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Time to Slay the Warriors
Tonight is the first game of a daunting back to back against relentless Golden State and Phoenix. Considering the short bench rotation, if the Hornets don't control the pace in these games, our starters will be walkin' on rubber legs come Sunday Morning.
The first game is against the Warriors and our old 'friend' Baron Davis. Expectations are high for this Golden State squad after their upset of the Mavericks in the playoffs last year, and so far they are living up to their hype, having gone 19-8 after a strange 0-6 start to the season. Should be a good game – especially since Chris Paul and Baron Davis always seem to get up for games against each other.
Instead of my usual game Preview, today I'll be posting a trio of questions we exchanged with Golden State of Mind(GSOM), a particularly funny smack-talkin' Warriors blog. I've always liked to get to know the enemies fans and what they think about their team. That way, it's easier to mock their hopes and dreams later when they fail.
Here's the three questions we sent, along with the answers supplied by GSOM's Justin.
1) An obvious one – since it's bizarre. The Warriors started 0-6 but are 19-8 since then. I still can't imagine Stephen Jackson was that vital to your team. What switch suddenly flipped on? Was it really Jackson?
Perhaps the 0-6 start without him compared with the 18-8 with him, overstates Stephen Jackson's importance to the team. The Warriors started to play well without him narrowly losing to the Mavs and Cavs and eventually winning in the 7 th and final game of his suspension. But don't get me wrong, this team is far from a playoff team if he's not around. He's not the most important piece on the team (Baron is) but he is the 2nd most important player.
When you watch him game in and game out, he just does some great things for the team. First and foremost, he is one of the top defenders in the league and doesn't get enough credit for that. He'll routinely take on the opponent's best scorer – you saw him shut down Dirk in the playoffs right? His length and quickness make him a nightmare to shoot over and drive around. When you combine his defensive prowess with his ability on offense you have a huge component to the Warriors success. Offensively, he's a streaky shooter. He can get hot and drop 4 three's in a quarter, but also clank everything and start out 1-10. What's great about having Jax around on offense though is his ability to get everyone involved. By no means is he a point guard, but his passing to set people up and knowledge of angles is rare for a small forward. Nellie knows exactly how to use his strengths and it's reaping huge benefits for the Warriors right now. The people in the Bay Area love the guy's heart and dedication.
2) Mullin seems to have finally got his crap together contractually and dumped his early mistakes in Fisher, Murphy, Dunleavy, and Foyle – even getting a nice return from Indiana. Biedrins and Ellis look nice as well. Do you think his other draft picks – O'Bryant, Belinelli, Wright(sort of drafted), Lasme and Petrovic will pan out as well? Are they even suited for Nellie-ball?
Mullin has certainly had an up and down time as the Warriors personnel decision maker. He's had his hits and misses but recently it looks like he's learning from his mistakes. After signing the scrubs you mentioned to ridiculous long term contracts and admitting those mistakes by trading or buying them out, he went this past offseason without doing that. Both Matt Barnes and Mickael Pietrus were free agents and he just waited it out this summer. When nobody signed them, Mullin was able to get them at the price he thought was fair. He also didn't extend Biedrins this summer to the 5 years, $65 million his agent wanted. Some would say that's a mistake, but I think it was a great move. There's no hurry to sign a guy who's going to be a restricted free agent. If a team is going to sign a restricted free agent, they'll have to overpay and most teams just won't do that. I feel confident that Mullin will get Biedrins at the price he thinks is fair.
As far as the draft picks go, he's got some room to improve. Lasme has been cut, Perovic is hoopin it up in the DLeague and Patrick O'Bryant can't get any burn. Marco Belinelli is very interesting since he can supposedly shoot the lights out. But it makes you wonder that on a team that shoots the most three's per game in the league, how does he not get on the court. I understand it to be that he doesn't bring enough to the table right now. The guys who play can do multiple things – shoot, play D, pass, score, but Marco is limited in that he can only shoot. His D needs work as does his awareness and knowledge of the game. He can work on those, but until he does, most likely he'll only be playing in blowouts. Then you have Brandan Wright. This guy is super athletic but super skinny. I think he's going to turn out to be a very good player, he's just too far away right now. Rumor has it that he was to be included in a KG to the Warriors trade on draft night but it fell through. So now we have this young talented big man who can't contribute right now but with a year under his belt and some weight gainer, he's going to be running up and down the court with this team nightly. In the limited time he's played, he seems to have a good basketball IQ and the ability to run with the big boys.
And lastly, this is getting long, but as a fan, it's always fun to be involved in the big name player trade talk rumors. Mullin has brought that to the team. He traded for Baron, was involved in the Artest rumors, threw the Warriors in the AI talks, made the big SJax and Al Harrington for the Dunmurphy sisters trade, and lastly was so close to landing KG we thought Baron and KG would be teaming up together this year. Mullin is learning, he's progressing, and has at least turned the Warriors around so far.
3) What surprises you most about the Warriors this year? Ellis taking another step forward? Azubuike actually being a legit NBA player? Biedrins only being on the floor 28 minutes a game?
None of those above really surprised me that much. Monta Ellis has shown he's capable of making big improvements. I didn't think he'd plateau after winning the MIP last year. He's chipping in with the rebounding and has now added a consistent mid-range jumper to his game that has him shooting around 50% from the field.
What Kelenna Azubuike is doing also isn't too surprising since when he played last year, he played well. I just don't think Nellie trusted him enough down the stretch to get some PT. This year, he's just been given the opportunity to play and seized it. He's shown he's talented, it was just a matter of getting the chance.
And finally, Andris Biedrins at only 28 minutes a game is not too surprising either. He's not a prototypical Nellie big man, since he's limited offensively, but Nellie just knows how to use him. He works extremely well in space and anticipates where the penetrating guard will be able to find him. He's the Warriors best rebounder too. He averages the 4 th most minutes on the team behind Baron, Jax and Monta. With the rotation and the small ball Nellie likes to play (Harrington at center), sometimes it's surprising when Biedrins does play more than 30 minutes.
What is surprising to me this year is their success on the road. This is a team that last year was 12-29 on the road. Guess what their record is right now on the road? 11-8. They have nearly as many wins on the road this year as they did all of last year and we're only in January! If they can continue to play well on the road, they're a lock for the playoffs because the fans at the Oracle Arena have this team playing well at home. If the Warriors can just tread water until February, the Warriors could make that leap towards a middle seed because 9 of their 10 games are at home. Road Warriors? Didn't see that one coming.
We also received four questions from GSOM, asking about CP3 vs. Baron, Julian Wright, Last year's injuries, and the best pair of big men in the Western Conference. Our answers should be up at GSOM sometime today. Have a visit.
I'm hoping for 1 win on this back-to-back. West seems to be built to go after the Warriors, since a hard-nosed forward(Boozer) is what finally brought the Warriors low in last years playoffs. I am a little worried about their energetic defense attacking his dribble though.
Enjoy the game!