG-J-Rich/Burks; SF Dorrell Wright; PF David Lee; C Al Jefferson. That's a much better team than what they finished 2011 with!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

2011 Playoffs Full of Surprises

The Lakers will not win a third consecutive championship this season. It feels weird, but it's refreshing. I love basketball, but the playoffs were starting to get boring and predictable, with the same teams hanging around at the end year after year.

The unpredictable outcomes of the 2011 playoffs have been good for the game. The eighth seeded Memphis Grizzlies are on a roll with their physical style of play and find themselves up 2-1 in the Western conference semi-finals. The Heat are finally meeting sky high expectations at the right time. And the Mavs beat the fight out of the listless defending champs.

So much for my prediction of Lakers over Heat in 6 games, but I still like the Heat to make it to the finals. Perhaps a 2006 Finals rematch of Miami and Dallas? Dirk Nowitzki has been the best player in the playoffs thus far and with Tyson Chandler, this is the most complete Dallas team of the Nowitzki era. The Mavs are the hottest team playing now and their old guys will get some well earned rest while Memphis and OKC battle it out.
I'll take Dallas as my revisionist pick to win it all.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Warriors May Have New Target?

Well, with the recent news of Gary Williams leaving the University of Maryland, it immediately got me thinking, this guy could be a great fit in the Bay Area.

As I've said before, I really think the Warriors need a younger, new era coach, and Williams knows these younger, new generation players as well as anyone. He had a tremendous record at Maryland of 452-232, and he did it in a conference filled with perennial dominant programs. I think he's the type of guy the W's should focus on, but again, like with John Calipari, he's a big name guy and he's going to attract a lot of attention. I will have more on this a little later, after I have a chance to talk to people closer to the Warriors than myself. For now, though, I just wanted to toss the idea out there, that maybe his leaving Maryland was a ploy to make a move for the NBA, and the Warriors are one of the teams with a vacancy at that particular spot!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Lakers Hanging by a Thread

I thinks it's finally time to start panicking if your a Laker fan. Their top defender and the main man assigned to Dirk Nowitzki (though he wasn't doing a very good job), finally let his frustrations get the better of him.

Artest gave J.J. Barea a violent elbow to the head in Wednesday night's game, a flagrant foul and one that will put the world-class defender on the bench for the ever pivotal game 3. Luckily they do have Lamar Odom to help step in and fill Artest's void, but then who takes Odom's spot? A chink has been exposed in the Lakers armor, and as good as the Lakers are (I picked them for NBA Champs), I don't know it they'll be able to pull out of this.

It wasn't only the Artest situation though, the Lakers are getting thoroughly outplayed, and the Mavs didn't even play that well. Jason Kidd was just 3-11 with 6 assists and Jason Terry had just 9 points off the bench, but luckily, they got to ride the hot hand of Dirk Nowitzki. The German sharp-shooter is averaging over 25 PPG and 9 RPG while even spreading the love around with 4 assists. He's outplaying Kobe Bryant, and if that continues to happen, it will be the end of the season for the LA Lakers. But you can't just blame it on Kobe. They're point guard position is being badly exposed by 3 guys (Barrea, Terry and Kidd) all better than the Lakers starter (Derek Fischer, as clutch as he is). Even with their powerful front-line and Kobe Bryant to take all their shots, they have a weakness, and the Mavs are exploiting it. Again, the part that's beyond me is that Dallas didn't even play that well last night and they beat LA by a dozen points!

Warriors News: Well, in some positive W's news, Stephen Curry won NBA's Sportsmanship of the Year Award (Joe Dumars Trophy), edging out Luol Deng and LeMarcus Aldridge as the NBA's model of sportsmanship. Just tells you what kind of character this kid has to go along with the All-Pro talent. I just hope they get him some help this summer!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

W's Fire Keith Smart: Search on for New Coach

Well any print that Don Nelson left in Golden State has officially been wiped clean, as his protege and the man he groomed over the last few seasons to take over as coach of the Warriors, Keith Smart, was let go by the team Wednesday.

There has been plenty of talk about what type of coach the Warriors will be pursuing, but with the news only a few days old, I doubt we see a hiring until at least mid-May, if not until after the Finals.

I haven't yet heard a single name linked to Golden State, but there are plenty of different names out there that are open for work, depending on which way the W's want to go.

I personally would like to see a new, fresh face come in, a guy who hasn't been in the NBA 20+ years and carries a completely different philosophy than these young players carry today. That's what's changed in the NBA, the player has the power now, and if a Kobe Bryant has a dispute with a head coach, the franchise will have to side with the player they've invested $100+ million into.

It's a different era, and I don't thin Nelly was grasping that, and passed some of those traits (not all, Smart is not the exact same coach Nelly was) onto Keith Smart. This is the reason why I want a younger coach in here or a guy who's earned respect to be heard, but also knows the way of the game today. So no, I don't want Jerry Sloan (great coach in the 1990's, basically another Nelly), Rick Adelman or Mike D'Antoni (though I do think D'Antoni is a good coach with the right teams). If they're insistent on taking an NBA guy, I'd take Mike Budenholzer (Gregg Papavich's right-hand man in San Antonio), but I'd like it to be a guy from the college ranks. John Calipari is the guy who everyone says should move onto the NBA, and he'd be a great add, but my #1 choice right now would be UCLA's Ben Howland. If you've seen the way he's turned around and masterminded that UCLA program, you know why. He's a guy who gets today's game of basketball.