Month: June 2013

Golden State Warriors: Will Andris Biedrins Step Up Next Season?

This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.

Andris Biedrins is quite the enigma.

He went from being an intriguing young center to the last guy off the bench in a matter of a few seasons. He went through serious confidence issues, severe free throw struggles, and some nagging injuries.

Biedrins’ history with the Golden State Warriors has been rocky, but he could have an opportunity to make an impact with the Warriors next season.Festus Ezeli underwent surgery on his right knee recently, and he is expected to miss 6-9 months.

This past season, Andrew Bogut only played in 32 games during the regular season due to left ankle problems, so it’s not clear how healthy Bogut will be next season. Given these uncertainties, Biedrins could play significant minutes for the Warriors. However, it’s not clear if he’ll rise to the occasion given his history with the Warriors.

Jan. 2, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Golden State Warriors center Andris Biedrins (15) on the court against the Phoenix Suns at the US Airways Center. The Suns defeated the Warriors 102-91. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports.

Biedrins started to show his potential during the 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 seasons. Before the 2008-2009 season, the Warriors signed Biedrins to a six-year, $63 million contract. He had a breakout season in 2008-2009 when he averaged 11.9 points, 11.2 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks on 57.8 percent shooting in 30 minutes per game.

Back then, Biedrins was confident and active both offensively and defensively. He showed off his great defense when he blocked shots, covered the whole floor, and in pick-and-roll situations. The Warriors thought they had found the center of their future.

However, Biedrins started to embark on his downward spiral during the 2009-2010 season. He shot a career-low 16 percent on free throws that season and only attempted 25 free throws.

Because of Biedrins’ lack of success at the free throw line, he appeared to not want the ball as much, because opposing teams would just foul him to prevent him from getting off a good shot. This shook Biedrins’ confidence so hard that it doesn’t like he ever recovered.

Biedrins also suffered many injuries throughout his career that slowed his progression in becoming more of a confident player again. Biedrins only played 33 games in the 2009-2010 season because of back and groin injuries.

When Keith Smart took over the head coaching job for the Warriors in the 2010-2011 season, Biedrins had another opportunity to regain some confidence and play like his old self. He started off the season well, but, unfortunately, was hit by injuries again.

Despite the potential and the talent that Biedrins showed early on his career, he has become a permanent end-of-the-bench player for the Warriors. This past season, Biedrins came into games just to provide extra fouls and to play garbage minutes in games that had already been decided. Because of his new role, it seems unlikely that Biedrins would step up next season if given the opportunity to.

Biedrins has been in similar situations before where he has had the opportunity to start or provide valuable, effective minutes off the bench. Bogut was injured at the beginning of the season, so Biedrins had the opportunity to start the season at center and ultimately become the backup center for the Warriors.

Before last season started, every player on the Warriors showed up early to Oakland, before training camp even started. Except for one. Biedrins ultimately lost the backup center job to Ezeli, not just because he was working out on his own before camp, but also because Ezeli was able to learn the system before Biedrins got there.

“At the end of the day, everybody else was here, so that was the concern–putting in principles, putting in ideas, putting in plays, competing, the comraderie. That was the issue,” Mark Jackson said about Biedrins not coming to training camp early.

Jan 18, 2012; Newark, NJ, USA; Golden State Warriors center Andris Biedrins (15) gets a slam dunk during the first half against the New Jersey Nets at the Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Jim O

Biedrins also shows a tentativeness in games that he doesn’t show in practice. The pressure of an actual game and the fear of disapproval by the fans clouds Biedrins’ thought process during a game.

He often works out in the offseason with Utah Jazz center Al Jefferson, who claims that Biedrins is a completely different player during their practice sessions. He claims that Biedrins attacks the hoop more, uses spin moves, and shows his explosiveness. Jefferson has advised Biedrins to act like he is guarding him during games, which would hopefully make Biedrins more comfortable and not second guess himself.

“He always tells me to play in the game like I do in the practice,” Biedrins said. “He says, ‘C’mon, you can be so much better than that.’ And I kind of agree with him.”

The only way that Biedrins can try get back to his old self is to regain his confidence. His fear of getting fouled and having to shoot free throws changes everything about how he approaches a game.

Biedrins becomes absent on offense because he fears contact so much. Because of this, he doesn’t post up as much, he’s not as comfortable in pick-and-rolls, and the Warriors essentially end up having to play offense with just four players.

On defense, Biedrins still displays his athleticism, his ability to block shots, his footwork, his high level of activity, and his ability to help his teammates. Although he can end up fouling too much, Biedrins needs to channel that same energy he shows on defense in his entire game. He can attempt to get back to the same player he was a few seasons ago, but, as mentioned before, it all comes down to his confidence.

If Biedrins can find a way to regain some confidence and play in games with the same energy he has in practice, then he can start to get back to the player he used to be. However, it’s unlikely that he can get back there in just one offseason. It will take a couple solid seasons for him to feel like his old self.

Because of this, it’s unlikely he will step up significantly next season, but he can at least start to regain his old form and contribute to the team in any way he can, especially because his team might need him to if Ezeli and Bogut are out.

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3 Things Klay Thompson Can Work On This Offseason

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This article was originally published on Let’s Go Warriors.

Klay Thompson improved drastically in his second year in the NBA. He proved that he is more than just a catch-and-shoot player, he had some incredible performances in the playoffs, and he became the best perimeter defender for the Golden State Warriors in Brandon Rushs absence. Every good player can improve in some way though, so here are three things Thompson can work on in the offseason:

1. Consistency
In the playoffs, Thompson showed that he can go on huge scoring runs and score at will at times. For example, in Game 2 in the Western Conference semifinals series against the San Antonio Spurs, Thompson had 34 points and 14 rebounds on 13-for-26 shooting from the field and 8-for-9 shooting from the three-point line. However, in games 3-6, he shot 34 percent from the field, and, in games 4-6, he failed to make a three-pointer. If Thompson can become more of a consistent shooter, it will take some of the scoring pressure off of Stephen Curry and David Lee. It would also allow them to get some easier shots, given that the defense will have to respond to Thompson’s efficiency.
Thompson showed vast improvements on the defensive end throughout the season. Thompson guarded Ty Lawson and Tony Parker in the playoffs, and he was great at using his size and length to stop the two speedy guards from shooting mid-range jumpers or driving into the lane. If he can become a consistently effective defender, the Warriors will be that much stronger defensively next season. Thompson could also become more consistent with grabbing defensive rebounds.

2. Attack the basket more and finish
Thompson is such a quality three-point shooter that he often will settle for jump shots. In addition, sometimes when Thompson drives to the basket, he is able to beat his man, but he can’t finish once the big man rotates over. If Thompson can learn a go-to move that he can use to get to the basket more quickly, it will allow him to get off an easier shot before the big man rotates over. Even if he doesn’t make the shot, Thompson needs to attack the basket more, so he can get to the free throw line more. He is an 85.1 percent free-throw shooter for his career, so if his shot is not falling, getting to the free throw line more would allow him to get some easy points and perhaps re-gain his shooting touch.
It would also help if he improved his ball handling skills, because this would allow him to have more control when he drives to the basket. Thompson has shown some improvement in his passing and ball distribution, so a better handle of the ball would also allow him to get his teammates more involved once he starts his drive to the basket.

3. Stay aggressive on defense, but limit fouls
Thompson has proven that he can be the best perimeter defender on the Warriors. He guards pick-and-rolls well, and he’s especially effective against smaller, quicker guards, because he uses his size to his advantage. He stays physical with them, but that can get him into trouble. In Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Spurs, the Warriors were up by 16 points and Thompson fouled out with 3:57 left in the fourth quarter. At that point, Thompson had limited Parker to 12 points on 4-of-15 shooting. The Spurs went on a 18-2 run to send the game to overtime. In that span, Parker scored six points on 3-of-3 shooting, since he was able to score more freely without Thompson guarding him.
Thompson needs to stay out of foul trouble in order for the Warriors to be successful. He can sometimes become too aggressive on defense and shove his opponent a little or, like Curry does sometimes, he can reach in too often as well. Thompson needs to find a way to stay on the floor, especially in significant games, because his stellar defense allows Curry to take over the easier defensive assignment. Also, since he can stay in front of guards well, he doesn’t need other help defenders to slide over, which would expose the paint or the basket.

Golden State Warriors: Which Free Agents Could Replace Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry?

This article was originally published on Let’s Go Warriors.

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The Golden State Warriors have two key free agents this offseason: Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry. If the Warriors are unable to re-sign both of these players, they will need to address filling the backup point guard and backup power forward roles in the offseason.

Jack proved to be the perfect complement to Stephen Curry in the Warriors’ system. Jack’s toughness and his ability to attack the basket provide the perfect balance to Curry’s unbelievable three-point shooting. When he plays alongside Curry, he plays point guard, which allows Curry to slide over to the shooting guard position, so Curry can focus more on shooting than distributing.

Jack would be the Warriors’ best option for backup point guard given the leadership, toughness, and intensity that he provided. Some possible replacements for Jack that are in the Warriors’ desired price range are Will Bynum, D.J. Augustin, Earl Watson, Jerryd Bayless (who has a player option with the Grizzlies for next season though), Jamaal Tinsley, or Sebastian Telfair.

Augustin would probably be the best option to replace Jack out of those players, because he could easily fit into this Warriors team. Augustin played last season for the Indiana Pacers and clearly didn’t fit into their slow-paced system. Augustin would flourish in the Warriors’ up-tempo, defense-dependent system. He’s excellent in pick-and-rolls, and he would give the Warriors another quality three-point shooter. Although Augustin wouldn’t provide the same toughness that Jack does, he turns the ball over less than Jack does. Augustin has averaged 2.2 turnovers and 5.8 assists per 36 minutes in his career, and Jack has averaged 2.5 turnovers and 5.6 assists per 36 minutes. The Warriors could surely use less turnovers.

Landry was a valuable rebounder and offensive weapon off the bench, and the Warriors hope he picks up his player option for next season. If he decides not to though, some replacements could be Elton Brand, Andray Blatche, Jason Maxiell, Antawn Jamison, DeJuan Blair, Jermaine O’Neal, or J.J. Hickson. Although Hickson is arguably the best power forward out of this group, he rejuvenated his career last season with the Portland Trailblazers as their starting center. He will most likely not want to settle for a backup power forward role and will want a pay increase that the Warriors can’t afford.

Brand seems to be the best remaining option. He didn’t have much success last season as a reserve for the Dallas Mavericks, but Brand is still solid defensively, as he averaged 1.3 blocks in just 21.2 minutes per game last season. He also has averaged 9.1 rebounds per game over his career, which would be a valuable asset off the bench.

Ideally, the Warriors could re-sign both Jack and Landry and keep the same core of players intact for next season. Both Jack and Landry will draw a lot of attention as free agents though because of their stellar play last season. The Warriors have to be prepared for this and have a backup plan for which free agents they should target to replace Jack and Landry.

ANNOUNCEMENT!!

Official banner from the Let's Go Warriors site

Official banner from the Let’s Go Warriors site

I’m very excited to announce that I am now the newest member of the Let’s Go Warriors team! Let’s Go Warriors is a new up-and-coming blog featuring editorials and posts about Warriors news. This blog has the potential to compete with any other big-name sports blog out there, so go check it out!

I will continue to be a Senior Staff Writer for Golden Gate Sports, so look out for my articles there as well. Also, if you haven’t already, please go check out the official Golden Gate Sports Facebook page, and “like” it for constant Bay Area sports news and commentary!

Thanks for the support, and “Let’s Go Warriors”!

Golden State Warriors: Why Mark Jackson Will Triumph Without Top Assistant Mike Malone

This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.

Former Golden State Warriors head assistant coach Mike Malone was recently hired as the new head coach of the Sacramento Kings. Before coming to the Warriors with Mark Jackson in 2011, Malone had 10 years of assistant coaching experience. He was previously the assistant coach for the Cleveland Cavaliers during the LeBron James reign and for the New Orleans Hornets from 2010-2011.

The Warriors will be without their main X’s and O’s coach of the staff, meaning he drew up the majority of the plays for the Warriors, especially during timeouts and in close-game situations. Mark Jackson and the Warriors will have to make some significant adjustments in Malone’s absence.

Jackson finished seventh in this season’s Coach of the Year voting. Despite his accomplishments last season, the departure of Malone will certainly be a tough loss. Malone is known as a defensive guru and was the mastermind behind the Cavs’ defensive scheme from 2005-2010, which was remarkably successful. He also helped set up the Warriors’ current defensive system, which yielded the fourth best opponent field goal percentage (43.9 percent) in the NBA during the regular season.

December 12, 2011; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors assistant coach Michael Malone (center) instructs during the first quarter of the open practice at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Malone made some significant changes to how the Warriors defended the pick-and-roll, and this alone drastically improved the Warriors’ overall defense. In a high pick-and-roll situation, Malone decided to implement a system called “Ice” coverage.

In “Ice” coverage, when the pick is coming, the guard steps in front of the player they’re guarding, so their opponent can’t use the screen that’s coming for them. Meanwhile, the big man on defense stays back away from the screen in the paint and faces the direction where the opposing guard is attempting to drive.

Before Malone came to the Warriors, David Lee or Andris Biedrins, the two starting frontcourt players in 2010-2011, would attempt to stop the opposing guard at the spot of the pick, which often resulted in the Lee or Biedrins recovering late to their man. This simple adjustment allowed for more coverage of the paint and the opposing team to settle for contested jump shots.

The Warriors will need to ensure that they can consistently execute the defensive schemes that Malone implemented. Although Malone was the “defensive coordinator” of the Warriors, Jackson must have been a part of implementing this defense, so as long as his coaching staff understands the system, the Warriors should be able to continue to play the quality defense that they did last season.

Also, if Andrew Bogut can stay healthy for at least 65-70 games next season, his consistent, dominant inside presence would automatically improve the Warriors’ defense because of his ability to change and block shots.

The media has portrayed Jackson as just a motivator, but he is more than prepared to be on his own and coach without Malone. In addition to his coaching credentials from the past two seasons, Jackson was also a great leader during his 17 seasons as a point guard in the NBA. He played in the 13th-most games in NBA history, and he finished third all-time in assists. Jackson was an incredible floor general, so he clearly knows how to run a game and execute a game plan.

In addition, he can compete and hold his own against any great coach out there. In the Warriors’ playoff series against the Nuggets, Jackson outcoached former Nuggets coach George Karl. Jackson set the competitive pace when he decided to start Jarrett Jack at point guard and move Harrison Barnes to power forward in David Lee’s absence, even though the official starting lineups announced Carl Landry as the starting power forward.

Jackson always found a way to counter every move or adjustment that Karl made. Karl countered by starting Evan Fournier and going small too, but Jackson’s youngsters, Klay Thompson, Barnes, Draymond Green, and Festus Ezeli outplayed any lineup that Karl put out there.

Karl also made several mistakes in the series, such as running isolations for Andre Miller, not knowing how to effectively guard both Stephen Curry and Thompson and not attacking the paint enough. Jackson took advantage of these mistakes by utilizing an effective zone, targeting Miller defensively, and controlling the transition game. Jackson, and not the more experienced Karl, brought the intensity and competitive spirit that was needed to win the series.

Lowell Cohn of the Press Democrat claims that Malone was the main strategist for the Warriors, so his departure will impact the Warriors greatly. He discusses how Malone was the details guy, and that even though Jackson would tell Malone some general ideas for an upcoming play, Malone was the one to draw out the play and explain it to the team during timeouts.

However, Joe Lacob hired Jackson to be the head coach of this team for a reason. In fact, Malone was even up for the same head coaching position, before Lacob decided to hire Jackson to be the head coach. Jackson was chosen because he’s smart, analytical, and a confident, convincing leader.

May 16, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors head coach Mark Jackson instructs against the San Antonio Spurs during the fourth quarter in game six of the second round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena. The Spurs defeated the Warriors 94-82. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Jackson will adjust to the added pressure of not having the best assistant coach in the league, because his whole team is behind him and wants to succeed as much as he does. Jackson said from Day 1 as head coach that he wanted to change the culture around the Warriors, which he has done. This Warriors team loves to play as the underdogs and to play for each other.

“The main reason why we’re here is Coach,” Bogut said about the Warriors’ success in the playoffs.

Jackson has displayed a great balance between commanding respect and authority while also maintaining his motivational and comedic personality. His energy and passion led to great team chemistry, which was a large reason why the Warriors had such a successful breakout season.

“I think we showed this year that it’s a big factor from the top down, from coach Jackson through all his staff and through our players…” Curry said when asked about the Warriors’ chemistry. “The vibe in our locker room is real energetic and fun and real personable, I think from Day 1.”

Jackson might not be a pure, fundamental coach like some others, but he has a system set in place with his team, and he is more than capable of executing it without Malone.

Also, Jackson still has a quality group of assistant coaches to help him. It’s rumored that Jackson will most likely name Pete Myers his new head assistant coach. Another possibility is to promote assistant coach Darren Erman, who has focused on developing the talent of the young players on the Warriors.

With the help of his assistants and his motivational spirit, Jackson might have to work a little harder without Malone, but he can certainly continue to build a winning culture with the Warriors.

Breaking Down Tim Lincecum’s Future with the San Francisco Giants

This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.

After one of the worst seasons of his career, statistically, in 2012, Tim Lincecum is once again struggling this season to pitch as dominantly as he used to. Lincecum finished 2012 with a 5.18 ERA. As a reliever during the postseason in 2012, he had a 2.55 ERA though. Many fans hoped that his dominance as a relief pitcher during the postseason might translate into a successful 2013 season. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case as Lincecum has been inconsistent this season and currently has a 4.75 ERA. Lincecum will be a free agent at the end of this season and his inconsistent pitching the past couple seasons has led to several questions about if he has a future with the San Francisco Giants.

May 12, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum (55) pitches against the Atlanta Braves during the fourth inning at AT

The Giants must be cautious about re-signing Lincecum in the offseason due to his production the past couple seasons. In addition, they had offered him a long-term deal, reportedly five years, $100 million, after the 2011 season, but Lincecum turned it down. Given Lincecum’s reluctance to sign with the Giants long-term, the Giants might be wary to commit to him in the future.

“…it’s hard for me personally to just commit years of my life ahead of time,” Lincecum said. “What I’m focusing on is what I want to do now. I just don’t want to get ahead of myself.”

Even though he didn’t commit to the Giants after the 2011 season, Lincecum said that doesn’t mean he won’t re-sign with the Giants, despite some rumors that he’d like to go to Seattle and play for the Mariners after this season.

“It doesn’t mean I don’t want to be a Giant any less or anything like that,” Lincecum said about turning down the contract extension. “I just like to see where I am at the end of the year.”

It’s likely that Lincecum will want to sign a long-term deal though, which doesn’t seem like a viable option for the Giants given the uncertainty of Lincecum’s production in the future. The Giants wouldn’t be able to commit to a large, long-term deal anyway given that they have committed a significant amount of money to Matt Cain and Buster Posey. The Giants have made it clear that Cain and Posey are the new faces of the franchise, so Lincecum might feel like the odd man out in this situation.

There’s also the possibility that Lincecum could be traded mid-season. If the Giants decided to try to trade Lincecum, some starting pitchers that they might be able to acquire via trade are Scott Feldman of the Cubs, Matt Garza of the Cubs, Shaun Marcum of the Mets, or Bud Norris of the Astros. There was also speculation that the Giants could try to trade for a starting pitcher like Cliff Lee, but that would certainly be a long shot for the Giants.

In order to acquire one of these starting pitchers though, the Giants would most likely have to trade some intriguing pitching prospects in A or AA like Chris Stratton, Clayton Blackburn, or Kyle Crick. They could potentially package some non-pitching prospects into a trade too like second baseman Joe Panik, outfielder Gary Brown, catcher Johnny Monell, second baseman Ryan Cavan, or utility man Juan Perez. In addition, because of Lincecum’s poor season so far, it’s not clear if the Giants could get much in return. Lincecum is a two-time Cy Young award winner though, so there would be some interest. After his spectacular performances in the 2012 postseason, teams interested in acquiring him might try to convert him to a relief pitcher as well.

It certainly makes sense why Lincecum was successful as a reliever. Before he was drafted, many scouts thought he would be ultimately become a reliever, because his size and unorthodox delivery might lead him to fatigue more quickly than other starting pitchers. They didn’t think he could consistently pitch 200-plus innings in a MLB season. These factors could be the main reasons why Lincecum has struggled these past two seasons. His potential fatigue could explain the lower velocity on his fastball, which could also lead to worse command. Lincecum has been stuck in somewhat of a vicious cycle, so he might need to transition into a reliever in order to re-sign with the Giants or just stay relevant in MLB.

May 18, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum (55) reacts after committing an error during the third inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

“If my career takes that turn [pitching out of the bullpen] I’m definitely open to changes, especially if it’s beneficial to the team I’m playing for,” Lincecum said. It’s interesting that Lincecum chose to use the phrase “the team I’m playing for” and not specifically saying the Giants.

According to a club source, the Giants would convert Lincecum into a late-inning reliever “in a heartbeat,” but now with Vogelsong out a couple months with his right pinky injury, the Giants can’t afford to do that just yet. The Giants organization would also feel more comfortable making that transition if they had more starting pitching depth in Fresno, their AAA affiliate.

If the Giants wanted to use Lincecum as a reliever in the future (assuming Vogelsong is also healthy and back in the starting rotation), they will have to consider what options they have for a fifth starter if they can’t trade for one. One realistic option for the Giants is Mike Kickham, who Giants fans saw make his major league debut against the A’s on May 28th. Despite his rough outing, Kickham definitely showed some promise.

“He’ll be back up here at some point,” Bruce Bochy said. “I thought the kid showed great stuff.”

Chad Gaudin had a fantastic first start for the Giants, and he gave up only two runs in six innings. Gaudin was efficient in his innings and finished with just 79 pitches, and he consistently hit 94 MPH. Despite his fantastic performance, it’s not clear if he’d be able to stay in the starting rotation and maintain a high load of innings over the course of a season.

Yusmeiro Petit is an option, but he has struggled mightily this season in Fresno. He has a 6.69 ERA in seven starts. Eric Surkamp, another candidate, had Tommy John surgery last summer and should be close to fully healthy around the end of July. The Giants will see if the young left-hander can fully recover from such a serious surgery.

Lincecum had one of his best outings of the season last night against the Blue Jays. He pitched seven innings, gave up three hits, had one earned run, walked one, and struck out six. Despite this dominant performance, it still remains unclear what his future will be with the Giants. He could potentially be traded midseason for another starting pitcher, but it’d be difficult to pull off and doesn’t seem likely. When Lincecum becomes a free agent at the end of this season, it’s not clear if the Giants will be able to or will want to re-sign him. They could re-sign him to pitch as a reliever, but they don’t know if he’s ready to make that change. He could also just sign with another team and continue to start. The future is unclear, but Giants fans definitely want to see Lincecum re-sign with the Giants in the offseason.